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 HEREADR IN BONAO
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.
CABIRMA WATER PROJECTFriday 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 OcoaSan 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.
FORDING THE RIVERWe 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!