Pepe (my 9 y/o) and I sat together on the plane on our way back home. As I explained to him that he would stay at his aunt’s new home for a few days until I came back from BlogHer, he bombarded me with a list of questions. This is how my conversation went:
Pepe: Is there electricity in tia Laury’s home?
Pepe: Is there running water?
Me: Yes! And it even warms up like in our casita
Pepe: Will there be a TV?
Me: Yes, and like us your cousins have a Wii, a Nintendo and a few DS
Pepe: How about Internet?
Me: Yes Pepe, they have Wi-Fi throughout the house
“Wow mami, we’re soooo lucky” concluded Pepe with a reflective voice.
That was the only gift I had asked God during our Sustainable Development Project. I’m so grateful it came through one of my kids. In Pepe’s words I felt HOPE. The same hope you experience when you plant a seed. This feeling immediately brought flash backs of other moments when hope evidently embraced every cell of my body. Here are some:
Photography Workshop: The room was hot as hell, everyone was sweating but you could hear a fly! That’s how attentive the artisans were when Rob Halper (@JnJVideo) shared his photography secrets with the artisans. After the workshop, he took hundreds of pictures of their work for the Handmade Montecristi e-commerce while sweating his soul off. -HOPE!
First #Latism Party: These young leaders took the bull by the horn at their very first #Latism party. They were overwhelmed by the love they received from their newly acquainted herman@s. You should have seen the jumps of joy they made with the first replies/retweets they got. They were proud of their talents and the resources they had to offer. I was floored by their proactive approach. When they had a tweet in English, they used Google translate to better understand the tweet and to craft their replies. You should have seen the conversations, the sales, the donations that took place during the party. After the experience, one of them came to me and said: “I’ve never felt so important in my life” – that made it all worthy. -HOPE!
The mobile clinic: We announce the project and #Latism doctors volunteered. As a result, some local doctors also jumped the wagon and bam! It happened. While we were in one of the villages, we found a brand new clinic that was built during a political campaign and then abandoned for years. One of the volunteers happened to be Dr. Dulce Soto, a Dominican doctor who works for Johnson & Johnson in Santo Domingo. Dulce took the mission of speaking to the right authorities to send a doctor to that abandoned clinic and Latism will equip it. -HOPE!
Unveiling a hidden treasure: Before the project, we couldn’t find any of the local hotels, restaurants, attraction or information about Montecristi. Sandra started that change. She went to every hotel, every corner of Montecristi with her fancy camera to catapult for the first time the local treasures. As a result, the local leaders have taken the mission of interviewing the business owners, of writing about them on a regular basis on the new MontecristiVacation blog. “Soon Montecristi will be at the very top of the Caribbean destinations” they confirmed with a convincing voice. – HOPE!
So what’s next? It’s your turn now. I understand it wasn’t easy for many of you to pick up and go for weeks. But now you can help from the comfort of your home. Here are some ideas:
1) Buy meaningful gifts: Nothing better than telling the story behind a gift. Before you go to a large store and buy an anonymous gift, go to http://handmademontecristi.com and support their e-commerce. You will find amazing things there. All handmade, all for you! BlogHer purchased 450 souvenirs which will be given at the Social Fiesta. Those of you who will be there will become walking promoters of this project. Represent with pride!
2) Donate one hour a week: Let’s keep the capacity building going. You can teach English (many are at the conversation level) using Skype, Photoshop, WordPress, video/photo editing and so forth. Currently they need to travel 4 hours to have access to these courses. You can change that in two seconds thanks to the new cyber room.
3) Hire their services: You’ll be surprised at the number of services you can purchase from our new #Latism herman@s. This can include voice over, translation, graphic design, Spanish content creation, database maintenance and the list can go on and on.
4) Plan your next vacation: If you want to experience the real Caribbean, don’t hide in a fake resort. In Montecristi you will have the luxury of a loving community. The exotic virgin beaches, the 7 islands, the food and the natural parks will make your vacation a true adventure. You can find more information at http://montecristivacation.com (still in the process of translation in case you want to help with that). They actually have a handful of hotels as well as bed&breakfast accommodations and houses for rent. It is super affordable and again, you will be helping the community directly.
5) Plan a voluntourism experience: I promise that you will fall in love with a vacation that includes a volunteering experience. If you decide to do that, just let me know and I’ll direct you to the right people. The volunteering can be as simple as visiting all the restaurants and blogging about them (if you are a foodie), or running a Photoshop workshop, or teaching that cool craft project.
6) Mentor a local leader: You can do that from here. They are brand new to social media and you might be a pro. Hurry to share that knowledge and see them get better than you in seconds. It happened to me and I loved it!
There is no sustainable development without the communities that embrace the commitment to walk hand by hand. I would like to thank the Johnson & Johnson community who sent their video crew to document everything so we can amplify the story and keep this pilot a living testimonial of using social media for social good. They also sent volunteers from the local branch and baby products for the clinics. I would also like to thank the St. Fernando community for hosting us and our kids with open arms. I would like to thank each volunteer who donated their time, their laptop, their knowledge and their support during the project. Last but not least, I would like to thank each one of you for making the #Latism community a loving familia that is willing to share and bring moments of hope. Thank you for helping Pepe realize how lucky we are.