Project 3 – 2015
|To raise $20,000 in order to:||Raised $43,000|
|Build two new homes in Barrio Blanco||Built four new homes|
|Added a new bedroom onto an existing home|
|Built a new roof on an existing home|
|Replaced the wood siding on a (very leaky) home|
2015 04 10
Between checks received and pledges to send we have (drum roll please) $ 25,000 lined up to build two good homes for Joseph and Yeliza in Barrio Blanco.
Every cent of that $25,000 will be applied to our project in Barrio Blanco to help these poor people as I’ve written in my appeal to you. On my honor, I promise this to you.
Gene Stewart and I are booked to go to begin work arriving in Cabarete on May 25th. Our building should take 5 weeks (mas o menos) . Everyone reading this is welcomed to come join with us building or being part of the community. You will be welcomed. We’re going to have a good time.
Here is where we will be building. The aerial photo was taken around 3 years ago before we began any work, and the markings are for all the new homes we have built. The top of the photo in red points to our building site for the two homes.
At first, the lot looked like this: Part has been a dump.
Within 2 days of telling Yeliza and Joseph that it looked very promising that we would raise the money, they went to work cleaning the property.
They were very happy to get started. These are their first steps toward owning new homes.
But I needed to tell them that I wanted an even better clean up job so that we could build on more solid base. Two days later, I received this:
Good Job !
Now … we’re ready to build up some base ! Bring on the Caliche !
Caliche looks kind of like the yellowish-brown surface in the above picture. It is a fill material that (if the right quality) compacts really well when wetted and pressured. Almost like concrete. By bringing in around a foot and a half in two batches, and allowing a (hopeful rain) two weeks between layers, the land will be almost ready when we arrive.
I intend to hire Robinson as one of two manual laborers to move Caliche from where we have it dumped to where it is needed. He desperately needs work, and is a strong worker. We will have one other worker along with him. Both will be paid our “ayudante” (helper) pay for this, but when we get to our main work, Robinson will earn double this pay because he is a skilled mason.
It would be really great to have a bunch of donors converge on Barrio Blanco during our project! For those who are not in the barrio while we build, you can count on me to send ongoing updates from the neighborhood.
I had occasion to rifle through “old” video clips from 2 and 3 years ago and I though you might like them. The last one, from Help1films was not done by me, and almost every scrap home you see … we rebuilt anew ! It is really neat to see how far we have come.
Help1films … documentary April or May 2012 … https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HlqauFyS5vk
Since we’ve hit our goal, please know that if anyone wants to send a donation anytime …. because the mood strikes you … please do. We will put it to work directly in BB and you will see the difference your gift makes.
With the same commitment to build homes…..”Plastered, Painted, and with the happy homeowner moving in”.
Again, Muchas Gracias Everyone ….. We’re about to dramatically change the lives of two families for the better.
Yours in friendship,
2015 05 16
It was not me who named our first year’s efforts “Project 1” . It was the residents of Barrio Blanco who came up with this name at the very end of that project. I wanted to be undecided and uncommitted whether to continue more building at the end of that work and to be free to make any choices I’d like.
It was kind of tricky … the residents encouraging me to think in terms of returning for a “Project 2” . I loved being “tricked” like that. Or encouraged. And I loved returning for Project 2.
It feels like Year Three of our efforts to raise the living circumstance of the barrio residents has been to solidify and expand on what we have built so far, and importantly, to have planted seeds for an even better future of successful independence with our scholarship efforts.
While I haven’t received “Calificaciones” (grades) so far, I have been told that all four of our university students have done well during this school year of 2 semesters so far. I am hoping to share good news about all of our students in Cadin Colegio. We will see, but I’m hopeful. These children are the future of Barrio Blanco. It isn’t just words. We will see it in action. When our university students begin to graduate and enter professional careers, Barrio Blanco will have made its next step up for independence. In such a real way, this will open up worlds of opportunity that had never been possible without your help. New futures. Even before university completion, as these students learn, they are gaining an advantage with this better education in their daily lives. Prior to this, they were at a disadvantage through inferior educations.
Now we embark on …. what shall we call it? “Mini-Project 3” ? It is only two houses (plus a little more …. mission creep ha ha) . The reality is that the residents might rename it, but for now, I’m good with just “Project 3” . Unless anyone has any really catchy and appropriate other names that we might try to stick?
I am Very Excited to begin Project 3. I like seeing the immediate and dramatic improvement in peoples’ lives that these new homes bring. I know personally that our homes are built to last for the long haul, and that our change is structural.
Gene Stewart and I are getting to work together in Barrio Blanco again.
We work very well together. I love this good man. This time, too, Bill Waechter is coming from Ontario, Canada during week three and plans to work the rest of the building project. We will be working with a minimum of 10 residents 6 or 7 days weekly. Anyone wanting to come join in, well, come on down.
Our first week building will begin mid-week May 27th to break ground. Then, off and running ! If things go very well, on Sunday, the 31st, I’ll send pictures of foundation in and hopefully a perimeter of a layer of block. With that said, I begin every day of building in Barrio Blanco with a plan, and very often things come up out of nowhere and it keeps me exercising to adjust as needed. So, don’t hold me to the first layer of block, but that’s my goal.
I communicate daily with several barrio residents. They are anticipating us with happiness and welcome.
There are two other items of note to share with you.
First is the evolution of the sewing machine story. You might recall that Robinson’s family has one of the nice homes we build in Project 2. Two of his children receive scholarships to Cadin Colegio. Yolanda is Robinson’s wife, and she is lovely. I’ve emailed Robinson’s attractive picture out with a banana tree behind him. Robinson’s family is Haitian. They have been living legally for 12 years in Barrio Blanco, but the laws have been changing countrywide and it has become harder for Haitians to find work. Robinson is a skilled mason. The other problem for him is that he fractured his forearm 2 years ago and whatever was done, didn’t heal properly, and so his left arm is not too strong. His right arm is, though, and he will be one of our skilled masons laying cinderblock for our homes at a decent pay. He was a strong worker during Project 2. Their family is in a real pinch for income.
A lady named Aggie donated an almost new sewing machine (with manual) and two lessons to Yolanda. The idea is for her to learn to use the sewing machine well enough to earn income for her family.
During these past few months I’ve followed up once during each of the months and I found that Yolanda was practicing, and trying, but she was a bit stumped with the computerized functions.
Junior is the man (also Haitian and long time BB resident) whose leg was saved through the operations donors paid for. His leg is doing great, but is 3 cm shorter. We’ve paid for shims for his footwear, but his former work was as a personal trainer. Junior is smart, and self-motivated. He is roughly able to talk in English. I don’t see it as likely that he will resume being a personal trainer, but it is possible a new future has opened up for him.
I asked Junior, who is very grateful for the help he has received, if he would translate and help Yolanda with the English sewing machine manual and to learn to use the machine. “Of course” he replied. I asked for an hour per day for a week.
