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Mariposa Center For Girls

by The Mariposa DR Foundation
Mariposa Center For Girls
Mariposa Center For Girls
Mariposa Center For Girls
Mariposa Center For Girls
Mariposa Center For Girls
Mariposa Center For Girls
Mariposa Center For Girls
Mariposa Center For Girls
Mariposa Center For Girls
Mariposa Center For Girls
Mariposa Center For Girls
Mariposa Center For Girls
Mariposa Center For Girls
Mariposa Center For Girls
Mariposa Center For Girls
Mariposa Center For Girls
Mariposa Center For Girls
Mariposa Center For Girls
Mariposa Center For Girls
Elidania during swim class
Elidania during swim class

This spring we worked on teaching and strengthening swimming skills with daily lessons as part of our water sports program.  Not only does swimming support a healthy lifestyle through exercise, but it also empowers the Mariposas to overcome fears and learn a new skill, and it encourages safety around the water. 

We began our swimming program over 8 years ago with intensive swim lessons for the “Nautical Nine,” who learned to swim in one summer. Since that first group, more than 350 local girls have learned how to swim.   Girls that once stood on the beach, terrified of the water, are now swimming, surfing, kite surfing, SUPing and more.

When we opened the Mariposa Center for Girls in 2014 we finally had our own pool.  It sits in the very center of our space and in some ways, is the heart of our Center. Not only do our girls learn to swim, but it provides a tranquil, peaceful environment to learn. It will come as no surprise that swimming is one of their favorite classes.  For some of the girls, this was their first time in a pool!

In our beach town of Cabarete, knowing how to swim is not just a recreational skill, it is a matter of safety. One of the Mariposas was able to save her younger sister from drowning with the water safety skills she learned in our program. 

All in all, swimming allows the Mariposas to participate in community activities and be proud of where they come from.  Thank you for your support in keeping our Mariposas swimming!

Mariposa Volando Jafreisy teaching Esmelada
Mariposa Volando Jafreisy teaching Esmelada
At the heart of the Center
At the heart of the Center
Fanny &Yoskany
Fanny &Yoskany

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Finished Art/Music Kiosk
Finished Art/Music Kiosk

Once again the Mariposa DR Foundation is at the forefront of environmental awareness and change in our community.  With our eco-brick project, we have, with the help of our community, prevented over 4,000 pounds of plastic and trash entering the sea!

More than 9 years ago we worked together with volunteers on a proto-type sustainable construction project with eco-bottle bricks at a local preschool. We are now taking this project full circle as the Mariposa girls motivate our community members by teaching them about this amazing, local resource. And we’re cleaning up the environment at the same time! Our environmental activism group led workshops about how to create eco-bricks (stuffing trash into 16 oz plastic bottles) and how we plan to use them in building at the Mariposa Center for Girls. To motivate community members to get involved, the Foundation offered 20 pesos per bottle for those that passed quality control tests.

Community members from all walks of life with a driving spirit of entrepreneurship came with their eco-bricks. We were overwhelmed with the incredible response and it is safe to say that this has been the most massive single-use plastic clean up in the neighborhoods of Cabarete ever! (Possibly the entire island!) We surpassed our original budget and goal of 2,000 bottles and ended up receiving over 4,000 bottles total.

With the completed eco-brick bottles we first created a bench prototype using about 500 bottles. With the rest of the eco-bricks we began the the construction of a music/art space at the Center.  

The enthusiasm has been incredible! Not only did this project offer community members a source of income, but it got our community motivated to clean up trash and conscious of alternative building materials! We encourage all local foundations, schools and whoever else is able to, to continue the momentum of this project by building with eco bottle bricks.

Inspecting eco-bricks for quality control
Inspecting eco-bricks for quality control
What 4,000 eco-bricks looks like!
What 4,000 eco-bricks looks like!
Finished bench
Finished bench

In our literacy program at Mariposa, trained teachers work with students to develop strong reading comprehension skills and a passion for literature. Our elementary school spelling and reading classes emphasize the development of foundational oral-visual competencies, recognition skills, and comprehension. We know the importance of reading to and with the girls from the moment they enter Mariposa.

