Saturday, May 26, 2012

Hogar Mercedes

It is hard to believe that we are in our 7th week.  So much has transpired and every day is still an adventure.  Wallace’s ear infection is better, but he still has trouble hearing in his right ear and his equilibrium is still off but things are progressing in the right direction.

Tuesday we arranged a meeting between ADR (Associacion Dominican de Reabilitacion) and the LDS Church employment and PEF (Perpetual Education Fund) directors.  ADR, one of our partner organizations would like to hire about 45 LDS youth/returned missionaries that are interested in pursuing a career in teaching the handicapped, Physical Therapy and Special Education.  They are impressed with the LDS and are looking for good honest people to hire to further their rehabilitation efforts with the physically and mentally handicapped.  They will guarantee employment while going to school and a job after graduation to the right youth.   This is a great opportunity for the youth who are interested in this type career.  Using PEF funds, the youth go to school, graduate and have some wonderful opportunities.  They are obligated to pay a good share of the funds back to PEF.  ADR has about 26 offices around the DR.  The directors of ADR are not LDS but have received humanitarian help from the LDS to provide wheelchairs to the poor.

We thought you surveyors out there would enjoy this picture of a surveyor who chanced to come to the survey monument we told you about last week to get a shot.  A surveyor here is called a “Agrimensor”.

After the meeting with ADR we went to the “Colonial Zone” to purchase a topographic map for one of the areas we have a water project in.  It was an interesting experience locating and purchasing a digital copy of the map we needed.
                                                         Figure 129 Getting a Digital Topo Map

Afterward, we took time to do a little sight seeing in the Colonial Zone.  The Colonial Zone is a part of the city that has many old structures built back in Columbus’ day. 

                                      Figure 130 Church next door to last known residence of Columbus in Santo Domingo
                                                                    Figure 131 Edith in Colonia Zone

                     Figure 132 Edith on steps at Colonial Zone
                                                                Figure 133 Wallace at Colonial Zone

Contrary to the impression often given in our schools in the USA, Christopher Columbus did not land on USA soil.  We researched it a little bit and it doesn’t appear he ever set foot on what is USA soil.  Rather he landed on the island of Guanahani in the Bahamas and on his second voyage he claimed the land for Spain all the land occupied today by Haiti and the Dominican Republic.  He died in Spain, but his remains were moved several times.  The Dominicans claim he is buried at the “Columbus Lighthouse” here in Santo Domingo.
                                                                Hogar Mercedes

On Wednesday (23 May 26, 2012)  we visited Hogar Mercedes, the highlight for the week.  Hogar Mercedes is a home run by a few nuns for the benefit of  23 orphans and a school for the orphans and children from the neighborhood. 

We found the children very well disciplined as Sister Livia Campoverde Encalada, the Catholic Nun who manages the school gave us a tour.  She and the three other Nuns who live with her at the school provide everything for their needs: food, housing, medical and religious and scholarly education.  They are an excellent example of people who have dedicated their lives to a marvelous work and a wonder, creating miracles in the lives of a few of God’s children, following the example of Christ and doing it with nothing but the power of faith.  We were very impressed with their example and how God is working through people of all faiths to watch after and care for his children.  It touched our hearts and lifted our spirits and at the same time condemned us for our many acts of selfishness throughout our lives.

The two year old standing in front of the statue of Christ in the following picture was brought to the school as an infant when her mother had abandoned her.  She is a happy intelligent child today.  What do you think, is the sacrifice of Sister Encalada worth it?  We think so.
                                                    Figure 135 Wallace, Sister Encalada, child, Edith

Last week a young man walked into the engineering office of our son Nathan to apply for a job.  Because of this interview, Nathan called Jim Nelson, a professor at BYU and discovered that he had a contact in the DR.  This contact is Fidel Perez, a high level person in INDRHI  (Instituto Nacional Dominicano Recursos Hidrolocos) here in Santo Domingo.  Jim introduced us to Fidel via email and we visited with Fidel this week.  It was a great meeting and we feel this contact will be a key contact for the water projects we are doing here.  We do not feel this was a coincidence. The Lord created this circle to put us in connection with Fidel.  He has offered all the help he can, particularly if there are people or organizations who may need a little prodding to get things done.  They also have ground water and hydrologic and flood data that will be very important.  He will also help us to understand the processes and how to get things done.  INDRHI also has some smaller water projects they cannot get to that maybe we can pursue.  You are going to hear more about this in the weeks to come! 
                                                     Figure 136 Drill rig promised by Fidel for our use
Finally after 7 weeks of working hard, we took a little time off to relax.  We went with 3 other adult missionary couples to Playa Juan Dolio about a 45 minute drive from Santo Domingo.  The following are a few pictures of our outing.  The beach was beautiful though the snorkeling wasn’t very good.  It was fun to get away.
                                                                  Figure 137 Playa Juan Dolio

We tried a little snorkeling, but the water was pretty murky and we only saw a few fish.

