Baitoa is a rural area in DR which receives little government investment. Poor education, a lack of running water, and inaccessible medical care due to dangerous, unpaved roads, result in many residents suffering from easily preventable illnesses. Additionally, the culture is very male-centric, so women are expected to marry & begin families young, rather than finishing school or pursuing other interests. Most women become mothers & housewives without being given other opportunities.
While changing a culture takes time, improving health by teaching individuals how to prevent illness is relatively easy. The Community Health Leadership (CHL) Program of the Dominican NGO, Project Hearts (a partner program of U.S. nonprofit GRACES Cares), aims to address both health and leadership. Twice a year a local, female doctor leads 10-15 women in a 6-month course to teach them basic community health topics and leadership skills. They then share this information with 10 families.
The training, along with the bonds formed, has an almost immediate impact on the women. Most begin the course timid & quiet, but end up becoming confident, respected leaders. The information they provide to their communities enables families to prevent common childhood illnesses, drink safe water, prevent unplanned pregnancies, have healthy pregnancies, and prevent & manage common chronic illnesses, like diabetes & heart disease. Graduates inspire others to enroll, so more families are educated.
This project has provided additional documentation in a PDF file (projdoc.pdf).