Patricia Thorndike Suriel has been passionate about alleviating extreme poverty in the Dominican Republic since 1992 when she first arrived on the island of Hispaniola. Beginning with collecting donations of a few books through her adventure travel company, Iguana Mama, to create the first library, she then joined with friends, colleagues, and volunteers from around the world to mobilize the establishment of the first educational nonprofit, The DREAM Project, in Cabarete. For these pioneer initiatives she received the Outstanding Citizen Award from the U.S. Embassy in the Dominican Republic, which recognizes contributions made by a U.S. citizen abroad. After serving the Cabarete community and advocating for equal access to quality education for more than 15 years, Suriel recognized a critical need for innovative programs specifically for girls. In 2009, in partnership with a group of passionate advisors, donors, volunteers and community members, Suriel founded The Mariposa DR Foundation – a nonprofit dedicated to educating and empowering girls to end generational poverty. Today, the Mariposa Center for Girls in Cabarete, Dominican Republic serves more than 150 girls ages 8-21 and their families and has hosted over 2,000 international visitors who are eager to learn about Mariposa’s work.
Jessica’s love affair with the Dominican Republic began in 2003 when she first came to Cabarete on vacation. Her work was instrumental in the formation of the Mariposa DR Foundation, earning her the Martin Luther King Social Justice award from her alma mater, Dartmouth College. Now back in her hometown of Chicago, Illinois, Jessica continues to champion for girls in the Dominican Republic and raise awareness of how educating and empowering young women is the only way to affect lasting change.
Jelsi has been a committed member of the Mariposa team for the past three years. He oversees maintenance of the facilities and all construction projects, while also assisting with community projects and volunteer groups. A dedicated father of two girls, Jelsi’s expertise and reliability help our facilities run smoothly. Originally from Sosua, Jelsi’s enjoys building new furniture for our girls, as well as tending to our beautiful permaculture garden.
Gladys is in charge of our kitchen and all the meals we serve to our girls. Vital to our commitment to provide healthy and consistent nutrition to Mariposa girls, Gladys prepares and serves breakfast and afternoon snack to all of our girls everyday. She also aids in the cleaning and maintenance of our eatery, and has offered a helping hand in our cooking classes. As an older sister of a graduated Mariposa, Gladys has seen the positive impact that our programs have and is passionate about her contributions to our team.
Originally from California, Amanda Bucci graduated from U.C. Santa Barbara with a B.A. in Women’s Studies and Sociology and later studied traditional midwifery in Puerto Rico. After traveling extensively through the developing world, she joined Peace Corps and served as a volunteer in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic (2002-2004). Amanda has a broad knowledge and years of practical experience in the area of sustainability and environmental education. Here at the foundation, she coordinates our environmental programs and shares her expertise in this area with over 100 volunteers a year. Amanda and her family happily live “off-the-grid” in a small sustainable farm on the north coast.
Pamela’s passion for graphics began in her early teen years and has since blossomed into a successful career in graphic design. She studied Graphic Design, Fine Arts and Art Direction at Altos de Chavon School of Design and the School of Fine Arts in Santo Domingo, and Advertising in the University APEC (Universidad Acción Pro-Educación y Cultura). Pamela is originally from Santo Domingo, and decided to move to the North Coast nine years ago to become an independent graphic designer and enjoy the waves. She is the in-house graphic designer for Mariposa, lending her talents to the “Cabarete Responsible Tourism & Investment Guide” and our other publications. An avid surfer, she gives lessons to our girls and is fluent in Spanish and English. She hopes to one day have the equipment at the center to teach our older Mariposas graphic design as part of the job skills program!
Aislinn had been with the Mariposa DR Foundation since the beginning, first as a volunteer and then as an Executive Board Member. She served as President of the Board from 2011-2017. Aislinn has a Master’s degree in education from Harvard and her undergraduate degree from the University of Notre Dame. She currently lives in Vermont, but tries to get down to the DR as often as she can.
