"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.