Then a lady named Wanda popped up from my hometown area. I had given her a pamphlet 3 1/2 years ago in front of a supermarket in my town in Oregon, US. as Providing Opportunity was beginning. Wanda said that she teaches sewing professionally, and that she wanted to both donate 1 or 2 machines, and also to come to the neighborhood for over a month beginning in October and to give daily lessons to both Yolanda, and Junior. Junior and I have gotten serious about this. He is interested in further learning the machine, and he has also been learning along with Yolanda.
Earlier today we chatted and he said that they both had learned how to use the machine but at this point were a bit stumped on measuring and cutting material. Wanda has opened communication and recommended that they practice with no thread, and on lined paper … to learn how to do straight lines. Wanda is preparing lessons to email them. Nice..
At first the idea of becoming a seamster or tailor was not at all in his mind of course, but it is now. And I haven’t looked in his eyes with this yet, but from his writing, I can see that he is excited with the idea of making a living with a sewing machine and knowledge of how to use it.
I’m hopeful that this will be the merging of two of our benefitting families working together to ultimately create their needed family incomes. That would be perfect. We’ll see what obstacles come up, but the prospective benefit is too great not to try for. Further, both Junior and Yolanda are really good people. If you knew them, you would feel pleased about helping this along.
On the other front, I’d like to share a step toward barrio independence that was spawned by a small investment on our part.
Halfway down the alley into Barrio Blanco I had seen young boys playing basketball. Sort of. And then their hoop did this and didn’t recover.
On a trip to BB this past December I brought a new hoop and net that cost around $25. We needed to make two computer tables anyway so we bought a full sheet of 1 inch plywood. Half for tables, half for a basketball backboard. After I had returned home in January, around mid-month Angela sent me this photo.
And then the wonderful students from University of Maryland came down to help in Barrio Blanco during their Spring Break with The DREAM Project organizing their efforts. This was their third year coming, and they repainted both the basketball backboard and as well, the wall it is mounted on. Beautiful. Excellent.
And then …..
The men and boys of Barrio Blanco, without any assistance, or even mention from Providing Opportunity or me ….. raised the money to buy materials and did the work to pour a Brand New Concrete Basketball court pad at the entrance to where the barrio opens up. Wonderful!
I can tell you that this basketball set-up is used probably 6 hours a day.
Life has been getting better and better in Barrio Blanco. Orgullo Barrio Blanco ! (Pride)
A key to successful efforts in the barrio is that the residents do the work.
Last note is this….. In February in Barrio Blanco, a donor family brought around 40 pairs of lightly used or new shoes and sneakers. We passed them out intentionally going toward the poorest. When we ran out of shoes, I took a picture. I felt terrible telling the people who had hopes for a freebie pair of shoes because they viewed the shoes as something they couldn’t afford. Imagine that…. used shoes, however so lightly, and these are something that is better enough to wait in line with hope for. Probably 60 percent were for children 8 and younger. When I told the people who were still waiting that we had run out of shoes, I told them that I had their picture in line and would see if I could find shoes for them on my return.
As a “PS” , I’m attaching a note from a couple from Eugene, Oregon who just returned from a visit to Barrio Blanco.
PS…. “A Note From Michael and Nancy, Eugene, Oregon, May 2015
We just returned from visiting Barrio Blanco in Cabarete, Dominican Republic. We are retired teachers who have supported the Providing Opportunity project for several years. We met the 12 year old girl we sponsor at the Cadin school, visited the Cadin school, met residents of Barrio Blanco, toured the new homes that have been built, and volunteered at the Barrio Blanco school that is run by the Dream Project.
We discovered some of the worst living conditions we have ever seen. The odds are truly stacked against the people of this community. In the face of these conditions, we met adults and children who are striving to improve themselves and their community. This human spirit to make a better life against such desperate odds was inspiring. We are all a part of this positive change.
In summary, keep supporting the Providing Opportunity project. Spread the word because more resources are needed. We are helping people change their lives for the better. The 12 year old girl we sponsor and all the other children who are supported have a reason to get up in the morning and strive to make a positive future for themselves.
The folks of Barrio Blanco truly appreciate and thank you.”
2015 06 05
Things are happening quickly. I will be able to show you our building progress on Sunday’s update. We’re working together as a strong team and being very productive.
Other things besides our construction have been happening that I wanted to share with you now to break things up.
Before going further, I would like to put something on the table in hopes …
There is a family of Fior, Alberto, their 7 year old daughter, Flora and a wild young, lovable 2 year old boy. Flora is one of our scholarship students. There is a different family which includes Rachel, who lives with Aunt Yesenia in one of the rougher circumstances you might imagine. Rachel is 5 feet tall and was sleeping on a 4′ 6″ mattress on the floor. She is a darling girl of 12 and has grown up in challenging home environments as have her siblings. I had quietly taken Rachel and her close sister Adriana to the side some months ago to tell them that I knew they had it rough and that I would be looking out for them in the background.
Things began to change when a donor couple of retired Oregon teachers came to visit their scholarship child, Rachel. When they returned to Oregon a month ago, we met for breakfast for a “debriefing” of their experiences. They initiated my snooping around Rachel’s house looking to see how we might best help her which they had offered to do. I was quickly caught, (haha) and after talking to Yesenia, Rachel was moved out of the tiny two rooms squeezing 5 people, and into a private (but not too nice) bedroom with a very ugly, but bigger mattress. Interestingly, her room’s door is from outside, and 2 1/2 feet tall ! Once inside, though, it is normal height.
Gene has been immersed in everything as have I. Rachel and Yesenia’s family live almost next door. Gene sees what I see.
Yesterday morning I opened my email to find that donors who’ve chosen to remain anonymous , but that are from Gene’s direction … are sending a check to pay to complete Yesenia’s home which was walls, but nothing more. We had begun working on it a bit by doing some excavation and putting in a septic tank, but that was inspired by Rachel …. and Yesenia working like a strong man joining us as a volunteer She was working “con esperanza” which translates to “with hope”. When you say this around our project, or do this … the hope part is that I will notice your volunteer work (and I do), and then somehow find a donor for your family. Yesenia is a hard worker.
Gene and I also have even more perhaps … come to admire, like, care about and hope our own “con esperanza” that we might find donors for Alberto and Fior’s family of 4.
They are energetic, very nice, smart, genuine, and Alberto is one of the strongest hard working men I know who is coupled with intelligence. To outward appearances he is a loving father and husband.
Some of our crew….
Below is Fior holding Alberto’s lunch (we provide this for workers). What happens is that Alberto eats a few bites and then gives it to Fior to feed their child Flora and herself. That isn’t unusual at all.
There are two things Fior and Alberto need. There were three. They need a piece of land. They need a house. They need a bit of money to buy merchandise to reopen a “colmado” or convenience store. It is a longer story than for here, but they had a successful colmado 2 years ago.
