The walls of Rafaela Encarnacion’s shop are lined with beautiful, brightly coloured butterflies. She paints them herself and sells them along with other handicrafts, clothes and accessories in her at-home store in the Dominican Republican province of Villa Altagracia. Take a tour around Rafaela’s shop.

It’s fitting that the butterflies should feature so prominently in her shop, which, when she set it up in 2003, represented a new beginning for Rafaela and her seven children. Months earlier, her husband and twin boy and girl had died after living with HIV for five years. At the time, Rafaela too thought her life had come to an end.


Rafaela used to run a cafeteria but her customers gradually stopped buying food from her when they heard that Rafaela, her husband and their twins had HIV.

After Rafaela’s husband and two children died, World Vision provided her with support as she was grieving. They also trained her in how to make decorative candles and pottery and she applied for a loan from VisionFund to set up her business using her new skills.

“I’d realised that my life did not need to end then,” says Rafaela.


There’s a reason why Rafaela’s nickname in her community, is “Unica”, which means “unique”. She stands out as a woman with incredible fighting spirit and strong work ethic. Since she was 10, Rafaela would knit hats and sell them to help her parents earn enough money to feed her nine brothers and sisters. "My parents were hard workers and I learned from them," she says.

"I recommend to anyone who wants to start with their business to take a loan from VisionFund, this is how we, the poor, can move forward.” Hear how VisionFund has helped Rafaela and her family. 

Rafaela’s children are now all adults and have given her nine grandchildren who make her very happy. "She is a Christian, a good woman and very honest," says Crismeilyn, one of Rafaela’s granddaughters, who is nine. 

Now, Rafaela’s local community agrees. "She is the most honest person in this community,” says a neighbour.

Rafaela’s vision is to travel to the US, where one of her sons lives, and to help others living with HIV through World Vision’s support programme.

RAFAELA's Photos


Rafaela's Story

Rafaela's Shop