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Apr 13, 2018

Ama Su Madre/Love Your Mother: Mother Earth

Rosa planting five years ago.
Rosa planting five years ago.

“The land is where our roots are. The children must be taught to feel and live in harmony with the Earth”- Maria Montessori

There is definitely something magical about watching a seed turn into a plant and then flower into a fruit. Here at The Mariposa Center for Girls we are convinced that one of the greatest (and most sustainable) gifts that we can give our girls is to provide as many opportunities as we can to connect with the Earth.  One of the most convenient and impactful ways to spark their interest is by having a permaculture garden.

In 2014, when we moved into The Mariposa Center for Girls, we also established our Mama Tingó (Dominican activist and defender of agricultural workers rights) permaculture garden. Led by the thoughtful guidance and support of Karen Silverman, help of long term volunteer, Ada Smith, and permaculture designer, Charlie Durrant, we began the process of turning a field of sand into an abundant food forest. With the collaborative efforts of Mariposa girls, team members, international volunteers and community members alike we have maintained our garden and created a space which throughout the years has served as an experiential learning ground and a powerful tool to inspire environmental stewardship within our community.

Throughout the years, the garden has transformed from a simple permaculture conuco (or traditional farming system in the DR) to a composting hub for the Center. In 2017, a group of volunteers from Lawrence Academy came to establish a composting system on site that would take most of our waste at the Center and transform it in to a rich soil to feed our plants. Part of this process included that all dried leaves collected at the Center are transformed into mulch, a three-part composting system was established and a bathtub worm bin was installed so that the girls could visualize the process easier and watch the earthworm’s breakdown organic materials quickly. During every annual Earth Day celebration, our girls proudly lead garden tours and taught their family members the importance of organic agriculture and composting throughout the day.

Unfortunately, a few months after the Earth Day event in 2017, we were struck by the high winds of Hurricane Irma and Maria. Both hurricanes did significant damage to the canopy layer of our food forest- leaving us with a garden exposed to the elements and a number of trees down.  Most of our Moringa trees fell down and we lost many of the banana trees (that we serve as snacks for our 120+ girls). Though the garden suffered significantly from the storms, the clean-up process proved to be successful in re-growing the trees and plants that we lost and ultimately using the tragedy to teach about climate change.

In March of 2018 more than 60 volunteers worked in the garden doing a number of activities including; reorganizing the compost system, clearing trails throughout the garden and building a chicken coop. The completion of the “chicken palace” will not only provide food for our girls, but will also be an extension to our experiential learning space and to understand more about science and the art of animal husbandry while providing our permaculture garden with more compost needed to grow more food. 

Looking back at the history of the garden and its changes it has proven to be a metaphor of the Mariposa girls and their process here with us.  When we plant the seed, give love and nutrients, we reap the benefits of what we sow. When we take the time to nurture, educate and empower girls their lives become the testament of the fruits of our labor.  

Dayana proudly stands at our Mama Tingo garden.
Dayana proudly stands at our Mama Tingo garden.
Very proud of our new chicken coop!
Very proud of our new chicken coop!
Isha planting seeds.
Isha planting seeds.
Staff and volunteers doing some garden clean-up.
Staff and volunteers doing some garden clean-up.
Mar 14, 2018

Happy Pi Day!

This winter the Mariposa girls enjoyed an exciting assortment of courses including Mariposa’s first robotics classes! Technology has become the most powerful tool of this generation, which is why we think that having the girls learn the basics of programming will give them the tools to understand more about our current and future world. Through the robotics course we are introducing the girls to a new way of thinking and solving problems creatively.  

The older girls started off with learning the basics of coding through ScratchJr, an iPad application that teaches kids to code through a visual programming language. The girls all completed a set of challenges to test their coding skills. After weeks of working through the challenges they created their own video games using their imaginations and the skills they had acquired through the ScratchJr challenges. They then moved on to using the JavaScript Blocks Editor, software which they later used to program the micro:bot robots, to get a basic understanding of the interface. The software was all in English which added an extra challenge, but the girls powered through! After learning JavaScript, they assembled their own robots using micro:bot kits. These kits are designed to teach kids in developing countries the basics of coding, electronics, and robotics. The girls then constructed their cardboard box kits in unique ways, converting them into unicorns, ambulances, and more. Finally, using the JavaScript Blocks Editor, they put their skills to use and coded their robots to move!

