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DVCC Hosts Exchange Fellow From Costa Rica

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The DVCC is excited to announce its participation in the U.S. Department of State’s Professional Fellows Program, in partnership with the University of Connecticut. As participants, we are hosting Laura Contreras Pena, a social worker from Costa Rica, who is immersing herself in learning about how the DVCC provides services to individuals impacted by domestic violence.


The Professional Fellows Program brings people from around the world to the United States for intensive fellowships designed to broaden their professional expertise. Participants are placed in public, private and non-profit sector organizations across the nation where they learn first-hand how issues in their field are addressed in this country. UCONN is one of 17 non-profit organizations and universities chosen to host foreign professionals in 2011 – 2012 from over 50 countries and territories worldwide. In this multi-year, two-way educational and cultural exchange program entitled “Empowering Women through Social Entrepreneurship”, professionals from Costa Rica and the U.S. receive fellowships to increase their knowledge about how to become effective social change agents.


During her eight days at the DVCC, Pena is observing DVCC staff members at work in the courts, the Norwalk SafeHouse, counseling sessions, support groups, trainings for Stamford Hospital staff and the Stamford Police Department, and PeaceWorks prevention education programs in area schools. In her job as a social worker, most recently at the Hospital de Ciudad Neily in southern Costa Rica, Pena continually counsels women who are in abusive relationships, compounded often by their financial and emotional dependence on their partners and by a culture that promotes male dominance. After just two days at the DVCC, she has picked up on the benefits of support groups as a way for women to empower themselves to be more independent and on technology as a means to improve communication. Citing the numerous excellent websites available here, especially DVCC’s EsperanzaCT website, she noted that better websites in her country could be very beneficial, especially for people living in rural, isolated communities.


“A lot of our clients live far away, and better websites could be really useful for them,” Pena said.


Pena and nine other fellows from Costa Rica are here for a month, during which time they also learn about American culture through programs at their host universities, site visits and community-based events. They visit programs in Boston, New York City and Philadelphia, and end their stay in Washington D.C., where they will take part in the Professional Fellows Congress, a forum to discuss what they have learned and to develop concrete projects and networks that they can implement upon their return home.


October 24, 2012

In February 2013, UCONN will send a delegation of ten American professional fellows to Costa Rica for follow-on programming. The delegation will include Doris Urteaga, DVCC’s Coordinator of Spanish Language Services and EsperanzaCT. Urteaga and the other U.S. fellows will also join their counterparts from Costa Rica for a two-day seminar next week at the UCONN campus in Storrs.


The Domestic Violence Crisis Center is committed to promoting the fundamental right of all individuals to be safe in their personal relationships. With a professional staff who have years of experience and advocacy in the field of domestic violence, the agency offers confidential services at no charge, including court and legal services, group and individual counseling, SafeHouses and housing services, children’s services, medical advocacy, professional adult trainings, multilingual services, PeaceWorks prevention education, a 24-hour hotline (1-888-774-2900) and EsperanzaCT, a Spanish language website and 24-hour phone service line. DVCC is the only domestic violence agency serving the communities of Stamford, Norwalk, Westport, Darien, New Canaan, Wilton and Weston. For more information please call 203-588-9100 or visit our website at www.dvccct.org.


The Global Training & Development Institute (GTDI), part of UCONN’s Office of Global Affairs, has a mission to foster global sustainable development, citizenship, and cross-cultural understanding by providing individuals from around the world with transformational learning experiences. Established in 1961, more than 9,000 government officials, business and non-profit leaders, and university students from 130 countries have participated in the Institute's education and training programs. Countries represented include Costa Rica, Turkey, Columbia, Panama, Peru, China, Egypt, Estonia, Venezuela, Mexico, Chile, Brazil, Guatemala, Armenia, Pakistan, Indonesia, Iraq, Russia, Ukraine, Tajikistan, Kenya, and numerous other countries throughout Africa. For more information on the Women's Empowerment Program or GTDI, please contact Roy Pietro at 860-486-4252 or Roy.Pietro@uconn.edu.


The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Exchange supports exchange programs that increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and other countries.  Approximately 50,000 individuals take part annually in exchange programs managed by the U.S. Department of State. For more information about ECA programs, please visit: http://exchanges.state.gov/citizens/profs/professional-fellows.html or contact Anna Griffin, U.S. Department of State at 202-632-6452 or eca-press@state.gov


Domestic Violence Crisis Center                                Contact:   Kathy Lake

777 Summer Street                                                                      Media Relations Advocate

Stamford, CT 06901                                                                    Phone: (203) 588-9100

(203) 588-9100                                                                            Email: klake@dvccct.org