Nov 15, 2018

Leadership on the Basketball Court

In July of 2018 the Mariposas participated in the first ever summer basketball camp, led by former collegiate athlete and Princeton Varsity Basketball Captain Vanessa Smith.

After inaugurating our newly paved basketball court, the girls spent 8 weeks playing games, learning teamwork, new skills, and developing a newfound love for the sport. Our camp was offered to close to 70 girls and our court was filled every day with cheers and laughs! The girls loved playing against each other as well as showing off their skills to visiting volunteer groups and even staff members. We ended the summer with a final All-Star game between 12 of the most improved players competing in front of a crowd of their peers. All of the girls left camp with memories of laughter, certificates to celebrate their accomplishments, and pictures to commemorate their success.

For many of the girls, this was their first exposure to basketball and the first opportunity that they were invited to learn the techniques and skills of a sport traditionally dominated by boys and men. A culture of machismo has made basketball courts and other sports inaccessible to girls here in DR. However, our court is different. Our court stands as one of the few on the entire north coast that is exclusively accessible to girls. In line with our mission of empowerment, we are thrilled to be opening these types of opportunities up to our girls and our community and inspire the future basketball stars of the DR. 

Our basketball camp along with our other summer sports programs (surfing, cycling, swimming and softball) are all designed to empower, challenge, and inspire our girls; igniting a passion for fitness and body positivity that aligns with our mission here at the center. MDRF is dedicated to experiential learning and offering a holistic education, which includes physical education. Our sports programs have always been a source of fun, learning, and empowerment for all of the girls. 

Oct 8, 2018

The Power of Transforming Our Walls and Our Minds

Mural that captures the essence of Mariposa
Mural that captures the essence of Mariposa

As you walk through the corridors of the Mariposa Center for Girls, you can’t help but be inspired by the beautiful artwork throughout. We are proud of our conscious decision to create an inspirational space where the art on our walls reflects the power of our mission. The murals have been the international and local collective work of artists that often integrated the girls themselves into the creative process. Throughout the years, we have worked with mosaic artists, painters and graffiti artists to create a visual, artistic hub of girl empowerment that tells a story and teaches the importance of sharing  their voice and their perspective.

Six years ago, driving by what is now the Mariposa Center for Girls, you would never have imagined that these abandoned, dilapidated buildings could be converted in to a beautiful, cultural center that celebrates the powerful work that we do.  Today, as you pass by, the first thing you see is a mural (created under the artistic direction of Xaivier Ringer), together with our girls and team members. Throughout the six-week process, the girls took an active participatory role in the development and execution of the mural; reflecting on their own ideas of what it means to be a Mariposa girl. The impact of this daily visual reminder gives our community a sense of pride in the positive results that a collaborative effort can have on a public space. The finished mural is now a community landmark and the gateway to the Center; a snapshot of the amazing things taking place beyond the confines of the wall.

Inside the Center is the Women Activist Portrait Project- a perfect example of how we have successfully engaged our visitors and girls in a visual learning experience. This project features portraits of Haitian, Dominican and United States women activists who have proven to be agents of change in their communities or on an international scale.  The women featured range from a Dominican rural woman, to a Navajo woman who fights against domestic violence, to Myriam Merlet; a leader in the Haitian feminist movement who perished in the earthquake of 2010. We currently have completed 12 portraits, all beautifully telling their own story and adding to the richness of the Mariposa Center experience. The portrait series project has served as a starting point for conversations and program development, as we delve into establishing courses that focus on identity, race relations and the important work that these women have done for their own communities. Within the series, there is a full-length mirror that echoes the Mariposa motto, “I am the Most Powerful Force for Change”, reminding the girls that they too are part of a lineage of women activists that have the capacity to change the face of their future.

