Homelessness in Dominican RepublicThe Dominican Republic is known for its beautiful beaches, exquisite cuisine and all-inclusive resorts. Tourists can expect to witness beautiful sunsets and take amazing pictures during their stay. What tourists don’t see, however, is the crime, poverty and extreme homelessness in the Dominican Republic — a dark side to this island that must be brought to light.

5 Facts About Homelessness in the Dominican Republic

  1. Many homeless children are subject to violence and abuse. A homeless shelter in Santo Domingo named Niños Del Camino serves children from impoverished families. As of 2009, 77% of these children have experienced domestic violence. Children without a home are left unprotected and subject to abuse from people on the street, in a shelter or anywhere they can find a home.
  2. A significant percentage of children are homeless and need help. The Dominican National Council for Children and Adolescents serves about 19,000 children, out of the 4.7 million children that live in the Dominican Republic. Close to 600,000 children under age 15 lack parental care, and over 1 million children live in poverty. This means that far too many children in the Dominican Republic are homeless, and countless more are suffering from extreme poverty.
  3. Homeless children are referred to as “palomos.” The term comes from the Spanish word for dove, but it also refers to pests and nuisances. This name indicates how little homeless children mean to their country, and how desperately they must fend for themselves on the streets of the Dominican Republic.
  4. Street kids become desperate and turn to crime. When children are abandoned with nowhere to go, it makes sense that they turn to a life of crime. According to AmeriHand, “The longer they stay in the street, the more likely they are to start using and selling drugs, then escalate to armed robbery or other violent crime.” These kids have nothing to lose, so they do whatever they can to earn some money and get off the street.
  5. The National Council for Children and Adolescents is here to help the homeless children of the Dominican Republic. This organization aims to guarantee “the fundamental rights of children and adolescents and [promote] their development,” which includes helping them get off the street and back into their homes. The Council works with the government to increase the accountability of the government for vulnerable children in the Dominican Republic.

Palomos lead a life of sadness and poverty. These children get through difficult times by finding companions on the streets and sticking together. Most of children on the street are homeless for one of two reasons: either they were kicked out or abandoned by their family, or they left on their own accord after enduring horrible circumstances at home. While some children return home, others remain on the streets, subjected to the natural elements, abuse, muggings and other misfortunes. The Dominican Republic must do better for its homeless population, especially its children.

– Kate Estevez
Photo: Flickr

Cabarete Sostenible
Cabarete Sostenible was assembled as a response to the economic consequences of COVID-19. The Dominican Republic ultimately decided to shut its borders, and this effectively suspended Cabarete’s tourism industry. Cabarete Sostenible provides food to Cabarete’s local population.

Cabarete is one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations for surfers, water-skiers, swimmers and even horseback riders. The town draws tourists through its rich culture, natural scenery and of course, its beautiful beaches.

But this idyllic vision of Cabarete tells less than half of the whole story of the Dominican Republic. The Dominican Republic has fought a decades-long war against hunger and poverty. Though, in that time, the country has made significant improvements to its poverty rate and its rate of hunger.

Declining Poverty and Hunger

The Dominican Republic’s Gross Domestic Product increased at an average rate of 5.8% per year between 2011 and 2016. This was the second-highest rate of GDP growth in Latin America in that period. In 2017, the poverty rate was 15.9%, then dropping to 13.8% in 2018.

Similarly, the rate of hunger in the Dominican Republic continued to decrease over the same period of time. The Dominican Republic’s Global Hunger Index score was 12.8 in 2010. By the end of the decade, that score decreased to 9.2.

COVID-19 is a Threat to Continued Improvement

The World Bank has assessed that closures of a majority of the Dominican Republic’s tourism industry will lead to lower household income and higher rates of poverty. Cabarete Sostenible notes that over 65% of Cabarete’s population depends on the tourism industry for resources and food. Although the population is a relatively small 20,000 people, thousands in Cabarete are facing food shortages.

Cabarete Sostenible

A person is food insecure if he or she is without a three-day supply of food at any given time. Roughly 80% of Cabarete’s population is food insecure. Cabarete Sostenible has developed both an immediate and a longer-term solution to address food insecurity and hunger in Cabarete.

In the short term, Cabarete Sostenible provides ration packs to hungry and food-insecure individuals, which contain a week’s worth of nutrition. Ration packs include rice, beans, cooking oil, pasta, soap and bleach, milk, fruit pulp, oranges, spinach and dark, leafy greens. Four-dollar donations feed one person for one week, and 15-dollar donations feed a family of four for one week. All of the donations go directly to purchasing food.

