Saturday, April 28, 2012

Our Neighborhood


Here is a link to some of  the places we are visiting in our Adventure MAP
We started the week out with a bang by taking a 1.5 hour drive to attend the La Colonia branch church Sunday meetings in Azua. 

                                                 Figure 81 On the road to Azua.  Area is a lot like Arizona

We had several reasons for wanting to visit them.  First of all this is the area where President Rodriguez of the Santiago West Mission suggested as a good place to start a Food Initiative project and it is also the same area where we have a Clean Water project.  We wanted the opportunity to scope the area out a little bit before the Food Short Term Specialists come in June and to get an idea what the area was like. 

                                                                Figure 82 Little boy in La Colonia Branch

The members in the little branch were wonderful.  They were happy and very knowledgeable of the scriptures and exhibited great faith in God.  We heard wonderful talks in Sacrament meeting and in the classes we attended.  They are a well-organized unit.

 We invited one of the Senior couples, Diane and Dennis DeSpain, assigned to the Temple to go with us.

                                                           Figure 83 Bananas on road to Azua
After the La Colonia meetings, Elder Roger and Sister Sherry Brown who are Senior Missionaries serving as member support in La Colonia invited us to their house for lunch.  Elder Brown also serves as a counselor in the Santo Domingo West Mission presidency.

We learned that no-one has gardens in the branch; there is approximately a 48% unemployment rate and great needs.  The Food Initiative seems a great challenge at this point.

One of the water projects is on up the road from the location of this picture about 45 minutes.  We understand the people are very anxious to have the project.  They have organized a Water Committee and have begun collecting money for the project for a while now, so we are anxious to get it started.
                                        Figure 85 Azua street; water project is the mountains in foreground
Pres. Ruddy Brito, Branch President of the La Colonia branch knows a lot about the water project and will be helping us with it.
                                            Figure 86 Elder Roger Brown, Pres. Rudy Brito and Elder Haws

                                                                        Figure 87 Azua Naval Fleet
The first part of this week has been a blur.  Monday we crashed and burned, that is Wallace was so exhausted from the activities of the last week we had to slow down a little bit.  In spite of it we did accomplish a lot. 
Monday we visited with the organization SUR FUTURO in their offices.  They have been in business for 10 years, and have accomplished some amazing things in their short life.  We were really impressed with the professionalism and talents.  They have several offices across the country and tackle water, hygiene, sanitation, farming, hydroelectric projects and probably some other things we aren’t aware of yet.  We are trying to team up with them on a water project in the little town of El Cigual.   Wallace was really impressed with their accomplishments in about the same time he helped create his company with the help of his partners.  You will be hearing more about this project in the future.
On Wednesday we went to the Santiago West Mission office and had a very productive meeting with him about potential food projects in his mission area.  Most of the people in his mission area live in small rural communities.  He told us his people have a very high unemployment rate, spend about 65% of their monthly income (about 6500 pesos = about $180) on food and usually do not have the ability to avoid drinking dirty water.  We explained the church Food Initiative to him and he invited to a District Conference in May to explain the program to the District and Branch Presidents.
                                           Figure 88 Wallace, Edith, Sister Rodriguez & Pres. Rodriquez
After our meeting we went to visit a potential project, Hogar Luby, a place that cares for extremely disable people.
The Food Initiative is a program where the local members figure out and develop a plan to provide better nutrition and diet for their families.  The church then enters the picture to help them with startup costs, expert help, planning and development over about a 2 year period.  We will be training the local leaders in the process development and helping them develop a project plan that can be approved by the church.
Wallace had the wonderful experience of going to the customs department to try and extract materials that had arrived in the country.  He took Albert from the Ministry of Health who is an expert in dealing with customs.  Wallace just about couldn’t get through the doors because they would not accept the laminated copy of his passport or drivers license.  Luckily he had his original International Drivers License and got in.
Wallace: “Once inside it was a full day of the most ridiculous process I have ever seen.  We were sent from one office to the next then back again.  At every turn, Albert had to pay some kind of “fee” until at the end of the day he had paid out over $6000 pesos before we got our stuff.  When we finally we permitted to inspect the goods, we inspected and counted every single item.  I thought when we approved the list we could just load up and go.  Now that was wishful thinking!  They tapped the box back up and sent us to another office.  I was pretty tired and ready to leave by the time we finished.”  As agreed to with the Director of the Ministry of Health we are going to keep the equipment we picked up in customs in the Bishops Storehouse where we live rather than deliver it to the Ministry of Health.  The reason is that there are national elections before we are going to be using this equipment and if the prevailing party does not win the elections there is a strong possibility we would never see this equipment again if it was sitting in some government office.
We try to go for a stroll in the morning whenever we can.  All of these pictures were taken on the same morning during a ½ hour stroll from where we live.
                                           Figure 89 Wallace in front of our home at Casimiro de Moya #5
There is a big metal sliding gate that is closed all of the time and a guard with a gun to protect the property 24/7.  

