The summer of 2021 has been a summer of finding adventure and joy in safe spaces, and we have plans to extend it!
I wanted to take a moment to thank you all for allowing our girls to live their dreams this summer. Over 40 new girls enrolled and were introduced to swimming, while more than 40 other girls had the chance to surf at Encuentro Beach. A dozen girls rode a bike for the first time and 50 girls stand up paddle boarded on the beautiful river Yasica. We read under our giant mango tree, and debated current events under the almond trees. We danced, took computer classes, English classes and graphic design classes. We learned how to make plant based foods and to use math skills during cooking classes. We ate seagrapes from the bushes on the side of the “Maverick” Basketball court to quench our thirst and took naps in the shade. Our days began with tropical fruits, lots of mangoes, and coconut water from the palms on our campus. Morning circles rotated between yoga and meditation under the high arches of our Anacaona Bohio. How lucky we are to have found all of these safe spaces in nature. We sought out adventure everywhere we could, even kiteboarding has become a safe space.
Last week we learned school will not start back before the 29th of September. So here's to this endless summer that will continue!
Thank you all for allowing so many girls to find sanctuary, friendship, and rest; for letting them be girls this summer.
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. 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.
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 women or girl activists who have proven to be agents of change in their communities or on an international scale. Puerto Rican artist Rosenda Alvarez Faro and Dominican artist, Shak, recently completed four additional portraits at our Center; Elizabeth Acevedo, Amanda Gorman, Malala Yousafzai and Naomi Osaka. All four portraits beautifully embody the strength of these powerful women. Overall, we have completed 15 portraits, uniquely 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 and girls 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.
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.
The Mariposa Center for Girls is the only safe space for girls in our community, so it devastated us to have to shut it down in March. The young women in our community are facing the biggest obstacles they have seen in their short lives. Their schools are closed, they have food insecurity, accessing healthcare is challenging, and they face the risk of increased gender-based violence. They have to stay distanced from their friends and they feel isolated. There is also the mental stress of living in close quarters with family members who may not be taking precautions. They have a lot going on in their lives. When we closed our doors we promised that on the day that we could safely open our Center again, we would.
Safely reopening is a large financial burden due to the need for PPE, transportation logistics, safety and health protocol implementation, and the increased staffing necessary to run programming in smaller groups. But in September, thanks to many of your support, we were able maneuver the complicated logistics of safely starting up our high quality programs again. The girls love being back, and participating in programs at our Center and out on the water is helping their academics and their mental health.
Since the pandemic is keeping us apart, we wanted to bring our Mariposa Center for Girls to you. Join Nicole, Detiny, Marlin and Alexandra and see what our Center is like in our video tour! Of course, we hope when it is safe to do so you can come visit so we can give you a tour in person!
As 2020 comes to an end, we want to thank all of you who have supported our work over the last ten years; not just on sunny days but also through hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, and a pandemic. We hope you and your families are safe and healthy and we are holding you in our hearts.
In the midst of the global pandemic, when the world was already facing so many challenges, the Dominican Republic faced yet another immediate emergency situation at hand as hurricane Isaias passed through the Caribbean. Directly in its destructive path, we experienced severe weather that caused dangerous conditions and storm surges throughout the island. The coastal town of Cabarete saw flooding in some of its most vulnerable areas, power outages throughout the community and damage to already susceptible building structures in precarious places.
In 2014, we successfully took on the challenge of refurbishing the Center from an abandoned building to a first rate facility that invokes inspiration and change in our community and the girls who attend programs there. Our beloved Mariposa Center that serves as a second home for all of the Mariposa girls for the last 6 years, also experienced considerable damage during the storm. A number of large trees came down, causing secondary building damage. Fencing fell over and general reparations will have to be made in order for the Center to be back functioning, of course, once it is safe to bring girls back to programs. Though Isaias caused considerable damage, we know that as an organization we are prepared and skilled to overhaul any destruction that occurred.
On the ground in our community we were able to immediately reach out to all families to check in via telephone, confirming the safety of the Mariposa girls. Additionally, our team members did individual home visits and community walk throughs that gave us a clearer understanding of the extent of the damage and what individual families will need to be able to get back on their feet again. Without saying, 2020 has been a year of incredible challenges throughout the world. Now more than ever, we know the importance of working together as a community for a common goal and supporting each other to rise up after every storm that we are faced to confront.
As humanity faces unprecedented obstacles, we at the Mariposa DR Foundation are working on the ground with our families and girls. By listening to them, we can better support them in these challenging times. We are writing today to give you, our advocates and supporters, an update on how we are addressing the current situation in Cabarete.
We are assisting the more than 100 families of our Mariposas based on their specific needs. This includes:
Saving Lives by Social Distancing: Educating about the importance of social distance and modeling what that looks like. We are sharing best practices for staying healthy. Public health posters are being made by the girls and displayed on the outside of their homes.
Feeding Families: Supporting some of our highest need families by creating accounts for them at local corner stores (colmados) and grocery stores. Families have ownership on what to buy, as they know their needs best. This also will help to stimulate the devastated local economy. We are also supplying some families in high need with clean water for drinking.
Distance Learning: Offering distance learning materials and access to iPads as well as ensuring Mariposas have resources to complete distance learning offered by their schools at the elementary, high school, and university levels.
Women’s Health: This can be an especially scary time for the pregnant women in our community. We are connecting with our Mariposa graduates who are pregnant and offering them support and resources. We are also working in collaboration with CEPROSH to deliver medication to HIV+ community members in Cabarete and Sosua. We are distributing sanitary pads, soap and hand sanitizer.
Making Masks: Mariposa Upcycled Sails seamstress Maria Alexandra is making 200 masks out of old spinnaker sails to deliver to families. Additional funding will allow us to pay our second seamstress to expand the mask making and share them with the greater Cabarete community.
Nurturing the mind: We are giving the Mariposas journals to write in and lending books from our library. We will be offering virtual yoga classes when they are able to connect to the internet.
Musical Instruments: We have delivered several musical instruments to the Mariposas’ homes so they can keep practicing and for their enjoyment.
Environment: Two new environmental workbooks created by our girls “Eco - Heroes” and “Our Oceans” will be printed once printers are open again and delivered to 2,000 children in Cabarete.
Supporting our Rise Up Scholars in the US: We are extremely lucky to have three “madrinas” supporting our three Rise Up Scholars who are stuck in the US and finishing their second semester of freshman year remotely. Thank you to Sherry Herdman, Staci Darmody, and Jen Furigay for opening their hearts and their homes.
We know as a global community we face challenging times. On the day that the Mariposas can return to their schools, to the Mariposa Center for Girls, and to the ocean and the mountains, we will be ready. But the path to recovery and their future depends on the financial support and commitments we are able to secure today. Those of you who have donated this month, whether it be $10, $100, or $1,000, please know it lifts us up as we navigate uncharted waters.
We hope you all are hanging in there and we are holding you in our hearts.
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