In the long term, Cabarete Sostenible is building sustainable food production facilities. The organization has mobilized local landowners as part of this effort. Their project includes building “community gardens, permaculture farms and food education programs.”

Looking forward

The Dominican Republic locked down national borders because of COVID-19. This led to an economic and humanitarian crisis in Cabarete because over half of the local population depends on tourism for resources and food. As a result, the Dominican Republic will likely experience a regression in its rate of poverty and the rate of hunger because of disruptions to local economies. Cabarete Sostenible provides ration packs to the local population of Cabarete in order to limit further devastation. These ration packs are funded, in large part, by individual donations, or rather individual acts of love and solidarity.

Taylor Pangman
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The Dominican Republic has a population of more than 10.5 million. Hunger remains a pressing issue for many people in this region, and the situation has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 outbreak. In 2020, the country’s annual GDP growth rate fell to -8%, in part because of COVID-19. This drastic drop has the potential to bring poverty rates up and leave many more families food insecure. Here are five facts affecting hunger in the Dominican Republic in the post-COVID-19 era.

5 Facts About Hunger in the Dominican Republic

  1. Hunger is more prevalent in the Dominican Republic than in neighboring regions. In Latin America and the Caribbean combined, 42.5 million people suffer from hunger, according to a Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations report. This means that 6.5% of the regional population goes hungry. In the Caribbean alone, however, which is where the Dominican Republic is located, this percentage is significantly higher: 18.4% of the population is undernourished.
  2. Over 2 million people in the Dominican Republic suffer from poverty, making for a national poverty rate of 21%. This is a relatively high poverty rate. Since poverty and hunger go hand in hand, to solve hunger in the Dominican Republic, we also need to reduce poverty. Some progress has been made in this area. The poverty rate is on the decline. In 2014, the World Bank reported that the middle class outnumbered the poor for the first time ever. This progress is a sign that poverty in the Dominican Republic can be lessened significantly through further action.
  3. The limited access to healthy food that some families experience in the Dominican Republic contributes to the country’s high rate of anemia. Anemia affects 28% of children under five. The most common type of Anemia is Iron Deficiency Anemia, which is caused by a shortage of iron in the body, according to the Mayo Clinic. This type of anemia is often caused by a diet lacking in iron-rich foods. While the rate of children with anemia is still high, the World Food Programme and the government of the Dominican Republic have been able to drastically reduce this rate in the last few years. In 2010, the rate of children between 6 and 11 months diagnosed with anemia was 74.8% in 2010. By 2013, that rate had decreased to 27.3%.
  4. The Dominican Republic’s economy could crash in the near future, causing a surge in hunger. The Dominican Republic has decreased its tourism dramatically in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19. According to the US Embassy in the Dominican Republic, the government of the Dominican Republic has suspended all cruise arrivals and set up roadblocks that deter international travel, among other preventative measures. Much of the Dominican Republic’s economy relies on tourism, and it may be damaged badly by the new rules that have been put in place in response to the virus. This damage to the economy could also cause a rise in hunger.
  5. Hunger in the Dominican Republic is perpetuated by natural disasters. Natural disasters are common, and they contribute to hunger. The Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery classifies the Dominican Republic as a “hotspot” for natural disasters. Between 1980 and 2008, almost a quarter of the population was affected by natural disasters. Natural disasters perpetuate hunger because they destroy the livelihoods of many people, leaving them without a source of income and therefore less access to food.

Solutions

While hunger in the Dominican Republic is a serious issue, there are many organizations that are working to help solve it. For example, Food for the Hungry sponsors children through donations to make sure that they are able to eat. To date, the organization has sponsored 7,225 children. In the past, Food for the Hungry also helped provide aid to the country after natural disasters, such as Hurricane David and Tropical Storm Federico.

Another organization fighting hunger in the Dominican Republic is Food for the Poor. In 2019, the organization sent 50 truckloads of supplies to the Dominican Republic. These shipments included food as well as other necessities like educational supplies.

Conclusions

Hunger certainly isn’t a new problem in the Dominican Republic, but it is one that history shows can be ameliorated through focused humanitarian action. COVID-19, however, poses new problems and exacerbates some established ones. Economic instability and the curtailment of tourism have the potential to increase poverty rates that are already fairly high in the region. Hunger in the Dominican Republic is particularly hard on the region’s children, whose growing bodies are hardest hit by lack of nutrients. In order to assure a successful future for the Dominican Republic after COVID-19, attention needs to be given to the problem of hunger and malnutrition today.

