Sunday, November 25, 2012

Faith or GPS

This was another exciting adventure in the Dominican Republic.
In an effort to find a good partner for a Major Vision Project, we visited with an organization called PATRONATO NATIONAL DE CIEGOS.  We didn’t take any pictures to show you, so we will describe in words what we found.  This non-profit organization has eleven offices in the Dominican Republic. Their mission is: “Providing comprehensive rehabilitation services to the blind and / or visually impaired to achieve their personal autonomy, family integration, social and employment, and to encourage the involvement of the Community through active participation in the prevention of blindness and all services that raise human dignity of blind people." This organization has been in operation for 46 years. They serve the poor by giving free services to the blind and a reduced rate for those who are not blind.  They offer Ophthalmologist examinations, classes on reading braille, classes on how to do routine jobs in the home:  cook, wash clothes, dressing, etc., training to become a massage therapist, and personal tutoring in the home. Another amazing organization in a country where there are so-o-o many poor!
We met with the director of a little hospital which is located in Paraiso near the far southwest part of the country.  The meeting was here in Santo Domingo, so we still haven’t gone to the hospital yet.  The church donated some badly needed equipment many months ago, which is still not installed or functioning.  We found out why.  The electrical system needed to have repairs.  They had to install new wire in conduit.  They ended up installing it 4 different times because it was stolen each time.  The electrical company presented them with a bill for $35,000 for electric usage.  This was a surprise to the hospital.  As it turned out the local citizens had tapped the electric line between the transformer, meter and the hospital, thus the hospital service line was serving power to a lot of the local citizens.  When the hospital removed their pirated taps, the citizens threatened to sue the hospital.  The hospital is in the process of moving the transformer and meter to an enclosed area so no-one can steal power.  They should be finished in March ready to install the equipment. 
In the US, we call what the citizens are doing “stealing”.  However, in the DR doing such things is a cultural thing that is looked at a little differently; we just don’t understand.  If your neighbor has something you need, then he should give it to you and vica versa.  Is this wrong?  Maybe this is the way it is going to be in a time when there will be no competition, no lust for that which you don’t have, no desire to rise above your neighbor, no building up of bank accounts, no bickering and bargaining, no bank interest to grind on you, no debt, but rather observing your brother and if he has a need, freely giving according to his wants.  However, there never will be a time when taking without permission or violently will be acceptable.

Since arriving we have driven a blue Toyota Corolla.  It has worked most of the time, but we often have to borrow a four-wheel drive to get into the areas we need to.  That happened this week.  When we called Caesar, the fleet manager, he told us that our blue Toyota Corolla was going to be taken away from us because of our poor driving record and we would be using Taxis and Guaguas for three months.  He is quite a tease!  Sure enough he took our car away from us!  But we were really surprised when he replaced it with a brand new four-wheel drive, double cab Toyota truck. Christmas came early!   Wallace was just feeling comfortable driving in the DR traffic, now it is more intimidating, because he does not want to put a dent in a new vehicle.  He also feels totally out of place driving such a fancy car around in humble circumstances where our car is as big as some people’s home.
We celebrated our 41st wedding anniversary climbing the hills in the little town of Parra located above the town of San Jose de Ocoa.  There had been recent rains and many of the roads were washed out.  Fortunately, road graders, big trucks, etc. were busily repairing the road.  We had a little bit of exciting time at one point where we had to pass the equipment on a narrow road and another time where the road was very slippery and steep drop-offs on one side.
Pres. Whalincon Mateo will be installing a water line as part of a humanitarian project.  We went to Parra to satisfy Wallace’s engineering worries about whether the system is going to work.  The water line will provide water to family gardens and potentially to a tilapia farm we are scheming about.
The above picture is of the location where the pipe will take water out of the river.  He will simple lay the pipe in place and place gunny sacks with a mixture of sand and cement on top of the pipe.  The cement in the sacks with set up forming a natural pool to capture the water.
Edith enjoyed the hike and was again thankful for her health and all that good Girls Camp training as there were some steep and rough areas to conquer. 

We followed a route Whalincon had selected.  It turns out he was just following an old abandoned canal someone had built many years before but had abandoned.  His logic is that if the water could flow in an open canal, it can sure flow in a closed pipe.  You can’t argue with that! 

