by Annie Rose Ansley, HOPE Trips Liaison
Most days, Chrismene makes and sells traditional Dominican snacks and dulces, or sweets. A client of HOPE’s partner in the Dominican Republic, Esperanza International, Chrismene also uses her loans to maintain a side business selling accessories and household goods. Most days, when she makes and sells dulces, this is what her day looks like:
A 45-year-old mother of nine, Chrismene starts every day around 5:00 a.m., when she heads to the largest market in the Santo Domingo province, Mercado Nuevo. The first part of her day is in fact the hardest: since Chrismene’s neighborhood can be dangerous before dawn, she often has to wait for neighbors, wasting valuable time, so they can walk to the main road in a group.
Despite the overwhelming size of the market, Chrismene knows the best stall for each item she needs—coconuts, ginger, sesame seeds, peanuts, sugar, oil. An hour of bargaining, weighing and bagging later, Chrismene departs with her purchases.
A 40-minute bus ride later, Chrismene is back home in Paraíso Escondido, or “Hidden Paradise”, a neighborhood that some say doesn’t live up to its name. There is no running water in the home she shares with her mother and daughter, and electricity is shut off every day from 6:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m. However, Chrismene isn’t complaining. Originally from Haiti, she shares that God rescued her from a difficult time in her life, and she praises Him for how far she has come. “Here,” she says joyfully, “I have a life.”
Chrismene’s neighbor and business partner, Ebio (pictured above), has two outdoor fires going when she returns. Roasting nuts, melting sugar, and baking bread, Chrismene makes about 10 different types of snacks. Working nonstop for six hours, she makes everything from scratch—from chopping and grating the coconuts, to hand-sorting and roasting peanuts.
She doesn’t have time to eat lunch either, but she does have a secret to keep her energy up: “Tasting comes before selling.” Chrismene makes sure to taste test, offering some to neighborhood kids, the freshly-made peanut butter, coconut candy, warm bread, and her personal favorite, sesame seed candy.
Chrismene needs to finish the dulces—that includes drying, cutting, and packaging—with plenty of time to sell before it gets dark. Just after 2:00 p.m., she finishes carefully placing each item in her giant aluminum bowl. She sweeps up the porch, showers (her family uses a bucket in an outdoor stall), brushes her teeth, and heads out.
Chrismene’s ultimate selling destination is a busy area near Santo Domingo’s final metro stop. But first comes a 3-hour walk to get there, balancing a large bowl of dulces on her head. Though buses are available, she has a lot of loyal customers along her walking route who expect her; they will ask where she was if she ever misses a day. Chrismene’s buyers are diverse–kids returning from school, local business owners, families on front porches.
Chrismene’s favorite part of her job is selling and seeing people enjoy her dulces. She walks proudly, her bowl gradually getting lighter and her skirt pocket getting heavier with pesos. At the metro stop, she’ll sell for a couple more hours before taking the bus home. Hopefully she’ll have a chance to eat and get a full night’s sleep—before another day begins at 5:00 a.m.
Watch this 360° video and travel to the Dominican Republic on a virtual HOPE Trip to meet clients of HOPE International’s local partner, Esperanza International, and witness how each client uses their skills and talents to provide for their families and communities.
Annie Rose serves as HOPE Trips liaison in the Dominican Republic. She feels blessed to get to know clients and hear their amazing stories firsthand. Annie loves being outside (especially if she’s running or at the beach!); cooking and eating; and spending time with her husband, Hamilton.