Before showing you their needs, I wanted to find out clearly what is needed. The number one is a plot of land. I already know what building costs, and the colmado they would open needs $2500 in funding. I’ve been looking for land in Barrio Blanco and have spent a fair time trying to play “let’s make a deal” with someone that would work. It has been fruitless. First finding prospects to negotiate with who would sell or trade for what I could reasonably offer, and then seeing if we might find an agreement. Total of 8 attempts and 8 failures. Lots of reasons.
Then smarty pants Angela said …. what about as a second story on Yeliza’s new home that we’re building? For some crazy reason I was only thinking in terms of an option of on top of the other home we’re building … that of Joseph Lucmond. I had ruled that out because his home is on land that is closer to the lagoon and it’s firmness couldn’t support a second floor. Yeliza’s base is strong enough for a second floor.
Also, we can share the same septic system and building a second story means we don’t need a roof for the below home.
So …. our “land” is free for this possible home. We would need $ 5,500 to build this 2 bedroom full home for Alberto and Fior’s family.
If there is / are anyone out there who might help with either of these two things…. house or business, please write me and we will immediately, during this month, change this family’s life greatly for the better. Please know….this is a special plea for a family that Gene and I both agree are people you would enjoy supporting.
We are doing so very well building that our pace will allow us to complete all within … or very close to within our planned return date of July 4. If donors will fund this, I will ensure it is built as agreed.
Gene and I talk a lot too. We both agree that this …. beginning with the first two homes for Yeliza and Joseph, then adding Yaneiri’s bedroom (she’s very happy), Yesenia/Rachel’s home … well, if we could help Alberto and Fior’s family …. both of us would feel like we couldn’t hope for a better result with our efforts.
And now, some other things…..
The day yesterday also began with Wanda (sewing instructor) leaving to return to Oregon. Wanda was fantastic, and her students, Junior and Yolanda are going after it. They’ve made …. well, wait please. When I return to Oregon I’ll be bringing ??? Thank you Wanda! … who has plans to return in October for the month to continue teaching more. On her last day, I took Wanda and Gene for a ride to the Dominican “campo” … countryside. We spend all our time in Barrio Blanco and yet this country is varied and has both the highest and lowest elevations in the Caribbean. We drove to Las Cumbras at the top of the mountains. Along the way, this photo of Wanda and Gene:
Barrio Blanco … has character. It has a community soul and often, a community emotion. The neighborhood’s soul came out to embrace Hege Holt yesterday. It felt good to experience her welcoming.
Hege and I met in June 2012 almost halfway along during building our first … Project 1 when she came to see what was happening. She quickly offered her help in every way she could. One of her areas of excellence is photography. My promises to donors have always included that the homes would be “plastered, painted, with the happy homeowner moving in”.
Hege has taken All of those pictures and more for other benefits.
The barrio people know that they have her heart, and yesterday they showed that it was a two way street.
When Hege arrived the crowd from Barrio Blanco had spilled out onto the street.
Hege is sitting on a decorate chair (throne) carried by 4 strong barrio men!
Yes ! We are having fun.
When I went to find out where our river-stone truck was yesterday … whoops, Corpus Cristi Day. Our rock place was closed up. Great! 15 people working and then 1/2 day off by surprise. When I went to the supplier first thing this morning to hustle up our truck, I grabbed Angela to join with me because one of our good ways to talk is while driving.
Only then did I find that our Cadin Graduation ceremony was just beginning. It was on our way, and Angela didn’t want to bug me because she knew I was intent to get our guys working with the stones. We arrived just in time (by Dominican Standards).
Here are two of OUR Students …. receiving recognition for Scholastic Excellence ! Robendale and Vanessa.
Robendale is on the right side next to the boy
Vanessa is in the middle.
We won’t have formal grades from the school until July 3 …. when both Yeliza and Eduardo graduate. (Eduardo from 8th grade).
One last thing I would like to share is for us all to receive. I can’t tell you enough that when you see my name, Ron, it is meant for us. I’m the face of our organization along with Gene and Hege and a couple of others. Knowing that, please accept this letter of thanks from Yeliza that I will translate following.
” Thank you
You know, words don’t exist in order to express how happy and appreciative I am for the grand opportunities that you have brought me. Thank you for believing in me and changing my life for a better future. I promise you that I will fight hard in order that always you will feel proud of me. Your hopes in me are my motivation. You have done a very good work in BB. Continue so. I am very proud of you and your work. You are always in my heart, and each time I teach a child and I help I will think of you and each of the donors that showed confidence in me.
On the part of my community, my house, and the best of my family. With love, Yeliza”
2015 06 08
I ran out of energy last night (Sunday) to update, so Hello Monday .
Before showing our progress with building, I would like to share a family photo taken today of Alberto and Fior’s family who I mentioned Thursday that we’re very much in hopes of finding donors for. We need $ 5,500 to build them a full home. It will be a second story, 2 bedroom above Yeliza’s home (also 2 bedrooms). When we build a second floor home, there are savings from not needing to build a second septic system or roof.
I was able to to get better information today, and can tell you that the family is comprised of:
–Alberto Zapata Gonzales, 39
–Fiordaliza Vilorio Bonilla, 28
–Flor Albelis Zapata Bonilla, 7 *** One of our scholarship students
–Alberson Zapata Bonilla, 3
Thank you for considering helping them. Three days ago we needed to decide to go forward “on faith”, or not have faith because we needed to do work under the first floor to prepare for the second floor home. We are building this added home “con esperanza” … with hope.
A month ago I needed to estimate a construction schedule for Project 3. I didn’t want to share it with others because 3rd world building is full of surprises and I didn’t want egg on my face … with you. Here it is: Saturday says, “Ready for floor”
Gene and I arrived with the goal of building homes for Yeliza (Education home), and Lucmond Joseph (for lack of a better name Moral Leadership home). It was impossible to draw “building plans” ahead of time because there were too many variables. Lot size, strength of our base, next door neighbors, and anticipated unknowns.
This photo was taken Sunday, June 7. The home furthest away is ready to pour the floor. The home closest (bottom of the picture) needs 15 to 20 cubic meters of stones.
We also added Yaneiry’s bedroom and it is ready for its roof. Completely stuccoed inside and out. Left foto is outside, right foto inside.
Two doors over, Yesenia, with a family of 5 (including Rachel, her niece) had been building a home block by block as she could afford to. Things looked like she had come to a halt around 8 months ago. It was impossible for us not to see how poorly this family was living, and Gene and I began discussing if, and how we might help complete her home. We began chipping away at beginning work in hopes of finding a donor. Anonymous donors came forward two days ago, and we were ready! We had dug out a cavern inside the house for a septic drainfield and a tank. With added crew, we’ve already filled the riverstone drainfield, built a septic tank, cleared the future floor and put in a layer of compacted caliche fill for floor base. Below is the family. Behind them, their home. And to the left, a peek at a corner of their paused home.
