Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Spring 2015 Update

With no big "projects" on our agenda, Cindy and I returned in April for a week to visit and offer a hand in whatever might be asked of us. Well, as it usually happens, we found ourselves busier than we thought and exhausted at the end of each day. That's a good thing! Here are some of people and things we were involved with:

2 New Sisters

With Sr Ann Joyce (Anita) now serving in Chile, 2 new sisters have recently joined Srs Kathleen and Mary Alice. Sr Genevieve (Jen) and Sr Fatima are both from the SHCJ African Province, and they have been in the DR since last fall. They are both a delight and we wish them well!

(L to R) Sisters Fatima, Mary Alice, Kathleen, and Genevieve

Guillermo's House

Guillermo is a teacher at the Fe Y Alegria school in Lecheria, and he is also an SHCJ Associate. It was brought to our attention a few months ago that he and his new "wife" and her 3 children needed their own house, so he purchased property and began to build. With the money he had, he was able to get walls and a roof up, and dig a septic tank.

A request for help came to us via Sr Mary Alice, so SHCJ Associates from Charlotte pitched in to collect $550 to be put toward whatever was needed to continue the construction. Guillermo was very moved by the donation. We put the money into an account from which he could draw out as needed.

Guillermo and I looked at the house together and determined that a concrete floor and a water connection would be the best "next steps", so we hired, Jackie, the best cement layer we knew. With the additional help of Guillermo's nephew, John Michael, and a neighbor, Claudio, we leveled the ground, laid the floor, ran a water line, and did some paint priming! Jackie added a small front patio with the remaining cement.

With the remaining donation money (about $180), Guillermo plans to hang doors, install a toilet and add some metal roofing and siding. He promises a picture when the family moves in!

Water Filter System Problems

In 2013 the Texas Baptist Men Water Ministry and the Fundación Christiana installed a water purification system just outside the clinic. For the current school year, it has been providing the drinking water for school and clinic. While there this week, we decided to take a look at the 3 ceramic filters that clean the water, and to our dismay, we found one to be broken and 2 to have cracks!

After some frantic emailing and a visit from Jose of the Fundación, we were told that the Fundación had 3 filters in there possession that they would send. God is good!

Joel and Galena's House

Joel and Galena have 8 kids and live in a two room "casa" at one end of Lecheria. Joel has been struggling for years to get his government documentation that would allow him to be hired in the DR, but he is still waiting. In the meantime, he finds odd jobs with the school and clinic. He has recently been able to repair the roof of his house and add some more space. When we arrived, he took us to his house to show us the changes, and although the walls were mismatched pieces of scrap and rusty metal, he was proud of his accomplishment and he wanted to "beautify" it with some paint.

Sr Kathleen donated some paint, we bought some brushes and we hired 2 boys, Ricardo and Vidal, to help the family paint the house. Friday was painting day. In 3 hours, the house was painted green with dark green trim on the door and window (along with faces, bodies and clothes), and Joel's family was proud.

Vidal (with brush)

Joel and family

Joel also showed us the rags that his boys used as a bed on the floor, and asked is we could help him get a bed for them. So, we asked him to get a quote for us, which he did. With some of our donation money and a loan from Sr Kathleen, Joel was given enough to buy a set of bunk beds. They arrived after we left. Now the family boys can sleep "high and dry"!

 Fe Y Alegría School Getting Big...Bigger...!

What a difference 10 years have made! When we first visited Lechería, the Fe Y Alegría school consisted of 2 classrooms, an office, one teacher (Sr Mary Alice), and a couple of volunteers. Now it has 3 buildings, hundreds of students (including preschoolers), paid teachers, and a burgeoning staff of volunteers!

We were told that the first college-bound graduate of the school, Virginia, has begun her studies in the capital city! The school is such a testimony to the hard work and persistence put in over the years by Sr Mary Alice and her staff and volunteers (Domincan and American)! Sr Mary Alice has recently turned the reigns over to a Dominican principal, Luz.

