“I want to share my time with people of this island.”

May 22nd, 2013

The above quote comes from Kylie Culver, a former Una Vida trip participant who picked up and moved to the Dominican Republic after falling in love with the island on her university’s Spring Break trip with Una Vida.  With her permission, we’re sharing her insights and response to this New York Times article.  Thanks for the food for thought Kylie!

“What a great piece that describes my frustrations with aid workers. This is why i have chosen to live in rural, remote environments, renting a room from locals. living and sharing in daily life with them, using public transportation, hanging out in the xenophobic-foreigner-labelled “unsafe” neighborhoods with “dangerous” people, suffering days on end without power, water, cell coverage.

I want to be here. I want to share and spent time with the people of this island. I didnt come here to sit in a big, fenced-off compound with foreigners, ac, wifi and american food. I love this island. I love the Dominican and Haitian people– their culture, their land, their traditions, their faith. They have taught me so much.

This is why i love organizations like Una Vida, that dedicate their work to establishing deep, personal relationships with the people of small towns of La Descubierta and Los Pinos, and invest in projects that improve the quality of life for individuals, families and communities. But first and foremost, the organization exists to share, learn from, and participate in the wonders of the Dominican and Haitian people; the joys and blessings, but also the struggles and hardships of everyday life in a rural, impoverished area; the beauty of the cultures and the land, and the kindness of the people.

I love this place! I am so blessed to have the privilege of being able to live here and share in the lives of Dominicans and Haitians.”


Kaitlin arrives in the DR

May 22nd, 2013

Here’s a sweet little note from Kaitlin O’Donnell, our new Madres Manager, who has arrived safely in the DR:

“And so it begins! I’ve arrived safe and sound. A friend just asked me how I’m doing. My response: ‘The humid air hugs my skin, comforting and constant like a mother’s embrace. Sweet, round, Spanish syllables and traffic sounds hum out in the street. Merengue glides over the balcony from a vecino’s open window. I’m surrounded by the hot smells of tropical fruit bathing in the sun on Duarte…’ I’m taking everything in and feeling FULL of joy and gratitude. The photo is from the apartment roof where I’ll be staying for this first week in Santo Domingo. Wishing you all joy and (in good Dominican fashion) peace.”

Spring News from Madres Jewelry

May 22nd, 2013


As Mother’s Day month comes to a close, we want to extend a heartfelt gracias to each and every one of you! Without you, Madres wouldn’t exist, so thank you for standing with women in need by purchasing Madres Jewerly.

We’re excited to share that our former intern, Kaitlin O’Donnell, has moved to the Dominican Republic to spend the next year managing our Madres program from the field. She’ll take the baton from Tricia Sweeney, our current Field Coordinator who has poured her heart and soul into Madres & Una Vida for the past two years. We’re blessed beyond belief to have these two compassionate, intelligent, strong and inspiring women dedicating their skills to serving the women, children & families of Los Pinos del Eden. Please keep Kaitlin in your thoughts and prayers as she begins this exciting chapter in the DR. You can keep up with Kaitlin’s journey here.

In the past few months we were able to hire an additional artisan (bringing us to 11) and increase Madres salaries. That said, the Madres program still lives month-to-month. Come payday, we cross our fingers and hope and pray we will have the funds to pay our hardworking mamas. So far, the money has always been there, gracias a Dios. At the same time, we’re facing a particularly slim budget this summer and worry that we may have to reduce the Madres hours. With your help, we can keep the Madres working, creating small pieces of beauty that symbolize hope for a better future. Here are 3 easy ways you can stand alongside the women of Los Pinos, and help us make it through the summer:

1. Be social: If you’re following us on FacebookInstagram or Twitter , can we count on you to share our posts? This is a super simple way to help grow our fan base, and ultimately our impact. If you’re on Instagram, taking #selfies of yourself wearing @madresjewelry pieces is another great way to spread the love!
2. Play Hostess: Longer summer days are just around the corner, putting jewelry party season in full swing! We’re looking for ladies (and a few good men) willing to host a Pop-Up Party at their home or office. Pop- Up Parties are the perfect excuse to gather your girlfriends for appetizers, girl-talk, and the opportunity to purchase with purpose. As a hostess, you earn $50 in Madres Jewelry and your guests are treated to door prizes. Want to host a Pop-Up Party this summer? Email kara@una-vida.org to book your party.
1. Scout it Out: I (Kara) often get emails from Tina, a longtime Madres supporter, who is always scouting out new locations fol Madres. She’ll email to say: “Just found another place to sell. Can I pick up nventory from you this week?” Yes, Tina, you can! Have a boutique in mind that’s a good fit for Madres? Let us know!

With love and gratitude,

Kara for Team Madres

Madres Family Love

March 22nd, 2013

The Madres Jewelry program currently employs ten women. We work together in a community center on Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons from 2 :00 – 5:00pm, and also send each women home with work to complete on her own time. During one of these workshops last week, we realized just how interconnected the women are. Within the program, we have three pairs of sisters, a mother daughter duo, and a pair of sister-in-laws. This program truly is a family effort within the community of Los Pinos del Eden, and today we wanted to highlight the mothers, daughters, sisters and friends that connect the Madres to each other, and to us.

Sisters Margarita & Carina

Sisters Yarilis & Rosili

Sisters-in-law Ybane & Denia

Ramona and her youngest daughter, Genesis

Sisters Nena & Liomesi


From the field: Casa Grande High School Spring Break 2013

March 18th, 2013

We’re currently hosting a group dedicated to Una Vida and Madres, a mix of students and community members from our home base in Petaluma, CA – Gracie, Alicia, Sahara, Jackie, Daniella, Lexi, Gina, Judy, Brian and Finn.  Many from this group are already invested in Una Vida & Madres, whether working as a part of our board, volunteering with Lynne at Food Pantry, or helping to run Madres Jewelry parties. We can’t wait to embark on this journey together.

Today, we we’re working to put in a floor for Amor, 40, and her husband Pablo. She’s pictured here with three of her five children. Amor came to La Descubierta from Haiti sixteen years ago, and built her home together with her husband. Along with our Dominican and Haitian construction team, our volunteers will be getting their hands dirty, helping to mix cement and transport materials. If funds and time allow, we will also help to place a corrugated tin roof over her outdoor bathroom, and help her to build an additional room for her home.

Amor and three of her five children.

Inside her home, we’ll be placing a smooth cement finish on the floor.

Amor’s home, pictured here, for their family of seven.

Later this week, we will be up in the mountain community of Los Pinos del Eden.  In addition to working with the Madres in afternoon workshops, we’ll be working in our community garden space, rooting out spinach plants that have overgrown, weeding, and clearing out space for a second planting.

The garden space, at sunset. Lots of work to do!

Madres Genesis and Rosili harvesting tomatos for their kitchens!