Rachel, on the left, was crammed in with everyone you see. She’s around 5 feet tall and was in 4’6″ bed. A donor I didn’t know of had bought her a bed, but it was being stored next door because there was simply no room. Then… in front of Yesenia’s shack there was a vacated bedroom rental. We successfully moved Rachel into that, and now, there’s room for her new bed! Life is getting better already, and in a month…. it will be far better in their new home.
The vendor who has been supplying our river stones had almost run out. We only need 20 cubic meters to be complete, but it was an obstacle to adjust to. We can’t move forward any further on one home until we get them, and so Monday’s first focus will be getting what we need quickly. In the meantime, we intend to pour the concrete floor for Yeliza’s home and a “viga” layer of concrete for Yesenia’s about the thickness of a cinderblock that goes on top of walls to tie the structure together. (**Because it is now Monday, I can tell you that 1) We got our first of two loads of stones mid-day 2) The concrete floor on Yeliza’s home was poured by noon 3) Viga work was in progress
Allow me to introduce once more the “Maestros” …. (foremen) Pilo (brown shirt) and ChiChi (blue shirt). They are brothers. This is our third project together. I trust these men with much, but some of their work needs to be overseen. We each find moments to disagree and have a good exchange with respect and amistad (friendship). We learn from eachother and seek the best solutions. It sounds trite to say, but sincerely, “I’m proud to call these men my friends”. Good friends.
To the left is Yeliza, then Alberto, background Efen, and on right Gavi. Gavi is new this year. I’ve taken part in bringing Efen into manhood. It’s been rewarding to see. People used to joke about him as being kind of a “weenie” with his work. He’s a skinny (“flaco”) young man who just turned 18. He learned “to work” from Providing Opportunity. He loves being respected as an equal .. sort of. I really like Efen. He’s kind of a nephew to me.
To summarize, we’ve gone from 2 — to 4 1/4 houses to build. Everyone is working so happy and with such energy that I’m hopeful to complete all within our anticipated completion date of July 4 departure …. mas o menos …. (more or less; a well used expression here). Where our pictures show materials being formed into livable homes, here on the ground I see lives and futures of another 20 people lifted beyond dreams. When you see that close up, and feel the emotion this brings forth, you can understand why I put so much passion into this work. Thank you so much for your part.
And some additional photos from during this past week.
2015 06 14
I’m amazed at our progress, and I hope you are too. We all live in lands of concrete trucks and nail guns. Where pipe comes with holes as needed. Yet in Dominican Republic all power and motorized tools come with 50% duties and as other islands, transportation costs. Which makes it all the more impressive what our crew of Happy Workers accomplishes. On any given day we have around 20+ workers going after it. Putting their backs into it. Smiling, sweating.
I hope to show our building progress, and then a few other things from this week. Our Great Shoe Giveaway. Our jewelry makers receiving their rewards. And ….Hege Holt, who I’ve mentioned previously is a local resident transplanted from Norway, took a number of pictures during the week. I’m including a few favorites at the end of the update.
As a note, we are still $3000 shy of fully funding this project. The additional $13,000 we’ve sought goes directly toward benefitting the two families of Alberto and Fior (2 parents, 2 children), and Yesenia’s family (one parent, 3 of her children, and 1 niece).
If you remember the last update, we were ready to pour the concrete floor on house 1, prepping house 2 floor, Yesenia’s was ready for the viga, and Yaneiry’s was ready for the roof. We were waiting for river stones for the drainfield on Joseph’s home.
Monday we poured the first floor and prepared the second with rebar and plumbing. As well we completed Yesenia’s viga and the floor finish preparation for Yaneiry’s bedroom addition. Floors are concrete for their base with a smooth, colored mortar type finish. Desle, 13, (for pay), and Makin, 15, (for his family’s new home) worked to chip up and clean Yaneiry’s floor. That’s all we did on Yaneiry’s during this week.
When then above floor was completed being poured, and our stones had arrived, we placed wood on top to wheelbarrow our stones to Joseph’s home in back.
Then we went full tilt into second gear.
Chichi is our versatile top-dog, and it is him who sets our below floor plumbing and organizes the rebar shaping. Pilo, is a mason of 30 years who “pulls” our floors, and Robinson is one of the most productive block layers you’d hope for. This is what Tuesday and the next couple of days went like:
Above, Efen, has grown into manhood with our projects. Below, Maken and Desle learning what they don’t want to do for their careers. They are both bright boys with professional futures possible….and both scholarship students.
Years ago I was struck by a stocky Iraqi boy of around 7 years who was struggling in an awful seeming life of carrying adobe bricks. It gave my meaning to “child labor” and I know other child labor involves sweat-shops. Myself, I didn’t like cleaning my bedroom…. child labor.
In Barrio Blanco it is different. The children are all very curious and want to pitch in. I remember on our first house 3 years ago when the adults pulled back from our site where we had been demolishing the previous home with picks and sledge hammers, and then the children swooped in like birds after a picnic. The kids weren’t coerced in any way, they were thrilled to be a part. Likewise Friday.
We had “albanils” (masons) laying blocks in unison, “ayudantes” (helpers) mixing and wheelbarrowing mortar and carrying filled “cubetas” (buckets), and 6 or 7 children aged between 6 and 11 carrying cinderblocks to the adults. Wow! Forget third gear, we were full out in fourth. I had to tell Adrianna not to carry two blocks at once. The boys were looking at her and feeling like she was showing them up!
They are. Some day in the future it will be very real when they tell another …”I built that house” … well, at least partly true. Gene generally runs the kid-crew … with love.
By the end of the week we had reached (my) goal. We are “viga ready” on our 2 homes at ground level. Viga in on Yesenia’s, and as well septic system plumbing in.
The picture below was taken from the same position as the beginning photo taken facing away from the lagoon. ^Note the tall background building.
We hire an outside company to install temporary wood forms so we can pour the concrete floor for the second story for the “forward” home where Alberto and Fior’s family will own the downstairs and Yeliza, upstairs. I made the agreements for this on Friday, and on Saturday the form wood arrived for this. That part takes 4-5 days and then we prepare and then pour the floor.
With our previous building projects we move home construction forward at the same pace. Floors all completed at the same time, walls…. This is different. Each of our homes is and will be moving forward at a different phase than others. So during this coming week we will be putting wood roof framing up on 1 then another …., while stuccoing another, while pouring a floor on another .. like that. With the goal that when we build our second floor home most of our crew will be again working all on one home with the others near completion.
