Dominican Republic

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[[Category:Dominican Republic]] [[Category:The Caribbean]]
[[Category:Dominican Republic]] [[Category:The Caribbean]]

Revision as of 04:54, 13 February 2008

For the official Welcome Book for Dominican Republic see here




History of the Peace Corps in the Dominican Republic

Since 1962, more than 4,200 Volunteers have served in the Dominican Republic. These Volunteers have contributed to technical skills transfer and institutional capacity-building in a wide range of fields, including agriculture, urban and rural community development, forestry, conservation, environmental education, community health and child survival, nursing, small business development, fisheries, water and sanitation, teacher education, university education, youth development, and information technology.

Over the years, Peace Corps Volunteers have contributed significantly to the establishment and development of many of the country’s leading nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and have worked hand-in-hand with the various administrations that have governed the Dominican Republic. In keeping with its commitment to peace and development, the Peace Corps remained in the Dominican Republic throughout its civil war in the 1960s. Our commitment to service has been highlighted through the good work of Volunteers and their project partners in the recovery efforts following two of the severest hurricanes (David in 1979 and George in 1998).

History and Future of Peace Corps Programming in the Dominican Republic

Peace Corps/Dominican Republic provides direct, community-based technical assistance. Volunteers work in marginalized sectors of the population to promote self-help strategies that respond to basic human needs and strengthen community efforts. Currently, the approximately 150 Volunteers in the Dominican Republic strive to increase local capacity for problem solving and to form links with grassroots, regional, and national organizations.

While Volunteers work primarily in community economic development, education, the environment, youth development, and health, the Peace Corps’ program has evolved with the country’s changing needs. Innovations include the development of an “information technology for education” project; a multisector approach to programming; and the incorporation of HIV/AIDS prevention, gender and development, and youth service-learning across all projects.

Peace Corps/Dominican Republic has eight projects within the sectors of education, natural resources, health, and community economic development.

Special Education In this project, Volunteers work in schools with children and the parents of children with special needs and learning disabilities. Volunteers create awareness among teachers and the community about the needs of these students, promote awareness of the importance of an adequate education for all students, and train teachers in techniques to identify special-needs students and methodologies to provide them with a high-quality education.

Information Technology for Education This project helps provide teacher training for the more than 300 computer centers established in public high schools around the country. Volunteers train teachers in the use of computers, focusing on how they can improve the quality of education in the classroom. Volunteers also create technology youth groups and help schools develop ways for the community to access information technology facilities. Many Volunteers are assigned to communities near the border with Haiti, some of the most impoverished areas of the country.

Agroforestry This project aims to reverse the process of soil erosion and environmental degradation. Volunteers work with low-income rural farmers, participate in reforestation activities, and introduce appropriate agroforestry and soil conservation techniques. Agroforestry Volunteers also help Dominican organizations improve their capabilities to train small farmers in appropriate soil conservation and agroforestry practices, including seedling and fruit tree production, multiple-use tree plots, live and dead barriers, contour planting, and alley cropping.

Environmental Awareness Education This project creates awareness among Dominicans for proper human interaction with the environment, such as appropriate waste disposal, prevention of water contamination and deforestation, soil conservation, watershed protection, protection of marine resources, appropriate energy use, preservation of air quality, noise and safety procedures, and demographic effects on the environment. To accomplish this, Volunteers help the Ministry of Education develop and implement education modules that train teachers how to incorporate environmental concepts into their curricula. They also provide training and technical support to community leaders to develop and implement projects that incorporate sound environmental practices and promote environmental protection.

Healthy Families The Healthy Families project aims to reduce the risk of infant mortality in low-income families living in rural and marginal urban communities. Volunteers are assigned to the Ministry of Public Health or one of several private voluntary organizations. They help health supervisors improve and sustain basic health practices and services. The project focuses on the key causes of infant mortality: diarrhea, respiratory infections, and malnutrition. Some Volunteers also help health workers promote reproductive health and HIV/ AIDS prevention among adolescents and young mothers.

Environmental Sanitation Volunteers seek to reduce various endemic diseases by increasing access to potable water and improved waste disposal and sanitary facilities. Volunteers train community members to operate and maintain their water and sanitation systems and help private voluntary organizations improve their capacity to plan, implement, and evaluate environmental sanitation projects. Like the Healthy Families project, this project focuses on low-income families living in rural and marginal urban communities.

Community Economic Development Volunteers take a broad approach to fostering economic development opportunities and community capacity-building among the neediest sectors of the population. They work with farmer associations and rural community groups to develop income-generating projects in agribusiness, organize integrated community development projects, and work with NGOs to provide business education to microentrepreneurs. Many Volunteers also provide business and leadership education to Dominican youth, using a curriculum similar to Junior Achievement’s.

Youth, Families, and Community Development Based on the strong interest of Volunteers and a need identified by Dominican partner agencies, the Peace Corps began a formal youth, families, and community development project in 2002 to complement and support its other projects. While many existing projects already involve youth in their efforts, this project’s programs intentionally target at-risk youth in urban areas and strengthen youth groups in semi-urban and rural areas.

