Dominican Republic: The honeymoon I never had! Stage 5; day 5

Day 5: Thursday, March 24, 2011

Today, Tom speaks to us of endurance and patience. Thursday must have the reputation as the hard day. You kind of know you only have a few days left and it’s been so great so far that you just don’t want it to end. Either that or you miss your family so much that you are just ready to go now. Here is what Tom had to say about it in his devotional focused on prayer:

And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way; bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience. Col 1:10-12 Tom taught us how to pray today as he gave us 9 steps to being present and intentional in our day as we pray. We should 1. Understand God 2. Gain Wisdom 3. Please and Honor God 4. Bear good fruit 5. Grow in Knowledge 6. Be filled with the Spirit 7. Endure and be patient 8. Stay filled with joy and finally 9. Give thanks always. Good advice for a Thursday.

Today we journey to the Palmera ADP. It is located in Northern Santo Domingo. In order to get to the ADP office, we drive through what is called “The Misery Belt”. It is an area of town along the river and outskirts of town where the poorest of the poor live. There is no water and no sanitation. The poor people who cant afford to live in the city live here in makeshift houses of tin or rotting wood. It makes Juarez look like a palace. Poverty is no longer poverty.

The ADP office is located in a little section of town beyond the misery belt. It is a busy place that looks like a congested, old small town. The streets are busy. There is a substantially high rate of domestic violence in this area. We heard of one visit to a sponsored child that had to be postponed because the child was missing as the father had tried to kill the mother and she had to escape. Hearing this again changed everything about my preconceived ideas of sponsored kids. It is important to understand that these are real kids. Living in real circumstances. Their families deal with real stuff. Somehow I think we want to believe that our sponsored children are somehow sheltered from such atrocities once we choose them. I don’t think we can save them from everything, but now I see clearly how having a place to go or someone to turn to in crisis or services that lessen the burden – it gives people options that they wouldn’t have had if World Vision wasn’t there doing what they do and if we weren’t sponsoring these kids. Its like the children became real to me just now.

We enter a conference room of sorts at the ADP office and we are met by the loving and really fun staff of the Palmera ADP. I would like to have this group of women in my house every morning. The main objectives of the ADP work is to teach the people, to “give them a tool” to make a living. There are not many opportunities and there is no farming. They have a large number of HIV Positive people and they give necessary support to those who are dealing with that. There is also a really good music and art program that we will see later.

I liked what they were doing with their teachers. Teachers received training and certification through the WV facility and a teacher with a certification can work anywhere. Every year WV chooses the 5 schools with the most sponsored children and the entire staff will receive advanced training and additional support for an entire year. They teach them things like behavior change, hygiene, how to teach without violent methods, Health, and HIV/AIDS education.

There is also a Family Therapy Unit for moms and families. The crime rate and youth involved in crime rate is very high, so needless to say, youth programs are very important in this community. Boys in Action is the boys/girls/youth led program that promotes justice and focuses on youth. They lead sports/rec camps, classes on environmental issues, health and Christian commitment. These youth are very empowered and they plan their own program of action, best practices, music, lessons etc.

This is also a place with a Skills for Life program where they learn to care for themselves, increase their self esteem and begin to think about the future. Because of the high rate of domestic violence, there are many women who leave their husbands and live with friends or family. Micro is very important throughout this ADP because of the ways in which it encourages self-sufficiency.

Did you know that a maid in the Dominican Republic may make about $12/month???

There are about 25 communities in the Palmera ADP. Programs are offered to almost 4,470 children with 3,550 of those being sponsored children. We happened to be in the office in the days after finishing their data collection for the Annual Progress Reports. They were piled high. Neat and organized, but high! It takes 2-3 months to go out and visit each child and community to collect the information and photos to be included in that report. You have to see it to believe it.

We had a fun young couple dance a traditional dance for us. One of the most important strengths of these people is that in spite of the lack of resources, they are happy. I was trying to decide what my happy dance would be????

For a couple of days now, I have been basically at rest. We have continued to see things that rocked my world, but I’ve been able to maintain some sense of forward motion. That is all about to change. We leave the main office and walk a few blocks away to the technical school. There is an art and music building nearby which we’ll hopefully visit later, but for now we will see the place where they teach wood working and upholstery, sewing, hair styling, baking and jewelry making.

Lets just remember that I’m the girl who bought a hammer, screwdriver and pliers for a grandmother. Let’s think back to all of the ways God has worked in my life through His gift of my trade. Let’s bring all of the emotion of how God has used working with my hands to bring freedom to my life and how that very work has allowed me to experience His miracles. Let’s think about all those and the thousands of other things He has done in my life and let’s bring them all to my tear ducts and heart -Right NOW!

We enter the room of the wood shop where several women and maybe one or two men are learning to build furniture. A mom and her son are working together at building a chair. Others are using drills and other tools while they work on their own projects. They teach basic skills to people so that after about 7 months they can go set up their own businesses in their homes because their major goal is to provide a means of income to the women that will allow them to stay home with their children. This is all too familiar. I began to cry and I’m not exactly sure when I stopped.

Materials are provided by WV and they can come to class M-F 8am-noon. While they are working they can earn micro credit to buy their tools. Without WV these people would have no money to afford a school like this. Their philosophy is to learn in small spaces first then go on to bigger spaces. To me, this is a picture of hope being born. Am I crying because God has used micro enterprise as a tool for changing my life? As a means for giving me tools and blessing me with hope in a new thing? Yes. Do I cry for the fellowship of sufferings? For the mom being able to be with her kids and still do what God has called her to do? Yes. Do I cry for the boy, who while we were there stepped forward and told us HE was proud of US for caring, because most people don’t care about them? Yes, I especially cry for him.