On Friday, Gene, Leandro and I went to Santiago, 60 miles away with a truck tailing us. We buy our roof framing wood and a roofing material called “aluzinc” there. The wood came back on the truck, and our aluzinc will arrive this coming Friday. As a note…there is a two story home that we did not build in the background of some of our photos. It was built 15 months ago, with the standard “zinc” roof (what we all call corrugated steel). It is already beginning to rust from the salt air. A choice I made during our first project was to pay 10% more to by “aluzinc”, which resists the corrosion. Like magic. Not one of our roofs, now almost 3 years shows any sign of deterioration. Fortunate choice.
As a remark on our building crew …. we are working as a great team with top energy. All of us… are enjoying working together. We’re Happy Workers.
Hege Holt has taken Cristofer under her wing as much as she possibly can. Cristofer is a “street child” who lives in Barrio Blanco. He’s had a tough life. Hege is teaching him about photography, and he seems to have an eye. You might notice his “credit” in a couple of the following photos. Below Cristofer with two girls in Leandro’s workshop.
I’m going to attach the remaining photos that both Cristofer and Hege Holt took, but I’d like to close with this one last one that they did together.
With my smile from the inside … to you, and my thanks for your part in helping these people with your kindness,
2015 06 21
Why is Vanessa crying? Scroll dow for the answer.
With pleasure I can tell you that during this past week we have made so much progress that we can’t even compare pictures from the same perspective and recognize where we are.
Such a very good week!
And, we had honors recognition on Thursday evening for our CADIN Colegio scholarship students.
Last Sunday showed Yesenia’s home with the viga in. It now has the roof framing all but complete. After one cross-brace on each of the rafters, aluzinc (our roofing sheet metal) goes on. Altogether, 1 day to complete with our roofing crew comprised of Leandro, Popo and Efen.
Above is Yesenia’s roof framing. The blocks behind these boys are resting on part of what will be a 2nd story bedroom for Rachel and Adrianna to share.
Framing and aluzinc install on the bedroom we’re building to add on Yaneiry’s home was completed this week.
Lucmond Joseph’s home, which is the single level closest to the lagoon was ready to pour it’s viga one week ago. This was done. It is now roof framed and ready for aluzinc install. Again, on this home, 1 day to complete roofing.
The homes for Alberto and Fior (downstairs) and Yeliza (upstairs) made dramatic progress. One week ago the structure was beginning to be prepared with concrete form installation for the second story floor. It’s rebar, plumbing and electrical conduit were done during this week, then the floor poured with concrete, and then … all cinderblock walls were built … up to the second story top viga !!!
All concrete was mixed on the ground by hand.
Then shoveled up to a platform around 7 feet high, and from there, shoveled to the second story floor.
The energy level was intense.
Everyone was working like gears in a machine that was going at top speed.
I have never seen humans work so fully and harmoniously.
I sent this out as an attachment 2 days ago, but I think it is more accessible as a YOUTUBE link.
Here is how it looks in action:
The last big grunt-work is the top story viga.
This is Lele after doing a day of “fraguache” which is a rough texture stucco. I’m adding this photo as an afterthought because it is funny.
There’s still much to do. Stucco work, stair railings and added support, floor finishes, plumbing and electrical, doors and windows, and paint.
At this point I separate our workers into smaller crews. Leandro’s roofing, Electrician with Alfredo as his helper, Pilo and Robinson each with a couple of helpers doing wall panete (smooth stucco) interiors and floor finishes. As well, these masons do what are called “muchetas”; finished door and window openings.
Chichi will be doing various skilled miscellaneous things with a couple of helpers. Installing sinks, toilets and shower fittings. As well supervising the remaining work on the stairwell.
Last notes on building…. Gene Stewart from Oregon came down with me at the end of May, and he has been working every day. Bill Waechter came down from Ontario Canada on June 15th and is here til the 7th. Also, working daily. A couple of other guys from “the world outside” have dropped in to work some too. I think we all really like what we’re doing.
Bill has been posting on Facebook pictures and video that he takes, and also “his take” on what we’re all doing. He’s a good writer and I enjoy his perspective. I re-post what he has been putting up each day on my “timeline”. Ron Zauner, or Providing Opportunity. I’m attaching the words from his most recent post to give you the flavor, but his pictures definitely add to his words. The curious can look for either of our posts.
CADIN Honors Night in Barrio Blanco:
On Thursday evening it was PayDay for students! I had calculated Grade Point Averages from December and had offered prizes for raising the GPA of 100 pesos ($2.30) for each percent gain for those beginning under 90% , and 200 pesos for those beginning at over 90%.
The CADIN Principal, school psychologist, and head teacher came to speak to the kids and their parents.
Then …. Wismo received the first award: 500 pesos for PERFECT ATTENDANCE
Followed by the percentage gain awards. Here are the winners:
Then the top four students who are aged 16+ were honored. These four are going to each have 4 students to tutor during this year. There will be prizes for successful tutoring and student achievements.
I announced a multiplication exam for June 30th for those who can do their multiplication tables under 10×10 from memory with a 1000 peso reward. Only one student earned the 1000 pesos in February. I’m guessing (and hoping) there will be more.
The Big Award went to Vanessa (yes, Junior’s daughter). Vanessa was our CADIN Colegio valedictorian. Her scholarship sponsors are so happy with her performance that they bought her a Brand New Beefed Up laptop computer with a backpack carrier. Vanessa’s family is poor, and came from Haiti years ago. This was a HUGE gift to her! She was surprised for sure, and her parents are very proud.
Yes, All in All, an excellent week in Barrio Blanco.
A perfect time for a quick dip in “the pool”
The really cool thing is that because of the people reading this, you ….have joined together with the people in these pictures…. we are dramatically and directly improving the lives and futures of at least 17 people. This is absolutely true.
2015 06 28
If you compare pictures of what we’ve been up to with the reality, something becomes obvious. WHOA ! …. that’s some serious building we’ve been doing…
I don’t know if our pictures can capture it.
Not just the product, the structures, but the energy, sweat, size and human emotions.
Our homes are bigger than you might think because we go up from ground level 3 feet below our homes’ floors. And we’re close to other homes, so going vertical feels bigger. Our two story home will be almost 30 feet tall when finished, and we’re close.
All by hand.
When you are on-site and we are building… you can feel the emotion. We are humanity, being very human. Everyone building, and many others observing, are vested with sweat, or future. What we’re doing is personal to around 40 to 50 people, and 20+ are our workers.
My camera broke, and I’m using a tablet to take pictures, but it is too large to carry around through the week. Thankfully, Bill Waechter from Canada came to join us working and he has been not only taking many pictures, but writing a kind of daily journal that he puts on Facebook (and I add to my “timeline”). He’s a very good writer and captures lots of things that are worthy of sharing. I’ll be sending an email in the next couple of days with parts of his journal and a variety of his pictures. Thank you Bill.
I’m attaching pictures from our week at work, but here is a compilation of our beginning pictures from one photo perspective….
Yet to come are a lot of medium or smaller jobs. I’ve changed my airline ticket from July 4 to July 10, and anticipate being finished by then leaving in our wake lots of happy people.