To maximize resources and promote a more holistic approach to development, Peace Corps/Dominican Republic encourages multisector programming. Ideally, Volunteers from different technical project areas combine and leverage their skills to develop solutions for the challenges faced by the communities in which they work. Additionally, due to the rising incidence of HIV/AIDS on the island, most Volunteers incorporate HIV/ AIDS education and prevention in the work they do.



The island of Hispaniola, of which the Dominican Republic forms the eastern two-thirds and Haiti the western one-third, has been a center of great political struggles since the arrival of Christopher Columbus in the West Indies in 1492. The island was first colonized by the Spanish, and by the end of the 17th century, Spain had ceded to France all rights to the western portion of the island.

In l804, Toussaint L’Overture, the leader of a slave uprising in the French colony, declared the island “one and indivisible” under the new Republic of Haiti. At that time, what is now the Dominican Republic was occupied by Haitian troops. The Haitians conquered the entire island in 1822 and held it until 1844. In that year, Juan Pablo Duarte, the hero of Dominican independence, and his forces, drove out the Haitians and established the Dominican Republic as an independent state.

Since independence, the country’s political stability has been shaky. Economic difficulties, the threat of European intervention, and ongoing internal disorders led to a U.S. occupation in 1916 and the establishment of a military government. The occupation ended in 1924 with a democratically elected Dominican government. From 1930 until his assassination in 1961, Army commander Rafael Trujillo ruled the country under a repressive dictatorship. The country then underwent a number of military coups as well as an occupation by U.S. military forces from 1965 to 1966.

During those years, several key political figures rose to power, including Joaquin Balaguer, leader of the Social Christian Reformist Party; and Juan Bosch, founder of the Dominican Liberation Party. In the more recent past, the country has experienced peaceful transitions of democratically elected governments. Hipolito Mejia was elected in 2000 for a four-year term. Former President Leonel Fernandez won the 2004 election and was inaugurated in August 2004.

Although the Dominican Republic’s relations with Haiti have been challenging, the two countries are intrinsically linked. There are a sizable number of Haitian migrants in the Dominican Republic, many of whom contribute to the Dominican economy.

The Dominican Republic has a close relationship with the United States despite the fact that America has occupied the country on two occasions. It is estimated that there are more than 1 million Dominicans living in the United States, the majority in New York City. The U.S. embassy estimates that 60,000 U.S. citizens live in the Dominican Republic.


The Dominican Republic is a representative democracy whose national powers are divided among independent executive, legislative, and judicial branches. The president appoints the cabinet, executes laws passed by the legislative branch, and is commander in chief of the armed forces. The president and vice president run for office on the same ticket and are elected by direct vote for four-year terms. Legislative power is exercised by a bicameral National Congress, consisting of a Senate (30 members) and a Chamber of Deputies (149 members).

There are three major political parties: the Dominican Liberation Party (PLD), led by President Leonel Fernandez; the Dominican Revolutionary Party (PRD); and the Social Christian Reformist Party (PRSC).


The Dominican Republic is a middle-income developing country. The economy is primarily dependent on services, especially tourism; remittances from the United States (which help support 30 percent of all Dominican families), construction, and agriculture. The service sector has overtaken agriculture as the leading employer of Dominicans, principally as a result of growth in tourism and free-trade zones. More than 1 million foreign tourists visit the Dominican Republic each year, contributing close to $1 billion (U.S.) to the economy.

The Dominican Republic’s economic success of the 1990s has deteriorated significantly over the past few years, though it has begun to improve. The gross domestic product (GDP) fell by 1 percent in 2003 and another 1 percent in 2004; inflation grew by 60 percent in 2003 and another 35 percent in 2004. Moreover, the costs of many basic goods (gas, food, utilities) have significantly increased. However, with the new administration of President Fernandez in August 2004, the economic situation began to stabilize and improve. Inflation stands at single-digit levels for 2006 and there is increasing economic growth. Additionally, the peso has been revalued and stabilized; the exchange rate is now approximately 32.50 pesos to $1 (U.S.).

In spite of the significant rise in prices in 2003–2004, there was no corresponding increase in wages for the working population. An average agricultural day laborer still earns approximately 150 pesos per day (less than $6 per day), and the unemployment rate is nearly 20 percent. The nation’s $7 billion foreign public debt represents nearly half of its GDP. Poverty incidence in the rural areas is three times higher than in urban areas, and it reaches extreme levels on the Haitian border and in the batey communities (work camps on the edge of sugar plantations along the border of the Dominican Republic and Haiti).

Severe energy shortages, with average daily blackouts of up to 12 hours, and a 60 percent increase in gas prices has had a domino effect on prices of general consumer goods and transportation. Additionally, the lack of access to potable water, inadequate access to basic preventive health services, and low pay in the service sector make it difficult for Dominicans to advance.

People and Culture

The Dominican population was 1 million in 1920; by 2004, it had grown to almost 9 million. The country has one of the highest population densities in the hemisphere. The population is roughly 40 percent rural and 60 percent urban.

