As the Executive Director of World Water Relief, I am very proud of our in-country team and the work they are accomplishing in the Dominican Republic and Haiti. I just returned from a visit to our projects in the Dominican Republic with Board members, Clay Sparrow and Ben Seidl, volunteer Vanitha Sivarajan and my husband, Dr. Bob Peoples. We had a wonderful trip to Barahona and Santo Domingo and visited many completed sites (Bateys 6, 7, Los Robles, Don Bosco, Cassandra) as well as pending sites including Algodon. We all drank the water in Los Robles to confirm that the taste issue was no longer a factor, which it wasn’t, and everyone we met was so pleased to see us. I was personally impressed with the impact WWR is having. It is hard to really understand how bad conditions can be until you see it with your own eyes. Seeing the profound transition associated with our water and WASH initiatives reinforces just how critical our work is and enables the passion in our presentations and writings. Although we couldn’t get to Juancho and Haina Energy Co. (Ben did eventually get there the following week after we left) due to a demonstration by the locals on the state of their deplorable roads (they blocked the main road for the day hoping the governor would show up, which he didn’t), we got a good feel for what we are doing, how we are doing it and what still needs to be done. It was nice to see that our efforts are making a difference and that Paul, Dan and Rowen, our Project Managers, are well known in the communities. In fact, they call Dan the President since the new DR President’s name is Danillo. They are truly making a difference in the lives of people. One of the more anxious moments was at the Don Bosco school when we experienced an earthquake. Jean Jean, who had been through the Haiti earthquake, knew immediately what was happening and yelled for everyone to get out from under the roofed area where we were seeking shade. It turned out the epicenter was within a mile of where we were and it was a 5.1 earthquake. A few aftershocks were felt by some of us throughout the day.
We spent a lot of time bonding in our van travelling to the school sites with intellectual discussions on the Higgs Boson theory, world finances, and other obscure topics. We also had hours-long meetings on sustainability and our operations manual. Clay led some interesting discussions for the team which included Paul, Dan, Rowen, Ben, Bob, Jean Baptiste (our Haitian member of the team), Vanitha and me. Our hotel Playa Azul was a perfect spot for meetings in the open air dining area and served as a gathering place for late afternoon Presidentes overlooking the water and pretty grounds. I know several of our Board members experienced Playa Azul and know what I mean. Although we didn’t have electricity at the hotel in the afternoons, the breezes and shade trees on the grounds sufficed to keep us comfortable.
We did a lot of shopping for the auction and marketplace fundraising event in October. We have beautiful Haitian artwork, Dominican cigars, and lovely blue stone jewelry. Larimar is a stone found in exclusively in the Dominican Republic, and we visited one of the little shops in Barahona at the foot of the mountain where it’s mined and purchased some necklaces and bracelets for the event. We visited beaches, ate the local food, had Presidentes and tried Mamajuana (a rum drink that we will offer at the event). Highlights of our trip included a traditional Dominican dinner with Ben’s former host family in Barahona. The host family laid out a wonderful spread of freshly caught fish, vegetable salad, stewed chicken, beans and rice and just opened coconuts for drinking and eating. It was a little scary watching Nico using a machete to cut open the coconuts but he is quite experienced at doing it. We then served the scraps to the pigs in the back of the house – recycling at its best. We also had a day in Santo Domingo and toured this historic city. It was great to have 24 hour electricity and a warm shower at our hotel. We had lots of laughs and wonderful moments throughout the week. But of course, it was the visits to the schools which meant the most to all of us and had the most impact on us. The schools now have safe drinking water and clean sanitation facilities waiting for the students to return in September. And most important, they will learn why this is so important to their health with hygiene education taught by Paul and our Batey 7 resident hygiene educator, Ysenia, whom we met and talked to for more than an hour outside the school grounds. Her insight into the hygiene education part of our WASH projects was so important to hear, and we will incorporate her ideas in our projects.
I highly recommend that all Board members experience a trip. We were always greeted with gratitude and respect which was humbling but you just felt that what we are doing is extremely important. I look forward to returning. Thanks to Ben for planning this very special trip. I know he was happy to be back in his “second home country” and see his special friends. Thanks to Vanitha who took the time to join us and participate in our discussions. She is a special addition to the WWR family. And thanks to our team in the DR and Haiti for representing us so well. I look forward to seeing everyone at our fundraising event in October. It’s more important than ever that this be a successful event to add more schools to our ongoing project list.