Principal Luz encouraging a student during morning prayer
Volunteer, Willie, securing the supply room

Highway in Lechería

We never thought we'd see the day...but here it is - a highway passing through Lechería! The government was originally planning to simply cut through the only access road to Lechería, but the people and local businesses petitioned and received an overpass access.

Final Thoughts

As always, it's really about being with friends - old and new!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Visitor Center Progress

When St Luke's arrived in February, the visitor's center had one completed floor...


But with the right supervision...

And a little back muscle...

And the right hired hands...

And plenty of water breaks...

Progress was made!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

New Developments in Lechería

A new source of clean drinking water has come to the community! 

 A filter system and storage tank were installed with the help of the Texas Baptist Men organization who have been working with the community ( and Just Water ( The project was finished and tested when the St Luke group visited in February. Your donations to water and sanitation projects help pay for much needed projects like this. Thank you all for your work for and support of the people of Lecheria and the SHCJ mission there!


What is it?

Yes, it's a highway!!! A new by-pass is being built right on the east edge of Lechería! An overpass will cross the current access road to the community. Will there be access directly from the highway to the entrance of Lechería? We don't know yet.  How will it affect life in the community? Hopefully, positively. Let's  pray that it does.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Let Us Walk Together!!

"If you have come to help me, you are wasting your time.  But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then, let us walk together."  - Lilla Watson, Australian Aboriginal activist sister

We just came from a weeklong visit to Lecheria, where we worked closely with Dr. John Mclennan and his team of students from Canada.  This visit, more than any in the past, we were able to see the evidence of the many people who have partnered to bring new life to this community.  The signs were everywhere.  We saw the smiles on the faces of people proudly showing off their new, little businesses that have their roots in the financial support of so many of you. 

We received the hugs of gratitude from those who can now afford to get the much needed healthcare because of the dolls and jewelry you have purchased. We watched the determination in the eyes of the young girls learning to sew and seeing their fragile self esteems bloom with pride as we encouraged their efforts.
I experienced the pride of an older woman who was so happy to take me to the nearest little store and buy a soda for our group, "The biggest one you have" she said to the storekeeper. We were humbled and honored to receive her gift.

An update on the water situation is always a priority.  The pipes continue to bring the much needed water to Lecheria.  Some of the pipes are already broken and will need repair on future visits.  However, the water that flows is not clean and there are still parasitic diseases present, especially in the younger children.  Greg and Nathan (from Canada) were able to demonstrate to the people how the water is purified with a few drops of chlorine.  Using simple water testing kits purchased in the U.S., they tested the water before and after the chlorine, providing the proof that the chlorine works!  Chlorine is an inexpensive, easy way to purify water and prevent disease.  Educational tools in Spanish were developed by the students to allow the education of the community to continue through the Nutrition program. "Poco a poco" as they say in the DR. (Nothing happens quickly there...but we will get there eventually!!)

Speaking of the Nutrition Program....called "Ninos Sanos"- "Healthy Children"...We held the graduation program for the 2nd year in a row!  About 60 4 and 5 yr olds, along with their parents, were awarded certificates and a mug filled with goodies! 

There was cake, soda, dancing to celebrate! (OK, not so healthy...but who celebrates with carrot sticks and water!?) There was even a skit put on by the muchachos (young teenagers) about respect and making good choices.

It was especially rewarding for us to see the graduation of the children that were born while we lived in the DR-several of whom we did not expect to live to be 5 yr olds, much less healthy ones!! Muchas Gracias to Dr. John and Sr. Kathleen, whose hard work and dedication have made this possible!

Dr John (with Sr Kathleen on left)
Wilson and his "graduate" son

A group from Texas was there, for their second trip to Lecheria.  They were assisting the community in building "Septicos"-toilets that flush!!  It seems like only yesterday that we were thrilled to have latrines in Lecheria!!

 About 9 families are getting closer to their first "flush". At the time of this writing we are waiting to hear that the pipes are connected to the houses and they are ready to roll (TP that is! :)) Each septico is shared by 4 families and they each contributed money and hard work to the construction of their septicos.


