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! 

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