Of course there was more going on during our trip to the Dominican Republic than just touring the various communities in need of help. The main reason I made the trip was to try to work out some more of the details involved in starting a Tilapia Project. One question in need of answer was : could we find someone to manage the project? The answer came to use in the form of Richard James (pictured above). Richard grew up in England, and has quite an interresting story (he joined the merchant marine at age 14, traveled the world, etc...). He came to Puerto Plata with Mercy Ships about six years ago on a 4 week mission outreach. At the end of the trip, Richard decided to stay. He initially lived and worked eith the Hatian refugees in Villa Ascension. His heart and goal has been wholly devoted to helping these people. After a few years he was able to buy a small property nearby.
Richard has done amazing things on this property. His green thumb and way with animals is evident. The property is full of vegetables, fruit trees, chickens, ducks, pigs, and the like. The people come to Richard when they need help in the forms of food and medicine. He is the ideal man to manage the Tilapia Project at Villa Ascension, and he has been praying for just such a project. One additonal benefit - Richard's wife teaches at the school in Villa Ascension (pictured above). We were agreed that the best way to initially distribute the fish, without furthering the handouts and entitlement that continue to wreak havoc among these people, is to use them for meals to be served at school. As the project grows, Richard will try to get people involved in the harvest. We hope that God will raise up willing people to begin new projects in other communities.
The next question that needed to be answered was: could we find tilapia in the Dominican Republic to start our project? This proved to be tougher than it sounded. Over the course of our stay in Puerto Plata, we spoke with numerous people who were said to be connected in some way with aquaculture. This process even lead us to speak with the Assistant to the Bishop of the Diocese of Puerto Plata. We left Puerto Plata with more connections, but no real answers concerning the availability of fish. However, in following up on some of the leads obtained in Puerto Plata, I contacted a lady named Kathy Skipper. Ms. Skipper workes with an organization called Food For the Poor, Inc. They started a similar project in Nagua, just under 100 miles from Puerta Plata. She is currently ironing out the details of allowing us to purchase fish from their project for the Tilapia Project at Villa Ascension. We're getting close!