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 TempleWe 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.