The Dominican people are a blend of Spanish, African, and indigenous Taino Indians. The Spanish arrived in l492; by 1520 the indigenous population had been virtually eradicated by warfare, disease, and an unsuccessful attempt to enslave them to work in the country’s fields and gold mines. As the indigenous population decreased, the labor shortage was filled by African slaves brought to Santo Domingo. The current population is largely mulatto. More recently, there has been a small influx of Japanese, Chinese, European Jews, Arabs, and other groups.

The Dominican culture reflects its Spanish, African, and indigenous Indian heritages. From the Spanish, Dominicans inherited their language, cuisine, Roman Catholicism, and the patriarchal family structure. From the African and indigenous Indian cultures, they inherited their music (merengue), folklore, social activities, handicrafts, cuisine, and many of the names given to children. Spanish is the official language, although many indigenous words have been incorporated into Dominican Spanish. While Roman Catholicism is the predominant religion, Christian evangelical churches are becoming a more influential religious force in the counrty.


The Dominican Republic has some of the most varied and beautiful terrain in the hemisphere, including mountain ranges, tropical beaches, dry forests and desert,(found primarily in the southwest.) It boasts the highest mountain in the Caribbean, Pico Duarte, which is surrounded by extremely productive farmland in the Cibao region. Sugar cane and rolling landscapes highlight the south and east of the Island.

There is growing concern about the Dominican Republic’s rapid rate of environmental degradation in both rural and urban areas. About 60 percent of the country’s original forest cover still existed in the early 1900s. By the end of the 1980s, that figure had plunged to approximately 12 percent as a result of slash-and-burn agriculture, overgrazing, forest fires, and charcoal production. Degradation and silting in the Carribean and Atlantic have also negatively affected the extremely rich coral reef environments found around the island.


Following is a list of websites for additional information about the Peace Corps and the Dominican Republic and to connect you to returned Volunteers and other invitees. Please keep in mind that although we try to make sure all these links are active and current, we cannot guarantee it.

A note of caution: As you surf the Internet, you may find bulletin boards and chat rooms in which people are free to express opinions about the Peace Corps based on their own experiences, including comments by those who were unhappy with their choice to serve. These opinions are not those of the Peace Corps or the U.S. government, and we hope you will keep in mind that no two people experience their service in the same way.

General Information About the Dominican Republic
Visit this site for general travel advice about almost any country in the world.
The U.S. State Department’s website issues background notes periodically about countries around the world. Find the Dominican Republic and learn more about its social and political history.
This site includes links to all the official sites for governments worldwide.
This online world atlas includes maps and geographical information, and each country page contains links to other sites, such as the Library of Congress, that contain comprehensive historical, social, and political background.
This United Nations site allows you to search for statistical information for member states of the U.N.
This site provides an additional source of current and historical information about countries around the world.

Connect With Returned Volunteers and Other Invitees
This is the site of the National Peace Corps Association, composed of returned Volunteers. The site has links to all the Web pages of the “friends of” groups for most countries of service, made up of former Volunteers who served in those countries. There are also regional groups who frequently get together for social events and local volunteer activities. You can also go straight to the Friends of the Dominican Republic site:
This site is known as the Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Web Ring. Browse the Web ring and see what former Volunteers are saying about their service.
This site is hosted by a group of returned Volunteer writers. It is a monthly online publication of essays and Volunteer accounts of their Peace Corps service.
This site is filled with information about Peace Corps/ Dominican Republic and is managed by the returned Peace Corps Volunteers of the Dominican Republic and their organization, Friends of the Dominican Republic.

Online Articles / Current News Sites About the Dominican Republic
This site provides daily news summaries in English
Online edition of Listin Diario, a Dominican newspaper (in Spanish)
Online edition of Hoy, a Dominican newspaper (in Spanish)
Official Internet portal to the Dominican Republic with information on history, culture and arts, economy, business, politics, news, etc. (in Spanish and English)

International Development Sites About the Dominican Republic
The U.S. Agency for International Development’s programs in the Dominican Republic
The United Nation’s Development Programme’s projects in the Dominican Republic (in Spanish),00.html
The World Bank’s programs in Latin America and the Caribbean

Recommended Books

  1. Alvarez, Julia. How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents. Chapel Hill, NC: Algonquin Books, 1991.
  2. Alvarez, Julia. In the Time of the Butterflies. Chapel Hill, NC: Algonquin Books, 1995.
  3. Alvarez, Julia. ¡Yo! Chapel Hill, NC: Algonquin Books, 1997. These are three novels about Dominican history and the immigrant experience by a writer who moved to the United States as a girl when her parents fled the Trujillo regime.
  4. Fischkin, Barbara. Muddy Cup: A Dominican Family Comes of Age in a New America. New York: Scribner, 1997. A journalist follows the emigration of a Dominican family from the time they apply for visas through their move to New York.
  5. Ruck, Rob. The Tropic of Baseball: Baseball in the Dominican Republic. University of Nebraska Press, 1999. Traces baseball’s roots in the Dominican Republic against a historical background of economic and political change.
  6. Pons, Frank Moya. The Dominican Republic: A National History. New York: Hispaniola Books, 1994.
  7. Wucker, Michele. Why the Cocks Fight: Dominicans, Haitians, and the Struggle for Hispaniola. New York: Hill and Wang, 1999.