Figure 90 Apartments across the street from our house

                                                        Figure 91 Man sitting on wires to repair them
The above picture of a man sitting on the wires is not that uncommon.  Notice he has no cones to protect him from traffic.  This is a fair busy street.
The following picture is a typical water or sewer utility house connection location.  They never compact the soil around a utility trench.  The usual solution is to lay two reinforced blocks across the hole.  A lot of times there is just a big hole in the sidewalk.
                                                                            Figure 92 Utility crossing
                                                                        Figure 93 Street Scene
                                                                    Figure 94  Umbrella Tree
                                            Somebody left an umbrella in a tree.
                                                          Figure 95 Beautiful Lamp and Lighting Store
                                                                 Figure 96 Older Home
                                                                  Figure 98 Hole in Road that remains
                                                                  Figure 99 Monument to Duarte
All of these locations are within a 15 minute walk of our home.  Here is Edith getting our morning paper.  We increase our Spanish vocabulary reading the paper.
                                    Figure 100 Sign to remind us not to use tap water for brushing our teeth
We had to put this sign on the faucet because Edith was forgetting to not brush her teeth with tape water.  That is real bad.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Project Management


Beginning with Sunday 15 April 2012, we were on our own and it began an intense period of trying to understand projects and do what we have to do to make things happen.  We had meetings at the Area Office to learn about finances and apply for a credit card.  We also had the privilege of meeting with the Area Presidency:  Elder ViƱas, Elder Wilford Andersen and Elder Cornish.  We were also trained by Bennie Lilly who is a key player for Welfare Projects all over the Caribbean area.  They basically told us, “We know you are capable people and will do the right thing.  Follow your promptings and do some good and take time to have some fun.”  With that we were turned loose to develop projects using our imagination and help to make the major initiatives already on the books to happen.
While we were in the area on Sunday we strolled around part of a large public park across the street from the Temple.
My brother, Kato and his wife Jenny will remember this park well as they frequently walked around it for exercise.

                     Figure 66 Edith at caves

                Figure 67 Wallace at caves
This has been a very intense week trying to figure out where things are, understanding the Church’s project management system (Chas), getting our LDS mail up and running, getting a temporary car, and starting to meet with people.  We discover there are a lot of projects in crisis mode.  We want so badly to get a handle on things and do a good job that we are pushing ourselves harder then we have in a very long time.  Our day starts at 5:30am with scripture study for ½ hour to an hour, a stroll around the neighborhood and then project management the rest of the day: meetings, visiting, telephone calls, planning, investigating, trying to solve problems, etc. until at least 10:30pm.
until at least 10:30pm.

Figure 68 Edith on porch where we study scriptures
 The best way to describe our lives right now is to compare it the traffic jams “Tapones” on the streets of Santo Domingo.  One of these days we are going to write an entire chapter on driving the streets in the Dominican Republic.  Wallace says he likes driving because there is never a dull moment.  Surprising and strange things happen all around you every moment.  There are the written rules that everyone disobeys and the “unwritten” rules that everyone obeys and everyone knows their part like a complicated symphony---though it is a long way from sounding like one.  We encounter project management resistance with phones, computers, equipment, people, lack of knowledge of where we are and where we are going, customs, etc.  It takes a lot of faith to do what we are doing.  We feel like we have lived about 6 years in the last 2 weeks.
Project management consists in visiting with people who are always coming at you requesting help and in determining what will be the best projects and who will be the best partners.  Then you have to work up a project worksheet to tell about all the elements of the project, the partner organizations, how many people will benefit what the costs are and submit it for approval by the Church.  Once it is approved, you work as a project manager to make it happen including a service project by the local church unit.  Once the project is completed we are to organize a closing ceremony attended by the local organization, the local priesthood leaders and the local press.  Throughout all of this we are using a language we don’t know all that well, working with people who are not accustomed to organizing things and getting this done, who don’t have emails, etc.

