Stories of Change

Ramona and Roniel in one of her pig barns.

Changing a community, one pig at a time.

Four decades ago, a 13-year-old named Ramona Mota Ureña began volunteering in a nutrition program. She helped make sure that children in her community in the Dominican Republic were getting the healthy food they needed. The program was operated by Social Service of the Dominican Churches, which is known by its Spanish acronym SSID. A decade later, Ramona started teaching her neighbors how to read and write through an SSID education program. 

Now 55, Ramona is a mom and grandmother. If you visit her, you’ll probably find her little grandson Roniel playing nearby. But Ramona is just as civic-minded as ever. And she still loves SSID, her trusted partner. (SSID is also a trusted CWS local partner; we financially support a lot of their work across the country.)

The latest chapter of Ramona’s partnership with SSID started with a single pig. Her husband was skeptical. The pig was just so small – what difference could it make? No, Ramona said. Let me raise it. I can make it grow.

And it certainly grew. And had babies. And those babies grew. And now Ramona is running a successful pig farm that has changed her life in more ways than one. When our team met up with her recently, she had dozens of pigs– and 11 of them were pregnant.

Pigs are a valuable investment for a family in this part of the Dominican Republic. When a pig gives birth, she can have a large litter of 10-12 piglets at once. A healthy mother pig can give birth twice a year. Families can eat the pigs to improve their diets or sell piglets as a way to earn money.

The business certainly helped Ramona’s stability. Awhile back, she had started on plans to open a grocery shop for her community. Once she started selling piglets through her pig-raising business, she was able to finish building and stocking the store. This meant another source of income for her family; her son helps her run the shop. She has also earned enough money over the years to build a new house. She says that she loves being able to proactively build her family’s future. She is no longer waiting at home for her husband’s military paycheck to come in; she is working hard and seeing results.

Six years ago, tragedy struck and Ramona’s husband died. Along with her family’s heartbreak came the reality of having to get by without his income. The pig farm helped them get through it and meant that Ramona could continue to provide for her children and grandchildren. In the years since, there have been other heartbreaking moments; Ramona’s leg was broken when she was hit by a car, and her mother died. SSID has been there for her through all of it. She says she always knows that they are there in solidarity with her. And going and working with the animals is a welcome distraction in moments of sadness.

Ramona is a community leader now. When someone in the area is looking for a referral for where to buy a healthy pig, they always end up getting directed to Ramona. When another farmer has a pregnant pig close to giving birth, they bring the pig to Ramona’s farm or they find Ramona to come and help. When she received her pig, she was required to pass piglets on to neighbors to share her prosperity. She has done that and then some; she continues to give pigs to neighbors and sells pigs to the local school at a discount for school lunches. She is a one-woman training center for raising healthy pigs and spends a lot of time imparting her wisdom to her neighbors.

We recently caught up with Ramona and asked her what she would say to CWS donors in the United States. That’s when she said something that we’ve heard from people all over the world and that is pure magic every time you hear it. People in this community aren’t looking for handouts, she said. They want to work. They want someone to teach them how to work in a way that will help their families. That’s what they really need.

That’s something that the CWS family makes possible every day. In the past, Ramona’s family didn’t always have enough. When she received a pig, she received a way to make money and help getting started. Now she wants her neighbors to have the same chance.

One pig. That’s all it took. One pig, and a hardworking woman with a big heart. And a community is better for it. Will you help write the next success story for one of Ramona’s neighbors?