Books About the History of the Peace Corps

  1. Hoffman, Elizabeth Cobbs. All You Need is Love: The Peace Corps and the Spirit of the 1960’s. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2000.
  2. Rice, Gerald T. The Bold Experiment: JFK’s Peace Corps. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1985.
  3. Stossel, Scott. Sarge: The Life and Times of Sargent Shriver. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 2004.

Books on the Volunteer Experience

  1. Dirlam, Sharon. Beyond Siberia: Two Years in a Forgotten Place. Santa Barbara, CA: McSeas Books, 2004.
  2. Casebolt, Marjorie DeMoss. Margarita: A Guatemalan Peace Corps Experience. Gig Harbor, WA: Red Apple Publishing, 2000.
  3. Erdman, Sarah. Nine Hills to Nambonkaha: Two Years in the Heart of an African Village. New York, NY: Picador, 2003.
  4. Hessler, Peter. River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze. New York, NY: Perennial, 2001.
  5. Kennedy, Geraldine (ed.). From the Center of the Earth: Stories out of the Peace Corps. Santa Monica, CA: Clover Park Press, 1991.
  6. Thompsen, Moritz. Living Poor: A Peace Corps Chronicle. Seattle, WA: University of Washington Press, 1997 (reprint).




Mail delivery between the United States and the Dominican Republic is generally dependable but can be unreliable. Letters and packages sent by airmail take from 10 days to two weeks to arrive. Surface mail can take months.

Your address for regular mail service in the Dominican

Republic while you are a Peace Corps trainee (PCT) will be:

“Your Name,” PCT

Cuerpo de Paz

Av Bolivar 451, Gazcue

Apartado Postal 1412

Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

Please Note: Do not send money, airline tickets, or other valuable items through the mail.

Should you need to have a package sent to the Dominican Republic, we recommend that the contents be limited to items that fit into padded envelopes. These are less likely to be lost, opened, or taxed than are other types of packages.

Packages may also be shipped via a parcel delivery service. Federal Express and DHL have offices in Santo Domingo. If you want them to deliver a package to the Peace Corps office, you will have to provide the office street address (instead of the post office box address listed above) and phone number:

Your address for expedited mail service in the Dominican Republic while you are a Peace Corps trainee or Volunteer will be:

“Your Name,” PCT

Cuerpo de Paz

451 Avenida Bolivar

Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

Telephone: 809.685.4102

Please Note: Federal Express and DHL will not deliver items larger than an envelope to the Peace Corps office, so you may have to pay significant customs duties to retrieve larger items from customs, and picking up the items may mean an entire day’s travel to the capital. In addition, packages sometimes disappear in transit.

Additionally, there is a tax levied on every package received by a trainee or Volunteer. Peace Corps does not cover these costs. All packages received in-country are charged RD$100 (currently USD$3.07) for retrieval and then an additional RD$100 per pound. So, for example, a 10-pound package would cost the Volunteer RD$1,100 (USD$34.00), which is a significant amount considering Volunteer living allowance.

Private courier services, such as Mail Boxes Etc., provide mail-forwarding service from Miami; however, these companies are limited to major cities and receiving rates vary according to weight. While mail-forwarding services can be considered more reliable than standard surface or airmail, it can be quite costly.

During training, Peace Corps staff will deliver mail to you at least twice a week while you are in Santo Domingo; less often when you are outside of Santo Domingo. Once you move to your site, you will be responsible for sending your new mailing address to friends and family. Some Volunteers find it more convenient to continue using the Santo Domingo address. In that case, mail received at the Peace Corps office will be put in your locker in the Volunteer lounge, and you will have to collect it periodically.

We encourage you to write to your family regularly, as family members may become worried when they do not hear from you.


The Peace Corps office in the Dominican Republic can be reached by direct dialing from the United States. The number is 1.809.685.4102. The phone number for the after-hours duty officer is 1.809.723.9944. The fax number is 1.809.689.9330.

Long-distance telephone service is available in the Dominican Republic and is not expensive. However, you may or may not have access to a land-line or cellular phone signal at your site. Therefore, new Volunteers are issued cellular phones by Peace Corps/Dominican Republic. This enables staff to maintain contact with Volunteers and to send messages in an emergency. You will be issued these after being sworn-in at the end of training. There is no charge for receiving calls or text messages on cellular phones, but all personal calls are at the Volunteers’ expense. Phone card rates for calling internationally to the U.S., Canada, or Puerto Rico are typically the same as making a local call. Prepaid calling cards bought in the United States typically don’t work. Volunteers may use call centers of the major telephone companies, Verizon or Tricom, which have branches throughout the country.

Computer, Internet, and E-mail Access

If your sponsoring agency or project partner owns a computer, you may be able to arrange access for work-related or personal use. The resource center and computer room at the Peace Corps office in Santo Domingo has a limited number of computers with Internet access for Volunteer use. However, if you want to receive personal e-mail, you will need to set up an account with a service such as Yahoo!, Gmail, or Hotmail. Internet access is also available at Internet cafes throughout the country. Peace Corps staff computers are not available for Volunteer use.