We did find a shell occupied with a hermit crab about the size of your fist.  It was fun to watch him carefully extend one claw, dig it into the sand and flip himself over.  The fun ended when a native came along, waited for the crab to stick his claw out, then the native took out his machete and cut the claw off.  He said he was going to eat the claw.
                                                      Figure 138 Wallace and Edith at the beach

Well that’s the end of another great adventure.  It was a great week.  The Lord continues to bless us with many growing experiences in a beautiful land full of beautiful people who look to God every day for their daily bread and are content with what the Lord has seen fit in his wisdom to grant to them.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Los Elecciones

Week ending 19 May 2012 of the exciting Adventures of the Haws in the Dominican Republic features the Dominican Republic National Presidential Elections--- Los Elecciones!

There isn’t a living Dominican that isn’t intensely interested in national politics—they take it serious!  We were advised to not leave our house from Saturday to Monday.  The elections take place on Sunday, because there are numerous rallies in many places across the country.  Historically they frequently turn violent and blood flows.  If you know a native Dominican in the US, just ask him about national elections.

                                                            Figure 121 Danilo Rally House
We were headed home about 7 pm Thursday night following our normal route on Penson to Delgado then right, then left, then right, then left, then right to our house (sorry we don’t know the names of the streets because they usually aren’t posted on smaller streets.)—it usually takes us 15 minutes.  It took us over an hour to drive the last ¼ mile because our route crossed Bolivar just ½ block north of a platform erected to give political speeches.  The street intersection was packed with young men and some young women all carrying signs of their particular party affiliation along with a big stick. It was one of the biggest tapozon (big traffic jam) of our experience.  You have to drive pretty aggressive in that situation and ignore all written rules of driving.  With passions at a fevered pitch, it wouldn’t take much to turn a “gathering” like that into a mob if they meet an opposing rally--blood can flow.  We were glad to get home.

On our way home Friday we narrowly missed the biggest rally of them all not more than ¼ mile from our house on the Malacon.  We shut ourselves in the house and listened to loud speakers, fire-works, guns and then explosions (probably cannons shooting into the bay) until after mid-night. 
We are anxious for the political powder keg to be over as we explained in a previous blog.  If the current government is overthrown, or if there is a “Segunda Vuelta” (2nd voting) our neonatal training in the hospital will have to be postponed.  If there is a change in the government, all current officers in the hospital may change and we lose all the great contacts we now have.  Furthermore, the current Minister of Infantile Health gave us permission to store the equipment that was shipped in for the training to be at our house instead of a government warehouse because things tend to disappear if there is a change in government.  Offices and warehouses are typically stripped of anything valuable with a turnover in the government.  No big deal.  It is expected.

As we were taking our morning stroll we found a flag for Danilo, one of the presidential candidates on the sidewalk.  Here is Wallace sporting the flag and his new Dominican haircut.

                                                         Figure 122 Wallace with Danilo Flag

In honor of the national elections, Edith is going to fix the National Dish, La Bandera for dinner on Sunday.  (Rice, Hubichuelas (beans) and chicken.
                                           Figure 123 Wallace in front of our home at #5 Casimiro de Moya

Wallace noticed a survey marker just outside our gate at #5 Casimiro de Moya, Guzcue, Santo Domingo.  We talked to an “Agrimensor” registered land surveyor and found out there are monuments all over the city to control land ownership similar to the US, but their description is more of a meets and bounds description.
                                                         Figure 124 Wallace looking at survey marker
                                                                        Figure 125 Survey Marker

