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Our time in the smaller city of Esperanza was great, and the group of young men from both the city and the batay were a wonderful group to work with.  Enjoy this short slideshow of my favorite pictures and be sure to see the complete collection at: Flickr.

-Kevin Potter

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My feeling so far is that the theme of this project in the Dominican so far has been `back to basics`. In every sense that is. For Development this means scrapping your models and turning a fresh page to redraw the possibilities. An idea today could be community development tomorrow. Concepts you hold to dearly ought to be put under the light for closer inspection. This continual process of reflecting on how we interact with the people around us is what can make the difference.

Back to basics has also meant that the sessions we envisioned delivering to the group had to be amended as we discovered the language barrier – particularly in an environment where some may speak Spanish others Creole, some French and few have a handle of English. Yet despite the language divide, and between our wonderful translator and our own broken Spanish there are the beginnings of some powerful ideas. Ideas this community in Esperanza and the Batey – as well as others, could benefit from.

Everyday we have to reassess our plan and every day is more and more a reminder of why back to basics is a great thing. Our arrival into Esparanza was one that included no power in the house, no internet and thus no way for us to present everything we had intended. “All we need is a ‘projector’”- and although our power point presentations or prezis may have certainly helped, they were not necessarily needed. So forward we went, paper and pen – none to sure how it would all turn out.

The frustrating part is that many of them do not understand what community development is or looks like. Although while it is frustrating this is also one of the aspects I love best. As we continually push them to see further than just `what` the idea does but see `why` they are doing it, the idea transforms into something far more beautiful and inspiring. A group of boys playing soccer to pass the time becomes a way for youth, who face hardship more than is ever necessary, to give hope to those with dreams of something greater. With a ball and some hand me down uniforms they can move adolescents into a positive and fun environment.

On a personal level I feel I am returning to a time where being in this type of environment was second nature. Every thing here feels familiar and yet I discover so much with everyday. I love being surrounded by the Spanish and the Creole and French – as if the multilingual environment was designed for me. As I have developed a steady ear to catch the quick fire chopped up Dominican Spanish, I can now begin to understand the issues more closely – what a translation could not fully allow.

As always, I look forward to learning about a human dimension that simply cannot be taught.

Kirsten

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Above you will find a slide show of some of my favorites while the staff enjoyed our arrival in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.

For the complete collection, please visit our full gallery on Flickr.

-Kevin Potter

The Recrear team has safely landed in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic as of yesterday and while we enjoyed our day of travel through the country to Santiago, the continued work for the NOLA chapter alongside the preparation for RecrearParticipacion will keep us focused during our short stay.

As we sit around the family table with a fresh cup of Dominican coffee, laptops dominate the space as the sound of keystrokes compliment the chords of a local guitarist (our host, Eric Rodriguez).  The three members of Recrear are lucky to have this opportunity to be in the DR, but we are not alone.  Eric, and his colleague, Alex, from Loyola University New Orleans are also here in Eric’s hometown doing their own workshop on music therapy(more on them on a future blog).  It is today, everyone’s first collaboration day that we,  five aspiring youth, are setting the tone for the next few weeks of our lives here in Republica Dominicana.

Our project, RecrearParticipacion, has been a development in its own right over months of preparation since it was inspired during Recrear-Apply! in Nablus, West Bank.  Basically, what the international chapter has noticed in our first year of operation is while our ability to launch projects has been successful, the projects we have launched have been developed internally.  Since our ultimate goal as an organization is to be a platform for youth to launch their own community development projects, we have been working on “Participacion” to become our signature project; with the sole aim of inspiring youth (external to our membership) to access our network for their own ideas to be realized.

The actual RecrearParticipacion project is still in the pilot stage while we are in the DR but we have been afforded the time to actually work with two different groups of students to refine our strategies and implement the project in a very uniform manner for global application.   The first group we work with is from the Yspaniola Office in Esperanza, DR.  We will meet their staff and volunteers tomorrow and then start our series of workshops on Wednesday the 13th.

When Participation was originally conceptualize, we envisioned an eight day interactive training series.  Unfortunately, our time with our main contact, Yspaniola, was less than a week so we have been reorganizing to frame the project in a more compact manner.  This has proved extremely challenging to fit eight days into four (fifteen workshop hours total), but a bonus is that we then had a second week free to partner with another target group and implement the project back-to-back.

After a week in Esperanza, we will return to Santiago to work at UTESA (UNIVERSIDAD TECNOLOGICA DE SANTIAGO) to deliver the second round of “Participacion”. And finally, as a recap and method to further develop our local network, we will visit the Dream Project in Carbarete.

I really hope that you will continue to follow this endeavor in these amazing cities and comment when you feel inspired to do so.  Also check out the links to our partner organizations here (included where applicable) and of course – share the link to this blog with your friends.