Sophia Gardner
Photo: Flickr

Charitable MLB Players The athletes playing in Major League Baseball (MLB) are utilizing their fame and athletic talents to help those in need around the world. Some of these players grew up in countries with extreme poverty. Baseball was used as a means to find a better life and return to help their home countries with charities and relief efforts. Others have visited poverty-stricken countries and chose to make a difference in unique ways to increase poverty awareness. Here are three charitable MLB players who are giving back.

Baseball Players Giving Back Around the World

Pedro Martinez – Dominican Republic

Considered one of the greatest pitchers of all time, Pedro Martinez was a dominant force on the mound throughout his 17-year Hall of Fame MLB career, which included a World Series win with the 2004 Boston Red Sox. Born in the Dominican Republic, Martinez saw first-hand the poverty that gripped his home country as he trained for life in baseball. When the coronavirus hit his home country, he took action and led the way with his organization, the Pedro Martinez Foundation, along with 40 other Dominican born MLB players. The group created a fund that has raised more than $550,000 for the relief efforts. This will pay for 5,000 food kits that last a total of two weeks each. It also will provide thirty-two thousand medical masks for doctors and nurses, 110,000 masks for citizens and 7,700 protective suits for medical personnel.

Dee Gordon- Rwanda

During a baseball game, Dee Gordon is best known for stealing bases. Throughout his decade-long career, he has stolen 330 bases, the most of any player in a 10-year period. The Seattle Mariners 2nd baseman has been using his talent for stealing bases to help increase poverty awareness to the hunger issues in the Ruhango district of Rwanda. Gordon has been associated with organizations such as Food for the Hungry, Strike Out Poverty and the Big League Impact Foundation for several years in order to help feed people in the Central African nation since 2019. As a charitable MLB player, every time he steals a base during a game there is a donation that he personally gives of $100 that goes toward one of these organizations to help feed the people of the Ruhango district. He has raised over $47,000 over the years to help impoverished nations all over the world including Rwanda. 

Carlos Carrasco- Venezuela

In 2019, Carlos Carrasco received the Roberto Clemente Award for his efforts in helping out his community in his home country of Venezuela and around the world. The Roberto Clemente Award is given out once a year to the MLB player that shows extraordinary character, community involvement, philanthropy and positive contribution, both on and off the field. Carrasco, a 33-year-old pitcher for the Cleveland Indians, has been donating money and supplies to help those in Venezuela suffering from the current economic crisis that has gripped the nation for years. In 2019 he donated $300,000 to Casa Venezuela Cucuta, an organization out of Columbia that helps recent Venezuelan migrants fleeing the crisis. Carrasco has also sent toys, medical supplies and baseball equipment to the children living in Venezuela. 

These three charitable MLB players show their dedication to increasing poverty awareness in countries that need it most. Through baseball, they have found fame and fortune. With that success, they have given back to communities all over the world by giving their time, money and efforts in creating a life for those without. 

Sam Bostwick
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in the Dominican Republic
When one thinks about the Dominican Republic, one may typically picture the beaches of Punta Cana or other tropical vacation destinations. Although the Dominican Republic has a strong and fast economic growth rate within the Latin American and Caribbean regions, the largest income group is a vulnerable set of individuals who have a high probability of falling back into poverty. In 2008, the national poverty rate was roughly 34% in the Dominican Republic. The national poverty rate fell to 21% in 2019. However, much more progress must occur in order for the people of the Dominican Republic to escape poverty. Here are five main influences on poverty in the Dominican Republic.

