Thursday, August 5, 2010

Water Update

After we returned home, we, with the help of the SHCJ Sisters, were able to get enough of the pipes laid to get the water turned on. The cost was around $850, not the projected $3000. The Sisters fronted the funds with our promise to reimburse them. We're working on raising the money now. If you would like to help, contact Cindy or me.

This now means that when the neighboring towns get water (2x or 3x per week), Lechería does also. It's not drinking water, but at least it is available to most houses in the batey.
Some of the folks are able to connect to the main pipe and bring the water up to their houses (Some may have been more successful at this than others, from what I hear).

A small section near the front of the batey still needs to be added. Hopefully, we can help get this completed soon.

The well at the front of the batey still supplies water, but it is pumped to an old contaminated storage tank. The manual pump no longer works, so the water from there is pumped only when electricity is available.

Another group called Water is Life ( is planning to visit in October. Perhaps they will be able to add another piece of the puzzle of sustainable water to the picture. For now, the people of Lechería continue to live life the only way that they know how - day to day.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Summer Visit 2010 - What's Happening in Lechería


The Nutrition Program that was begun last summer is going strong. For the last year, the program has been monitoring the nutritional status of the children under age 5 yrs in the batey on a regular schedule through the Growth Monitoring Program. Children found to be malnourished are provided vitamins and a nutritional supplement called "Plumpynut" and they are monitored on a weekly basis through the Nutrition Progam. Many of the children we saw last year who were very malnourished have graduated from the program and are now chubby toddlers. Dr. John McClennan of Canada, who oversees this program, was down in the batey for 3 weeks with 3 students to add an Anemia protocol to the program and to study the barriers to attendance.

The Canadian team is also conducting a census of the number of families in Lechería. This information will really help when applying for project help from the government, NGO's and mission groups.

Lechería Artisans:

Jewelry/Sock Doll-Making brings many of the women of Lechería to the St. Luke Center weekly to use their creativity in this small "cottage industry". Cindy was able to pay the ladies from sales made in the U.S. this past spring. What a joy it is for them to receive money to buy food, medicine,clothes and shoes for their children and themselves! The women sent a huge "Gracias" to all those who are working so hard here in the US to support them.

Water is coming to Lechería!

A group from Texas was in the batey last week digging trenches and installing water lines to bring water from the town uphill down to Lechería! This helps the people in all parts of the batey receive water to their house on a more regular basis. Water is the #1 need for the people in this community. The large numbers of people coming to the clinic with fevers and parasites is largely due to the lack of water to safely and effectively wash hands and cook.

Since the water is not drinkable, a ceramic filter system was installed in one of the local churches. Water from here will be sold to the residents for 1/2 the price that it costs them to purchase from local vendors.

Unfortunately, funds ran out before the project could be completed and the water turned on. We are hoping for donations to come soon so that this vital project can be finished. $3000 will get enough piping to allow the water to be turned on. Another $3500 will allow the final piping to be laid in the front section of Lecheria. The residents living in this area are currently near a cistern and can more easily access water than the rest of the people.

The Move to Septic Systems:

The same Texas group installed 2 septic systems. These were connected to 3 "baños" each. The community wants to move from latrines to septic systems before the land area for becomes scarce for such installations. The residents living in multi-dwelling constructions will really benefit from this model because a toilet can be installed in the home instead of having a latrine outside.

Is "Roof Repair" feasible?

Many of the residents are asking about help with repairs of their tin roofs. Much of the tin used on the dwellings here had been previously used on some other structure; therefore, the pieces came with old nail holes. Or scraps have been put together to create a roof. Either way, there are many entry points for rain.

The logical solution would be to patch the roofs, but the wood beam are too weak to safely hold a person who could make repairs from above. We're looked into some possible repair techniques, but we have yet to come up with an easy and economical solution. Please post a comment if you have ideas.

Gotta Laugh...