In many schools throughout the Dominican Republic, overcrowded classrooms and a lack of resources often result in a large percentage of students falling behind academically.  In the Dominican Republic, low reading proficiency in primary schools, 25% of which are performing below national metrics, coupled with schools graduating underprepared students has led to staggering attrition rates. More than 30% of students do not even reach high school, and of those that do, roughly 65% fail to achieve grade-level reading proficiency.

Our goal at MDRF is to ensure that each of our girls graduates 3rd grade with a mastery of basic spelling and reading, as well as a love for books. We reinforce core competencies in literacy both inside and outside the classroom through our library lending system, innovative reading classes, and one-on-one tutoring sessions. We devote several years to literacy  classes, tutoring and engagement so that our girls are able to excel in their studies and develop a love of learning.

Our youngest Maripositas learn to read books bothin print and on the murals painted around the center. As our Maripositas grow into Mariposas, they enjoy participating in book clubs and having independent reading time. Finally, as Mariposotas, they take part in writer’s workshops, writer’s retreats, and book discussions with notable authors.

We know that we can only achieve our mission of educating, empowering, and employing girls by establishing a strong foundation of literacy skills at a young age. That is why we place such an emphasis on reading and why all of our students are enrolled in school full-time. By the time our girls graduate high school, they are reading at or above grade level. They are now Mariposas Volando (“Flying Butterflies”) intent on graduating college and achieving their professional goals.

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
Tree pose
Tree pose

Under a canopy of almond trees, standing one-legged in tree pose, are a group of Mariposas, finding their breathe. Yoga has finally found it’s permanent home here at the Mariposa Foundation.

 

This spring, thanks to the helping hands of multiple visiting volunteer groups, we were able to complete a long-time dream: the construction of a beautiful, recycled yoga deck. Made from repurposed wooden pallets, the yoga deck has already become a cherished space here at the Center.

 

Twice a week, a phenomenal local instructor from Puerto Plata-- Lorena Medina Bournigal-- comes to the center to teach yoga classes to our oldest girls, with a focus on the 7th and 8th graders. Lorena’s position is made possible by the sponsorship of a group of women from the “Yoga Effect” project, who, after taking an interest in the Mariposa mission, donated countless mats in addition to the platform funds.

 

While classes have been occurring since the beginning of the year, the brand new, sustainable platform has enhanced the Mariposa yoga experience tenfold. In the open air, with the blue sky and whispering spiderweb of leaves up above, mindfulness and peaceful reflection are easier to access. In a typical class, the girls do Sun Salutations to warm-up, stretching their hands up and then flowing skillfully into the classic poses-- Downward Dog, Baby Cobra and Child’s Pose, to name just a few. Some of the girls have already become true yoga masters, capable of twisting limbs and focusing breathe into the most advanced of poses.

 

But yoga isn’t the only thing the new platform has been used for! To inaugurate the addition, our annual Earth Day celebration was held here. Theater and musical performances, a Robotics demonstration and a recycled materials fashion show found their way across the stage at the end of April, to the cheers and applause of Mariposa friends, family and supporters in the crowd. A yoga presentation was the grand finale, with the Mariposa yogis demoing the skills and moves they’d learned throughout the semester.

 

The space has also been used for relaxing reading time with the youngest Mariposas, dance parties with the visiting volunteers, and as a quiet writing space for the 9th and 10th graders’ Honors Writing Workshop.

 

Yoga has the power to relieve stress, increase energy and support mindfulness. Our fantastic yoga program and new platform are wonderful examples of what your generous donations look like in effect. Thank you for making this place of peace a reality!

Breathing in
Breathing in
Warrior
Warrior
 

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Organization Information

The Mariposa DR Foundation

Location: Ithaca, NY - USA
Website:
Project Leader:
Patricia Suriel
Ithaca, New York United States

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