          Figure 69 Edith at work on projects
There is no such thing as a Postal Service here.  You cannot write a letter, put it out in a little box and have a man in a pretty little suit  come and pick it up and deliver it somewhere.  You cannot order something from an online company and have it mailed to you.  The system just doesn’t exist.
 Tuesday we had the privilege of visiting Associacion Dominican Reabilitacion (ADR) who is one of the groups the Church provides with wheelchairs.  The Church in the past bought wheelchairs from China and had them shipped in.  But now ADR has started manufacturing the wheelchairs in house.  So the Church buys the wheelchairs from them, then donates them back to ADR to give away to people.
We were amazed with the capacity of this organization and the amazing things they are doing.  Wheel chairs are a small part of what they do.  Unlike everything we have seen so far in the Dominican Republic, ADR is very well organized and is providing doctor exams, therapy, education for the handicapped (mental and/or physical), wheelchairs, carpentry and electrical job training, a craft shop, a beauty school and microbusiness loans.  They hire a lot of people here in Santo Domingo and have 26 offices scattered through the Dominican Republic.  We have never seen such an extensive or well organize system anywhere in the United States in our experience.  We were very impressed.
                                                         Figure 71 Examining a wheelchair
One of our biggest challenges this week is trying to figure out what happened to a big shipment of medical equipment and supplies we need for the NRT project in June.  We were told it arrived in the country, but it is somewhere lost in customs.  We think we are making progress, but the challenges to be encountered are exasperating.
We visited with INDEN, a hospital which treats people with diabetes complications.  Our purpose was to set up a meeting with them for Dr. Mehr from the US to come train about 20-30 doctors and perform some operations.  As part of the project, the church will donates some badly needed equipment.
                                                       Figure 72 Dr Ibraham and Dra. Rosa Fernandez
Language is a big problem.  All of a sudden we are trying to communicate on the phone with people that talk so fast their tongue must be on the verge of bursting out into flames.  It is a slow process, but we are starting to communicate a little.
We usually include a walk around the neighborhood in the mornings.  Sometimes we buy bananas or pineapples or mangos from this street vendor.
                                                       Figure 73 Wallace buying bananas 5 pesos each
We were going to include a picture taken through a large opening in the sidewalk where you can see a clay sewer line suspended in the air.  It is amazing to see it there without collapsing.  Nothing will be done about it until it does and maybe not for a long time after that.  The following is a pretty typical scene on the public sidewalk.  You must stay alert because you can drop out of sight at any time!
                        Figure 74 Sidewalk
20 April 2012  We had the opportunity today to attend a presentation meeting with one of our partner organizations:  Innovacion Orthopetica (IO).  Two of their patients were scheduled today to receive their prosthetic legs.  This was a very rewarding experience for us.
                                                    Figure 75 Freddy, Agripina, Lidia and Lucinda Upia
Freddy is one of the owners of IO.  Agripina lost her leg in a motorcycle accident a year and a half ago.  She was riding with her husband who also suffered major damage.  Lidia lost her limb to diabetes.  There are a lot of people with diabetes, but very inadequate medical treatment.  Lucinda is a member of the church who has taken a special interest in finding people who need prosthetics and gets a lot of joy out of seeing the changes that come into the lives of people who are missing limbs.  If you break a limb and it has complications such as a compound fracture, the standard procedure is to amputate.  If you could see the way people drive their motos here you would understand why there as so many amputees.
                                                                             Figure 76 Leg construction
We had lunch with the representatives of ADR today to discuss other potential projects with them.  Then we drove to the Santo Domingo West Mission office to determine where a little branch is in Azua that we want to visit on Sunday.  It is about a 1.5 hour drive from Santo Domingo where we are considering a food initiative project.
We spend a lot of time researching and trying to figure the status of ongoing projects.  We discovered today that there is some very expensive vision equipment downstairs in a storeroom of the building we live in that should have gone out to doctors a long time ago.  We need to figure out where it is supposed to go so we can close this project out.
 Here are some miscellaneous pictures taken on some of our walks and of the place where we live.
                                                                      Figure 77 Open Manhole
I nearly drove the car into this open manhole without a cover the first time we passed it.  It is on Bolivar street that we take nearly every time we leave the house.  Bolivar is a very busy street.
                                                                          Figure 78 Wall mural
Right in the middle of a poor neighborhood you can find beautiful murals.
                                                              Figure 79 Our Kitchen area
                                                                  Figure 80 Bedroom area
By the end of the day we are very tired, but feel we have done our best and our experience continues to be an adventure of epic proportions.  The church has partnered with some marvelous organizations which has put us into contact with a lot of wonderful people who are performing miracles in this country.
We appreciate the support so many of those at home are giving us and feel your prayers and feel the Lord is directing us and blessing us every day.
We had our first power outage today.  The generator (4’x4’x8’) is supposed to start automatically, but it had to be manually started today.  We also found that we have a cistern in our front yard!  The cistern is an underground concrete tank with a float valve. 
It is hard to believe we have been here for only 15 days! 

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

MTC Experience

We entered the Mission Training Center (MTC) in Provo, Utah on the 23 March 2012 and left there at 3:00am Friday, 6 April 2012.

This is a link to some pictures from the MTC. PICTURES 

The first week we were there was devoted to training in "Preach My Gospel" that gives basic training to proselyting missionaries.  The training applies indirectly to us in that a big part of what we will do in the Dominican Republic is to build relationships with governments and non-government humanitarian groups.

The 2nd week was devoted to Humanitarian Training specific to our assignments.  We had the opportunity to tour Welfare Square in Salt Lake City.  Following our tour we were treated to a formal dinner in the Joseph Smith Memorial Building where Elder Rudd was the speaker. 

The Church cannot solve all the problems in the world, so has selected to have a major impact in 5 different areas:  Clean Water, Food Production, Wheel Chairs, Vision and Neonatal Training.  A lot of what we will do is locate potential partners for these type initiatives and help them achieve their goals.  We were trained in the process of finding and working with partners and how to manage projects.  We already have been told we will have the opportunity to work on all 5 of these initiatives in the Dominican Republic.

In addition to these 5 initiatives, we have the opportunity to find, develop and manage other "Area Initiatives" which we locate and feel are worthwhile projects.

Our MTC experience was great, but we are ready to leave and go to work.