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.
Sarah received her BS in Social Work from the University of New Hampshire. From there, she traveled for one year throughout Central and South America, practicing her Spanish and exploring different cultures. After traveling, she taught Spanish for three years at a small prep school in New Hampshire and brought groups of students to Santo Domingo, where they volunteered in the impoverished bateys outside of the city. Sarah joined the Mariposa staff as the Volunteer Coordinator, where she will continue working with groups and spreading awareness of the importance of educating young girls and woman to end generational poverty.
Ana Iris was one of the original Mariposa girls, and has since graduated from programs and high school to become one of our full-time interns. She is learning computer skills, management skills and other important job skills.
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 seven 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!
Beti is the mother of two amazing Mariposa girls. Since joining the Mariposa team she has been a cheerful and dedicated addition, always keeping the Mariposa Center for Girls beautiful.
Sarah graduated from Middlebury College in 2013 where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Spanish with Highest Honors for her thesis work after studying abroad in Spain and Argentina. After a one week service trip volunteering with the Mariposa DR Foundation her senior year, Sarah knew she wanted to come back and continue to fight the cycle of poverty in the Dominican Republic with this organization and spent 8 months working as the Administrative Assistant. She then spent 9 months in Brazil on a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant grant. Now she is back working for Mariposa as the Administrative Director.
Her passions are feminism and Latin American Studies and she strives to make a positive impact in these areas. Sarah is from Kansas and hopes to continue developing an international perspective through her work.
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.
Mary Jane received her BA in Social Communication and Student Education, blending the two disciplines in order to provide children with a holistic education. She believes in taking a break from the media and technology of our time in order to completely focus on being present in the moment as well as communicating well with others. Mary Jane is very talented in languages, speaking Spanish and English fluently as well as learning French and Creole. This helps her to effectively communicate with many different students as well as teach them to speak various languages, which will benefit them in their future. She has worked in both public and private schools at all grade levels, with the intention of pushing her students to think critically about the issues the next generation will face and possible solutions to these problems. She is passionate about teaching and being with children makes her very happy, and that is why we are very lucky to have her as our librarian and reading/writing teacher.
Roberto is a father of six, including three Mariposa girls. He began working with us as part of an agreement to pay off his new house (which Mariposa built) and has stayed on as a dedicated groundskeeper. His family has been involved in Mariposa since the beginning!
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.
Rosa Lourde excelled in sewing during her time in Mariposa programs and continues to pursue her passion for this craft with private lessons. Since graduating from high school she has interned at Mariposa first as a secretary, and now as the library assistant. She enjoys the hands-on work with the younger Mariposa girls, and say she learns something every day.
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.
Alyssa Ramos-Reynoso earned a B.A. in political science and graduated magna cum laude from Arcadia University with Phi Alpha Sigma, Phi Kappa Phi, and Phi Beta Delta honors. Alyssa was born in the Bronx, New York, to a single Dominican mother, who is now a teacher and taught her the value of education. She conceptualized the idea of building environmentally sustainable schools at the age of 15 because she envisioned a world where each human being was empowered via education, while fostering environmental stewardship. Her personal experience overcoming homelessness and her time abroad clarified her vision. She interned for Parvati Swayamrojgaar, a micro-finance organization working to break the poverty cycle in the slums of India, taught English at an orphanage in Tanzania, and facilitated the establishment of the Women’s Witness Protection Program for the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. Alyssa wanted to give back to the Dominican Republic, therefore she built a water purification system and an aquaponic unit that produces fish and crops in Monte Plata. She is excited to join the Mariposa DR Foundation team to continue educating and empowering girls to alleviate poverty.
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.
Anna Cait received her B.A. in Women, Gender & Sexuality Studies from the University of Virginia, where she focused on the empowerment of young girls as a means for interrupting the cycle of poverty. A firm believer in the transformative and healing effects of mindfulness and self-care, she also had a concentration in Contemplative Sciences and is certified in service-based yoga by the Kunga Yoga School. Since she began as a summer volunteer in 2014, Anna Cait has been a strong advocate of the Mariposa Foundation and the deserving girls it serves. She joined us in 2015 as a Davis Projects for Peace Fellow and an InterExchange Christianson Grant awardee to implement a leadership and mentoring program for the adolescent Mariposa girls entitled “Heroine of My Own Life.” She is excited to begin her new role as Associate Director of Donor Relations & Special Projects, which encompasses her passions of working with other dedicated Girl Champions, sharing the Mariposa story, and participating in the growth and development of the organization.