Wallace commented to Whalincon that he does things by faith, but Wallace has to do things by GPS and a computer.  That is when Whalincon told us a neat little story of faith.  3 days prior to this, a single mother that lives in San Jose de Ocoa (about 3 miles away down the mountain) called Whalincon on his cell phone during the middle of the night.  She said she had a severe tooth ache that was giving her a lot of trouble.  She asked if Whalincon wouldn’t pray for her.  Whalincon is the president of the Branch San Jose de Ocoa.  He said he would.  He got out of bed, kneeled down and asked Heavenly Father to attend to this good sister.  The next day, Whalincon made his way down the mountain to visit the sister.  She said that soon after she had called Whalincon during the night, she was totally relieved of the toothache.  This would have coincided with the time Pres. Whalincon had been praying to Heavenly Father.
We just love these people.  They are simple people.  Their houses are small with no windows or locks, no running water, no bathrooms, and not much of anything we call “necessities”, yet I don’t think we have ever been more happy then they!  We are learning so much from them and are grateful beyond words for the opportunity to be here. 
It was a beautiful celebration of our anniversary.  We left Mesa, Arizona to come to some of the most beautiful country God has created.
Just as we finished doing our thing we arrived at the end just in time to see a bunch of the youth from the branch in San Jose de Ocoa loaded into the back of a pickup headed home from having a fun day swimming in the stream below Pres. Whalincon’s home.  Can you image the horror if the bishop in your ward loaded all the youth in the back of a pickup and head down a steep unpaved mountain road slippery from a recent rain!  The road was washed out several places and was just in the process of being repaired.  We had some nervous moments ourselves on the way down.  The rest of the adult members of the branch were waiting for a guagua to head to a party for the adults at the branch.  They didn’t think twice about the hazards.  To us it is just another sign that God himself is busy protecting these people on a day to day, moment to moment preoccupation.  If you feel He isn’t listening to you, it’s probably because He is busy in the DR!
An interesting sight was a pig family that crossed the road just ahead of us as we drove to Para.
This being Thanksgiving week, we participated in the family Turkey Trot.Here are some pictures of us doing our thing.Sorry the pictures are blurred because we are moving so fast.

Sunday, November 18, 2012


The highlight of this week was getting the San Jose de Ocoa food project started.  The project was approved with 20 families participating.  We reviewed the objectives of the project, the financial processes, welfare principals related to the project, how families participate and the reporting required.  They are all very pleased with the project and want to do their best to ensure the project success.

We had time to visit the back yard where one of the participant family lives.  This is the typical situation of where the gardens are going to be built.  It is going to be very interesting to see how this develops over the next 2 years!

While we were in San Jose de Ocoa, we drove up into the mountains above the city to look at some tilapia farms.  The owner was nice enough to show us around and explain the process to us.  He totally believes tilapia can be grown on a small scale as a family production to supplement their diet.  He claims there is nothing difficult about it.  Tilapia thrive in the climate here, do not require expert care and are very forgiving. 

He has his own “toma” from the river (a point of take out) that supplies his ponds with a constant supply of fresh water.  He insisted we go look at it while we were there.

The purpose of our visit was to see the possibilities of including a little tilapia pond in Pres. Whalincon’s lot as part of the garden project.  It looks very feasible and this gentleman is willing to provide counsel and advice as needed and little tilapia to get started!  Wallace is convinced tilapia is a feasible small scale operation—more feasible than chickens.
Somehow Edith convinced Wallace to go inside the new Agora shopping mall here in Santo Domingo.

Edith thoroughly enjoyed herself.  Wallace was hyperventilating and needed to leave.  But Edith loved all 5 stories of the mall which is preparing for Christmas.

 On the other hand, it was an eye-popping gut wrenching experience for Wallace.    He couldn’t believe the luxury inside the mall and the extreme dichotomy of such a lavish mall in the middle of a city and country surrounded by poverty, lack of potable water, electricity that features regular blackouts, hospitals filled to the brim with sick and wounded who will receive little or inadequate care in hospitals with antiquated equipment, in rooms where the paint is peeling and no AC.  Where does the money come from to build a mall like this?  Who are these shoppers that can afford to shop here?  We had our windows washed twice, gave to one beggar and gave two cans of tuna to poor folk on the street on the way to this very mall.  What are the Dominicans doing themselves to solve their own country’s problems?  Foreign welfare money pores in to this county by the billions!  Are we really helping these people?  What is our proper role?  So many philosophical questions!  He now calls it the “Teremoto Mall”---earthquake mall.  It is doubtful Wallace will ever set foot in the place again.

Edith negotiating for bananas from a street vendor.