The kids of Lechería are as creative as ever! "Doll-head baseball" and "dental-floss inner-tube repair" were just a couple of the innovative forms of thinking that we saw on this trip. Hearing child laughter is a real blessing to anyone visiting Lechería.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Summer Visit 2010 - Babies Gregorio and Cindy

On May 1, 2010, a baby boy was born to mother, Milania. He was named Gregorio in my honor! Here I am with my Lechería ¨family¨.

Cindy was given the same honor last year! Baby Cindy, who was born last April to Milania´s sister, Louisa, is continuing to grow. Here she is enjoying a summer bath with her older sister.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Summer Visit 2010 - Just Like Old Times!

Just as we remember...

Torrential rains pounding on the plexiglass skylights and creating small lakes and rivers outside our bedroom door...

Drying our laundry the old fashioned way...

Reading by lamp light...

Ahhh! It's good to be back! :-)

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

March 2010 - St Luke's Group Returns to Lechería

We returned to Lechería in March with 11 parishioners from St Luke's. On this adventure we were joined by 7 students and teachers from Oak Knoll School of the Holy Child in Summit, New Jersey. Temperatures were in the low 70's when we arrived - "cold" by Dominican standards! This was not to last. By the end of the week, we were basking (baking!?) in the upper 80's with lots of humidity! But that did not stop us from enjoying visiting our old friends and community there, nor did it keep us from "rolling up our sleeves" and beginning to work.

It was great to see how some of the children have grown, many looking healthier that when we last saw them. And there were plenty of new additions to families. The Nutrition Program, which is supported financially by St. Luke Parish, continues to monitor the growth of the children and provide vitamins and nutrition supplements to the malnourished children. Many of the babies that were extremely malnourished last summer are thriving now.

Thanks to friends, church family and work colleagues, we brought suitcases of supplies - medical, nutritional, construction, and craft supplies.

One of our new projects was the introduction of "Tippy-Taps", easy-to-build hand washing stations. Greg found the plans on CDC and WHO websites ( The Tippy Taps, along with the latrines, provide the tools the people need to one day eliminate parasitic diseases that are so rampant in the Batey. We taught handwashing classes for the adults and provided soap and hand towels to get them started. The people had a great time helping us figure out how to install their new Tippy Taps!

Who better to teach good sanitation to than the children? The St. Luke women and the Oak Knoll girls came up with a song to teach the children when they should wash their hands. It was a tune that the children already knew, so it was easy to learn. The girls put together a little skit and had a great time with it. We heard little voices singing the song throughout the batey for the rest of the week!

The guys in our group finished installing doors and roofs on 11 more latrines. That brings the total built since 2002 to 144!

Another new venture was started by Hamp Dulin. He began teaching 4 young men how to carve rosary beads from native wood. We're hoping that we can soon bring back rosaries and other items carved by the men of Lechería. Our prayer is that this will develop into a source of badly needed income for some of the men.

The Sock Doll Ladies were at it again! With all the donated materials that we brought, the women were able to make dolls to send back with us to sell! They are getting pretty creative with some of their designs and some have branched by making "Sock Animals"! It is a joy to see the women working together, being creative and having a good time.

If you're intersted in buying one of the dolls, contact us. Each sock doll comes with a picture of the woman who made it and it makes a great gift!

There are still so many needs and so much work to be done in Lechería, but God has already done so much! Water has been scarce lately due to a drought, but the 1/2-mile road up the hill to the neigboring town is now being paved so that water trucks have easier access to Lechería! Preschool-age children who could not attend local schools now have a licensed school to attend right in Lechería! Pregnant mothers and newborn babies whose chances of staying healthy were once so slim now have access to nutritional supplements, vitamins and some health care!

Life continues to be very tough in Lecheria, but the people continue to push on, living one day at a time. Somehow, they continue to have hope. Hope that tomorrow will be a better day for them, their children and grandchildren.

The SHCJ sisters, the Response-Ability volunteers, we who visit, we who donate and pray - we all are the living presence of God to the people of Lecheria, letting them know they are not forgotten, they are not alone.

Thank you for supporting us on this latest adventure, but, most importantly, for continuing to hold the people of Lechería in your hearts and prayers!