Dominican Women Create Art from Scraps

repapel, el javillar, dominican republic, women cooperative
Ladies of RePapel. Photo © 2016 Nancy D. Brown

Her nimble fingers slide the coffee beans, one at a time, onto the necklace faster than an excited teen sending a text message to a friend. Maria del Carmen Almanzar has been making crafts in the Dominican Republic since she was 8 years old. Working at Re-Papel, a cooperative in the village of El Javillar, has given Maria and her sister a sense of purpose and allows the Dominican women to earn an income in this otherwise poor community.

mark smeby, fathom travel, repapel, el javillar, dominican republic
Mark Smeby creates crafts on an impact activity with Fathom Travel. Photo © 2016 Nancy D. Brown

Founded in 1998, RePapel, a cooperative for recycling paper and crafts entrepreneurship, began with 12 women and the idea of teaching the next generation how to recycle. The women-run organization works in partnership with IDDI (the Dominican Institute for Integral Development.) This was one of the impact activities that I volunteered for on my cruise with Fathom Travel.

Fathom is a different type of cruise under the Carnival Corporation brand. The 704 passenger ship, Adonia, sails bi-weekly from Florida to dock for three days in Puerto Plata at Amber Cove. Passengers may select up to three impact activities to participate in during their time while docked in the Dominican Republic. I chose to work in a cacao and women’s chocolate cooperative and to assist in community English conversation & learning, in addition to RePapel.

repapel, el javillar, dominican republic, pillow, craft cooperative
Pillow covers made out of banana fibers. Photo © 2016 Nancy D. Brown

If you enjoy DIY activities, sewing, making jewelry or candles, this is the impact activity for you. If, on the other hand, you are not crafty at all – pointing the finger at me – you are capable of shredding recycled paper and turning it into new sheets of colored paper. This paper will then be used to create hand-crafted, one-of-a-kind note and greeting cards. I was also able to pour melted wax into molds to create colorful candles.

nancy d brown, repapel, recycling cooperative, el javillar, fathom travel, dominican republic
Recycling paper at RePapel

While this activity re-affirmed that I am not artistically talented, the purpose behind the project was giving your time, not things on vacation. Through our group visit, we made 135 sheets of paper where they previously made 40 to 50 pieces of paper without the assistance of Fathom travelers. The concept of “many hands make light work” was put to action in a very positive way that cruise passengers young and old could see. We were, indeed, making an impact, one project at a time in the small community of El Javillar.

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repapel, beach house, recycle, crafts, el javillar, dominican republic
Recycled beach house made from parts of the pine cone, palm tree, platain, seashells, yute and glue. Photo © 2016 Nancy D. Brown

Insider tips: Make sure to bring cash along for this impact activity, as you’ll have the opportunity at the end of your visit to purchase candles, coasters, paper cards, pillow covers and jewelry that the local Dominican women have created. They also sell bags of the local coffee at reasonable prices and accept American and Dominican money. For additional insider tips follow travel writer @Nancydbrown on Twitter or Instagram @Nancydbrown.

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If You Go:
Fathom Travel (855) 932-8466

Dominican women create art from scraps article written by, photos and video courtesy of Travel Writer Nancy D. Brown of What a Trip, Travels from Northern California. I was a guest of Fathom Travel while researching additional articles. The post Dominican Women Create Art from Scraps first appeared on