We also were given a different car to drive.  Wallace was hoping for a Jaguar, but we settled for a Toyota Corolla.
                                                                 Figure 126 Edith with new car
           We take a different route each morning on our morning route.  This little garden patch is a pretty rare site.
                                                                             Figure 128 Corn patch
PROJECTS:  It is a great blessing for us to have the power in our hands to work in defense of the poor in this country.  The Church has turned us loose to identify humanitarian projects and a lot more latitude then maybe they should have to accomplish what we find.  The good Lord has directed us in many directions including clean water projects, wheelchairs, old folks homes, hospitals, schools, food projects and others.  We simultaneously are working on a number of projects in companionship with local charitable churches and organizations.  We consider it a great blessing in our lives to do this.  If you want to get involved, an easy way to do it is to donate money to LDS Philanthropies.  Most of the money goes directly to projects benefiting the poor in many areas of the world, because the people administering it are people like us who are paying their own way to administer the program.  We purchase items made within the country to support the local economy as well as avoid tremendous import fees and miscellaneous charges, if you know what I mean.
Wallace continues to endure ear problems.  “I am trying to endure with faith and patience all things that the good Lord sees fit to inflict upon me.  I am reminded of so many of my personal friends, and you know who you are, who silently and patiently endure their personal trials.  I am trying to work hard and do the right thing even though it is very difficult at the present time.” 
We appreciate your prayers on our in behalf and recognize that even in the few short weeks we have been here, the Lord has blessed us with many interesting and unique experiences.  Our lives have been changed in positive ways that will last the rest of our lives.
We appreciate all of you who are watching over our property, our affairs, our business dealings and our family most of all.  May the Lord bless each of you in your own affairs!
There you have it!  In spite of illness and limitations caused by the elections we had another great week of HawsDRAdventures.  Stay Tuned!!!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Los Bomberos


This week, week 5 of the great Dominican Republic Adventure we feature LOS BOMBEROS!  Los Bomberos means FIREMEN.

      Figure 112 Street scene of Los Alcarrizos
                                                   Figure 113 Street Scene of the street of Los Alcarrizos

We have a project in the city of Los Alcarrizos about a 30 minute drive north of Santo Domingo for a fire department.  It is actually an older project we were investigating why it wasn’t closed out.  This is what we found.

The church had installed a new well with a submersible pump which pumps into a large underground concrete storage vault.  The pump delivers approximately 5 gpm.  There are numerous areas in the city where the public water system runs dry or for whatever reason doesn’t have water.  People start to get stressed out when they don’t have water.  The fire department has been delegated the responsibility to carry water to those parts of the city which are out of water.  So they pump from the concrete vault up into a large water truck. Then they drive to the stressed area of the city and people come to get water.  They are in a constant state of pumping water from the holding tank and hauling it throughout the city.  Their solution they asked the church to help with was to purchase a larger pump so they could fill up the water truck faster.  Now you are probably thinking there are a lot better solutions and their probably are, but this was their solution and what they asked help with.
                                                               Figure 114 Bomberos water Tanker
                                                             Figure 115 Pump to fill water tanker

The church purchased a new 6 HP pump.  Problems starting to occur very soon thereafter because every time they used the new pump it broke down.  They had replaced the pump on 3 different occasions prior to our arrival.  We are trying to find out now if they are putting diesel in the pump as specified and if they are priming the pump so the pump doesn’t run dry.  Either of which would ruin a pump pretty quickly.  It is going to be a touchy problem to resolved, but it is part of what we do.

We read in the paper this week about a fire that took place in a touristy part of the island.  (a different location than Los Alcarrizos). When the owner discovered the fire at 6:30am she called the fire department.  They were kind, but they told her they couldn’t help her because the BOMBA (pump) had been broken for 5 years.  She called the neighboring town and they said their truck didn’t work either.  The newspaper article shows a picture of people in a bucket brigade taking water from the bay and throwing on the ashes of what used to be the hotel.  This is probably a typical situation.  It worries us because there is so much garbage everywhere, wires from poles hanging down, people cooking on open fires and other hazardous situations that it seems a miracle to us the city of Santo Domingo where we live doesn’t burn to the ground.  If there were a fire, we don’t think it ever would stop.  What’s worse is that every house has bars across every door and every window, including our apartment, and a person could be easily trapped in a building.

As it turned out for the fire department in Los Alcarrizos, the vendor agreed to give our money back and we are going to try a different vendor and type pump.  Hopefully, the project will be done soon and we can close it out.

Speaking of bars on doors and windows, one of the employees at the area office looked out across the street to a neighboring apartment building and a man was reaching through the opening in the bars across the window and stealing clothes.  The employee knew the family who lived there so he called them.  The neighbor pulled out his gun and shot the man who was stealing who fell from the 2nd floor to the ground.  The neighbor ran down and shot him again as he was trying to flee.  The man got away, but not unharmed.  Nothing more ever became of it.

We are making slow progress with the projects.  Mostly what we are doing is trying to figure out the status of projects that were ongoing when we got here and trying to finish them. 

Wallace is in the process of creating a legal document of agreement between Sur Futuro and the church to design and build the water system in El Cigual.  It is an interesting process to figure out how things are done in a foreign country with a different culture, but we are getting there.