Hasta luego, Kevin Potter

Recrear New Orleans: some reflections

Almost one year after Recrear.beta I feel confident to say that despite all the threats and weaknesses that have become obvious during our first year in business, our strengths and opportunities by far outnumber our problems. Recrear is a young and evolving organization; for the better or worst, all the people involved with the organization see different opportunities in what Recrear could become. The ‘common denominator’ of Recrear is its cool ‘swag’ that brings along an energetic atmosphere of optimism and excitement.

The sense that this excitement is pervasive and contagios felt particularly tangible during our time in New Orleans. Our two weeks in the city were originally supposed to be an opportunity to fundraise and deliver a pilot for our project in the Dominican Republic. What we found was a deeply committed group of well-connected and ambitious people ready to take ownership of Recrear’s vision and mission.

We worked together for two weeks to invent ‘Recrear New Orleans’. The ‘master plan’ we developed together is really on point. Basically, we plan to leverage on our resources to craft projects with an international flavors and a deep connection to local community. The Prezi presentation in this post (result of an intense collaborative efforts and various hours of lost sleep) sums up our work and gives an overview of the program we plan to deliver in the next year.

In prospective, I have been thinking a lot about the way all of our ideas were first thrown out randomly and than took a coherent form on the way by being distorted, nourished, questioned and reinterpreted. In our work, we really do believe in the strength of ideas. I also believe that ideas don’t have much intrinsic value. When they first form they are not very useful; instead, they gain all their power when they are picked up and passed around. I like to think that I cannot claim ownership for any of ‘my’ best ideas, mostly because to make it the rank of ‘best’ then different people must have regurgitated them into different context.

The frames that we had made to fundraise part of our project in the Dominican Republic are a good example of this idea of ‘collaborative mess’ that I value so much. In our first day in New Orleans, Kevin Kirsten and I visited the Green Project looking for some fundraising inspiration. During Recrear.beta (Berlin) and RecrearApply! (Nablus) we have collected some pretty cool shots (thanks especially to Komal and Kevin) and we thought it would be interesting to make some frames. Now, who came up with this idea? No clue- and to be sincere it does not matter at all. We found some wood and some glass and randomly invested 13 dollars, with no real vision of how everything was going to fit together (and most importantly with no proven carpenter or framing skills).

The frame project was picked up by Laura and Ryan who saved the day in grand style (*). Laura offered her artistic skills in an afternoon of work under the New Orleans heat. Crucially, she also donated her photographic paper and ink as well as a long evening messing with a capricious printer. Ryan overcame gravity and developed an ingenious system to connect all pieces without glue (**). Moral of the tale, instead of flying away like many of brilliant ideas that come and go at Recrear, the frame idea somehow transformed wood and glass into gorgeous frames.

During our time working together in New Orleans we all came up with some very clever ideas to catch and play with. In our PREZI you will learn more about the IDEA BOX that is at the heart of the chapter’s program for this year. I won’t spoil it by saying too much about it – in short, there is a ton of good ideas on the way.

Now that our time here has come to an end, I want to thank once more all of the New Orleans team for the full load of Duracell charge I received in the last two weeks. This city will always have a special place in me; if possible, with the Recrear chapter in New Orleans the city becomes even more fun.

– Gioel G.

(*) By the way, this is my way of thanking you one more time :).
(**) I would feel bad for all the hours Ryan spent on mounting the frames, except I know the little carpenter in him got a good an ego boost – not to mention the priceless awareness that he has a solid backup plan to earn a living.

In just two weeks, our small group of Recrear coordinators has accomplished so much.  The desire of the Recrear founders to achieve more and more is contagious.  Despite the truth that New Orleans mellows out considerably in the heat of the summer, I think it’s safe to say that this Recrear New Orleans group has enough energy to keep the whole city going for weeks.

Questions are still spinning through my mind: where will we go from here?  Have we bitten off more than we can chew?  What will we do without Gioel, Kirsten and James?  Fortunately, none of these questions need to be answered immediately and I’m confident that this New Orleans chapter will continue much the same as Recrear International has: with earnest good will, hours of hard work, and a whole lot of luck.  We will solve problems as we go along, we will meet challenges and overcome them, and the learning curve will be steep.  And hey, that’s part of the fun.

Ultimately what will determine our success in the ambitious projects we have in store for New Orleans is each other:  the connections, partnerships, and friendships that we’ve made in the past two weeks.  The group of individuals I’ve met has been inspiring . . . And we’ve become a true team.   We will succeed, and we’ll succeed together.

SoNew Orleans, get ready. We’re on the edge of glory.

