Sunday, September 30, 2012


For pictures only click HERE
We worked really hard this week on the Food Project in San Jose de Ocoa and preparing for the visit by the NRT doctors. 
We are working with the Branch President Whalincon Mateo in San Jose de Ocoa to come up with a garden design that is practical for his people and to identify a water source solution for about 7 different families in Parra, a small community close to San Jose de Ocoa.  Our challenge is to develop a meaningful process for small garden projects that keeps ownership of the project in the hands of the participants. They are the authors of their own design and financial and construction management.  It isn’t easy putting something in place where we don’t end up buying everything, hauling everything and organizing work projects.  The less we are involved in the dirty work the better not because we don’t like to work in gardens because we do, but the reason is so the project doesn’t collapse the day we leave the mission field.  We are looking for a process that keeps on rolling without us.

During our visit with San Jose de Ocoa we were invited to eat lunch with a family.  It makes us nervous to eat in the homes of the native people because they simply do not have the same standards of cleanliness that we have, but it is a very rude thing to refuse.  So we eat and pray to stay well. They are such good people and consider it a great honor to have us dine with them.  They love us and we love them, so we cannot do any less.  The meal is almost always the same: a lot of rice, habichuelas (beans) and chicken.  It really is a good meal and we love the flavor of the food.

We did take a break to go with several of the other missionary couples to visit two waterfall locations near Jarabacoa (about 2 hours from Santo Domingo). The first waterfall we visited was an easy walk over suspension bridges past a small hydroelectric plant to a deck in front of the 40 foot falling water at Salto de Jimenoa Dos. It was a beautiful sight.  We enjoyed the 15 minute walk with fellow missionaries from our Spanish class, which is taught by Elder Darrell Hammon.
 The second waterfall proved at lot more difficult to get to.  The hike down the mountainside on switchback and very steep trails was a challenge.  Three of our group choose not to go all the way, but for those of us that made it down the slope to Salto de Jimenoa Uno it proved to be worth the effort.  There were no big crowds here.  We saw firsthand a scene out of Jurassic Park, because this was where one of the scenes of the movie was filmed.

On the way home from the falls, we stopped at a roadside restaurant.  We took the opportunity to go back into the kitchen and take some pictures.  The kitchen was interesting to say the least.
We ended the week with helping the visiting doctors in their first session training other doctors on latest practices in Neonatal Resuscitation.
We are standing in front of the NRT training chart that our son Ben had drafted in his Washington engineering office.  This coming week will be totally occupied with 2 days of training in Santo Domingo, 1 day of travel to Santiago, and 2 days of training in Santiago.
We end with a picture of one of the guards who watches over our property.  He is holding a shotgun pistol of sorts.  We doubt it actually works.  We have a guard 24 hours a day, 4 locked doors with bars and bars on every window in the place.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012


                                                        The Monument
We finally went to visit a monument that has been calling to us since we arrived in the DR.  This Monument was built in honor of Anton De Montesinos, Friar from Spain, who first arrived on the Island of Hispaniola in 1510 and gave a never to be forgotten sermon on the 21st of December, 1511,  criticizing the practices of the Spanish colonial slavery and harsh treatment of the Taíno Indian people.  His words are engraved in stone at the base of the monument, "Tell me by what right of justice do you hold these Indians in such a cruel and horrible servitude? On what authority have you waged such detestable wars against these people who dealt quietly and peacefully on their own lands? Wars in which you have destroyed such an infinite number of them by homicides and slaughters never heard of before. Why do you keep them so oppressed and exhausted, without giving them enough to eat or curing them of the sicknesses they incur from the excessive labor you give them, and they die, or rather you kill them, in order to extract and acquire gold every day."

This statue faces the Caribbean sea at the seafront of Santo Domingo, not far from our apartment, but along the very busy street of George Washington that winds itself around the Mar (Ocean).  Wallace claims the statues is warning all on comers to, ”Go Home!  Go Home while you still can!”