5 Influences on Poverty in the Dominican Republic

  1. Lack of Quality Education: Young children and women do not have equal access to education in the Dominican Republic. About 36% of students do not finish their basic education. Many children who drop out are from the poorest areas of the country. They have to stop their education in order to help their families by working to earn money. In 2018, a total of 65,825 students were not in school. This pivotal set back will limit equal opportunities and their development. In order for the Dominican Republic to attain a positive economic turnaround, there must be an improvement in quality education. Since 2013, the government has increased its GDP spending on education and joined the World Bank’s Human Capital Project in order to get input about the improvement of human capital.
  2. Socio-economic Inequality: One cause of poverty in the Dominican Republic is unemployment. The employment rate of women is 33% in comparison to 61% of males in the workforce. Women are at a disadvantage due to the absence of education. Oftentimes women leave education in order to take care of the family and household. Even if women are in the work field, they are underpaid in comparison to men. The average pay for women was 79% of what men make.
  3. Lack of Sanitation: About one-fifth of citizens live in shacks without access to running water, electricity and proper sanitation. Although the country made an effort to increase access to sanitation services, this does not correlate with improved living conditions and quality. Many do not have equal access to quality infrastructure, which shows an increase in poverty. According to the Pan American Health Organization, the consumption of contaminated water led to severe diarrhea, which caused 50% of deaths in children under the age of 1. The World Bank Group helped restore water treatment facilities in Santo Domingo and Santiago. This led to more than one million gallons of drinking water for around 750,000 people. It also launched a project for wastewater treatment plants to help facilitate sanitation. The improvement of irrigation systems and clean water led to the improvement of local farms.
  4. Natural Hazards: The Dominican Republic suffers from natural disasters, which include earthquakes, flooding, hurricanes and droughts. Natural disasters have negatively affected a quarter of the country’s population. Many buildings and homes are vulnerable to natural disasters due to a lack of enforcing proper building and zoning codes. Increased flooding due to climate change will lead to economic loss within the country. It is difficult for the government to produce aid for families and businesses burdened by natural disasters. In 2017, Hurricanes Maria and Irma brought high winds, flooding and landslides that devastated the country. These hurricanes caused major property damage due to the creation of strong storm surges along the coastline. Luckily, the death toll was not high from these hurricanes. However, the storms caused major damage to physical communities and left many without power, water and sanitation. The Dominican Red Cross responds to disasters where it has relief protocols in order to support the country. It distributed relief packages to more than 2,000 families affected by Hurricane Irma.
  5. Crime: Violence and criminal activity led to a downfall in the country’s wealth equality. Although the Dominican Republic’s gross domestic product continues to rise, different communities do not have equal funding. Higher crime rates lead to disproportionality of wealth. These poverty-stricken communities lack protection. This can lead to individuals living in extreme poverty in the Dominican Republic.

The Dominican Republic is capable of reducing poverty in the next 10 years, but it must make major improvements. In order to end poverty in the Dominican Republic, representatives must improve the quality of education, health care services and employment through the implementation of policies that help the most vulnerable individuals. The country needs to make positive economic changes by increasing human capital and the business environment, improving the management of natural disasters and climate change and maintaining natural resources. These five influences on poverty in the Dominican Republic show that there needs to be policy changes in order to reshape the inequalities within the country.

Ann Ciancia
Photo: Flickr

music education in developing countries
Around the globe, music education represents an influential force in the fight against poverty. Studies show that learning a musical instrument entails numerous cognitive advantages for children and young adults, improving memory, attention and communication skills. Music also builds confidence and allows students to express their creativity. In addition, the music industry creates space for new economic developments and possibilities. Here are four examples of music education in developing countries and the ways in which it makes a difference in the lives of the world’s poor.

Haiti

Amid political upheaval and the domestic challenges of daily life, music offers impoverished Haitians a source of comfort and strength. Organizations such as BLUME Haiti aim to utilize music as an avenue for education and community building.

After a deadly earthquake struck Haiti in 2010, BLUME Haiti began delivering musical instruments and supplies to help the nation rebuild. Through summer music camps, professional development workshops for Haitian music teachers, music classes in schools and other programs, BLUME Haiti continues to reach talented youth as they learn new skills and imagine broader possibilities for their futures.

In partnership with the Utah Symphony Orchestra, BLUME Haiti unveiled the innovative Haitian Orchestra Institute (HOI) in 2017. The program invites top music students from around the country to develop their craft alongside professional musicians. Chosen through a selective audition process, participants join Utah Symphony’s Music Director Thierry Fischer for a full week of rehearsals, sectionals, lessons and a final concert. Each year, HOI affords hundreds of young artists a life-changing experience.

The Dominican Republic

In the Dominican Republic, public schools are often unable to fund enrichment programs that allow students to express their creativity outside the classroom. Without a creative outlet, many students find themselves disengaged from the curriculum and choose to drop out of school.

The DREAM Music Education Program is taking steps to combat this issue. DREAM introduces music programs in public schools to improve students’ educational experience and strengthen their cognitive abilities. Since undertaking these efforts, the organization has found that students who participate in a band or other musical ensemble are seven times more likely to graduate from high school.

In all DREAM programs, students receive training in basic musical skills, work together in a group setting and develop an appreciation for Dominican musical traditions. Performance opportunities and interactive classes throughout the year celebrate all students’ achievements. Meanwhile, hoping to instill in them a sense of identity and belonging, DREAM works particularly hard to reach at-risk youth.

