Photo: R. Hughes/CWS
Hunger means different things in different places. For example, in the highlands of Guatemala, it may mean the ground is too rocky for the women to grow enough vegetables for a healthy family diet. There farm families are learning to overcome the challenges of growing vegetables at high altitude in the cool climate--and on rocks and hillsides--by building and maintaining greenhouses, with the help of Church World Service and partner CIEDEG.
Church World Service works in Latin America and the Caribbean with programs that vary from supporting families as they work towards food security, to standing up for the rights of vulnerable children and indigenous peoples across the region, to providing vocational education for youngsters in Haiti.
Guatemala Florencia Ajiatas is proud of the cabbages she’s grown. With CWS support, indigenous families in at least 31 communities in Totonicapan province are learning to manage soil and water resources, increase and diversify their produce, and market their surplus.
“With the fruits of our harvest and what we are able to sell, we now buy our children shoes, notebooks, and pencils,” says Jose Peña, a leader in his community. “The income has helped us to go to the doctor and buy medicine; in addition we can buy seed in case we don’t have enough.” CWS is assisting farming families in the Dominican Republic to improve their lives and livelihoods.
Literacy students with their materials in the community of El Batey.
Photo: Alex Morse/CWS
Opening Doors to a New Future
by Alex Morse, CWS volunteer
More than 400 adults in the Dominican Republic are learning to read and write through a program of Social Services of the Dominican Churches (SSID), a Church World Service partner, and the Ministry of Education. The men and women come from communities in Monte Plata, Barahona, San Juan de la Maguana, and Dajabon provinces.
In one community, El Batey, where a recent study showed that 79 percent of the adults are illiterate, 20 men and women have started class. It is important that community leaders can read and write, so that they have better chances of finding employment.
Says Santa Suero, “I want to learn because I want to work as a maid, but families won’t hire me because I don’t know my letters. How can I follow a recipe if I can’t read?”
“I’m ashamed that I don’t know how to read,” adds Rosmerio Ramirez, “because when I am with my friends, they all know how to read, but I can’t. That’s why I’m here.”
SSID, with the support of CWS, is working to break the shame of adult illiteracy, and to help people live with dignity.
Félix Morel shows his crop of oregano to SSID's agricultural technicians.
Photo: Alex Morse/CWS
Meet Félix Morel
By Alex Morse, CWS volunteer
Félix Morel is a farmer in the community of La Maya, in Monte Plata province. Through workshops and trainings provided by Church World Service partner Social Services of the Dominican Churches (SSID), he learned about the importance of crop diversification and planting methods.
Through the trainings, farmers are learning how to get more out of their small parcels of land. Farmers are now growing non-traditional crops that are in high demand locally, limiting the number of varieties they grow, and spacing them appropriately, which leads to greater productivity and earnings. They are able to sell what they don’t consume.
In the past, Félix earned little money with his other crops and only had enough to feed his family. He never had crops to sell or, if he did, they weren’t of good enough quality. He lived in row-housing built for sugar cane cutters that was cramped and hot during the summer. Because of the little money his family had he felt he would never have a home large enough for his family or be able to send his kids to school.
Félix decided to put into action what he learned from SSID and not plant the traditional crops like plantains or yucca, which can be difficult to sell because of over production. He instead decided to plant gem squash, oregano, and passion fruit, two less common crops that grow well in the Dominican Republic and are always in demand.
Passion fruit, or Chinola, as its called in the Dominican Republic, growing on Felix's small parcel.
Photo: Alex Morse/CWS
With the money that Félix has earned with his new crops, he has been able to build a new home and has sent his children to the university to study. He continues to work his small plot of land and is quick to tell all the farmers in his community the benefits of his new crops. He tells them everything that he has learned through the workshops, so their lives can become better, too.
Bringing Water to Carmona
By Alex Morse, CWS volunteer
May 3, 2010
Welcome to Carmona
A young woman and her son in Carmona leave to search for water. Before the well was dug, they had to travel almost two miles each way to get water.
North of Santo Domingo, in the foothills of Los Haitises National Park, is the community of Carmona. Carmona was first developed as a temporary home for the Haitian "braceros," yearly sugar cane workers. After each harvest they would have to return home when they were no longer needed. As the sugar industry fell, along with the dictatorships in the Dominican Republic and Haiti, Carmona, like many Dominican bateyes, began to change.
What were originally meant to be temporary apartments became homes for the braceros and their families. These small buildings with cramped cement block rooms and in tin roofs are hot and humid. Many of the workers did not have the means to leave Carmona, and were simply abandoned by the sugar industry to raise their families where there were no schools, hospitals, or running water.
It is in communities like Carmona where Church World Service partner Social Services of the Dominican Churches (SSID) has been focusing its work for nearly 50 years.
Organizing the Community
Luis, director of SSID's Food Security Program, and Mercedes, examining land where she will be growing small crops, now that there is water in the community.
SSID has been working in Carmona for many years. It built a school and more recently held training and community building workshops as part of its food security program.
In a recent workshop, community leaders learned how community organizing can be used to solve local problems. They made a list of challenges facing the community, the resources available to them, and finally how to use the resources to solve their problems.
The workshop inspired some of the community members to address the biggest problem facing their batey, the lack of water. People had to travel almost two miles to find water, and even then it wasn't drinkable. The lack of clean water meant that children were often sick.
A small group of community members organized themselves, and with the help of SSID, investigated the cost of constructing a well. SSID offered to dig the well if the community could raise the funds for a water pump and tanks to hold the water. The community members went door-to-door visiting all 80 families and asking for donations. Each family gave what they could, and one community leader donated the rest of the money needed.
Digging the Well
Yeison fills up a water tank in Carmona, after successfully finishing the well.
The families now have access to clean water.
At the end of March, SSID sent their equipment and their team to dig the well, after having located a natural below-ground spring. For more than a month SSID's team worked until they reached water at a depth of 280 feet, making it one of the deepest wells SSID has ever dug. Over the following weeks they installed pipes, the water pump, and the tanks.
After more than a year since their previous well went dry, Carmona now has water again. Families are now planting and watering their small gardens where they are growing crops like lettuce, radishes, cabbages, and carrots.
With help and support from SSID and CWS, communities like Carmona are able to grow, and decide for themselves how they would like to see themselves develop.
Water for Life in the Gran Chaco Region, South America
Drought is common in the Gran Chaco--covering northwest Argentina,
southern Paraguay and southeast Bolivia--and reservoirs often go dry.
Indigenous families typically collect water from nearby streams or rivers for household use.
past year (2009), 42 families in three communities in Argentina and
Bolivia gained access to a reliable source of water--water tanks and
wells--thanks to Church World Service and local partners.
the Argentine Chaco, two indigenous Wichi communities are benefiting
from newly-constructed tanks and wells. In Bolivia, 21 Guaraní families
in the Itaparara community are using the water from their tank in their
households, for watering their animals and for irrigating fruit and
Bolivia--Community members participate in building a tank for collecting water.
The families chose the best location for the wells and tanks. Each tank
holds about 1,300 gallons of water. The communities participated in the
construction and contributed local materials, such as bricks. One
community contributed more than half-a-mile of pipe, needed to transport
water from a local stream to their tank.
“We are really
happy,” says a member of the Wichi community in Argentina. “And we thank
the people who helped us with this source of water that we so badly
needed--which is now close to our home.”