The Food Project was our main focus this week.  We traveled to San Jose de Ocoa to interview some technicians, who will give training to the people on how to grow a garden.  The department of Agriculture here in the DR offers free classes and support.  Their purposes and ours go hand in hand.  We then returned today to receive surveys from each family interested in participating in the “Projecto de Alimentario”.  The purpose of the project is to lift the people by providing the means for them to grow a vegetable garden in or near their homes and to teach principals of self-sufficiency and home storage of food.  70% of the people in this area are unemployed.  There is no public welfare.  People here are much better at helping their neighbor than many are in the US.  But it still means that beans and rice are the main diet.  Vegetables will improve the nutrition of the people. We are very excited to get this project started.

Wallace had a wakeup call on how dangerous the roads are at night.  Our neighbor, Joanne Hammon, had a late night flight to catch, so Wallace and Darrell Hammon took her to the airport.  As they crossed the “floating bridge” and rounded a corner, they were suddenly stopped by a group of men with guns.  The men were dressed in military attire, but they may or may not have been in the military.  All of a sudden everyone in the car ‘forgot how to speak Spanish’.  In fact Elder Hammon was so nervous that he said in English, “We don’t speak English, We don’t speak English!”.  One of the men asked for documents, where we were going, who were we and finally money for his supper.  All they got was “We don’t speak English!” and they finally waved them on.  We are very grateful that they were able to proceed to the airport.  We know the Lord protects us, but we will use a different route to the airport at night, after this experience.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Las Mariposas

Click HERE for pictures.

“LAS MARIPOSAS” means the butterflies.  So what is so special about that?  Well read on---it was something very special we did this week.
September 16, 2012.  This past week was spent with Dr. David Jacobs and his wife Jenny.  Dr. Jacobs provides medical and surgical retina care for the North Dakota area served by Trinity Health. As a Clinical Assistant Professor for the University Of North Dakota School Of Medicine he teaches residents and medical students concerning the management of ophthalmic disease. He came to the Dominican Republic to do lectures and perform retinal surgeries at the Instituto Nacional De Diabetes Endocrinologia Y Nutricion (INDEN).  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints donated a $60,000 Constellation Vision System to the hospital.  He performed 6 surgeries using this new piece of equipment and advised us as humanitarian missionaries for the Church if the equipment functioned correctly and if the hospital had what they needed to perform retinal surgeries.

While Dr. Jacobs was performing surgeries, we had the responsibility to drive him wherever he needed to go including a quick trip to delivery some needed surgical equipment.  We needed to be on hand, but we had a chance to travel with his wife, Jenny and visit some interesting sites. One of the first places we visited was the “Colonial Zone”.  This area is very close to our apartment and we walked the streets viewing the buildings from the Columbus era.  Unfortunately it was Monday and many of the sites were closed, but we did get a good feel for the architecture, statues and enjoyed eating dinner at the Plaza de España.

Tuesday we toured a local public hospital and school, visited the cave “Tres Ojos” and visited the “Faro de Colon” (Columbus Lighthouse). True to Dominican luck we arrived at the Faro when the electricity was off and were unable to go inside.  Someday when we are able to go inside we are going to give a full interesting report of the Faro de Colon.

The most meaningful sight-seeing trip that we have experienced so far happened on Wednesday when we, along with Jenny and our neighbors, the Hammons, drove two and a half hours to an area close to Salcedo.  Here we visited the house where the Mirabal sisters lived that is now a museum.  For those of you who do not know who the Mirabal sisters are, they are depicted in the movie “In the Time of the Butterflies, based on the novel by the same name written by Julia Alvarez.  These women showed great fortitude and courage as they took a stand against the dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo, three of the sisters dying as martyrs in 1960.   They have one sister that remains alive today and is in her 87th year.  Dedé Mirabal lives about 2 miles from the museum, where she resides in her childhood home and oversees the beautiful flower gardens.  The Ecoparque de la Paz is a beautiful park a short walking distance away. As we approached Dedé’s home we noticed a guard entering the gate and asked about an interview with Dedé, which we had learned that she does on occasion.  We were invited to visit the Ecoparque after which Dedé would receive us.