Rwanda

Music education also plays a critical role in Rwanda, where people are still reeling from the trauma of genocide. Two programs have initiated a joint effort to use music as a means of therapy, aid and economic development for the Rwandan people.

Music Road Rwanda sponsors live music events throughout the country that feature both classical and traditional Rwandan music. The organization also raises money for students to train at the Kigali Music School. Generous scholarships, funded by Music Road Rwanda’s “adopt-a-student” model, allow under-resourced youth to prepare for careers as musicians and music therapists.

Musicians Without Borders Rwanda expresses a similar mission of hope and healing through music. Working in concert with its medical partner We-ACTx for Hope, the organization hires local artists to teach singing and songwriting in traumatized communities. In 2012, Musicians Without Borders introduced its Music Leadership Training campaign, encouraging students to embrace music as a vehicle for empathy and social change.

Bangladesh

The Mirpur district of Dhaka, Bangladesh is one of the poorest areas in the world: 32% of residents live on less than $2 a day, and 48% of children suffer from malnutrition. Illiteracy rates are also among the world’s highest. Two music teachers from the Playing for Change Foundation are working to make a difference here through music education.

Their free music classes take a unique, interdisciplinary approach to help students develop vocabulary, reading and pronunciation skills as they learn their instruments. The two teachers spend nearly 100 hours each month with their students, who range in age from 5 to 12 years old. All students come from the approximately 950 children receiving education from the poverty-relief organization SpaandanB.

Donors from around the world have contributed funds to purchase keyboards, acoustic guitars and ukuleles for Mirpur music students. Each instrument costs between $80 and $100 and affords students the invaluable gift of cherishing music for a lifetime.

Young musicians worldwide, especially those living in poverty, benefit from the rigor of music education. Music connects people through a language that transcends the bounds of time, space and nation. At the same time, it supports the development of critical life skills. It is imperative that we continue to provide music education in developing countries and foster the innumerable advantages it promises to bring in its train.

Katie Painter 
Photo: U.S. Air Force

DREAM 8th Annual Benefit
The DREAM Project is a nonprofit organization that is working to improve the Dominican Republic. More than a million children live in poverty in the Dominican Republic. About 578,000 children younger than 15 are living without parental care and about 20 percent of them are orphans. DREAM provides more than 1 million hours of education to more than 8,000 children across 27 communities in the Dominican Republic. DREAM just held its eighth annual benefit on February 27, 2020, to raise money to keep operating its education programs. Gathering at The Mezzanine in New York City, New York, was the star-studded invitee list. Here are 10 celebrities who attended the DREAM’s eighth annual benefit to promote children’s education.

