Today Becky is here to share about the Root 7 Campaign with Plat with Purpose. It was the closest that we had been to the beach all week. The sound of waves and the ocean breeze were delightful distractions from the hot humidity of central Dominican Republic. Our group was heading back to the guesthouse following a final meal together holding tight to the memories and sights we had experienced. While waiting on the sidewalk for our all-star driver Chico to pull the bus around, a white van stopped in front of us. Out of the van stepped four couples. They weren’t your typical match-made-in-heaven couples. The men were older with white hair, pale skin, and a bit of a belly. The women were young, beautiful Dominicans dressed in bright party dresses. Silence fell over us. It was as if we had been punched in the gut as this “tour group” walked by and the realization set in as to what was happening.
Although prostitution is legal in the Dominican Republic, it never seems like a woman’s ideal path. My heart sank as my mind flashed back to the endearing girls we had met earlier that week. Then an odd hope rose in me as I realized Plant With Purpose gives the girls of Maizal alternative options. It could have been Gabby* stepping out of that van but instead she is at home learning how to plant and cultivate cocoa, which will then become chocolate.
Maizal is off the beaten path, not your typical tourist destination in the Dominican Republic. It is one of the 70 communities that Plant With Purpose partners with in the DR to teach sustainable agricultural techniques, encourage reforestation efforts, oversee community-based savings groups, and strengthen the local church. Maizal’s main source of income is cocoa, and the Dr. Seuss-like cocoa trees saturate the hillsides and valleys of this quaint community.
During our two-day stay in Maizal, partnering families indulged us in a day of chocolate. My mind was blown as we followed the progression of planting cocoa seedlings, harvesting pods, learning about the fermentation and drying process, roasting, grinding, and processing the nibs, to finally seeing a packaged product. Each step in the process opened the door for farmers to share their knowledge with us. These men and women were teaching us their everyday skills. Even more than that, they were letting us into their world. The combination of openness and vulnerability was unlike anything I had experienced before. The very air into which these impoverished farmers spoke was filled with pride and confidence.
In Maizal, thirty community members form a community-based savings group. One young woman, Gabby, has seen her money multiply through the group. Each week she saves pesos and invests in her future. I was curious to learn how Gabby was earning the pesos that she saved weekly. Her response? “Chocolate!” You see, these cocoa trees are doing more than just producing a byproduct that is loved by women around the world. These trees are providing a dignified future for young Dominican women.
Help plant trees—and futures—through Plant With Purpose this Earth Day. Their Root 7 campaign allows you to donate $7 a month to plant 7 trees in the 7 countries where they work.
*This is a guest post from my friends at the organization Plant With Purpose. A very special thank you to Plant With Purpose for taking the time to share what you are doing to make this world a better place with our audience! My prayers is a few (or dozens!) of our readers will be inspired and join forces! If you are interested in getting involved with Plant With Purpose check out their Facebook page as well as the links provided above. All images are provided by Plant With Purpose and used with permission.
*name changed for privacy