Aside from the building progress, we are reuniting two sisters who are very close….but living apart. Rachel and Adrianna will be sharing the second story bedroom in Yesenia’s house with a possibility that their younger sister, Tatiana (4) will move in with them from Grandmother Victoria’s house 2 doors over. The girls are happy, and here’s a few pictures of them in, and below their new bedroom. I asked what color they would like their room…..Rosetta (pink) .
What darling girls.
The ice cream topping on the week was with Norma. Sweet Norma.
I’ve been telling Norma for the past 3 years that she is almost at the back of the line for help with her home. Old men like me are at the end, and in front of us are old ladies. At the front of the line are little girls, and then, little boys. (it appears to me). Norma has understood. We hug each other with this resignation. But the holes in her roof have become more plentiful with rust, and she gets cold when it gets wet inside her home.
Today was a surprise.
There is a man name Ole who works for Hege Holt, our photographer originating from Norway, and who is raising money to feed our smallest schoolchildren. Ole had come by last Sunday to work on our building project, and again this Sunday….his day off. On the first Sunday, we encountered Norma near her home, and I showed Ole her leaky rusted roof and explained that I really couldn’t help her with our funding limitations. I guess that this stuck with him through the week.
Today, Ole told me that he had saved a little money and he wanted to use it to help Norma. Below is Ole and Norma about 3 or 4 minutes after we told her that Ole was going to buy the materials for a new roof for her.
I think that for the rest of Ole’s life, he will be rich in his heart for having been so kind. A good man.
We are going to organize people in the neighborhood who Norma has been nice to through her life to do a roof-raising with volunteer help from the community. My plan is for next Sunday to tear off her old roof and then do the wood framing. The next day we’ll put on Aluzinc, our favored roofing material.
I’m very proud and pleased with our workers and community support. We’ve done a lot in 31 days and we’re getting close. MMmmmm.
The first 5 attached pics were taken by Bill, and a few more by me. The last was taken of Yesenia by a man named Randy.
With a BIG Dominican Smile to you,
2015 07 05
Big Smiles from Barrio Blanco
And More Big Smiles !
We’re getting close to completion. We began with the plan to build 2 homes and see what we could do regarding an additional bedroom for Yaneiry (if it was very small).
Well, it grew. And I don’t know why I haven’t learned to forsee that growth. We are winding things up during this week and when done we will have built 4 new homes (one with a loft), Yaneiry’s good-sized bedroom, put a new roof on Norma’s home, and replaced and repaired half of Leonela and Alfredo’s exterior siding.
There is more news from Barrio Blanco to share. It is kind of late Sunday evening and I’m booked to return on this Friday so I’m going to limit this update to construction progress. The “more news” is good stuff, and I will look forward to sharing all. But not tonight.
Aside from paint and ceramic tile in kitchen and showers, Lucmond Joseph’s house is most complete. It needs plumbing fixtures installed and a couple of small odds and ends. The floor cleans up really nicely. They use “gashol” … which I think is diesel.
Yesenia’s needs the same as Lucmond Joseph’s, and also stairs to the loft. This is one of Yesenia’s bedrooms.
The above picture was taken from Yesenia’s front porch today looking toward her current home. In less than a week ….. the family’s change in homes will be this dramatic.
Alberto and Fior’s home is the bottom of the two story dwelling. It is in the same status as the prior two, but needs doors and windows and it’s electrical completed.
The mustard colored stuff is a powdered pigment that is being mixed with white cement. When the finish coat of concrete is laid, this mixture is sprinkled on and then worked in to finish smooth with the color.
Above is taken from one bedroom in Alberto and Fior’s home looking toward the second bedroom with the bathroom on the right side of the hallway, living room on left side, and in the right of the photo is the bedroom closet.
The last full home,Yeliza’s, was having it’s floor laid today. It then needs all the same things as Alberto and Fior’s. In the below photo Michel is applying rustic stucco to the very top which is over 25 feet up. I tried to get him to tie a rope around him in case, but …. no. Duvalier is in the middle hooking buckets of “mezcla” … mortar mix, to then hand up to Michel. Desle below is picking up the next bucket to hook at ground level.
The columns and stairs need finishing and handrail-ballusters installed.
I use outside contractors for doors and “pensianas” … louvered window openings. One house more will go in tomorrow, and Yeliza’s on Tuesday or at latest Wednesday.
Also outside an person for ceramic and one other for electric. Ceramic begins tomorrow. Electric is very close. Two homes done, two roughed in.
Column finishes are also by someone from outside and should be two days beginning tomorrow.
Plumbing fixtures should be 2 1/2 days total for Chichi to install, and in the meantime I plan to use our 2 mason crews to complete steps and a few other concrete things.
The homes should be ready to move in by Thursday night, but probably not completely finished painted. As well, I’m not sure that the loft steps for Rachel and Adrianna will be done, but there will be the ladders we use, they will be moved in while they are winding up.
There was an impromptu assistance to a very nice couple named Leonela and Alfredo. Leonela is one of our first year university students studying teaching. Their house is a wood shack, but the main problem now, and one we were able to help with at low cost … was to rework their siding on two sides of the house. It had been poorly installed and was leaking on them especially with windy storms.
This morning Norma’s roof came off and Leandro and Popo were at work readying new framing for her new roof.
One other kind of fun thing happened. Two years ago I brought down a paint sprayer which worked great. And so I was planning to zip zap the painting and was showing one of the workers how to use it. We started on the outside first coat.
Then moved inside.
And with a little adjustment….. Voila !
A part fell out and got me good.
This is my close amigo. We’re tight. We even paint together, and you can tell he likes it by the tip of his nose.
Below, Alberto, Alfredo and ChiChi . Good men.
2015 08 09
Hello Barrio Blanco Friends,
Because we build good new homes that are easy to see, at first glance one might think –building– is what we do. It is, and the last update showed our completion of building 4 new homes and a bit of other building. Yet there are a variety of beneficial things we’ve been doing in this community of 360 that are less physically visible.
Some big and good things are happening from our efforts, no kidding….
Scholarships: Fully 100 % of donors have committed to continuing their scholarship sponsorships for this new school year ! And, we have had a 100 % success rate so far on the students part. Every one is staying in school, and are thriving with it especially in comparison to pubic schools. I ask the children. I ask their parents and relatives. Every one says with conviction how much better CADIN Colegio is. Everyone is thankful for your help on this. Of course everyone is not equally progressing at the same speed, but all are doing better with this good school. We have 22 students returning to CADIN Colegio and 5 going to University.
How’s it going?
Here is one of our first examples: Yeliza has just been awarded a 4 year University Scholarship by the Dominican Ministry of Education! WOW ! This will pay her tuition. CADIN helped make this happen. This is the same Yeliza we just built “The Education House” with. She was living in a crumbling leaky junk-house that flooded constantly. Oh My. If you can bring to mind as happy as you have ever been. …… that is Yeliza now. Life is goooood.