10 Celebrities Who Attended DREAM’s 8th Annual Benefit

  1. Solly Duran: Most know the “Orange is the New Black” star for her role as the outlandish Araceli, but she stole the show at DREAM’s eighth annual benefit with a group of Dominican women including Katherine Castro (“The Summoning”) and CEO and activist Carolina Contreras (Miss Rizos Salón, New York City). Born in the Dominican Republic, the actor and producer is continuing to support efforts that will help make education accessible for all by raising money for DREAM’s programs. She encouraged others to purchase tickets to support the benefit or to donate through DREAM’s website.
  2. Taye Diggs: People know Diggs for his roles as Benjamin Coffin III in “Rent” on Broadway and Dr. Sam Bennett in “Private Practice” and “Grey’s Anatomy.” Diggs was one of the celebrity guests who attended DREAM’s 2020 benefit. Additionally, he acted as the host. DREAM is not the only philanthropic interest of Diggs. He is also active in fighting AIDS and HIV with the Elton John AIDS Foundation.
  3. Katherine Castro:Reinbou” and “American Violence” star joined Duran and others to celebrate independent Dominican women. Born in the Dominican Republic, her family’s support of her artistic dreams and the dance classes she took helped mold her into the successful woman she is today. She went to the 2020 benefit in support of the Dominican’s most vulnerable populations, who often do not obtain the supportive family and education she received.
  4. Chef Kelvin Fernandez: Many may know Fernandez as Chef Kelvin on the Food Network. The culinary star was one of the night’s personalities who showed up to support the improvement of the accessibility of education in the Dominican Republic. Fernandez spoke about growing up poor; he is the child of two Dominican immigrants. He also talked about his appreciation that his parents worked to give him the opportunities to pursue his passion.
  5. Tony Peralta: Peralta is a contemporary artist and first-generation Dominican with heavy influence. Peralta’s finds inspiration in his enthusiasm for exploring his Dominican-American identity through his art and focuses on blackness within the Dominican identity. The Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum in DC has shown his pieces.
  6. Shane Evans: The author and illustrator has published more than 35 children’s books, including “We March” and “Chocolate Me!” His works explore black identity and serve to empower black children with his thoughtful, relevant stories and vibrant pictures. His travels all over the world are some of the biggest influences on his work. Laura Bush honored Evans in 2002 at the National Book Festival. Evans also illustrated for the book “Osceola: Memories of a Sharecropper’s Daughter,” which won The Orbus Pictus Award for Outstanding Non-Fiction for Children. He runs a community art space called Dream Studio in Kansas City, Missouri.
  7. Doug Wimbish: The Living Colour and Tackhead bassist also attended the 2020 benefit. Wimbish has a history of playing for charity events and raising money, having played to raise money for The NAMM Foundation in 2016. In his successful musical endeavors, Wimbish takes it upon himself to use his good fortune and skill to raise money that will allow disadvantaged children the opportunity to hone their skills and find their passions through education.
  8. Albania Rosario: Born in the Dominican Republic, Rosario is the Founder and Creative Director of Uptown Fashion Week. She moved to New York when she was 18 to pursue higher education. She strives to merge her artistic passions with her desire to help her community.
  9. Arlette Borrelly: Borrelly is a Dominican-born radio personality and TV producer from 93.1 La Mega “La Bodega de la Mañana.” It is a comedy show on a contemporary Spanish radio channel that specializes in reggaeton, bachata and love songs.
  10. Esther Céspedes: In 2019, Céspedes showed her Dominican pride when she won Miss República Dominicana U.S. In 2020, she showed her pride by supporting the DREAM Project at its annual benefit. Miss República Dominicana U.S. strives to crown intelligent women who are ready to support and represent their community. Céspedes embodied this as she showed up to empower underprivileged Dominican children.

All proceeds went towards DREAM’s Early Childhood Education and At-Risk Youth and Development programs. DREAM’s programs focus on children between the ages of 2 and 7, using Montessori methods instead of traditional teaching ones. In addition, they help with birth registration and parent education. Thanks to these programs, families can learn new techniques to use at home with their children, extending the education past the walls of the classroom.

Catherine Lin
Photo: Flickr

Programs in the Dominican Republic
The Dominican Republic is a country located in the West Indies where it occupies much of the eastern region of Hispaniola. As of 2020, the nation’s capital Santo Domingo had a population of 2.2 million with the entire country having a population of nearly 11 million people. Poverty has also victimized the Dominican Republic for generations. In fact, the Human Development Index (HDI) has ranked the nation 88 out of 177 countries around the world. With poverty still a widespread issue, more than 20 percent currently resides in shanty cabins. The majority of the Dominican Republic’s citizens have no access to clean drinking water, basic sanitation needs or fluid electricity. Despite these ongoing problems, a major decrease in poverty occurred, reducing from 54.70 percent in 1989 to 19.90 percent in 2016. Poverty relief through nonprofit organizations and education programs in the Dominican Republic has allowed for these results.

Dominican Republic Education and Mentoring

In 1995, a group of students from Dartmouth College traveled to the Dominican Republic. They volunteered at public schools in the small town of Cabarete for one semester. Spearheaded by Donald Rabinovich, his project DREAM, or Dominican Republic Education and Mentoring, became a rapid-fire success as the project began rebuilding the town’s local schools. DREAM focused on rebuilding classrooms, computer labs and libraries, as well as renovating bathrooms. The project soon evolved and planned new programs to offer children opportunities to further improve the Dominican Republic.

DREAM offers innovative education programs by adopting the Montessori learning system for its students to advance their learning ability. The system adopts self-directed activity where students decide how they learn and at what pace through experiential learning. The DREAM program boasted a 93 percent attendance rate for more than 450 students while 3-year olds developed better linguistic, socio-economic, kinesthetic and cognitive skills. Parents participated in weekly meetings to help foster their children’s education through the Montessori system at home.

