Thursday, September 4, 2008

Gifts Given, Gifts Recieved (Part 2 - A Surprise Response)

Part of Greg's work in Lechería was building pit latrines. Those who requested a latrine had to put down a deposit of 100 pesos (about 3 U.S. dollars), dig a 4' x 4' hole at least 10 feet deep, and line the hole with old tires or 55 gallon drums.

We hired local masons, and usually with the help of the new owner, they layed rebar, a 6' x 6' cement base, and cement block walls.

Once the cement had dried, tin roofs and doors were attached. Greg was often not alone in doing this because we had many visiting friends and church groups from the States to help througout the year.

We managed to complete 54 additional latrines this year, but we soon found that one thing was lacking that would enhance the "usability" of latrines. The people normally provided their own seat, usually a 5-gallon paint bucket with a hole cut into the bottom that was placed over the hole left in the cement floor. Greg began to hear from some latrine owners that it would be nice to have a more comfortable seat, so he set out to design something inexpensive but suitable. 

Victor, the local maintenance man, new of someone that could make a seat "mold" out of metal, so we gave him a design and, "voila!", we had mold for making a cement seat.

Greg's next thought was, "Why not add a little 'class' by topping each seat with a plastic ring and lid?" So, we did, and the response was amazing! Everyone who owned a latrine, old or new, began asking for the new "basinetas".   By the time we left, 60 latrines had been outfitted with seats, and 30 more were in the queue.

It was an intersting lesson of how a small but extra touch can sometimes be such a gift to someone.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Gifts Given, Gifts Received (Part 1)

We returned to Charlotte on June 24th, and re-entry has not been easy (possibly another story). But we've had some time to think about what we accomplished in our 10 months in Batey Lechería and, maybe more importantly, what we received.

We arrived as wide-eyed, excited Americans not knowing what to expect of life in an unfamiliar culture on a Caribbean island. We found a people easy to smile, thankful for what blessings they have, and willing to share whatever they have with these 2 American "missionarios". Despite our difficulty with the language, we found communication was not such an obstacle as we anticipated. Animated faces, vocal inflections, constantly moving hands, and the desire to be understood communicated just as much as verbs and nouns.

As difficult as daily living is for these people, they take comfort in family, friends, celebration, music and dance. They love their country and like to point out the highlights to visitors. We were often asked how we liked the land, the people, the food, the weather.

Lechería has its own special challenges. The Haitians and Dominico-hatians find many obstacles to acquiring schooling, jobs, and government recognition. Theirs is a life of desperate, daily struggle to keep their families fed, clothed, and, if at all possible, healthy. Yet, even under these conditions, we always found hope, laughter, life. Living for the moment is the order of the day. They can not worry about tomorrow, nor regret the past. Today is enough. What a challenge for us who come from culture where we plan everything from our careers and families to our vacations and retirement. But it is a lesson we bring back with us and hope to incorporate in some small way into our lives.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Top Ten Reasons We Love the Dominican Republic

10. Music concerts can happen in your backyard at any time

9. Work can still be fun

8. Food is still gathered the "old fashioned" way

7. It's a lovely place for family and friends to visit (always entertaining)

6. The look of love can be found in the eyes of those we meet everyday

5. Kids still use their imagination

4. Superheroes are not hard to find

3. Vroom, Vroom...

2. Young "cowboys" dream of riding the wide, open range (bareback, of course)

...And the #1 reason we love the Dominican Republic:

We live on a tropical island!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

One Heartbeat at a Time

You are changing the world,
One little heartbeat at a time
Making history with every touch and every smile
You may not see it now,
But I believe that time will tell
How you are changing the world
One little heartbeat at a time.

-Steven Curtis Chapman

In the last 2 months we had the pleasure of hosting two volunteer groups from the US helping us with some of the projects here. The first group came on Jan 27 from St. Luke Parish (and friends!)in Charlotte, NC. The second group came on March 2 from Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish (and friends) in Pompton Plains, New Jersey.

This blog is dedicated to the hard work, compassion, time and energy and support that these groups shared with us and the people of the batey Lecheria. Read on to see how these wonderful visitors spent their time with us....


The group is observing the "juego de silencio" --"the quiet game" in the school. The children begin each day with this excercise.

Diane and Amber pose with artwork after beautifying the children's vaccination room. The colorful atmosphere make it easier to distract the children while they receive their shots.

Shhh! Jewelry class is in session. Many of the women of Lecheria show quite a knack for designing and creating some very nice jewelry. A small business may be emerging. The women have been able to sell much of what they have made. At present, 50% of the profits are being reinvested in the purchase of materials.

Erika, one of the St Luke photographers, poses with some of her fan club. She and her mother, Sandy, took photos of individuals to give to the people of Lecheria. Some of the photos were given to the St Luke youth group so that each youth had a photo of a person to pray for during Lent.