As we approached Dedé’s outside veranda we felt the excitement of the moment.  A chance to meet one of Las Mariposas, a person who sacrificed so much during the ruthless rule of the dictator Trujillo.  Her sisters, nicknamed Las Mariposas, fought in the Underground movement against Trujillo  and represented the Dominican people in their quest for freedom, safety and love of all people.  It felt like we were about to meet George Washington!  We were not disappointed. Dedé embodied elegance, love and concern for all.  Our visit only lasted about a half hour, but shall extend in our memories forever.  She shared how she had raised 9 children; 3 of her own and 6 of her martyred sisters’.  She told how each morning she takes a walk in her garden and wonders which of “Las Mariposas” [butterflies] would be there today.  She said she was never disappointed and always received strength through her morning walks. She has shared her experiences with thousands including many schoolchildren who have visited her.  She tells them that she was preserved to tell the stories.  She certainly has had a great influence on a generation of children here in the Dominican Republic.  Their story was brought to life when we walked the movie, “In the Time of the Butterflies”.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Azua Toma

Click HERE for pictures.

This week we drove to Azua about 2.5 hours from Santo Domingo where we met members of the neighborhood water committee.  The purpose of our visit was to take a walk up the river to a place Wallace had identified on the contour maps as a good place for a TOMA (place to take water out of the river).  Here are a few pictures taken on the walk. 


                                         The countryside looks a lot like the Arizona desert.



Wallace is standing in the stream where we think a great TOMA would be.  There is a solid rock wall on one side that has been there for a long time and the water makes a quick bend that seems to be a good spot.  We didn’t find out until later when Wallace downloaded the GPS points after we got home that we hadn’t gone up high enough in the river.  We will have to go back someday to choose another spot.  But we did collect enough information to make it possible to begin discussions with INAPA.

We met a man riding a horse on the trail.  Wallace asked him what the name of his horse is.  He looked at Wallace really weird as if the thought of naming a horse was a strange incredible idea.  He explained Dominicans don’t give their horse a name.  They name their dogs, but they don’t name their horse.  I asked him why not, the horse does all the work.  He didn’t have a good answer and went on his way.
While walking the streets we saw a water truck doing its thing.  This is the way people get water for cleaning.  They charge about $55pesos ($1.50US) to fill a 55 gallon drum.
There is a “Banca” everywhere, even in little tiny villages way up high in the mountains in unlikely places.   A “Banca” is not a bank as we think of it.  The purpose is to sell lottery tickets. 

We had dinner with Rolando Marte’s family and watched them making fried bananas.  The green bananas are cut in 1 inch thick slices, fried in vegetable oil, pressed into round cakes and fried again.  Our meal was fried bananas, salami and avocado  soaked in a salt solution.
This is the second meal we have eaten with local people this week.  We try to avoid it, because regardless of how careful they say they are, we have not found anyone who uses Clorox to clean things with.  The standards are just not the same.

Fortunately we had a 4-wheel vehicle this week.  We drove way up in the mountains on some pretty steep roads and crossed one river to get to a little school in Macao where we have a project.  We got there just in time to see the kids sing their national anthem as they lowered the flag.

We will not reveal the name of the hospital we visited this week because of what we found and we don’t want it to reflect on them.   

This is just one of the waiting rooms.  Think of the times your little kids wake you up at night with a cough, running nose, earache and can do nothing but bawl.  Think of what it would be like to come early in the morning so you can be first in line and then wait in a hot unventilated room on hard chairs for 7 hours to see a doctor who can do little for you except dispense a few drugs.  That is what socialized medicine is like (the direction the US is headed as fast as we can).  That is what any public hospital visit is like here.

In the course of our visit we were taken to a locked room stacked high with boxes and boxes of eye glasses for children and a very expensive lenses cutter all donated by the Church about 5 years ago.  It is still sitting in the boxes.  We also saw 2 other pieces of expensive equipment donated by the 1st Lady of the Dominican Republic still sitting in its original boxes.   The room was hot and the boxes obviously had suffered water damage.  It is very likely the expensive equipment has suffered damage as well if it is sensitive equipment with rubber seals, lenses, tubes, etc. that deteriorate in humid hot conditions.  Who is to blame?  We asked why they were not using the equipment.  The answer was typical.  The government is in the process of changing personnel.  Everyone there is an appointee of the old government and the new government is slowly putting in their friends as appointees, even though it is the same party affiliation.  It is worse if the new government is a different political party, then everyone is changed.  The equipment is under lock and key so it doesn’t just suddenly disappear when an old party member learns they are being replaced by someone new.  The tradition is those in one party affiliation are entitled to take whatever was in their office when the party changes over.  It isn’t legal even here in the DR, but it happens.  Who is to blame?  Sometimes it is whoever is giving the stuff away.  Are things given to needy organizations, pictures are taken, handshakes and backslaps occur and everyone goes home feeling good they have done a charitable work?  But when one looks deeper into the problem he may find out the hospital has no ability to replace some part each time it is used or no way to purchase the special oil needed to use the equipment, or maybe the equipment needs special power requirements or maybe nobody was ever trained how to use the equipment or maybe a Jaguar version of the equipment with a lot of bells and whistles was purchased when a Model T Ford model was the ideal choice because it can be repaired for years with a little bailing wire and chewing gum.  Who is to bl
We went with the Hammonds, Humanitarian Directors for the Caribbean, to the Juan Dolio beach on Saturday to do a little swimming and snorkeling. 
Public transit system bus stop turned to corner market.