Housing and Site Location

During pre-service training (PST), you will live with a Dominican host family near the Peace Corps training center on the outskirts of Santo Domingo. The families are selected by training staff. Houses typically have electricity and running water (when these systems are operating). Your host family will provide you with a private room, and you will eat your meals with the family.

You will also live with a host family during the first three months of your Volunteer service. These host families are identified by the community and/or the host country agency and are approved by Peace Corps staff prior to your arrival. Living with a Dominican family allows faster integration into the community, provides a safe environment while you are settling in, and gives you time to look for independent housing should you choose to do so. During service, you are expected to live in the same type of housing commonly found in your community. Housing varies widely, depending on whether you live in a city, a large or small town, or a campo (rural) village.

Volunteers typically live in houses with tin or thatch roofs, walls of wood or cement block, and cement floors. Although some communities have electricity, a great many do not. Power outages are very common. The water supply is subject to the same inconsistencies. Many communities do not have water piped into houses. Rural families, for example, often have to walk to the nearest river or other water source for household water. Even if you live in a house with faucets, there is no guarantee that there will be water; it is common for water not to appear for days at a time. Volunteers placed in towns and more urbanised areas will also face some of these same challenges.

Living Allowance and Money Management

As a Volunteer, you will receive a monthly living allowance in the local currency (Dominican pesos; abbreviated as RD). The living allowance is meant to cover housing, utilities, household supplies, normal clothing replacement, food, transportation, moderate entertainment expenses, reading material, and incidentals. It will enable you to live modestly, at the same level as your neighbors and colleagues. Peace Corps/Dominican Republic will open a bank account for you and provide you with an ATM card. You will need to budget appropriately to make the living allowance last a month.

Additionally, you will receive a monthly vacation allowance equivalent to $24, paid in local currency at the same time as the living allowance. You will also receive a one-time settling-in allowance to purchase needed household furniture and equipment (e.g., a bed, a stove, kitchen items, and locks) and pay several months of advance rent if required.

Most Volunteers find they can live comfortably in the Dominican Republic with these allowances, so we strongly discourage you from supplementing the living allowance with money from home. Still, many Volunteers bring money from home for out-of-country travel. Credit cards can be used in many establishments in major cities, and traveler’s checks can be cashed for a small fee.

Food and Diet

The Dominican diet consists primarily of rice, beans, yuca (cassava), plantains, sweet potatoes, potatoes, and other vegetables, along with eggs, chicken, pork, beef, and some fish. The national dish is sancocho, a rich vegetable-andmeat stew served on special occasions. A typical Dominican meal, called la bandera, is a mix of rice, red beans, and meat. Yuca may be boiled, prepared as fritters, or baked into rounds of crisp cracker bread called casabe. Most dishes are not spicy. Locally grown, seasonal fruits include bananas, mangoes, papayas, pineapples, guavas, and avocados. Dominicans generally eat small quantities of meat at meals. Bacalau (dried fish; usually cod) can be found in several areas, but fresh fish is generally available only along the coast. Habichuelas con dulce, a sweetened dish made from beans, is popular at Easter.

Vegetarians will be able to maintain their diet at home, but they will be offered—and expected to accept—traditional foods, including meat, when visiting Dominican families. You will have to be open and flexible about sharing in the Dominican diet when necessary.

During training, your host family will provide your meals. Once you are at your site, you can choose to eat with Dominicans or cook on your own. To supplement their diet, some Volunteers plant gardens at home.


Transportation is relatively easy in the Dominican Republic. Most urban travel is by bus and van, although carro públicos (a sort of shared taxi), are available as well. Intercity travel is by bus; rural travel runs the gamut from air-conditioned minibuses to crowded carro públicos to lots of walking. Although inexpensive, carro públicos are where most Volunteers experience pickpocketing and robberies. Do not travel in them at night.

Peace Corps Volunteers are not allowed to drive vehicles or motorcycles in the Dominican Republic. Violation of this policy will result in termination of your Peace Corps service.

Most Volunteers rely on public transportation to get around. But Volunteers can request assistance from the Peace Corps in arranging alternative means of local transportation. Volunteers can apply for and recieve limited funds to purchase a bicycle in the Dominican Republic. The Peace Corps will also provide you with a helmet, which you must wear at all times while riding a bicycle. Failure to abide by this policy will also result in termination of your Peace Corps service.


With an average temperature range of 65 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit, this Caribbean country is probably not as hot as you might think. It is difficult to define a rainy season, since showers can occur at any time during the year, depending on the area. However, the period of heaviest rainfall for most of the island is late April to early October, months that can be relatively hot and humid. The cooler season—from November to February—is pleasant but still warm, with temperatures from 65 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit. You will need both lightweight clothing suitable for hot weather and at least one heavier garment for traveling to cooler, mountainous areas such as the 10,000-foot Pico Duarte, the highest mountain in the Caribbean. .

Social Activities

Social activities in the Dominican Republic vary depending on where you are located. They include taking part in festivities such as Carnival, parties, and dances. Some Volunteers visit other Volunteers nearby on weekends for work-related or social occasions and will make an occasional trip to the capital. We encourage Volunteers to remain at their sites as much as possible to help accomplish the Peace Corps’ goal of cultural exchange. Most regional capitals have cafés and restaurants, movie theaters, and other forms of entertainment.

