The manual typewriter with the scuffed white case might fetch a few dollars at a yard sale in the United States. But it's priceless in Batey Yabacao, a tiny Dominican Republic village of sugar plantation workers who use the typewriter as a tool in their struggle for dignity, recognition, health and a better way of life.
With the typewriter, workers craft credible, official-looking letters to the CEA, the sugar enterprise that envelops their lives the way its cane fields surround their batey (village).
"Now we don't have to go anywhere to get our work done," said Francia Jesu Rivera, president of the Batey Yabacao Committee. Recently organized and funded by Procaribe (the Lutheran World Federation's agency in the Dominican Republic), the committee consists of 55 of Batey Yabacao's 66 families who last year decided to work together rather than face problems alone.
The committee gives the villagers a single official voice, and the typewriter provides a means for that voice to petition CEA for help in improving living conditions. For example, last fall the committee asked the CEA to help the village recover from Hurricane Georges, which destroyed subsistence crops and buildings.
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