                                      Edith walking the path toward the Toma for the Tilapia farm.  Edith loves the many opportunities we have to walk little paths out in the hills.
Juan Mateo, his wife, Edith and Whalicon Mateo.  This picture does not do the countryside justice.  The landscape is gorgeous.  A camera lense just doesn't capture the beauty.  Wallace has picked out several lots or little farms he would like to buy with million dollar views over the valley.  He wants a little house with no running water, outdoor latriine, a tilapia pond, a little garden, some chickens and a rocking chair to watch the sun set over the mountain.  The only trouble is, he hasn't convinced Edith yet.

                                                    Girl washing her hair in the front yard
Typical street in Sabana Large where the tilapia farm is

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Grandma Injuried Toting Water

This was a very interesting week.  We hope you enjoy our little story and pictures.  Click HERE if you want to just look at the pictures and movies.
We are still trying very hard to develop a major water project.  The ones we have on the books are all on hold for one reason or another, but we started developing a relationship with the Peace Corps this week that may prove fruitful.
We went with Daniel Saboa, a Peace Corps volunteer and Mariela Moronta, a Peace Corps employee to visit one of their water projects located in Las Palmas.
This picture shows Mariela with Daniel’s adoptive family, grand-dad, Augustine; Mother, Tatao; Daniel and his father, Amillio.  Cacao beans are drying on the ground in front of them.  Cacao beans are one of their main cash crops.  Cacao in English is cocoa.   These are the beans that chocolate is made from.
Daniel lived in this little blue house with his host family for the 1st 3 months of his 24 month service to acclimate himself to the country, the community of Las Palmas, the culture and food.  Daniel is a Civil Engineering graduate with his EIT from Colorado.  His 8 months here have been full of exciting adventures. 
Wallace talked to the “grand-dad” a little bit.  He was sitting at the side of the house near the street with a plastic gallon jug of gasoline that he was offering for sale.  He said he was 70 and “pico” years old, meaning he was over 70 but he didn’t really know when he was born or how old exactly he is.  The “dad” pulled out his machete and carved some oranges for us to eat.
After living with his host family, Daniel uses part of his meager income from the Peace Corps to rent this little house near his host family for RD$2,000 per month (about $50 US).  It is simple with no running water, occasional electricity, but has the luxury to have an in-door toilet and shower (primitive though it is).  If your young people are looking for a real adventure---join the Peace Corps!
The purpose of our visit was to review their water project.  One of our first stops was to visit with a woman (the Grandma of this headline) about her experience in life related to water.  Here she is telling her story.
She is 69 years old, has lived in this same house all her life and carried water 6 times a day every day of her life since she was 6 years old until she fell and hurt her shoulders and arms.  One bucket of water weighs about 42 lbs.  Her life has been very difficult, but even though she wasn’t smiling for this picture, she was actually a pretty happy woman ready to share what little she has from her wood burning stove.
We took a walk down the path to trace her steps toting water all these years to see where she gets her water.
These people may be in short supply of water, sanitation, electrical power and the other “necessities” of life, but they live in what has to be God’s most beautiful creations.  Everyone we meet is happy, friendly and willing to help you at all times.  They were so concerned about Edith’s safety and ready to lend her a helping hand at every step down the trail.  They didn’t know that Edith is one hiking dude!
After hiking down the trail for a ways we came to where they get the water out of the stream.  Two little local boys demonstrated how they take water out of a little pocket constructed at the point of a small spring.  This water hole serves approximately 15 families who all share the same water bucket. 

The water hole is a short distance away from a latrine. The house is on the left.  The latrine is the small wooden structure on the right.
Edith, Daniel and Mariela overlooking the village.  The landscape is beautiful.  Wallace has decided to buy a lot, build a little wood house with a latrine and move here!  Wallace just has to convince Edith first.  You will be invited to visit of course. 
The white apparatus in the front of this house is an electric washing machine.  You have to haul water to it and if you happen to have electricity, you don’t have to wash your clothes by hand!
Speaking of electricity, most of the lower voltage wires in this community are unsheathed and spliced by just twisting wire together.  The day after Daniel arrived in the village, he attended a funeral of a man who was electrocuted because he came into contact with one of the low hanging wires while he was riding a horse.
Our last stop was with the “champion” of the project who has been trying to get water to his community for many years.  He told us his story.
Then he showed us some engineering plans prepared by the government to bring water to the community.  A politician came out with the press and made a lot of promises, none of which were fulfilled after he was elected to office.
We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and are looking forward to working with the Peace Corps to construct this project.
RAYO DEL SOL (School for mentally challenged)
Another highlight of our week was to attend the closing of our humanitarian project benefiting a school for mentally handicapped children.
Wallace is examining an angel they made out of newspaper.
Along with the Ruckers, we were invited to eat at the Marte’s home.

