Unleash the Leader in a Girl

by The Mariposa DR Foundation Vetted since 2010 Top Ranked Effective Nonprofit Site Visit Verified
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
Romely
Romely

Last August, three Mariposa girls, and new entrants to our Mariposa Volando (Flying Butterfly) Program, boarded an airplane and flew for the first time in their lives. Two girls, Yaritza and Jafreisy, departed for Costa Rica and the third, Romely, for Wales to embark upon a challenging and transformational educational experience at United World Colleges (UWC) in those two countries.

With 17 schools and colleges on 4 continents, UWC is a global movement that makes education a force to unite people, nations and cultures for peace and a sustainable future. Yaritza, Jafreisy and Romely were selected by the UWC National Committee in the Dominican Republic to join the UWC movement through the two-year International Baccalaureate Program. Their education is funded through the Mariposa Rise Up Scholars program, a scholarship program spearheaded by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Vanessa Nadal and supported in part through our Global Giving donors. The program supports Mariposa girls who demonstrate academic excellence, leadership, compassion for others, and a passion to affect change in their community, to study abroad at United World Colleges.

This year at UWC has been an amazing year for Yaritza, Jafreisy and Romely. All three report that the first trimester was extremely difficult. They had to adapt to a new country, a new culture, and a new academic system--all in English, while making new friends. But they did it!  They improved their English by leaps and bounds, and were challenged in their classes, engaging with students and professors from around the world.

Following her first year at UWC, Romely wants younger Mariposa girls to think of themselves as phoenixes who can rise up even out of the most difficult of situations and with all the challenges they face. Yaritza wants younger Mariposa girls to know that “it doesn’t matter if the whole world says you can’t do it. There will always be people saying you can’t do it. Don’t listen to them. Follow your passion. Follow your heart.”

Following their first year abroad, Yaritza, Jafreisy and Romely are returning to the Dominican Republic and are joining Mariposa staff in leading our annual summer camp for the Mariposa girls. We are excited to have the girls take on leadership roles in our programs. They are real life, role models for our younger girls, and we can’t wait to see them Supporting the World’s Most Powerful Force for Change. These three young women are truly exceptional. They grew up with all of the odds stacked against them and have overcome seemingly insurmountable challenges. They are living proof that Mariposa’s programs change lives.

Jafreisy
Jafreisy
Yaritza
Yaritza

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!

Artist Xavier Ringer with Mariposas & Volunteers
Artist Xavier Ringer with Mariposas & Volunteers

 

This fall, the incredible Mariposa girls led more than 500 children and 100 community stakeholders in a city-wide mural project entitled, “It Takes A Village.” In partnership with international artists, local educators, Cabarete public schools and the U.S.Embassy, the Mariposa Foundation sponsored two community murals and a series of workshops, transforming the city inside and out! This unprecedented collaboration brought the streets to life with color and united the whole community together in support of Cabarete’s young people.

 

Mariposa’s reach extended wide. Public school students across all grade levels joined the Mariposa girls and international artists in brainstorming ideas, creating designs and painting the murals. The result was a truly inclusive final product that everyone felt ownership for! The project ran during the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, which is an international campaign to challenge violence against women and girls. The campaign runs every year from 25 November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, to 10 December, Human Rights Day. This initiative aimed to empower at-risk youth to use art as a tool for expression, creativity and voice. Through community workshops, centered on values and empowerment, Mariposa emphasized art as an alternative to violence and risk-behavior activities.

 

Muralist Xavier Ringer and mosaic artist Annemarie Zwack guided the Mariposa girls and the children of Cabarete in values-centered workshops in order to create a mural design that represented the community’s vision. The Declaration of the Rights of Children written in Creole, English and Spanish was featured in the mural. The trilingual narration reflects the unique make-up of Cabarete, which is a melting pot of Dominican, Haitian and other international cultures. In a country that has historically been unaccepting of their Haitian neighbors, the children’s high regard for their diverse heritage displays hope for a more peaceful and united future. The Mariposa girls’ pride in leading their peers into a different future is evident in their wide smiles!

 

This December, we reflect on how much the Mariposas have grown and accomplished. At the unveiling of the mural project, the Mariposas celebrated with a grand performance, featuring song, dance and theater. Artist Annemarie shared about a special part of the mural, “This mango tree and the fruit it offers represent the growth and cultivation that the Mariposas have undertaken in pursuing their education. ‘Siembra tu futuro!’ / ‘Sow your future!’ is a theme they identified for this mural.” In a town where a young girl is more likely to become a teenage mother or bride than finish high school, the Mariposa girls are changing that reality and reaping the rewards of their hard work.

 

It takes a village, but the future is bright for the Mariposas. Together, we can keep making this important work possible. Invest in a girl - she will do the rest!

 

With Gratitude,

 

 The girls, parents, staff and volunteers

"Education is the way to a better future"
"Education is the way to a better future"
The Rights of the Children held by Viviana, 16,
The Rights of the Children held by Viviana, 16,
Katiana, 16, shares her pride!
Katiana, 16, shares her pride!
Mango mosaic tree represents growth
Mango mosaic tree represents growth
This village is raising up its youth!
This village is raising up its youth!
Sory and ChiChi celebrate the Day of the Girl
Sory and ChiChi celebrate the Day of the Girl

The Mariposa DR Foundation celebrated the International Day of the Girl this past October 11th with more than 100 girls here in Cabarete, Dominican Republic. This urgent global celebration and movement highlights both the adversity and triumphs of girls through their adolescence. The day aims to affirm the value of an empowered and educated girl, as well as reinforce the campaign for human rights and equality across the world. At the Mariposa Center for Girls, we love celebrating the world’s most powerful force for change! 

In recognition of the Day of the Girl, the foundation hosted a screening of the documentary, Girl Rising, which follows the lives of girls from around the world. The Mariposa girls engaged in thoughtful discussions surrounding the many challenges girls face, such as access to education, early pregnancy, and violence in their homes and community.  To promote empowerment, they created a collaborative mural of self-affirming and positive statements and their handprints. These messages were associated with female leadership and their own personal aspirations. A few of the statements the Mariposas wrote included: “I am a powerful girl who fights for her dreams,” “I am capable of changing the world” and“I am intelligent and a future astronaut.” We are so proud of these young women for breaking down barriers to fight for their dreams! 

The oldest Mariposas also created and performed theatrical adaptations of real life scenarios that they face here in DR, such as how to address misogyny, domestic violence and youth pregnancy to present to the younger girls. The skits were relatable and authentic. Andrea, age 13, shared, "It was an impactful day. It made me think about all that girls can really accomplish."

Through film, theatrical productions, creative projects and female empowerment, we celebrated what it meant to us to be a young, educated and determined girl striving towards her goals! Access to a quality education, resources and confidence equips girls to change their circumstances and reinvest into their communities - these are all factors which make her the most influential agent of change in the developing world. Through your donations, you are investing in the Mariposa girls and a better tomorrow. Thank you for making our mission possible and for your continued support! 

In gratitude,

The Mariposa girls, staff and volunteers

"I am a girl!" community mural
"I am a girl!" community mural
Mariposa hermanas (sisters) always lend a hand
Mariposa hermanas (sisters) always lend a hand
Nothing Can Stop Me!
Nothing Can Stop Me!
She wants to be a singer.
She wants to be a singer.
Our Mariposas are powerful role models
Our Mariposas are powerful role models
 

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Organization Information

The Mariposa DR Foundation

Location: Ithaca, NY - USA
Website: http:/​/​www.mariposadrfoundation.org/​
Project Leader:
Jessica Lawson
Cabarete, Dominican Republic

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