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 (http://www.cdc.gov/safewater/publications_pages/tippy-tap.pdfblications_pages/tippy-tap.pdf). 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!