The Serious Group
From working in Barrio Blanco I’ve seen life from a different perspective; that of a very poor Dominican or Haitian. From that perspective you are powerless in many ways. You don’t have control. When you are born in Barrio Blanco, you accept that you don’t have the advantage of the nice house on the hill. At the grocery store you see all that food but know hunger often. When it rains, you accept that you get wet inside your home. Surely, if you had power to control things, you wouldn’t be at such disadvantage. And so that becomes your mindset.
Part of what we do with our work in Barrio Blanco is to empower people. You can’t get a new home if you don’t work for it. But if you are very ready to work for it, well, Providing Opportunity wants to work with you to improve your life. You will gain from education … but need to apply yourself. Everything we do comes from a direction of the beneficiary needing to put in their part … the effort. To make a link between effort …. and benefit. The ability to control for a better tomorrow through your own effort.
I work on this actively with various residents. Talking about taking control of their lives through their own efforts. Encouraging this.
So I was heartened when Angela came to me a week before completing Project 3 in July to tell me that there was a group of 6 or 7 people who wanted to take control of Barrio Blanco’s future as a community to continue the progress. These were serious people about this. They wanted to begin with a small, but responsible and committed group. She told me that they were going to have a meeting under Norma’s shade tree and invited me to come.
Angela opened the meeting and asked me to talk. I told them that I’d like to suggest to them how to run a meeting and what officers are needed to allow their group to function. This was welcomed, and after sharing this, I asked to excuse myself because I thought it was important that this was their group bonding meeting. I also said …. show me the action (nicely).
Apparently it was a good meeting and they sang kumbayah (symbolically) together and agreed on a variety of things.
A week after I returned to Oregon Angela sent me the following photo with members of the serious group.
From left to right not including two peeking children are: Junior, Joseph, Angelina, Norma, Fior, Elena, Leonela, Angela, Richmo Ofelis’ mother, and Amparo.
Their first joint act was to clean the barrio of litter. Because my spanish isn’t perfect, I often repeat the question phrased differently and so I asked if they cleaned not just the entry alley, but down near the far end of the dirt road? “Ron”, Angela wrote, “we not only did that, but we also went through the barrio and cleaned all the passageways.” They agreed to tax themselves 25 pesos regularly to buy bags for cleanup and to pay for emergency medical transport. Also to plant flowers in front of the school and clinic and to draw their children into maintaining “their” flower. Hoo Hoo !
Then, Yeliza sent me several pictures (45) of community members thoroughly cleaning the schoolhouse – community center.
I have more “mop” pictures from Yeliza, (eyes in above photo), but key is that ALL are showing the value they place in the wonderful community infrastructure we have been helping with. Pride. Community.
The DREAM Project is supplying the interior paint, and residents, the painters. Fresh coat.
Moving forward, Hege Holt, who owns two businesses in Cabarete has been a very strong participant in our efforts with Providing Opportunity during the past 3 years. When I told her in February that we were running out of money to pay for “general” things like medicine and childrens’ food and that I was going to need to cut somewhere and didn’t see how I could cut the clinic medicine or doctor costs … Hege stepped forward and offered that she wanted to work to raise the money to feed the children.
Hege has been photographing these children during the past few years and knows many of them now. When she takes their photos, she always shows them their pictures, and they like that. Hege loves little kids, and they are from 2 1/2 to 5 1/2 in our DREAM Project Montessori school in Barrio Blanco in the morning. 28 to 30 children, are fed “one nourishing meal” per day, and we started this because some (not all) of the kids are malnourished.
Hege has been at work raising money. The goal is $10,000 for the year and she wrote that she had committments enough to start the year; already surpassing $2000. Here is a pic from two of her posts on facebook:
With regards our clinic, some changes are in the works that give me high – hopes for growing the clinic’s benefit further. More info to come, but for right now, I can tell you that just last weekend Doctor Mirian was doing another round of needed vaccinations for children and that we are fortunate to have added regular Blood Sugar and Blood Pressure testing along with medications.
I put together this photo composite of the evolution of what has become “Gene’s Garden”. It traces the same exact spot in Barrio Blanco during the past 3 years. I happened upon an English lesson in progress by accident. It was wondrous!
Thank you all. I receive so many very emotional thank yous from the people in Barrio Blanco. They are all meant for you too. I know this. How can I convey their “agradecimiento” (appreciation) to you? They are in hugs, words, pictures and tears of happiness. So …… let this pass through me …. to you so I don’t feel like I’m taking your credit. I am definitely the person who knows that without your compassionate giving, we couldn’t make such an impact. I’m just happy to be a part of it.
The Dominican Dream
Sometimes late at night I reflect about what we are doing in Barrio Blanco. There came a moment when I realized that we were not only involved in lifting up one family at a time but we were indeed, lifting the community. Everyone in the barrio sees this and is pleased even as some receive far more direct benefit than others.
This past March or April, in one of those late night ponderings I noticed something I hadn’t before. In addition to community services like the school and clinic, we have been answering The Dominican Dream, and more, for families and individuals who dared not dream so grandly before. By now, we have many examples to show for our efforts.
Robinson’s wife is Yolanda, and they have 3 children. Their two girls are in CADIN Colegio on scholarships. We built a nice house with them during Project 2, and provided 5 weeks of (paid) work for Robinson in this recent project. Yolanda is the lady who was given the sewing machine and has received good instruction from the machine donor and Wanda from Oregon who came to teach her. The day before I left, Yolanda gave me this letter I want to share with you. This letter is not only for me, it is for us. Because of my role, I could name at least 15 people who directly benefited this family …. so … this is for all of us to smile with:
Project 3 is now completed, and everyone is moved in
We began with a goal of building 2 new homes; one for Joseph’s family, the other for Yeliza. Possibly a small bedroom for Yaneiry. Gene Stewart and I arrived in Cabarete ready to work on May 26 with tickets to return to Oregon on July 4.
I needed to change my ticket to leave on July 10th to complete the project which grew to add homes for Fior and Alberto’s family, and Yesenia’s family. As well, a couple smaller jobs and of course, Yaneiry’s needed bedroom.
Whew! We were very productive. In mid-June, Bill Waechter joined us from Ontario, Canada, and near the end a man named Randy from Edmunton jumped in too. EACH of us thoroughly enjoyed our experience and developed friendships and affection for the community as a whole. Our crew of workers was mostly residents who had worked together in Project 2. We worked Happy, and energetically as brothers.
Fior and Alberto were living as renters in this home up until 2 weeks ago for $50 monthly.