Sunday, September 2, 2012


The highlight of the week was fording a raging river!  But we will keep you in suspense to tell this story later.  If you are just interested in pictures--click HERE
You can visit this link to see a picture of us at one of our visits to the Associacion Dominican de Rehabilitacion in the city of Bonao about 1.5 hours to the north from Santo Domingo.  We are in the newslink of things happening in the DR.

Friday we traveled to Puerto Plata to work on a water project.  But on the way we stopped in Santiago to visit with the Santiago mission president John Douglas and his wife.  They are a wonderful couple and taught us a lot about serving in the manner of the Lord.  Sister Douglas travels to India to work in a leper colony about 5 times a year for 5 to 6 weeks each time.  She knows a lot about serving the poor.  It was a delight to speak with her.  We may get an invitation to speak to the missionaries in their mission about serving organizations in the communities where they work for no other purpose than to learn how to serve.

We believe one reason we were sent to this mission is because of the water projects that need to happen.  The Cabirma community was convinced they needed to build a new water tank and the project was nearly submitted to the Church in that way.  When we visited the project for the first time, as a last stop to a long tour of the project area, we were taken to the site of an existing tank.  We immediately began asking questions why the tank was just sitting there unused and why it wasn’t being included in the project proposed by the community.  The answer was always that the national water authority, Coraplata, built the tank and would not give permission to use it.  Based on the GPS data that we collected we determined the proposed new tank was lower in elevation and just didn’t make sense.  We pushed the community to keep trying with Coraplata.  This weekend the project took a major step forward due to the diligent effort of Stake President Edwardo Reynoso.  He arranged for all of us to visit with a representative of Coraplata who confirmed what Wallace had been telling them and that the community should be able to use the tank. 
After this meeting we traveled to the community center to meet with the members of the water committee.  We were very impressed with their organization and commitment to the cause.  We feel like we are witnessing historic moments in action as diverse people are coming together, learning how to express opinions, reach conclusions, strive through difficulties for a common goal and setting up a democratic process.  It is a wonderful experience for us.

We visited one of the little streams running through the community where the people take their water for cleaning and bathing.  The stream consisted of a stagnant dirty pool of water.  This is what it looks like several months out of the year.  During these dry months, water is pretty scarce and must be trucked in.   
We also visited their well site intended to pump water up to the tank.  The well is very productive.  However, Wallace asked the question if there were any streams/springs higher up in the hills where the tank could be fed by gravity.  They all said no.  But Wallace isn’t satisfied and will be reviewing his contour maps to see if there aren’t places that 6 months out of the year the tank couldn’t be fed by gravity.  The importance of creating a gravity system was brought out strongly by the Coraplata engineer.  The biggest problem with the government water systems is an undependable electric system.  Because there is no power for days at a time, the pumps can’t ever fill the water tanks adequately and people leave their water taps on all the time.  When there is water in the system it can never fully pressurize, people waste water and nobody cares to report or repair leaks.  If people could always depend on water in the system, people would close their taps, quit wasting water and the people at higher elevations could receive water.  The problem isn’t water at all, the problem is lack of electrical power! 

Wallace enjoys a lot learning about the water systems here.  Things are so different it is hard to imagine!