The younger girls spent the winter semester in a newly offered Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math (STEAM) class. In this class, the girls used similar creative problem solving skills as the older girls did in their robotics class. However, the younger girls started by learning about basic engineering topics like: simple machines, states of matter, the five senses, and chemical reactions. The course ended with a short introduction to ScratchJr. Given that the robotics course was such a hit with the older girls, the robotics program will be expanded and offered to the younger Mariposas in the coming semester! The younger girls will go into the robotics course next semester prepared with an understanding of basic STEAM concepts, and an enthusiasm for the sciences.

For the older girls who want to continue their robotics journey, they will have the opportunity to do so as part of a weekly robotics workshop on Saturdays. In this Saturday club, the girls will have one-on-one time with an instructor who will guide them through the process of enhancing their micro:bot and its code. The girls will brainstorm, design, and code what they want their robots to do. Some girls may choose to make “roomba” robots that can clean rooms, while others make robots that can navigate a maze. No matter what robot the girls ultimately present, it will be one that they have designed, built, and coded themselves. They will finish the semester with a final robotics presentation at our Earth Day celebration!

Thank you for all your support. It was crucial in making this robotics program possible. We want to ensure that robotics classes will continue to be offered in years to come, so that our Mariposas can grow as engineers, scientists, designers, coders, and roboticists!

Jan 16, 2018

Mariposa Center Expands with Satellite Campus

This coffee gives back!
This coffee gives back!

Dear Friends,

The Mariposa DR Foundation is excited to announce that the Mariposa Center for Girls is expanding its campus to a new satellite location! Mariposa is now the proud owner of the Cabarete Coffee Company, our social enterprise and sustainable business! All profits from Cabarete Coffee benefit the Mariposa Foundation and the Mariposa girls use the cafe as a “real life” classroom. With expanded job opportunities, education and leadership training, the Mariposa girls are poised for success now more than ever!

Mariposa Founder, Patricia Thorndike Suriel, and her family opened Cabarete Coffee Company in 2009 as a small neighborhood business. Almost instantly it became a place where the community gathered together. The shade-grown organic coffee beans of the Suriel family farm became a fan favorite. Coffee shop regulars loved the flavor, the amazing health benefits from high-quality joe and keeping their business local. 

From the start, Cabarete Coffee has remained committed to sustainable business practices and environmental stewardship. The Mariposa Foundation is proud to continue with this tradition and to educate customers on how a simple cup of coffee can support farmers, protect the earth, empower girls and lift communities out of poverty! Who knew that your morning joe or a coffee shop job in high school could hold such purpose?

This coffee shop is also where the Mariposa DR Foundation was born and grew its wings. Before Mariposa had the Mariposa Center for Girls, Cabarete Coffee served as the headquarters for staff, volunteers and invested community members to share ideas and create change. Now, almost ten years later, Cabarete Coffee has become the Mariposa Foundation’s latest innovation for educating, employing and empowering girls. Cabarete Coffee Company enables the Mariposas to learn and work in the hospitality and tourism business. Through barista and cooking classes, internships, marketing and business training, the Mariposas take part in hands on learning, gaining important and marketable work experience. 

In Cabarete and the Dominican Republic, one of the factors that can leave women and girls vulnerable is the lack of dignified, fair wage work. Sadly, far too many young women are trapped in the sex trafficking industry at a young age and never make it out. Other women and girls are relegated to selling used clothing, lottery tickets, or fruit and vegetables at a local stand. With these jobs, it is a constant struggle to make ends meet and put food on the table. Mariposa interrupts this cycle by educating girls. Yet, this is only half the battle if there is no dignified work in town. Cabarete Coffee Company creates new and expansive possibilities for the oldest Mariposas, who not only gain an experiential learning classroom, but a chance for meaningful work that sustains their family and the community. 

At Mariposa we know that any challenges we face must be met with creativity. We are so grateful to you all, our donors, who believe in the important work we are doing and continue to invest in change. Together, we are able to create jobs, spread our mission and give back to the community - all while empowering the world’s most powerful force for change! 

With gratitude, 

The Mariposa girls, family, staff and volunteers

Cabarete Coffee Company back in the day
Cabarete Coffee Company back in the day
Staff supporting the word's most powerful force!
Staff supporting the word's most powerful force!
Friends and family gather at the coffee shop
Friends and family gather at the coffee shop
Romely talks with fellow United World College alum
Romely talks with fellow United World College alum
Organic coffee & our sustainable tourism guide
Organic coffee & our sustainable tourism guide
 
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