The Texas group also helped the community to start a community garden.  The goal is to start the vegetable plants in the garden and people can transplant them to their space; providing a source of nutritional food for the people.

Greg got a chance to visit the property where a Visitor's Center is being constructed. This has been a project which started 7 years ago with the fund-raising efforts of Fr Fred Conoscenti. After many hurdles and disappointments, concrete (excuse the pun) strides are finally visible. Once completed, this center, which is located between Lecheria and the sisters' convent, will be used to house visitors and serve as a training center for various spiritual and educational programs.

The best part of every trip is seeing and catching up with old friends:

Chichi with her new grandchild

Cindy and Baby

Juana Valentina displays
one of her dolls

Lelani and her "miracle" child

Oh, yes, our liberation, our understanding of our journey and purpose, is closely and forever tied to this amazing community.  We have learned so many of life's lessons from them: how to give and receive love, the value of community, to look for and find MIRACLES, that life's greatest treasures are not stored in our houses and our pockets.  Yes, we need them as much as they need us.  Our hands are forever locked, as we walk this journey of life together.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


When we first visited Lecheria in 2006, we met Licen. He was an elderly man who had come to Lechería with his family in back the 70's to cut sugar cane. The work had battered his health and left him slow to walk and weary. But the good Sisters had given him a custodial job around the clinic and school, so we always saw him emptying trash and sweeping (and resting).

It was difficult to understand his creole-tinged spanish and his quiet voice, but he had a great sense of humor, so I was always engaging him in silly antics. For example, we had this thing where we would greet each other with, "Amigo!", while sizing each other up and down. Then, we would peek in each others shirt pocket, pull out an item, and ask if it was a little gift (regalito).

During the past February's visit, while playing our "regalito" game, I found that he had an old wallet with 3 moth-eaten (mice-eaten?) U.S. dollar bills in it. I asked if they were of any value or use to him (I didn't think that they would be). "No", he said, while pursing his lips the way Haitians and Dominicans do to indicate they have no interest in the whatever is being talked about. So, I checked my pocket and found a $200 peso bill (about $6 U.S.) and asked if he'd like to trade. His eyes lit up and he looked at me with that "are you sure?" look (he obviously knew it was a good trade for him). "Sure", I said, thinking I'd trade them in to the bank when I got back to the States, and at least get an even swap. So, we were both happy about our trade. Well, needless to say, back in the states, it took a trip to two banks before I could cash my trade in. I'll bet Licen had a much easier and more lucrative experience with his end of the trade.

Licen has a very large family - a wife and countless children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Most of them live directly across from the clinic, and, at meal times, they would often be seen gathered at Licen's porch with Licen, like the grand patriarch, sitting in the middle. The joke was that half the people of Lechería belonged to Licen's family!

It seems that with every visit we brought some gift to Licen - a hat or sunglasses, or I would leave him my gloves or shoes or some other clothing. He always gave me smile and sincere thank you, and he would seem to have a burst of pride as he walked away. I always had the feeling that if I wanted something from Licen, even something I found in his pocket during our "regalito" game, he would give it to me. There was that trust that God would provide no matter what. After all, Licen and his family had been provided for all these years. When I said goodbye to him each day, he would reply, "Si Dios quiere!" (If God wills it).

During my last conversation with Licen in February, he said to me, "Mi compañero por el camino" (My companion on the path). I was very honored that he would think of me in that way. This man, who had traveled a much harder and poorer road than I, actually saw me as being with him on part of that same road. Wow! I still haven't taken it all in. Maybe I never will. It makes me wonder how many others am I travelling with on a road, yet I don't realize it? Thank you, Licen, for planting that question in my brain.

This past March, Licen passed away.  I'm sure it was sad for many in Lechería. It was sad for Cindy and me. He'll be missed, especially when we visit. We'll miss the sound of the shuffling of the old, sandaled feet and the dragging of trash cans around the clinic. We'll miss that sly smile from his slightly cocked head. I will miss mi compañero por el camino.

Hasta mañana, mi amigo...Si Dios quiere.