Ramona's Story in the Dominican Republic

Ramona's Story in the Dominican Republic

The gentle breeze rustled through the trees on Ramona’s porch in the Dominican Republic as I sat watching her bright eyes, animated voice and gesturing hands explain the preschool and adult literacy classes she leads “right here on this porch”.

Ramona’s home is on a batey, a former work camp for Haitian migrant cane cutters. Over time people stayed and had children but continue to be marginalized by the Dominican government.  The sugar cane industry collapsed in the 1990s - a mixed blessing as  people lost their work but with the support of  Servicio Social de Iglesias Dominicanas (SSID) were able to access land to establish agriculture.  Ramona, a mother of five children, is someone who has made this work. 

Trained as a health promoter by SSID she provides basic health services and education on a wide variety of topics, including disaster preparedness.  This is important in this context where the gentle breeze of the day of our visit was in total contrast to Hurricane Sandy of the previous week that killed four of Ramona’s six new born piglets.

Ramona’s journey with pigs began four years ago when she received one and then returned two of the first litter of nine.  With a $300 loan from SSID and $1300 from the sale of pigs she set up a store in her home.  Business was booming during our visit with a young boy dashing in for rat poison and Ramona’s mother leaving the group to attend to an impatient mother with a baby on her back wanting several food items.

We toured the immaculate pig sty, ducks and geese noisily noted our presence before boarding the back of a truck to visit nearby oregano fields, being developed as a cash crop by the community with SSID support. En route, I asked Ramona how she had begun the journey that has led her to this point in her life.  She replied “As a child I spent my early years in a feeding center.  When I was a young woman SSID helped us close those centers and grow gardens to feed our own children. “That’s when I began to learn” says this energetic woman also raises cattle. “I have some basic vet skills and the group is cross breeding their local cattle with Brahmas to be more drought tolerant”.

At 48 years old, Ramona would have been a young woman when I worked as a heath consultant with SSID thirty years ago.  That brought back the image of a young women I’d met then, at the time weaning a limp, pale baby.  When I’d asked her what she was going to feed her baby she’d replied “Oh, I will just bring her to the feeding center like my mother did me.” 

As a young mother myself at the time and who had seen other children in the country dying of malnutrition, this was a powerful impetus for working with SSID to transition people to have the dignity of caring for their own families.  Today, local pastors like Maximo in another batey, share how community unity is their strength in gaining access to water and land, adding “There are no more malnourished children in our community”. Never would I have imagined that I would be so blessed as to reconnect with Maximo after thirty years and to meet Ramona, and see and hear how God has blessed their efforts.

It is also true that I was deeply saddened by the helpless perspectives of people in other communities where dependency prevails but that is a story for another time. 

Bev Abma, FRB Staff 

12/14/2012 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment