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About

Dominican Republic Projects is an initiative created under the auspices of the Norwich

Congregational Church (NCC), Norwich, Vermont. In 1998, Rita Severinghaus and members of Norwich Congregational Church (NCC) in Norwich, Vermont, sent relief supplies to Cotuí, Dominican Republic, to help in the aftermath of Hurricane Georges. The initiative drew wide support from the entire Norwich community. In 2012 its sister organization, Uniendo Manos Dominicanas (UMD) was founded in the Dominican Republic to represent all local community development initiatives. The organization operates in Cotui and has legal representation in the country through its NGO status. With support from NCC, the Cotuí Lion’s Club, and other generous partners, several initiatives are in place in the community, including a community center, construction of community ovens, a women’s cooperative, construction of a rural health clinic, support of a local nursing home, a child sponsor program, and more.

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Creaciones Ecologicas La Colonia (CRÉELA) is a women's cooperative based in Cotuí, Dominican Republic, and an initiative of Uniendo Manos Dominicanas. CRÉELA held its first meetings in 2005 when a group of women started crocheting handbags from used plastic shopping bags. Later that same year, the women sold their first bags. In 2014, four women from CRÉELA attended a craft fair in Santa Fe, N.M., where they sold more than 200 bags in just one day. They will return to the same craft fair in July 2015, and will take more than 300 bags to show and sell. The co-op, which has 25 members, meets weekly in Cotuí. During meetings, the women work on their bags, discuss personal and group concerns, and enjoy each other's company. Profits from the bags go directly to the women and their families. For many, selling bags is their main source of income. Sale of the bags helps the women support their families, pay for education, and support La Colonia, their neighborhood and community. CRÉELA provides the women with tremendous opportunity for growth and development. They are stronger and more confident because of their experiences with CRÉELA, and working on bags provides a sense of therapy when they are sad or angry. Learn more about their stories on “The Women” page.

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Maria

Maria Felicia Ician Infante is a founding member of CRÉELA.

She was the group’s first treasurer; now she specializes in making square-shaped purses. Her favorite colors to use are green and yellow, because they look beautiful. Maria says that CRÉELA helps her grow, economically and personally. When her children were of school age the income from selling the bags was used to purchase uniforms and school supplies. She now uses the income to cover her family expenses. Making bags calms her when she is angry or upset; for Maria, it’s a form of therapy.

While only five women are featured on the site, all 25 women play an integral role in crafting the unique bags.

Click on another woman's profile below to see her story.

Maria

Arsenia

Yohanny

Ysabel

Ramona

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Arsenia

Arsenia Reyes (Nena) is a nine-year member of CRÉELA.

She is one of the “master crafters” in the group; she is also in charge of quality control, and teaches the women how to crochet. Her favorite colors to use in bags are red and pink. Nena joined CRÉELA after hearing her friend talk about it. After asking more, and making a bag herself, Nena joined. For Nena, CRÉELA is great for building friendships; the women all support and encourage one another. Nena says she really loves being a member of CRÉELA.

While only five women are featured on the site, all 25 women play an integral role in crafting the unique bags.

Click on another woman's profile below to see her story.

Arsenia

Maria

Yohanny

Ysabel

Ramona

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Yohanny

Yohanny Infante (Charo), 32, is another founding member of CRÉELA.

Charo married very young and wanted a social element in her life. Joining CRÉELA provided that. She says the other women motivate her, and she loves their companionship. Having CRÉELA as a social outlet has made Charo a more confident woman. The money from making and selling bags helps Charo pay for school for her four children and herself, and to buy clothes and food for her family. Finally, she says that it is amazing how the group has stuck together for almost 10 years.

While only five women are featured on the site, all 25 women play an integral role in crafting the unique bags.

Click on another woman's profile below to see her story.

Yohanny

Maria

Arsenia

Ysabel

Ramona

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Ysabel

Ysabel Guzman has been a member of CRÉELA for seven years.

She used to help her neighbor, Doña Ana, crochet bags, and became interested in CRÉELA herself. Before joining, Ysabel worked by cleaning tripe—animal insides like kidneys, stomachs, and intestines—and selling it. That job earned the money to raise her seven children and send them to school. Now that her children are grown, she spends her time crocheting bags with CRÉELA. Ysabel says her life has truly changed since she joined CRÉELA. Her income goes toward improving her home, little by little. With her income and loans, she is able to expand and build her house taller, and to add new windows. Since labor costs more than the materials, Ysabel’s family helps her with the repairs. “I’m very proud of my family,” she says. Her hope for the future is that more people will see CRÉELA and their bags, and that will help the group progress and move forward.

While only five women are featured on the site, all 25 women play an integral role in crafting the unique bags.

Click on another woman's profile below to see her story.

Ysabel

Maria

Arsenia

Yohanny

Ramona

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Ramona

Ramona Reynoso (Chichí), 62, is the Group Coordinator for CRÉELA,

and a founding member. Chichí has been a hard worker ever since childhood. In the past, she worked as a seamstress, and has owned a hair parlor. Now she is a committed member of CRÉELA. The money and resources from CRÉELA help Chichí contribute to her family. Since joining, she no longer feels dependent on her husband or other people for money or resources. She can now comfortably contribute to her family without depending on others. This makes her feel stronger and more independent. Chichí never imagined where she would be without CRÉELA. She believes that everyone who makes up his mind to do something can do it, and it is never too late to learn something new. “There is no limit on age,” she says. “You can never stop learning.” Chichí can’t imagine where she would be without CRÉELA

While only five women are featured on the site, all 25 women play an integral role in crafting the unique bags.

Click on another woman's profile below to see her story.

Ramona

Maria

Arsenia

Yohanny

Ysabel

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Cotuí

The town of Cotuí is the municipal seat of the province of Sánchez Ramírez.

It is located in the central Cibao region of the Dominican Republic. It is 2,5 hours northeast of the capital, Santo Domingo, and 1,5 hours southeast of Santiago. The province has a population of approximately 150,000 residents, and approximately 80,000 reside in Cotui. Water supply is largely dependent on pumps run by inconsistent electric power.

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About

CRÉELA is a women's co-op based in Cotuí, Dominican Republic. It is made of 25 women of all ages who create handbags from recycled plastic shopping bags.

The Women

CRÉELA truly makes a difference in the lives of the women involved. With income from their bags, the women are able to support their families, send their children to school, and make repairs on their homes. Some have gone to school and graduated high school, and even taken certification courses beyond high school. The women always support and encourage one another in all of their endeavors. They are a family of their own. Follow the link below to learn more about the women and their involvement in CRÉELA.

YouTube

Cotuí

The town of Cotuí is located in the Cibao region, in the central Dominican Republic.

It is 2.5 hours northeast of the capital, Santo Domingo, and 1.5 hours southeast of Santiago. Cotuí’s population is about 50,000 people, spread among 39 villages. Many families grow their own food and produce. Water supply is largely dependent on pumps run by inconsistent electric power.

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The handbags are carefully crafted from recycled, plastic shopping bags. Colors depend on what the women have available, so customization is not possible. Each bag is a unique creation. Your support in purchasing bags helps families help themselves. The sale of 3 bags will feed a family for one week, or send a child to school for one year. Purchasing a one-of-a-kind handbag can make a huge difference in a family’s life. Bags are available in 4 sizes: small, medium, large, and beach-size. When ordering, please choose bag size and quantity. Again, limited materials prevent color customization. The images below show examples of what the women have made.

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