Food for the Poor

Another of the many programs in the Dominican Republic that are improving living quality is Food for the Poor. The organization has helped alleviate poverty and provide fresh food and clean water to the Dominican Republic since 2000. One way it provides aid is by teaching dozens of families how to plant, grow and harvest fruits and vegetables through its greenhouse projects. On September 12, 2013, the city of Pedro Santana, located near the border east of Haiti, witnessed the building of its eighth greenhouse. This, along with the other seven, helps to increase food security and production in the Dominican Republic. The Church of the Nativity in Virginia provided funding for this project through its Operation Starfish program.

Operation Starfish

Operation Starfish began in 1998 with the aim of allowing families to engage in spiritual reflection and giving back to the less fortunate. The program encourages each family to donate at least 50 cents per day to aid the poor. Father Dick Martin came up with Operation Starfish to help others assist the poor at a minimal level while making a big difference. One year during Lent, more than 2,500 families donated 50 cents per day during the 40 days of Lent, resulting in the collection of over $67,000. This was more money than Fr. Martin initially predicted.

Community Development Projects

The Dominican Republic built almost 3,000 homes through its Community Development Projects. Additionally, the program also helped rebuild schools, clinics and community centers. Moreover, it assisted in building women’s human rights programs that teach independence, self-care and vocational training.

The greenhouse facility in Pedro Santana provides large stocks of produce thanks to efficient farming. The location, operated by local farmers, has performed beyond its expectations. A portion of profits from vegetable sales goes towards the greenhouses in the seven additional locations. Food for the Poor helped create a drip irrigation system that a water reservoir and underground supply lines feed.

With the progress that the Dominican Republic has made through education, mentoring and community rebuilding, the process of downsizing poverty and restoring its youth with innovative methods of developing skills and knowledge is improving the nation. These ways of poverty relief from nonprofits and pedagogical programs have been key factors in giving the Dominican Republic a fighting chance in becoming a future contributor to others in need itself.

– Tom Cintula
Photo: Flickr

Kershaw’s Challenge's Impact
In 2011, LA Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw and wife Ellen Kershaw started Kershaw’s Challenge, a faith-based, nonprofit organization. They founded the organization with the goal of encouraging people to use their talents to give back to people in need. Nine years later with the same goal at heart, Kershaw’s Challenge’s impact on the Dominican Republic continues to grow through Both Ends Believing and International Justice Mission.

While Kershaw’s Challenge focused solely on Zambia at its start, it expanded to focus on Dallas and Los Angeles in 2012 and in 2015, widened its reach to the Dominican Republic. In 2019, the organization announced its partnerships with Both Ends Believing and International Justice Mission, focusing on the Dominican Republic. Both Clayton and Ellen felt led to serve the Dominican Republic because they knew many fellow baseball players and teammates from the country.

Both Ends Believing (BEB)

In May 2019, Kershaw’s Challenge announced Both Ends Believing (BEB) as its new beneficiary. BEB’s mission is to “see every child grown up in a family” and has implemented Child First software to accomplish this.

According to SOS Children’s Villages, nearly 578,000 children under the age of 15 in the Dominican Republic are without parental care. Child pregnancy, chronic disease and mental or physical disabilities are among the factors that lead children to be at risk of being without care.

Through BEB’s software, it is able to identify children living in situations where they are vulnerable or at risk of neglect. BEB is then able to form a plan to get children out of these situations and into a loving home.

Kershaw’s Challenge’s impact on the Dominican Republic has continued through its support of Both Ends Believing. Its partnership with BEB also has a focus on Zambia, its other international beneficiary.

International Justice Mission (IJM)

In August 2019, Kershaw’s Challenge announced International Justice Mission (IJM) as its new beneficiary, focusing on efforts combatting human trafficking in the Dominican Republic. Several months earlier, Clayton and Ellen Kershaw traveled to the Dominican Republic alongside IJM. While there, they had the opportunity to meet with the Dominican Republic’s President, Danilo Medina, and they discussed the exploitation of children in the area. They were also able to visit Santo Domingo’s red-light district where they spent an afternoon playing baseball with survivors of sex trafficking. They even spent a night undercover in Boca Chica, where they saw trafficking first-hand.

According to the International Justice Mission, human trafficking in the Dominican Republic is mainly street-based, where customers can purchase young girls very easily. IJM has rescued more than 120 children and young women and has restrained more than 30 criminals since it opened its field office in the Dominican Republic back in 2013.

Through its partnership with IJM, Kershaw’s Challenge hopes to focus on the rescue and restoration of survivors, the restraint of suspects and the conviction of traffickers in the Dominican Republic. The organization also wants to help improve aftercare and investigation programs.