ADR San Jose de Ocoa
San Jose de Ocoa is a little community about 1.5 hours away on the side of a beautiful mountain.  We love driving there.  The drive is beautiful and relative free of dangerous situations.   The local branch president, Whalincon Arias, asked for us to give help to Associacion Dominican de Rehabilitacion (ADR).  We arranged a meeting with them, ADR and the Directors of ADR from Santo Domingo.  ADR also arranged for 6 members of the Junta Directiva to be there as well.  These people were the most influential people in the community.  It was a wonderful meeting which gave this humble branch president opportunity to meet and rub shoulders with the influential members of the community.  Many of these same people are members of the Rotary Club.

ADR is a wonderful organization providing rehabilitation serves to the poor in the community.  No-one is turned away because they cannot pay.  We had our first look at someone with elephantitis while we were visiting ADR.  It was wonderful to learn later that because of this visit, President Whalincon was given a job at ADR.  He had been unemployed.

We had the privilege to ford a river with the same man mentioned in the January issue of the 2009 Ensign “Faith to Ford the River”.  Rafael Mateo and his son Whalincon live high up in the mountains above San Jose de Ocao in a little community named “Parra”.  Every day for years Rafael would walk the 4 miles from his home into town to work and again on Sunday the entire family would make the walk to Church.  They still do it today regardless of the weather.  The article tells of how Rafael was miraculously saved when he was crossing the flooded river after performing his duties one Sunday.  We had the privilege of tasting a little of that faith as we walked the same trail and forded a river with that same Whalincon.  The Sunday before we came, there was a torment that washed the bridge out.  Whalincon who is now the Branch President still crosses the stream every day including last Sunday when the water was up to his chest, but he still goes to perform his duties rain or shine. 

We went with Whalincon as far as we could in our little Toyota corolla, then we joined he and his counselor as we walked up the mountain to his home in the little community of Parra.  We didn’t have to ford the main river, but we did have to ford a tributary that was flowing at a pretty good clip.  There were a lot of women being carried across, but Sister Haws braved fording of the stream twice all by her self!
Our visit to Parra was one of the best days we have had on our mission yet.  Our 2 km walk up the mountain was pleasant as we talked with Whalincon about the people and his experiences.  The view from the mountain is awesome and the little community tucked away against the side of the mountain is interesting to say the least.

The reason we went there is because there are 11 families who want to participate in the food project.  The problem is they don’t have a water source to grow gardens.  They do have a water system, but INAPA will not allow them to use this water for anything but for drinking or bathing.  Even then the water isn’t potable and is unreliable.  They have a small flat area next to their home, that has a steep and precarious mountain slope down to a rushing beautiful stream about 200 meters below the elevation of where they want their gardens.  Ironically, the water is there for whoever wants to take it and can figure out how to get it.  They requested the possibility of constructing a pump at the stream to lift water to their gardens.  Wallace put his engineering thinking cap on, pulled out his GPS unit, collected some data, looked through his hand level and reached the conclusion that you don’t have to go very far upstream to reach an elevation where a garden water system could be fed completely by gravity.   Wallace will be checking this out later when he purchases a contour map of the area. 

We found the people eager to learn how to grow gardens and willing to put in the work needed to do it.  This is an ideal situation for family gardens.  About 7 families, who all happen to be relatives, live on the edge of the acre plot of ground described above that can easily be divided into family garden plots.  The people are eager; all they need is a water source and a little help to get started.  We think we have finally found a great place to implement a garden project.  You will hear more about this in the future. This picture shows a little dry stack of corn Pres. Whalincon tried to grow without water.  They are eager to improve their situation, but don’t have water.  Water is everything!
We got to visit the little school built in their little community.  The little kids sang a song to us and Wallace taught the older kids how to sum a long list of numbers quickly and never have to add in your head anything greater than 9.  We call it the Elder Haws “New Math” method.  The kids liked it.  We promised them we would visit them again someday and sing them a song with the Ukelele. 

We were sad to leave, but had a long walk down the mountain, a river to ford and dangerous roads to travel before it got dark.  We do our best to never be on the roads after the sun goes down.  Bad things happen when the sun goes down.  It was a wonderful adventure filled day.
We love our mission.  Nearly every day is an adventure.  It isn’t easy, we face precarious situations and we are being stretch to the limit in many ways.  We are not always perfect and mess up sometimes, but we feel like we are finally starting to accomplish some great things.  So many more adult couple missionaries are needed here!