Sunday, July 22, 2012


So what is “LA TOMA”?  Well hang on to your britches and we will tell you!

This week was full of excitement and adventure and went by like a blur.  For those of you who don’t have time to read this blog, click on the word PICTURES at the bottom of this blog.  But if you have time, read on, it was a VERY interesting week!
Church in Sabana Grande de Boya

We attended Church in Sabana Grande de Boya, a little branch that should have been a 1.5 hour drive.  We took the Despains, a couple who work in the temple and have no car and like to go out with us when they can.  The trip turned into a 3 hour drive because we got lost and went way out of our way—a long way!.  Because street names are a rare thing we have to rely on maps (not enough detail) and our GPS.  The GPS had a mind of its own and decided to take us the scenic route.  At one point we stopped at the side of the road to study the maps which didn’t help a lot.  A car passed us slowly and stopped on the side of the road a little ahead.  As we left and were passing that car, Wallace had the distinct impressed that the people had something to say to us, but he felt a little embarrassed to say that to the other people in the car, so we kept driving.  We drove for nearly an 20 minutes until we realized the GPS was just taking us to the nearest large city only to have us turn around and retrace our steps.  Before we arrived at the true destination we had traveled a lot of rough rocky roads through little towns who probably had never seen a group of white folk on their streets EVER.  When we finally pulled into the parking lot, there was the car which had stopped ahead of us!  It was the District President and his wife who had stopped because she had had the impression that we were missionaries and we were lost!  We got home safely from a wild adventure!
Leonel Duarte with INAPA

We have been trying to put together a wáter project in San Juan de La Maguana to benefit a community called Los Montones and a home for adult males struggling with addictions called Hogar Crea.  There are two types of water systems, private and public.  Public water systems are all maintained by INAPA the national water provided.  However, INAPA has very little funds and struggles with the same problem that every other utility struggles with---- no infrastructure, no government support and people that do not hesitate to steal the utilities if they can.  It is just a way of life.  We finally had a meeting with Leonel Duarte which helped move the project along some.  We are finding water projects to be very difficult to manage.
Interview in Azua

Monday we interviewed the mother of a family of 5 who live in Buenos Aires, a neighborhood who is part of the water project we are investigating in Azua.  Dileysi is 31 years old, her husband is 32 years old.  He owns a motorcycle and works as a “motochacon” motorcycle taxi.  They have 3 daughters 10, 11, and 13. He is one of many men who sit on the side of the street waiting for someone to ask for a ride somewhere.  He earns $3,500 pesos (about $90 US) per month on a good month and spends about 26% of his take home pay or more on water for the family. 
The purpose of the interview was to try to have a personal sense of what it is like to live without any water in the house.  We asked permission to ask personal questions and to be able to use the photos and the video we took for whatever purpose.  Her words were very touching to us.  Though we listened to the words, we still cannot fathom the difficulties she labors under without that most precious of all liquids---water!  Here are some of our observations:

·         They purchase four 5 gallon bottles of potable water for a total of $120 pesos per week from a truck that drives through the neighborhood.

·         They pay $35 pesos each week to have a truck that drives through the neighborhood to fill a 55 gallon drum of non-potable water.  They put a little chlorine in the water to kill bugs and use this water for cleaning, bathing and washing clothes.

·         Their total consumption of water is about 2.3 gal/day/person compared to a design value for people in the USA = 123 gals/per/day (people use about 5.3 times the water consumption as this woman and her family)

                                                                   They never have money to fill the white tank
Her home consists of 2 rooms.  The kitchen is about 5’ square with a small propane cooking stove and a little table to prepare the meals.  The bedroom has two beds side by side.  Mom and Dad sleep in one bed and the 3 girls in the other bed.  The room is just barely big enough for the beds and a refrigerator that someone gave to them that doesn’t have anything in it.  She was very proud of the picture of Christ hanging on the wall as the only decoration.  There are no doors and no windows and one light bulb.  The heat during the day is almost unbearable.  They have one little dog that looks like it is starving to death and a few little potted plants the mother is so proud of.  She somehow squeezes enough water out to keep them alive.  They have an outside latrine.

Before water trucks started coming to town they had to walk several kilometers for water every day.

                                                                Rice and beans 2 times a day if you are lucky
Their living conditions are extremely difficult to describe and our words would not do it justice.  It is a great motivation to us to push forward to try to find some solution to their water problem. 

We are learning more about how things work here and how is it possible that the approximately 830 people living in her legal subdivision came to not have water or power.  In the USA you have to install the streets, power, telephone, internet, sewer and prove a 100 year supply of water before you subdivide your land and sell lots.  Not here! The problem is that anyone can subdivide property without any infrastructure and without any proof of water supply.   
We stopped in at the office of INAPA in Azua to see if we could find any support to solve this family’s water problem.  We visited with the head engineer and learned that she is struggling to keep up with the problems she has with the parts of the city she is providing water to now, much less think about adding over 800 home sites to the system.  They need pumps, vehicles, repair tools, hoses, tanks, etc. etc. They get very little money from the government and are basically putting band aids on serious infrastructure problems for a population that continues to grow.  There is no place in the city that does not experience water “blackouts” for days at a time every week of the year.  Of course none of the public water supply is potable.  INAPA has no resources to help and in fact were asking us for help before we had left her office!

El Cigual
We spent the entire day traveling with representatives of Sur Futuro to review 2 projects they want us to help them finance.  El Cigual is a water project that was put together by the prior missionaries and was approved by the Church to construct.  Then we come along and start asking questions and convinced everyone the water filtration system that had been proposed was not the right solution for the community.  The source of water they intended to use has a very high clay content and is very dirty with animal and human contamination.  The filtration system proposed was complicated and we were afraid it would surely clog up rapidly and thus not be a very locally sustainable project.  So Sur Futuro proposed another solution.