We visited ASODIFIMO this week.  They provide wheelchairs to people who cannot afford to buy them.  The church has provided them with significant help over the years.  Their facility is located in a very poor run down building.  Whenever it rains the water just pours in.  They have very limited capacity to adjust or repair wheelchairs or to ever become self-sufficient, so we are not sure how much help the church will continue to provide them.  We’ll see.
                                                             Figure 116  ASODIFIMO Workshop
Thursday night Wallace woke up with a very bad ear ache.  We tried all of our remedies, but with little effect.  He spent the rest of the night in a lot of pain.  Friday morning we determined we were going to have to find some help.  Having been to several hospital that we wouldn’t wish anyone to have to go into, and knowing there are no neighborhood emergency centers, we were a little anxious.  The long short of the story is we did find an ear, nose, throat specialist only about 2 blocks from our home.  He had antiquated equipment, but he prescribed some antibiotics and painkillers.  Today Sunday, Wallace is still suffering even though we did keep our appointments in Azua, Los Alcarrizos and with the stake president in Gascue.  Wallace can barely hear and finds it very difficult to speak.

Saturday we traveled to Azua to meet with the water committee of Azua.  Actually it is just a small neighborhood of a portion of Azua.  Their problem is their homes at higher up on the hill where they cannot be serviced water from the public water system.  Everyone in the neighborhood pays for a water truck to come fill up 55 gallon drums in their yard for general cleaning and cooking and they buy bottled water at a higher price than normal.
                                                            Figure 117 Water truck delivering water

 Since the unemployment rate is so high, and money so scarce the result is people do not drink enough water and end up drinking the dirty water a lot of times particularly the little kids with resulting gastrointestinal disease.  There is a river about ¼ mile away that has surface water about 5 months out of the year, but it is down a very steep path and difficult to get.  These people formed their own neighborhood water committee to find a solution.  They have appealed to the community, the government and others to no avail.  Now they have appealed to the Church.  As we visited about the problem, it is evident the solution is not just about solving the engineering problem and the cost to get water to them, but it is a social problem.  A quasi-government organization with people who have no practical experience to collect and save funds for future repairs and replacement, hygiene training so people know how to use water safely and how to be a united community to preserve a valuable asset.

Here is a few pictures of Wallace visiting with members of the neighborhood water committee about the problem and the process to secure funds from the church.  It was a good meeting. 

Figure 118 Wallace (back turned) and Azua Water Committee

We felt good about it even though Wallace was suffering from an earache throughout the process.  Future reports will be reporting  on the Azua project.  One of our greatest needs is to find a reliable handheld GPS unit so we can collect reliable enough information to do a preliminary engineering study and cost estimate.  There may be more than one possible solution at this point.

                                                  Figure 119 Stream where we want to take water from

So that concludes another exciting week in the life of the HawsDR Adventure.  We appreciate your prayers on our behalf and hope all is well with you in the good old USofA.

We were given a copy of a picture taken when we first met the Area Presidency.  We preserve it here even though it is out of chronological sequence.  Many of you will recognize Wilford Andersen on the right.

                              Figure 120 Elder Cornish, Wallace, Edith, Elder Vinas, Elder Wilford Anderson

Saturday, May 5, 2012



We are now in the end of our 4th week here in the Dominican Republic, 29 April 2010 to 5 May 2010.  The highlight of this week was our visit to Padre Las Casas with Fundacion Sur Futuro, but we will leave that to the end of this week’s exciting DR Adventures!

We met with one Stake President to discuss a potential school project.  They need computers, desks, fans, blackboards, and other miscellaneous stuff.  The Stake President gave us the name of the school and who to contact and turned the project over to us. 

At this point we have begun to feel extremely overwhelmed.  The previous couple left 25 projects in one state of completion or another.  We can never seem to get a real handle on anything and every day some new project is delivered to our door step.  They are stacking up.

The process has been that we, the Country Humanitarian Directors (that is just a big name for the fact that we are the ONLY Humanitarian Missionaries in the entire country) take the project, plan it, meet with the beneficiaries, determine what is appropriate, work with the benefiting organization to write up the project and obtain quotes, etc and prepare the project to be submitted to the church for approval of the funds, get the materials purchased and delivered.  The members of the local unit of the Church are asked to perform some kind of service for the recipient organization incidental to the work we are doing with the benefiting organization.

Drawing upon our own experience working on service projects for our stake back home, reading the principals of welfare as found in the church handbooks and reading the scriptures, we came to the conclusion that we are doing this all wrong. 