Social life in the Dominican Republic often revolves around the family porch, where people talk while playing dominoes, a national pastime. Outdoor tables in front of homes, bars, and colmados (neighborhood markets) are surrounded by men who play for hours, especially on Sundays. Outdoor players are almost exclusively men, but everyone plays at home. Even young children become adept at the game. Baseball is the country’s most popular sport. The competition is keen, and rarely does a day go by when children, youth, and even adults are not playing baseball with anything they can find to use as a bat and ball. Cockfighting is another national pastime, and the gambling stakes can be high.

Dominicans also love music and dancing. Merengue is the national dance, and many people, including small children, know the steps. The fast-paced, rhythmic music of merengue is traditionally performed with three instruments: a tambora (a small drum), a melodeon (similar to an accordion), and a guira (a scraping percussion instrument). Bachata is a another popular folk dance that is overtaking merengue in popularity. Salsa and other styles of Latin American music are popular, as are North American pop and jazz. Discos exist even in rural communities.

What has kept merengue alive over the years is its place in the Dominican Republic’s Carnival celebrations. All of the major cities celebrate Carnival with zeal, incorporating music and dance into the street parades and other festivities. In Santo Domingo, Carnival occurs twice a year. The first occurs during the traditional pre-Lenten holiday. The second one, much smaller but just as festive, starts the day before August 16, which is the anniversary of the Dominican Republic’s declaration of war against Spain in 1863.

Each July, Santo Domingo hosts a merengue festival along its main seaside strip, El Malecón. The street is closed off to make way for some of the country’s most popular bands. Celebrations also take place at clubs, hotels, and even nighttime beach parties. Smaller merengue festivals take place in other towns.

Professionalism, Dress, and Behavior

Dominicans take pride in their personal appearance. To gain the acceptance, respect, and confidence of rural, urban, and government-level workers, it is essential that you dress and conduct yourself professionally. Standards of dress for foreign aid workers tend to be conservative and modest. Women are expected to wear casual pants or mid-length skirts for professional activities (excluding physical labor); men are expected to wear pants for professional activities other than sports and physical labor. Simply stated: first impressions will be informed by the way you dress. Establishing yourself as a professional technical resource in your community is a part of the overall challenge of adjusting to a new language and culture. Dressing as a professional will ease this process for you. Inappropriate dress may send unintended messages or invitations to co-workers and/or others in your community.

Out of respect for Dominican culture, Volunteers are not allowed to display body piercings. This includes nose rings, tongue bolts, and navel rings. Men are not allowed to wear earrings or have long hair or ponytails. If you do not remove your body rings and cut your hair before you arrive in the Dominican Republic, you will be asked to do so before you move in with a host family during training. Adherence to this policy is an important test of your motivation and commitment to adapt to the new environment. If you have reservations about this policy and the degree of sacrifice and flexibility required to be a successful Volunteer, you should reevaluate your decision to accept the invitation to Peace Corps/Dominican Republic.

The Peace Corps expects you to comport yourself in a way that will foster respect in your community and reflect well on the Peace Corps and on citizens of the United States. Drinking and smoking in public is strongly discouraged as Volunteers are seen as role models, especially among local youth. You will receive an orientation on appropriate behavior and cultural sensitivity during pre-service training. As a Volunteer, you have the status of an invited guest and must be sensitive to the habits, tastes, and taboos of your hosts. Behavior that jeopardizes the Peace Corps’ mission in the Dominican Republic or your personal safety could lead to an administrative separation—a termination of your Peace Corps service. The Peace Corps Volunteer Handbook has more information on the grounds for administrative separation.

Personal Safety

More detailed information about the Peace Corps’ approach to safety is outlined in the Health Care and Safety chapter, but it is an important issue and cannot be overemphasized. As stated in the Volunteer Handbook, becoming a Peace Corps Volunteer entails certain safety risks. Living and traveling in an unfamiliar environment (oftentimes alone), having a limited understanding of local language and culture, and being perceived as well-off are some of the factors that can put a Volunteer at risk. Many Volunteers experience varying degrees of unwanted attention and harassment. Petty thefts and burglaries are not uncommon, and incidents of physical and sexual assault do occur, although most Volunteers complete their two years of service without personal security incidents. The Peace Corps has established procedures and policies designed to help Volunteers reduce their risks and enhance their safety and security. These procedures and policies, in addition to safety training, will be provided once you arrive in the Dominican Republic. At the same time, you are expected to take responsibility for your safety and well-being. This means being proactive in avoiding dangerous situations and reporting immediately to Peace Corps/Dominican Republic when there is an incident or emergency.

Rewards and Frustrations

Although the potential for job satisfaction in the Dominican Republic is quite high, like all Volunteers, you will encounter numerous frustrations. Because of financial or other challenges, collaborating agencies do not always provide the support they promised. In addition, the pace of work and life is slower than what most Americans are accustomed to, and some people you work with may be hesitant to change practices and traditions that are centuries old. For these reasons, the Peace Corps experience of adapting to a new culture and environment is often described as a series of emotional peaks and valleys.