Laura Hasenstein

…that our first fundraiser which happened on July 5th/Kevin’s 25th b-day bash was a success. $910 raised for our cause ($911 to be exact because I found a dollar on the ground which was unaccounted for). It started off slow, however, after an hour or two it was popping. It was the perfect networking activity for us to experience. So many people pitched in for this effort it was amazing. One of Kevin’s friends baked an enormous cake with the Recrear logo and colors which was enough to feed an entire army..Literally!!! We are still eating off of it today. The Rusty Nail also donated $1 for every drink bought at the bar. So if any of you followers are in New Orleans next time, please check out this awesome establishment. Great drinks, relaxed atmosphere, yet vibrant with locals and musicians alike. They were gracious enough to let us use their space as well as donating money to our cause. And I would also like to point out that Robin Barnes is an amazing singer!

P.S. I think that there might be some leftover cake at KP’s house if anybody wants any!!!! 🙂

-James Smith

So everyone…..

We keep on moving onward and upward from here. It has been a packed last week and a half but we have come together and accomplished so much.

On the 6th, the group brainstormed for hours to come up with a year long plan for Recrear New Orleans’ first year. We received a visit by one of UNO’s Admission’s representatives in order to hear about how we will be able to work closely in coordination with the university in the future. They were generous to provide us with pizza, however, we found ourselves dying of thirst. Finding ourselves faced with the same problem (lack of water that is) we decided to move our meeting INTO the fountain in the Pontchartrain North courtyard. Yes indeed!!! We were all sitting with our feet in the water while discussing discussing the details about different goals that Recrear New Orleans wants to accomplish in the upcoming year.

Of course our brainstorming session didn’t run without its problems. We encountered several bumps of turbulence as we found ourselves overwhelmed with the mass amount of information that was being presented on the table by all of the members. The ideas were coming faster than we could process them in logical order on paper! It was like opening Pandora’s Box. Once we opened the creative portions of our minds, the ideas instantly flew up into the air and all around. We found ourselves spending a decent amount off time trying to snatch them back out of the air in order to organize them properly. After everything was under control once again, we thought it best sleep in our progress and break for the evening.

On the 7th, we reconvened and immediately broke up into 3 groups in order to address the different aspects of project development and planning for Recrear. The caliber of the ideas which were developed were so amazing that the groups instantly caught a second wind for the work ahead. Each of the groups received feedback from each other in order to build upon the presenting group’s ideas. The excitement was building among the members once we discovered the endless possibilities of what we could accomplish in the near future.

Recrear was visited by two special guests. The first one was Starr Woodward with NOLA Starr promotions who talked with us about potentially managing Recrear Nola’s Marketing and Advertising. She offered wonderful insight about how Recrear could begin by going about with our marketing strategy, while at the same time, explaining to us what she had the potential of doing for the organization. Our second guest was Ms Pamela Rault, Interim Dean of Student Affairs at UNO. She expressed her appreciation for our efforts to create an organization such as Recrear in New Orleans and further expressed her excitement for what Recrear has the potential for doing for the community as well as worldwide.

Following her visit, we realized that it was approximately 10 pm already with still one group left to present their ideas concerning Recrear’s plan’s for the first year. At about quarter to 11, we finally called an evening.

And here I am now. Kirsten and Kevin are sitting across from me working diligently in preparation for our final gala tomorrow. Gioel and Laura are off printing pictures for the auction at the gala, and I am here typing this blog 🙂 Come to find out, Kirsten, Gioel, and Kevin have been without sleep for the past evening and plan on going without sleep for the night to come. Bless them!!!! And this is what we are all about. The drive and perseverance of the members of Recrear is amazing and a real driving force. If anyone has any doubts about this organisation being able to become something amazing for this community and communities around the world, then they are wrong. Because first of all, Recrear is already amazing because the people who become involved with Recrear are amazing! And these people are not just the members involved now, but those of you who plan on plan on becoming involved with us in the future!!

Come and find out what we are all about by joining us tomorrow for Recrear New Orleans’ official launch in the Big Easy!!!

Join us on Saturday, July 9th at 4:00 pm at the UNO St. Claude Gallery for the inaugural presentation of Recrear New Orleans!

The event will be an opportunity for the New Orleans team to present its achievements and future plans. Moreover, the event is also designed to fundraise for Recrear-Partecipacion, the first project sponsored by Recrear New Orleans and delivered in the Dominican Republic from July 11th to July 26th.

Since only limited space is available, we would appreciate your RSVP here:
http://recrearparticipacio​n.wordpress.com/new-orlean​s-fundraising-rsvp/

You may also support our event by making a donation on our blog or directly at http://bit.ly/kERSPx.

Now my dears….off to find dinner!!!!!! 🙂

-James Smith