The Seed of Life Agricultural Training Center
In the area of Vallejuelo when Sister Maria arrived, agriculture was primitive at best and there was almost no possibility of commercialization. Sister Maria found that soil was good for production and that almost all families had a small parcel of land. She purchased some land for agricultural experimentation and taught modern methods of agriculture, establishing The Seed of Life Agricultural Training Center. Farmers were taught how to plant, tend to, harvest and most importantly commercialize onion production. Today the area of Vallejuelo is the largest producer of onion in the Dominican Republic.
The pictures below, left to right show: Sister's Seed of Life Agricultural Research and Education Center, irrigated peppers being grown under methods to reduce water usage and labor, peppers awaiting their 9th harvest in 2013, Dominican farmers in an onion field.
Education and Schools
In the Dominican Republic, children only attended school three days per week and class attendance was inconsistent - partly due to child labor issues. Sister changed this culture and today the majority of the children attend school. In 2011, Sister Maria realized a need to provide education to the children in remote areas of Haiti, where there were no schools. After a census that Sister did in the Cazoom area, it was determined that there was a desire and need for education and a two-room school was built in 2012. One year later, in January of 2013, two additional rooms were added on as a result of the success and growing desire for families to obtain an education. The plans are for a new school to be built in Cara Bonita in early 2014 where today 120 students are attending school in a make-shift shack. Sister Maria's focus on education doesn't stop with children. In 2013 she realized a need for adult learning and built an arts, crafts and trade center in Los Cacaos where adults learn basket weaving, sewing, embroidery, baking and carpentry.The school project in Cazoom and trade center project in Los Cacaos was built with assistance from a missionary group from Wisconsin, USA.
The pictures below left to right show: an existing school which accommodates 120 students, a temporary school, construction of the school in the Cazoom area and construction of the arts, crafts and trade center in Los Cacaos.
Sister Maria's first water project occurred in the Dominican Republic when she learned of two rivers in the mountains that could provide clean drinking water. She built two dams which required local residents to carry building materials on their backs the final one mile up the mountain before construction could begin. She then built aqueducts to carry water to the villages of Jorgillo and Vallejuelo. Several years later, she tapped into another group of springs at Los Palmares and channeled water by gravity to the fields of 98 farmers in Vallejuelo..
In neighboring Haiti, the earthquake of 2010 led to an outbreak of cholera. As a result, in 2011 and 2012, Sister constructed three aqueducts along with 8 water storage cisterns which brought clean water to 25,000 people. In 2013, she began constructing a fourth aqueduct to bring clean water to 12,000 people in Tiroli. This project was started in January and finished in March which was consistent with Sister Maria's goal of having each project completed in 90 days as to maintain the enthusiasm of local volunteers.
The pictures below, left to right show: pipe received for water project, trench dug by hand, two of eight cisterns built in the Cazoom area and installed pipe - all from the Haiti water project.
When Sister Maria began her work in the remote mountainous areas of Haiti, there was no way to transport supplies or people in to provide assistance due to the lack of roads. Through Sister's resourcefulness, she arranged for the use of heavy earth moving equipment to build the first 26 miles of road in Los Cacaos area. This allowed for connecting of various communities scattered throughout the mountains. Once communities were connected, then building of schools, aqueducts and water reservoirs could begin. To date, 50 miles of roads have been built.
The pictures below, left to right, show: a borrowed bulldozer building roads in Haiti, the next two show children on newly constructed roads, a bridge damaged after the earthquake and repaired at a crossing between the Dominican Republic and Haiti.
Sister Maria Marciano -
Champion for the Poor