You will be given a high degree of responsibility and independence in your work, perhaps more than in any other job you have had or will have. You will often find yourself in situations that require an ability to motivate yourself and your co-workers with little guidance from supervisors. You might work for months without seeing any visible impact from, or without receiving feedback on, your work. Development is a slow process. Positive progress most often comes after the combined efforts of several Volunteers over the course of many years. You must possess the self-confidence, patience, and vision to continue working toward long-term goals without seeing immediate results.

To overcome these difficulties, you will need maturity, flexibility, open-mindedness, and resourcefulness. The Peace Corps staff, your co-workers, and fellow Volunteers will support you during times of challenge as well as in moments of success. Judging by the experience of former Volunteers, the peaks are well worth the difficult times, and most Volunteers leave the Dominican Republic feeling that they have gained much more than they gave during their service. If you are able to make the commitment to integrate into your community and work hard, you will be a successful Volunteer.

Volunteers usually are readily accepted by their host community and make lasting friendships. However, for many Volunteers, constantly being asked personal questions, the lack of privacy, being considered a rich foreigner, and the need to be aware of different social mores can be trying. As in most Latin American countries, women in the Dominican Republic do not have the freedoms to which North American women are accustomed. A female Volunteer’s inability to adapt to this reality can make her less effective and possibly even affect her safety.

The Peace Corps is not for everyone. Creativity, initiative, flexibility, patience, and a high tolerance for ambiguity are necessary attributes in confronting the challenges associated with facilitating change in a cultural setting different from the United States. Your dedication, however, can have real and lasting results. When your service is over, you will have the deep satisfaction of having played a role in a grassroots development process that helped give Dominicans greater control of their future.


Overview of Pre-Service Training

Training is an essential part of Peace Corps service. Our goal is to give you the skills and information necessary to live and work effectively in the Dominican Republic. In doing so, we build upon the experiences and expertise you bring to the Peace Corps. We anticipate that you will approach training with an open mind, a desire to learn, and a willingness to become involved. Trainees officially become Peace Corps Volunteers after successful completion of training.

You will participate in 11 weeks of intensive training in five major areas: technical job orientation, language (Spanish), cross-cultural adaptation, health, and safety training. You will live in a community near Santo Domingo with a Dominican family, sharing meals, conversations, and other everyday experiences. You will also visit secondary towns and rural areas to get accustomed to the realities of life in the Dominican Republic. Trainees are together for the first four weeks of training. For six weeks, you will live in a smaller town for community-based training by project sector. Following the community-based portion of your training, you will travel to your future project site for an orientation visit and then return to the capital for a training wrap-up and to swear-in as a Peace Corps Volunteer. If you are serving with a spouse and you and your spouse are assigned to different programs, you will live apart for the community-based training portion of the program. Married couples are allowed to get together for one weekend during community-based training if they are in different project areas.

Training helps you learn how to apply your strengths and knowledge to new situations, developing your skills as a facilitator in a variety of technical areas. It doesn’t make you an expert. At the onset of training, the training staff will outline the goals you must achieve to become a Volunteer and the criteria that will be used to assess your progress. (A detailed breakdown of these criteria will be provided in-country.) Evaluation of your performance during training consists of a continual dialogue between you and the training staff.

Technical Training

Technical training prepares you to work in the Dominican Republic by building on the skills you already have and by helping you develop new skills in a manner appropriate to the needs of the country. The Peace Corps staff, Dominican experts, and current Volunteers conduct the training program. Training places great emphasis on learning how to transfer the skills you have to the community in which you will serve as a Volunteer.

Technical training will include sessions on the general economic and political environment in the Dominican Republic and strategies for working within such a framework. You will review your technical sector’s goals and meet with the Dominican agencies and organizations that invited the Peace Corps to assist them. You will be supported and evaluated throughout training to build the confidence and skills you will need to undertake your project activities and be a productive member of your community.

Language Training

As a Peace Corps Volunteer, you will find that language skills are the key to personal and professional satisfaction during your service. These skills are critical to your job performance, they help you integrate into your community, and they can ease your personal adaptation to the new surroundings. Therefore, language training is the heart of the training program, and you must successfully meet minimum language requirements to complete training and become a Volunteer. Experienced Spanish-language instructors teach formal classes five days a week in small groups of four to five people at the training center or in community-based settings.

Your language training will incorporate a community-based approach. In addition to classroom time, you will be given assignments to work on outside of the classroom and with your host family. The goal is to get you to a point of basic social communication skills so that you can practice and develop language skills further on your own. Prior to being sworn in as a Volunteer, you will work on strategies to continue language studies during your two years of service.

Cross-Cultural Training

As part of your pre-service training, you will live with a Dominican host family. This experience is designed to ease your transition to life at your site. Families go through an orientation conducted by Peace Corps staff to explain the purpose of pre-service training and to assist them in helping you adapt to living in the Dominican Republic. Many Volunteers form strong and lasting friendships with their host families.

Cross-cultural and community development training will help you improve your communication skills and understand your role as a facilitator of development. You will be exposed to topics such as community mobilization, conflict resolution, gender and development, nonformal and adult education strategies, and political structures.