Can you imagine how dramatically life is improving for their family since they moved into …
This is their family picture of their new home which is the bottom level of a 2 story (like a condo). They are owners. Their daughter Flora is one of the children receiving a scholarship to CADIN Colegio, and I have it on very good word that they will be opening a new store in Barrio Blanco ! All this has been made possible through the generosity of Donors to Providing Opportunity. This is Fior and Alberto’s Dominican Dream. For sure.
Imagine being Joseph Lucmond’s family. Nine years ago Joseph left Haiti with nothing but poverty behind him … to become a squatter renter in Barrio Blanco. When I’ve talked with many Haitians living in the worst conditions imaginable in Barrio Blanco … and asked why they ever came to live like this… they’ve answered that in Haiti, they live like this too, but in Dominican Republic there is sometimes work. For money. And they cannot find this work for money in Haiti.
Joseph found work at Hotel Alegria near Barrio Blanco. He has been a diligent employee for 8 years, and has rented in Barrio Blanco this whole time raising a family … and paying $75 monthly rent. Never could he get ahead. His family unit is strong and loving, it’s members always clean and respectful. They are good people.
Today, his two sons Sandy (10), and Maken (15) go to Cadin Colegio with scholarships given by Providing Opportuntiy donors. With money saved from not paying rent, Joseph plans to open a bank account. Joseph’s family Dominican Dream is this new home and sons’ education.
Above is the passage to their front porch (below) called a “Galeria”
Yessenia and her 3 sons were living in this shack 2 weeks ago along with Rachel who she had taken in.
in the photo below, Rachel’s improved bedroom was last blue “door” on the left.
It was Rachel who drew me into building Yessenia’s home.. She is a darling 13 year old who was abandoned by her birth parents, and has lived a very difficult life. Yet you can tell when you talk to her, she’s special. And you can’t help but long to help her in whatever way possible. She caught me. Gene, too. It helped that Yessenia jumped right in to work on our project “con esperanza” … with hope. She worked hard.
Yessenia had a dream of her own house. A real one. Over several years, block by block, she built walls. And simply ran out of money while responsibilities overcame her. No floor, no roof no anything … but walls, yes. The walls were built extra tall to eventually avoid interior flooding.
From this, we were able to dig out the inside of the home to install a full septic system, and then do all the other things to turn it into her new home. This is Yessenia’s Dominican Dream. And, Rachel, who was living in very rough circumstances, now shares a private loft bedroom with her sister, Adrianna. For the next 5 years, this is Rachel’s dream bedroom. This is their new home:
Leandro built these steps up to Rachel and Arianna’s own loft bedroom. In fact, that’s his 1 1/2 year old daughter on the steps!
Yeliza. Ah, energetic Yeliza who was more in the way during building than helpful…. was not in Barrio Blanco when Hege had pictures taken. And the “before” picture of her home is from the air and not so good. But… her home is wonderful and she is heading to University with a scholarship from a Providing Opportunity donor to study teaching. Her upstairs home and education are Yeliza’s Dominican Dream come true.
Yeliza’s home is upstairs. Her home is dedicated to education. I wanted to have something signifying education at the front of the house, and Yeliza enjoys the idea too. But I couldn’t come up with anything while there that wouldn’t look sloppy. I intend to have a large ceramic tile crafted probably outside DR to be placed with the home, and Yeliza is artistic… I’ll ask her to do the drawings.
A couple nights before I left, Yeliza gave me this:
“You know there don’t exist words to express the happiness and appreciation that I have for the grand opportunities that you have brought. Thank you for believing in me and changing my life for a better future. I promise that I am going to fight hard for you to always feel proud of me. Your hopes in me are my motivation. You have done very good work in Barrio Blanco. Continue so. I am very proud of you and your work. Always you are in my heart and each time I teach a child and I help I am going to think of you and each of the donors that trusted in me.
On the part of my community, mi house and the best of my family with love, Yeliza”
Norma (below) is lovely. Our hearts are joined. She’s been living in a block home that floods when it rains. It hasn’t been as bad as many of the huts we’ve replaced, and I’ve had to tell Norma that mostly donors don’t prioritize older men and women (like us) … so, give up on a home. Norma then asked if I might be helpful with her roof … rusted out with lots of holes, because getting wet made her cold. Again, I had to tell her no, because the cost of a roof with the needed wood framing would be a bit over $700. Then a Norwegian man named Ole came to the rescue. Here’s Norma very happy with her new roof. Not the full Dominican Dream, but … being dry makes a big difference in a wet climate.
I said we were complete on Project 3, but today I authorized 3 gallons of paint. Someone else used the gallon of pink (Rosada) paint for Rachel’s bedroom before she got to it, and 2 coats are needed for the wood on Leonela and Alfredo’s home where we replaced siding thanks to Randy.
The night before leaving we had our “Key Fiesta“. Each of the four new homeowners received their key, in a purse, with $50 and a large bag of groceries for housewarming gifts. The three non-house beneficiaries received the same groceries plus $25 .
Above, Yeliza and mother Nanci.
Below Joseph receiving keys and housewarming gifts
Fior and Alberto are Soooo Happy !
If you knew how poorly Rachel and Yessenia’s family were living, you would feel so good for having helped.
The various home beneficiaries each told the audience how appreciative they were of these gifts from donors. Yessenia was weeping as she explained what an honor it was to have Gene Stewart’s family photo tribute to his daughter (who passed away last year) placed in her living room. She was proud. Gene is loved. Yeliza committed to all to uphold her part of educating the barrio children in appreciation of her home being “paid forward”, and Joseph committed to helping teach the young boys about being good fathers and with moral guidance. Joseph is well respected and liked in the barrio.
Alfredo and Fior …. were astonished … at how much their lives had changed. Just astonished. And grateful.
And then everyone Danced! We had a very happy fiesta.
There were other people who gained in Barrio Blanco from our efforts during this trip. Some directly, others less so. Victoria is thrilled that her daughter Yessenia now has her new home (and a toilet that Victoria can use). At our peak, we paid (and fed) 20 workers daily. All but 2 from Barrio Blanco. The barrio as a whole has gained by being incrementally improved. In fact …. a surprise …. the Mayor of Cabarete committed to me in person that during the next 3 – 4 months we will get ASPHALT paving down our alley and main road in Barrio Blanco. I don’t like to trust “politicos” in DR, but I think this will happen because 1) they graded the road while I was there 2) the Mayor agreed when I told her I thought that not just “talking” about it, but “doing” it would make the difference in her votes next February …. and she firmly agreed. The Barrio Blanco was to have been bulldozed for a parking lot according to the plans of 4 years ago. Our projects have legitimized this neighborhood.
The other group who gained from our efforts in Barrio Blanco during this trip is…..US . You and me.
I feel richer for the experience. I don’t feel poorer for spending money for this. I feel like I did something good for other human beings. I have seen in myself and others, that the more we have given into helping these people … crazy but … the richer we all become.
You who are reading this… please accept this good feeling into your hearts. Let your heart swell as mine does. We have done something really good together.