To begin with, every one of these service projects is a wonderful opportunity for the local members of the church to put into practice correct welfare principals and then learn for themselves how to organize, plan, perform and enjoy the blessings of service---it isn’t about us and what we can learn or development of our talents, it is about them.  It is about what they learn and do to help the people in their own neighborhoods help themselves.

With that thought, we are starting to work a little differently now.  When someone comes to us with a request, the first thing we do is have a meeting with the stake president and/or bishop of the ward where the potential project is.  Our plan is to immediately begin to teach welfare principals to the local priesthood leaders.  They can decide if the request is reasonable and the benefiting organizations is legitimate.  They then call a “Welfare Specialist” and a “Special Welfare Committee” to plan and carry out the project.  We teach and assist along the way and when the time comes, we then submit a request for funds from the church.  In this way the local members drive the project and only call on us if there is a financial needs.  Consequently, the local members grow and are recognized in the community in which they live and we are not worked to death!

We haven’t really gone through this entire process yet, but it rings true to us and follows the pattern we have seen in our own lives as we have worked in our home ward and stake callings.

We also walked a different route on our morning walk and saw some other interesting things.  We do not live very far from the beach.  But we use that word loosely.  There is a shore line, but most of it is very rocky and the little part of it that could have potentially been a very pretty beach is literally covered with garbage.  It would be totally unsafe to set foot in the water.

The following are a few pictures of our little walk.

  Figure 101 Street Monument

                                                                              Figure 102 Beach Scene

                           Figure 103 Graveyard

                                                   Figure 104 Wallace shooting a hundreds year old cannon

                                                                    Figure 105 Santo Domingo Temple
We have been able to attend the Temple only once since we arrived, but this week we had an opportunity to catch the Temple in good lighting conditions and took some pictures. 

As mentioned, the highlight of our week was a trip we took with Fundacion Sur Futuro.  They are a non-profit organization whose founder is the wife of the owner of the largest bank in the Dominican Republic.  She originated from Padre las Casas, a little town about 3 hours to the West of Santo Domingo.  Now she has created a wonderful organization whose mission is to help the poor in the Dominican Republic by constructing clean water systems, improving farming production by building drip irrigation systems, teaching best farming practices, assisting schools, and maintaining libraries in rural areas.  We were very impressed with the expanse of their activities including a huge reforestation nursery.
                                                                 Figure 107 Sur Futuro Reforestisation

We are teaming up with them to construct a water system in a little town called Cigual.  The project is almost ready to kick up.  We are working on final agreements and reviewing the final plans, so we visited the project location and visited with some of the local town people. 

                                                            Figure 108 Wallace participating in town meeting

                                                              Figure 109 Drinking water supply ditch

We also drove a long way on a long winding mountain road to visit and potential farming sprinkler system we may participate it.

The landscape is stunning!   It is a good thing we had a 4-wheel drive.  The roads were steep and the ground muddy.  At the end of the road, we met with one of the farmers who explained what his day is like. 
                                                                 Figure 110 Las Palmitas landscape

He has planted approximately 7 acres of land on the side of the mountain in bananas and avocados and yucca.  These will become his main production crop, but in between these he has planted beans and corn.  There aren’t any rows.  Everything is just scattered out across the hillside.  Until he pointed it out, we didn’t know what we were really looking at, but as he explained it and we looked closer, we could see small concrete tanks at different points across the mountainside and could start to distinguish the outline of different hillside farms.  There were a lot of different farms, each managed by a man and his family. 
                                                               Figure 111 Farming in Las Palmitas

Each tank had a pipe from a spring somewhere further up in the hills.  But from there the farmer has to use hoses to water or he has to carry water.  The result he is limited in the amount of food he can produce.  Sur Futuro proposes to design and construct sprinkler systems fed from the existing tanks that will reduce the amount of manpower required.  It is an interesting project, but I’m not sure at this point if it is something we will participate in.

It was a very interesting trip.  Along the way we learned a lot of valuable information about the customs of the people and why things are the way they are.  SUR FUTURO fed us breakfast and lunch where we experienced eating yucca prepared the Dominican way and the traditional “La Bandera”, a meal of rice, beans and chicken.

We discussed the traditional diet with the representatives of SUR FUTURO and questioned why they were not helping the people learn how to grow different kinds of vegetables.  The did start teaching, but it fell on its face because the people went to a lot of trouble to grow vegetables, but then went they went to market, no-one purchased them and it is a huge problem to transport vegetables before spoiling to the capital where there would be a bigger market.  So the people eat what they grow and can transport---beans, rice, bananas, yucca, mango and avocados.  The result is a very limited diet and lacking nutrition.

We concluded that things are not necessarily bad here, just different.