We have also worked hard in diversifying the mediums used for the Center’s beautification projects.  Mosaic artist Annemarie Zwack used her talent to engage the Mariposa girls in hand-building individual clay pieces that were used as the components to create the compelling portraits of Dominican agricultural rights activist, Mamá Tingo and abolitionist, Harriet Tubman. together with the helping hands of hundreds of volunteer Community Engaged Learning groups throughout the years, we have taken broken tiles ready to be thrown out from local hardware stores and transformed them into beautiful masterpieces of color and texture, often reflecting important issues affecting our community.  For example, our undersea waterscape mural reminds our girls of the importance of protecting the waterways on a daily basis.

Each piece of art on our walls has been an opportunity for valuable lessons, gained leadership skills and visual messages of empowerment. Here, at the Mariposa Center for Girls we firmly believe that creating a beautiful space filled with art that reflects our values has the power to radiate that message to our community and to the world. There is valid opportunity and a learned experience with every glance of the art. It is a visual landscape that has the potential to change the minds and hearts of those who see it.  

Aida Maria & Jenifer painting
Aida Maria & Jenifer painting
Anacaona mural
Anacaona mural
Harriet Tubman mosaic
Harriet Tubman mosaic
Inspirational women
Inspirational women
Aug 30, 2018

Mariposa's don't just fly they surf too!

Nicole riding a wave. Photo: Sebastiano Massimino
Nicole riding a wave. Photo: Sebastiano Massimino

Mariposa’s surfing program, led by our very own graphic designer and surfing mentor, Pamela Cuadros, gives the strongest swimmers a chance to do what so many foreigners come flocking to Cabarete beaches to try.

Despite living a stone’s throw from the ocean, more often than not in the Cabarete community, young girls are not taught how to swim and often grown up fearing the water. Our swim and surf programs empower our Mariposas, making them see that they are just as capable, strong and worthy of a passtime like surfing as the local boys and the foreigners who come on vacation to their hometown.

Before letting them get out there to ride the waves, we make sure our girls are fully prepared. One of the most important things we do here at Mariposa is make sure all of our girls become strong swimmers. The youngest girls start off in our pool, getting the basic strokes down and learning to love the water. Once they’ve made it to a certain level, we take them across the street from our center to the beach, to learn integral ocean safety, such as how to identify and escape from riptides.

During our summer camp months, Pamela takes the experienced surfers out into the waves daily, preparing them for upcoming surf competitions. She also takes a new batch of surfers out twice a week, helping them learn the basics and fostering their love of the sport. As if born to surf, many of the girls take to the surfing instantly, and sometimes win local competitions.

The surf program also goes hand-in-hand with our environmental and sustainability initiatives. Before getting geared up, the surfers always take time to clean up the beach, clearing trash and collecting debris in recycled rice bags. This morning routine has solidified the understanding that loving the ocean also means protecting the ocean. This is how genuine environmental social change begins-- by bringing the next generation out into nature and sparking a life-long love.

Our surfers have also had the chance to ride and learn alongside some amazing professionals! In March, The Changing Tides Foundation, a group of water women and adventurers who feel their calling is to help others, came down to Cabarete through their Women’s Outreach Mentorship Program. They swapped tips and tricks, explored the local waterways and gifted our girls a ton of amazing surfing gear. The Changing Tides women even made a little history while they were here, surfing a the biggest swell in Puerto Plata in 30 years!

Surfing has given our girls confidence, strength and the opportunity to do something fun and empowering out in their natural surroundings. The chance to see other women achieving extraordinary feats of athleticism out on the waves and then attempt them themselves has empowered the Mariposas, inspiring dreams and aspirations of surfing at that high level.

But until they do move on to wilder waters, if you head down to Encuentro beach on a typical summer morning, you will see the bright, fluorescent pink wetsuit shirts of the Mariposas, bobbing up and down in the rolling surf-- riding the waves and holding their own right alongside the very best surfers from around the world.

At Encuentro Beach with CTF. Photo: Jianca Lazarus
At Encuentro Beach with CTF. Photo: Jianca Lazarus
Expressing love of ocean. Photo: Jianca Lazarus
Expressing love of ocean. Photo: Jianca Lazarus
Beach cleanup
Beach cleanup
 
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