Fernanda is a talented young woman who graduated from Mariposa programs to work for the Foundation. As the sixth of eight children, she is one of the few people in her family who has finished high school. At Mariposa, Fernanda enjoys being part of of a wonderful team and being able to give back by sharing what she learned with the girls at the Center. She hopes to be a great example to her two children, the girls at Mariposa and her community.
When Yahaira Lopez started her first job in 2006 at The DREAM Project with Patricia Suriel, she had never used a computer and spoke very little English. In 2009, she followed Suriel to Cabarete Coffee Company where she became the top barista and shop manager. Yahaira is now the office manager at The Mariposa Center for Girls. Yahaira holds a degree in marketing from UTESA in Puerto Plata and has a young daughter, Zoe. Yahaira is a great role model for all the Mariposa girls and a shining example of what an empowered young woman can accomplish in her community.
Jessica has over 15 years of experience working with non-governmental organizations in the US and the DR, primarily in the areas of program and project management, new business development, and social and behavior change communication. Jessica is talented in designing innovative projects and leading teams to achieve results. She holds a Master of Public Affairs from Indiana University and a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish and Latin American Studies from Gonzaga University. Jessica is originally from Portland, Oregon.
A Cabarete local, Dilsaurys joined our team at the beginning of 2018 as a skilled educator and library administrator. While she is not working at Mariposa, Dilsaurys attends the Technical University of Santiago, where she is completing her studies in early childhood education. At Mariposa, Dilsaurys teaches reading, oversees both the young adult and children’s library, and assists with one-on-one tutoring. A Cabarete native, Dilsaurys aims to grow and develop as an educator so she can continue to give back to her community.
Alexandra is a clinical psychologist who joined the Mariposa team to work with the girls and their families. Alexandra comes to us from CEPROSH, a free HIV/AIDS clinic located in Puerto Plata, where she also runs the children’s program. Alexandra worked at CEPROSH for four years where she did hundreds of home visits and facilitated workshops on HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention. As a full time Mariposa team member, Alexandra continues her work with the children’s program at CEPROSH every Wednesday. Alexandra is a native Dominican and very passionate about educating and empowering women and girls and spreading awareness about healthy living.
Maria Alexandra Rivas Lopez is from Caracas, Venezuela and has a degree in Education from the Universidad Central de Venezuela. She also studied for three years in the Instituto Venezolano de Gestalt. Her teaching experience includes 2 years teaching a special needs child and 5 years working in a private school with children 6-8 years old. As a teacher she focuses not just on teaching content, but also uses mediating strategies to develop sensitivity towards animals and the environment, as well as social and emotional learning for personal growth and daily life. At Mariposa she works in our literacy program and also sews in our Upcycled Sails Project.
Yanaira completed Mariposa programs, graduated from high school, and now is a full-time intern while studying business at university in the evenings. This responsible and ambitious young lady has plans to run a business one day, or perhaps rise through the ranks to become a leader in the Foundation.
Andy joined our team at the beginning of 2018 with much enthusiasm and experience in early childhood education. She worked for years homeschooling the children of Patricia, and has brought her warmth and innovative teaching skills to assist in the integration of the youngest Mariposas. At the center, she teaches reading, helps with the visiting volunteer groups and teaches an arts and crafts class on Saturdays. Raised in Cabarete, Andy hopes to continue working with girls and children to empower the next generation of future leaders.
Born in Cabarete and raised in the countryside near Río San Juan, Luís brings his love of the countryside and knowledge of native plants and trees, and their care, to Mariposa. Luís enjoys working to ensure a safe and clean learning space for our girls. His responsibilities range from pool maintenance to kitchen help, and he works alongside Jelsi in property and facility maintenance.
A Mariposa mother, Belkys began working as a seamstress in our Upcycled project two years ago. She assists in the production and design of our Upcycled products, which include backpacks, wristlets, and reusable shopping bags. She also assists in sewing classes for Mariposa girls. A mother of three, Belkys enjoys being a part of a team dedicated to educating and uplifting girls in her community.