Dominican Republic 2015: Day 7 – What the trip meant to us all

Our last day in the DR was a chance for us to process what the trip had meant and what we had learned. 

By Wendy Frattolin
Greenville, SC

This was our final day working at the Mariposa Center. We have grown quite accustomed to our commute on the beach, the routines at the center, and the beautiful, smiling faces of the Mariposa girls. There is nothing like starting your day with a young girl — who you just met that week and doesn’t even speak your language — calling your name and giving you a big hug!

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We had a light breakfast this morning because the mothers’ group was at the center to cook a traditional Dominican breakfast with us — not the kind of breakfast they would have every day, but what they would make for their families on the weekends (sort of like our Sunday brunches). But first, we all participated in “circle time” that includes singing, dancing and lots of laughter. There were no shy wallflowers amongst our DFW travelers — everyone was a great sport and got into the fun!

Then it was on to the chores for the morning — many of us helped the mothers with the cooking (although the mothers did most of the work!); others continued with the sewing and gardening projects that they started earlier in the week. Some of us watched the girls as they practiced a special play they will be performing when Julia Alvarez (author of In the Time of the Butterflies) visits the center. The idea for the play came from the girls themselves.

Our breakfast “feast” included mangu (mashed plantains), boiled yucca, salami, fried cheese, and eggs. Everything was delicious and, as we ate, we had the opportunity to talk with the mothers about what Mariposa has meant to their family and what they hope for their girls. We listened with tears in our eyes as one mother told us she will work hard and do whatever it takes to make sure her daughter gets an education. What we really learned is that no matter the country, no matter the culture, no matter the circumstances, all mothers have the same hopes and dreams for their daughters!

During the midday break before the older girls arrived, we had an opportunity to discuss our Dining for Women chapters. Our travelers represented chapters from all across the U.S. — from a Scottsdale, Arizona chapter that just celebrated its first anniversary to a Toledo, Ohio, chapter that has been meeting for nine years. The idea was to learn from each other and to bring back new ideas to our chapters … ideas for meeting icebreakers (some serious, some hilarious), traveling lending libraries, welcoming new members, joint chapter meetings, fundraisers, and getting members to share the work of the chapter.

After our DFW discussion, we were able to get a sneak peek of “Mariposa 2025”, the organization’s vision for the future that involves the building of a visitors’ center, a girls’ museum, hotel and restaurant. This will provide many benefits, including a training ground for the girls in the hospitality industry, employment for more Dominicans, a revenue stream for the center and a model for other girls’ organizations around the world! The future looks bright and very exciting for Mariposa! We will all be watching it unfold!

Before we left the center for the day, we were treated to a wonderful musical performance by the older girls. A local music teacher comes to the center two days a week and it was amazing to see the results in action — girls drumming, playing guitar and singing to songs they had written themselves.

Our day ended with dinner at Otra Cosa with the Mariposa staff, and the traditional “completion ceremony” where everyone shared what the trip has meant to them. The comments from the DFW members speak for themselves:

“I’m coming away with hope!”

“This week has been a very powerful week. It meant so much to be with the people at Mariposa, to see it grow, to be a part of it by painting a wall or reading with the girls. Each girl is being given a chance to live her life, tell her story.”

“The people who come on these trips are the most amazing women you will ever meet.”

“I wanted to experience a little of what we are paying for (with our DFW dollars). You gave us a taste of the lives of the girls, a taste of what you are doing.”

“We’ve got this sisterhood. I love women; I love the connections. I am so grateful to have been able to make these connections on this trip.”

“I’ve always wanted to go on a trip like this. It’s been one of my dreams. Meeting women with the same passions … you are my inspiration and the inspiration for my daughters.” 

“I am taking back a whole new idea of what Dining for Women could be!”

And from the Mariposa staff:

“It’s good to know that people all across the U.S. really care about our cause.”

 “We are going to work twice as hard now because we know there are people who care. It’s been a really inspirational week for all of us!”

We came on a service trip to help the Mariposa center and its girls, but we all got so much more than we gave. And the pleasure was all ours!!