I’m transported to Numbers 33 and I’m witnessing this woman and her son who are building this chair and all of the other risk takers in this room, marching out boldly before all of Egypt with their tools and their future and their freedom ahead of them. I cant breathe and my heart is racing and I am so thankful to be called a child of the Living God. And right now I see that He is living through World Vision Micro.

I funded a loan about a year ago for a lady named Nellie who lives in Mexico. She was a single mom of 2 kids about the same age as mine. She wanted to raise some pigs so she needed money to buy babies and build a pen. She also wanted to sell items in a catalog. She needed money to buy the items to sell. I funded her entire loan with money that I had saved from cutting my own expenses. Karina was my cable bill. Nellie is my unlimited internet and smart-phone bill. I liked Nellie’s entrepreneurial ideas. She had spunk. She seemed strong. And she needed my help. Being in this shop, even though I’m in the DR and not Mexico, was like standing there and watching Nellie work.

I LOVE WORLD VISION MICRO!!!!! It’s so easy to make a difference in a person’s life. Did you know you can contribute as little as $25 to help change a life and give birth to someone’s hope? That is 5 venti cups of coffee at that place that shall remain nameless. The World Vision website has a section called Micro and you can go to that page and look at the details of all the people who are applying for loans. You can search by all kinds of criteria. You can contribute as little as $25 for a portion of a loan, then others will pool their money with yours until the loan is fully funded. Or, you can do the whole thing all by yourself.

Who even falls apart at Micro? I do.

We go upstairs in this building and there are purses and jewelry that have been made by students and we are allowed to purchase some if we’d like.  Several of the team buy things.  We walk throughout the top floor and see the hair salon. There are girls in class at this time. We learn that once they get their certification they can apply for a loan on their own or they can apply for an “association” loan in which 3 people can go in together. It is a very competitive market so they are learning about marketing, quality and the value of a dollar. Most loans are used to buy the basic equipment such as rollers, brushes, hair dryer and a chair. This is a very good business for a woman to run out of her home.

We left for a few visits with sponsored children. Alicia had 2, back to back. Then Tom had a visit that was a bit unique because his child lived in a very dangerous place. We had to pull all of the curtains on the windows of the bus and we were definitely not allowed off of the bus. But you know what was great? Tom’s little guy wants to be president! Next we visited the children sponsored by April’s church and Howard and again we witnessed Gods sovereign hand and divine wisdom in His match making. All of these visits have been beauty from ashes.  We’d think we had a plan and then at the last minute something would require our flexibility, and it would work out better than we had originally planned. Amazing to watch.

We left for lunch and then the afternoon brought us back to the bakery! Yay! The students who were primarily women study 9 different modules. They will finish the basics first and then they’ll move on to 2nd part which is to decorate bread and wedding cakes. Many had already moved into the phase of cooking and selling from home. Of course all of their families love that they cook for them. Each level is 3 months of training. They are taught how baking relates to their life, and it was evident how it increases their self esteem. They learn cost control and other management tools. A license is required and they have a very long waiting list to get into this program.  And we had a very long line for the donuts.

We went upstairs again in the technical building and saw a sewing class in action. It is possible for someone to be in furniture and upholstery in the morning and sewing in the afternoon to broaden their skill base. It costs about $700 to start a sewing business. This endeavor is a way to overcome their difficult situations. World Vision believes that the one of the best ways to overcome poverty is with education. As we were about to leave the sewing area, a young girl in the back of the room stood up and you could tell she was overcome by emotion. She had something to say. She began to explain, as she was on the verge of tears, that when we visited earlier in the day, one of our group had bought a purse that she had made! The pride in this girls voice and demeanor was the same humble joy and amazement at God that comes when someone finds value in you and the work of your hands. Vicki had bought a black bag that morning, and Vicki is the queen of cool bags, so they took their picture together! It was something to see. Then another girl spoke up that Virginia had bought her bag. There was great joy in this exchange and you guessed it, I’m crying again. In hindsight I’m not sure I ever really stopped.

Today was a really great day. As Lori told me, “when you are exposed to this level of poverty for the first time it is really heart breaking. When you experience the power of your gift, your potential to make a difference, there is a deep, deep break in your heart.” To realize that you may never meet again but for at least for a moment, you have been exactly where you were supposed to be, it is life changing. I have watched my team exemplify “come to me as a little child”, I heard them say,” what I do is not special, it is simply what I am commanded to do”. I also heard them say, “if I die tomorrow, I will have lived long enough”.

This was a day of small spaces. I’m reminded of what Andrea told me a day before, taken from a book she was reading. The idea is that what we as humans, see and think and process delays and skews our perception of how things are by milliseconds. But an amoeba (the simplest form of life in existence) is the only creature that doesn’t do this. What it sees, it processes in real time. So the simplest form is the only form that sees life exactly as it is, without any distorted perceptions based on conditioning. Lord, thank you for small spaces and the ability to see life from the position of what breaks your heart, to see it as it really is.

Numbers 33 Journal Entry: We camped in Santo Domingo again.

To be continued…


2 thoughts on “Dominican Republic: The honeymoon I never had! Stage 5; day 5

  1. What a blessing to hear a boy say he was proud that people cared for him. This is what it is all about, this is what God was talking about when he said “store up for yourselves treasures in heaven.” What a treasure to know that our contributions are making a difference.
    I’ve been looking at micro loans too, awesome idea.

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