St Luke latrine builder, Doug, is assisted by the new owner and supervised by Fr Dave. (Photo courtesy of Doug & Diane)


Dave and Bob demonstrate lartrine building from inside and out. 16 roofs were completed with the help of OLGC.

Two Lecheria mothers proudly display their dolls that they made with a pair of socks, needle and thread, some stuffing and yarn, and ribbon. Many of the women who were part of this project are hoping to make more of these "sock dolls".

Sue, a nurse from OLGC who was here for her 2nd visit, displays the best medicine given out by all our volunteers to the children of Lecheria.

In Lecheria, where 2 or 3 volunteers are gathered, a bunch of children will be in their midst.

As proud parents, we have to share these photos of our daughter, Melissa, with her boyfriend, Josh, and with her friend, Erin. The 3 of them came and worked alongside the OLGC group. It was wonderful for us to be able to share the week with them. Love you...

To all who came and shared themselves with us...

To all our family and friends back home who support us across the ocean...

To God, who makes all things possible...

We join the people of Lecheria in saying to you:


Tuesday, January 22, 2008

New Year...New Beginnings

"Behold I make all things new" -Revelations 21:5

The end of 2007 was a time of transition for us. A time of letting go of our old world for awhile and of adjusting to our new life here in the Dominican Republic. We begin our new year, 2008, with new resolve to enter fully into this wonderful opportunity we have in the Batey. We start the year with a new commitment to the people here and to our family and friends back home who are so generously supporting us. We enter the year with new energy and renewed faith and trust that God is present in the Batey and has a purpose for us.
We are surrounded by daily evidence that the Spirit is blowing new life and new energy into the Batey Lecheria. We hope that you will be pleased with work being done by and with the people of the Batey as we begin this year.

Building Community

The people are beginning to come together with a sense of community. Sr. Anita is working with a parents' group that meets weekly and discusses issues that affect the community. The women of the batey gather together to clean the community areas of the batey. We captured this picture early one morning as they were sweeping: young and old, mothers and grandmothers working together for the good of the community. This is a huge step for the Batey and fills us with great hope.

Nutrition Program
Our brand new Nutrition Program is really taking off. The program is for mothers and children under 4 yrs old. We have checked the height, weight and iron levels of the over 65 children who have already entered the program. We have found that the majority of the children are anemic; many are severely anemic. We have provided education for the mothers on healthy diet, preventing parasites and the meaning of anemia. We are providing vitamins with iron and frequently we have been able to provide a nutritious snack for the moms and children. Our goal for this program is to be able to provide daily vitamins, a nutritious breakfast, further education for the mothers on parenting topics and an inviting space where the mothers can gather together, play with their children and support one another in their role as mothers.

Community Center: A Place to Gather

With the growing Nutrition Program and sense of community, we have begun to feel the need for a larger space for people to gather. We anticipate the new community center to be done within a month and the Nutrition Program and Parent's Group will have a new place to meet and grow! This community center is made possible thanks to several private donations, a grant from the European Province of the Society of the Holy Child Jesus and a large donation from the parish of St. Luke in Charlotte NC.

Latrine Project: Phase 3

Work is under way as we begin the 3rd year of building latrines with the families of Lechería. We hope to build 30 or more latrines by the summer with the help of visiting volunteer builders from the states. Families in Lechería are preparing by digging and lining holes, and gathering workers to help haul and prepare materials. We've hired a block layer from the batey who will also help supervise the family help. Roofs and doors will be built and attached by our visiting "trabajadores".

A New School for the Children of the Batey

A non-profit organization from Spain is building a new school. Here in the Batey Lecheria, we have an educational program structured in the Montessori style of learning. This program is available to the children for half a day. They attend public school the other half of the day. At this time it is a mile walk up a rocky steep hill to the school and many children do not go as often as they should. Having a new school in the "barrio" (neighborhood) means more children are likely to go to school everyday. With education comes hope.

A New Garden for the Rosario Family

We have noticed the whole family working to build a low stone wall and to plant a garden in front of their house. Evidence of pride in their home and the family working together is a sign of the winds of change blowing our way! Seventeen yr. old Maria displays her work in the garden....

Population Boom
The cattle population, that is! We have seen at least 5 new calves born since Christmas. Along with new calves, comes nursing mama cows and milk for the children of the Batey

As the new year stretches before us, we take a moment to thank God for the gifts of the past year and ask God's blessing on the challenges that await...
"I Am the New Year" - Bible Illustrator
I am the new year. I am an unspoiled page in your book of time.

I am your next chance at the art of living. I am your opportunity to practice what you have learned about life during the last twelve months.

All that you sought and didn’t find is hidden in me, waiting for you to search it but with more determination.

All the good that you tried for and didn’t achieve is mine to grant when you have fewer conflicting desires.

All that you dreamed but didn’t dare to do, all that you hoped but did not will, all the faith that you claimed but did not have—these slumber lightly, waiting to be awakened by the touch of a strong purpose.

I am your opportunity to renew your allegiance to Him who said, "Behold, I make all things new."