The new solution is to run 11 km of pipe to capture the water from a stream high in the mountains.  They took us in a 4-wheel drive up and down rough mountain roads to a stream that has water in it all year long.  The ride was rough, but the vistas from the tops of mountain peaks were incredible.  We took pictures, but the camera does not do it justice.

The point where the water is taken is called “LA TOMA”.  It just blows our minds how the system works around here.  Given the public water system has no resources, people just take things into their own hands.  If you want water and if you have a way to run the pipe, you just go find a place to capture the water into your pipe, lay claim to it with a sign and run your pipe.  This explains why we kept seeing 2 or 3 pipes every once in a while along the roads and trails.  Each pipe represents a different family, farmer or group who ran their own pipe to their own “Toma”.  The pipes were 1 to 2 inch pipe.  There is no cooperation to share in the cost of a bigger pipe to save costs and energy.  So the solution for El Cigual is probably going to be to lay yet another pipe alongside the others only we will run it further than the other pipes to get to El Cigual. 

                                                                                          "La Toma" for Cigual
When Sur Futuro asked the community whether they would rather have water now with a filter that might fail or clean water straight from the river but have to dig 11 km of ditch for the pipe and wait a little longer, the men voted for the filter—the women voted for the 11 km of pipe!  The community is already out clearing the brush and trees blocking the view of the land surveyor.  We have told them the Church has to approve the additional funds before the project is real, but they are moving forward because they believe this is what God wants.

Monte Bonito
On the same day as our trip to El Cigual we drove to the site of another possible project called Monte Bonito.  The 4 wheel drive had difficulty with this one.  We eventually reached an elevation of over 5000 feet above sea level which is only ½ way up the mountain.  Pico Duarte is over 10,000 feet high!  The views along this trail made the views of Cigual blush!  Again we took pictures, but there is no way to describe how beautiful and green it is. 

Finally we reached the “Toma” which is situated on the side of a steep embankment just below a lagoon. There is plenty of water for the “Monte Bonito” community about 5 km away.

We drove up the road a little further to the lagoon where one of our guides explained that 2 Americans had tried to find the bottom of the lagoon, but couldn’t and that local legend has it that a monster lives in the lagoon!  The GPS coordinates of the lagoon are:  18.69758,-70.84292 at an elevation of 5100 feet.

The following picture is of Edith and Wallace standing in front of the lagoon with Edith demonstrating a perfect Dominican Pucker.  They use puckered lips to point.

                                                       Monster Lagoon (Edith with her perfected Dominican Pucker)
This project will consist of running 5 km of pipe and then pipe through the community.  No approvals are needed—just do the work.

San Jose de Ocoa Food
We got a good start to a food project in San Jose de Ocoa, about a 1.5 hour drive from our home in Santo Domingo.  San Jose de Ocoa is a little community on the edges of the mountains.  The setting is beautiful!

Approximately 30 people attended the meeting where we introduced the food project to them.  The Despains went with us on this trip also.  We sang an opening song using the Ukulele.  We asked a few questions to begin.  Here are some interesting statistics:
·         9 families produce some food on their lots
·         No families store any food
·         1 person has a garden
·         13 families know how to grow a garden
·         30 families want to have a garden!
                                          Wallace showing how to get a supply of beans without costing anything
Wallace asked them if so many people wanted to have a garden, why didn’t they have a garden?  It was touching to hear them tell of the difficult circumstances in which they live and lack of resources.  It makes us feel happy to be involved in a project that may help these people become more self-sufficient.

Wallace showed them how they can all begin to obey the prophet,s counsel to get a supply of food in their home without costing one single centavo.  He held up a small empty plastic water bottle and showed that each time the mother prepares a pot of habichuelas (beans) she can take a small amount like that would fit in the palm of your hand and put in the bottle to save.  If she does it without the family seeing her do it, no-one will miss it in the meal.  If she does it over and over every meal, before you know it, the bottle will be filled with habichuelas.  And before you know it, you will have several bottles stored.  They can do the same thing with rice and salt.  That seemed to be an eye opener to them.
Wallace also showed them how they can dry pineapple, papaya, mangos and bananas in the hot Dominican sun.  Nobody does that here and were not sure they caught onto the idea that this is another way they can follow the counsel to store up food for when a storm hits and the trees are knocked over and the colmado (corner store) doesn’t have any food.  They will have food and water if they follow this counsel!

                                                                   Cheap homemade fruit drier
We showed them a film from the Ministry of Agriculture on how to build a grow box for a garden.  They were all very interested in this.  During the meeting the branch president said one of their biggest challenges is “water”.  So we are back to the water thing again.  He asked if the project might include a pump and pipes to bring water from the river that runs at the bottom of the hill all year long.  We told them there is that possibility.  They need to design a solution to their problems and present it to us for consideration, just like the Brother of Ether thought up a solution and proposed it to the Lord.

The Food and Water project are a great blessing to us to be able to work hand in hand with the Lord in finding solutions to some very severe problems.
 We haven’t solved any big problems yet, but we are doing our best and feel the love and guidance of the Lord every day.  We wish all of you were here to lend a hand!



  1. Except for the part about encouraging mothers to lay up beans on earth where moth and rust corrupt, where old beans are nasty, and where thieves break through and steal, this was awesome!

  2. Great photos and videos! Jenny and I were at Sabana Grande de Boya many times for church. We helped in the Primary. If you see Branch President Ramon Perez there, tell him hello for us.