Hermano Almonte invited a group of us senior missionaries to take advantage of the national Dominican Republic Constitution day by visiting him at his home in Jarabacoa.  His home is absolutely beautiful in a gorgeous setting.  We enjoyed the day in company with each other and saw a part of the country we have not seen before.

He has a turtle pond.  Notice the mama turtle with 3 little guys on her back.

Wallace finally learned how to play Dominican dominoes.
They fed us two traditional Dominican meals while there.

He has his own river a short distance away. 
If any of you come to the DR to visit us and want to stay at this home, Juan Almonte is more than happy to accommodate us!

Saturday, November 3, 2012


For pictures and movies click: HERE
Be sure to click on the movies!

What is it like to not be able to walk or run on your own?  What is it like to be missing a leg?  Unless you have a disability you don’t really know what it is like and all the challenges that confront you through the day.  We were reminded of our own blessings in several different ways this week.
Wheelchair made in the Dominican Republic in a shop created partially by Church donations
We completed a humanitarian project for a Hogar de Ancianos (home for the elderly) in which we purchased a lot of things they needed (washers, commercial dryer, rocking chairs, etc) to do their job better.  The home is run by Catholic Nuns and other doctors, nurses, groundskeepers, etc. and supported by well-to-do people in the community. Hogar de Ancianos San Antonio de Padua was established with that name on 11 Feb 1988.

Wallace spoke with a resident about Trujillo.  He is the first person we have met that has anything good to say about Trujillo.  This old man remembers the dictator as a benevolent to his family and only had good things to say.

In 1985 Padre Marceleno Ibarreta and his Parish established a place to address a common concern of how to help elderly people who were begging in the city streets. He set up a shelter to help them. The Hogar, or nursing home, has been providing live-in care for elderly needy men and women for 24 years. Today they are serving 30 of the very poor who would otherwise be homeless on the street and are planning to expand their facility to accommodate up to 40.

Estela is the guitar playing Nun. 
Wallace tried to get out of them what he should be feeding his little guitar to make it grow! 

 The missionaries all pitched in to sing a song with Wallace accompanying on the Ukulele.

After attending the closing at Hogar Ancianos in Bonao we took the opportunity to visit the Church Camp.  Here are some pictures from our visit.  It is a gorgeous camp unmatched anywhere in the church.

Joanne Hammon and Jill Dunford
We have an ongoing Area Project with a local orthopedics company.  We had the chance to attend a closing ceremony where 6 people received their prosthetic legs.  The most touching was that of Dileny, a little girl who lost her leg from the hip down to cancer.  If you go to the link above you will see a video of her taking some of her first steps with this amazing orthopedic leg.


We took advantage of being able to borrow a 4-wheel vehicle to deliver some supplies we purchased as part of an Area Humanitarian Project to a little school in the mountains above the city of San Cristobal.
Juana Ortiz, Edith Haws, Cirila Abad, Wallace Haws, Yvelisse Marte, Director

Wallace did his famous magic trick to make a peso disappear right before your very eyes and then pull it out of someone’s ear.  Wallace gave the little boy the peso he pulled out of the boy’s ear, but much to Wallace’s surprise and for the 1st time ever, the little boy did not want to accept the Peso!  Who wants pesos coming out of their ear anyway!

Rolando Marte sits among the children of Macao school.  He is the champion of the project--without him it would not have happened.


This is our feature story for the week.  The Church donates about 1500 wheelchairs and other handicap aids every year to the Dominican Republic.  We attended a closing ceremony to celebrate the first Fabrication Workshop for wheelchairs ever set up in the DR.  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints provided funds for the fabrication, training by Optima Whirlwind and supplies to build 300 wheelchairs.  The workshop is set up in the faculties of Associaci√≥n Dominicana Rehabilitati√≥n (ADR) and so they were now displaying the product that is ready for distribution.   The ceremony celebrated the first 100 chairs fabricated in the DR which the Church purchased and then returned as a donation to our partners, ADR, ASODIFIMO, and CANIDIS to be distributed to the poor.  Among those attending were other contributors to the project, which included:  The Embassy of Canada, Office of the First Lady and the National Dominican Lottery.
                                  President of ADR, Mary Perez Marranzini speaks during the Ceremony
Jill and Rob Dunford, Missionaries assigned to Public Affairs
                                                         Joanne Hammon and Edith Haws

Bernardo Hernandez, 2nd Counselor in the Stake Presidency, Auturo Perez, National Executive President ADR, Mary Marranzini, President ADR, Wallace and Edith Haws