7th Annual PingPong4Purpose

In August 2019, Kershaw’s Challenge hosted its seventh Annual PingPong4Purpose, where it had a Giving Wall that raised funds for a rescue mission through IJM. A portion of the proceeds also went to Both Ends Believing, as well as its other national beneficiaries.

Kershaw’s Challenge’s impact on the Dominican Republic has been great through both International Justice Mission and Both Ends Believing, as both organizations remain a special cause for both Clayton and Ellen. Kershaw’s Challenge plans to announce its 2020 beneficiaries on Opening Day, March 26, 2020. People can donate to Kershaw’s Challenge directly through its website, and can also support the organization through buying merchandise or attending events.

 – Megan McKeough
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Sanitation in the Dominican Republic
In the Dominican Republic, legislative efforts to curb outbreaks of cholera and waterborne diseases in rural and urban populations have steadily improved sanitation, water and hygiene levels. National commitment has pushed both government and non-government organizations to develop and improve much of the Dominican Republic’s infrastructure. Below are 10 facts about sanitation in the Dominican Republic.

10 Facts About Sanitation in the Dominican Republic

  1. Cholera Outbreaks: Only 74 percent of residents have access to clean water, which primarily led to the cholera outbreaks in November 2010. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 8,000 people have died as a result of cholera.
  2. Natural Disasters: The Dominican Republic encountered 40 natural disasters from 1980 to 2008 that have severely damaged water systems and contaminated tanks. Approximately 2.65 million residents faced water shortages and illnesses due to poor weather conditions.
  3. Waterborne and Diarrheal Diseases: Waterborne and diarrheal diseases in the Dominican Republic spread mainly due to a lack of sanitary restrooms. Almost 24 percent of residents do not have access to bathrooms. Additionally, many, particularly children, do not have access to routine vaccinations for these diseases.
  4. Government Projects: Government partnerships and projects with the World Health Organization and UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply and Sanitation have controlled epidemic outbreaks. These organizations have also improved accessibility to drinking water sources to 86 percent of the population. Further, sanitation facilities increased accessibility to 83 percent of residents between 1990 and 2010.
  5. The Inter-American Bank’s Loan: In 2012, the Dominican Republic partnered with the Inter-American Development Bank to obtain a $25 million loan. This loan would improve energy efficiency and provide access to water services for at least 12 hours to more than 200,000 residents. Despite ongoing measurements of the impact, about 84 percent of the population experienced an improvement in sanitation facilities and drinking water.
  6. The Dominican Red Cross: In response to the cholera outbreak, the Dominican Red Cross imported 28 water treatment plants to magnify emergency responses. The Haitian and Dominican governments developed a 10-year plan with the Red Cross to ensure cholera-free islands. The countries curated a two-year campaign that pushed their key objectives in eradicating the disease.
  7. USAID Batey Community Development Project: The USAID Batey Community Development Project is pushing to improve water access and sanitary conditions in the Dominican Republic’s bateyes. Bateyes, which are towns surrounding sugar mills, traditionally have no running water, electricity or cooking facilities. The project aims to improve water distribution systems, build restroom facilities and train the population on environmental hygiene.
  8. The Regional Coalition on Water and Sanitation to Eliminate Cholera in Hispaniola: The Regional Coalition on Water and Sanitation to Eliminate Cholera in Hispaniola emerged in June 2012 as a blueprint for cholera-affected countries, primarily Haiti and the Dominican Republic, to help mobilize resources and reduce cholera-related deaths by 90 percent by 2030. The coalition consists of the World Health Organization, Pan American Health Organization, UNICEF and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  9. Surge for Water: In partnership with Project Hearts in 2016, Surge for Water installed 45 water tanks, 16 water filters and education and training opportunities to the people in Baitoa, Dominican Republic. This increased the population’s access to safe drinking water to 97 percent.
  10. The ACCIONA Agua’s Water Plant: A potable water plant that the ACCIONA Agua instituted in the south of the Dominican Republic improved the region’s network by providing access to more than 138,000 residents. This number will likely rise up to 300,000 in the coming years. For residents, this makes cooking a simple meal such as rice and beans more feasible.

These initiatives and developments are important in the progress of the Dominican Republic’s water, sanitation and hygiene levels. It is important to recognize many of the constituents that have compromised the country’s water supplies and sanitary conditions. Illnesses that are preventable through sustainable action often affect residents. These 10 facts about sanitation in the Dominican Republic, involving training, education and accessibility efforts, are vital to the country’s quality of life.

Brittany Adames
Photo: Wikimedia Commons