Health Training

During pre-service training, you will be given basic medical training and information. You will be expected to practice preventive healthcare and to take responsibility for your own health by adhering to all medical policies. Trainees are required to attend all medical sessions. The topics include preventive health measures and minor and major medical issues that you might encounter while in the Dominican Republic. Nutrition, mental health, and stategies to avoid HIV/ AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are also covered.

Safety Training

During the safety training sessions, you will learn how to adopt a lifestyle that reduces risks at home, at work, and during your travels, as well as how to set up a safe living environment. You will also learn appropriate and effective strategies for coping with unwanted attention and learn about your individual responsibility for promoting safety throughout your service.

Additional Training During Volunteer Service

In its commitment to institutionalize quality training, the Peace Corps has implemented a training system that provides Volunteers with continual opportunities to examine their commitment to Peace Corps service while increasing their technical and cross-cultural skills. During service, there are usually three training events. The titles and objectives for those trainings are as follows:


The Peace Corps’ highest priority is maintaining the good health and safety of every Volunteer. Peace Corps’ medical programs emphasize the preventive, rather than the curative, approach to disease. The Peace Corps in the Dominican Republic maintains a clinic with two full-time medical officers, who take care of Volunteers’ primary healthcare needs. Additional medical services, such as testing and basic treatment, are also available in the Dominican Republic at local, American-standard hospitals. If you become seriously ill, you will be transported either to an American-standard medical facility in the region or to the United States.

Health Issues in the Dominican Republic

Major health problems among Volunteers in the Dominican Republic are rare and are often the result of a Volunteer’s not taking preventive measures to stay healthy. The most common health problems in the country are minor ones that are also found in the United States, such as colds, diarrhea, sinus infections, skin infections, headaches, dental problems, STIs, adjustment disorders, and alcohol abuse. These problems may be more frequent or compounded by life in the Dominican Republic because certain environmental factors here raise the risk or exacerbate the severity of illnesses and injuries.

The most common major health problems are malaria, amoebic dysentery, dengue fever, and HIV/AIDS. Because malaria is endemic in the Dominican Republic, taking antimalarial pills is required. You will receive vaccinations against the following: hepatitis A, hepatitis B, meningococcal meningitis, rabies, typhoid, MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella), and TD (tetanus and diphtheria). If you have already received any of these vaccinations, please bring written documentation of the dates they were administered.

Amoebic dysentery can be avoided by thoroughly washing fruits and vegetables and either boiling drinking water or using the water purification tablets provided in your Peace Corps-issued medical kit.

Helping You Stay Healthy

The Peace Corps will provide you with all the necessary inoculations, medications, and information to stay healthy. Upon your arrival in the Dominican Republic, you will receive a medical handbook. During training, you will receive a medical kit with supplies to take care of mild illnesses and first-aid needs. The contents of the kit are listed later in this chapter.

During pre-service training, you will have access to basic medical supplies through the medical officer. However, you will be responsible for your own supply of prescription drugs and any other specific medical supplies you require, as we will not order these items during training. Please bring a three-month supply of any prescription drugs you use as they may not be available here and it may take several weeks for shipments to arrive.

You will have a medical evaluation at mid-service and a physical examination at the end of your service. If you develop a serious medical problem during your service, the medical officer in the Dominican Republic will consult with the Office of Medical Services in Washington, D.C. If it is determined that your condition cannot be treated in the Dominican Republic, you may be sent out of the country for further evaluation and care.

Maintaining Your Health

As a Volunteer, you must accept considerable responsibility for your own health. Proper precautions will significantly reduce your risk of serious illness or injury.

The most important step in preventing malaria and dengue is to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes. The best ways to avoid insect bites are to sleep under a mosquito net, wear long sleeves and pants whenever possible, use insect repellent, and keep screens on your windows and doors. The mosquitoes that transmit malaria bite primarily between dusk and dawn; the mosquitoes that transmit dengue are day feeders. The Peace Corps requires all Volunteers serving in the Dominican Republic to take the antimalarial drug Aralen (chloroquine). Aralen, however, can exacerbate dermatological conditions such as psoriasis. If you have a history of psoriasis, contact the medical office in Washington, D.C., before you leave for staging. You may be able to take an alternative antimalarial medication.

Rabies is endemic throughout the region. You will receive a series of three vaccinations to protect you against rabies once you arrive in the Dominican Republic. If you are bitten by any animal, inform your medical officer immediately so appropriate action may be taken.

Many diseases that afflict Volunteers worldwide are entirely preventable if proper food and water preparation is followed. These illnesses include food poisoning, parasitic infections, hepatitis A, dysentery, parasitic infections and typhoid fever. Your medical officer will discuss specific standards for water and food preparation in the Dominican Republic during pre-service training.

Abstinence is the only way to prevent the transmission of HIV and other STIs. You are taking risks if you choose to be sexually active. To lessen these risks, use a condom every time you have sex. Whether your partner is a host country citizen, a fellow Volunteer, or anyone else, do not assume this person is free of HIV/AIDS or other STIs. The Dominican Republic has a high infection rate of STIs and HIV/AIDS. You will receive more information from your medical officer about this important issue.

Sexually active Volunteers are expected to adhere to an effective means of birth control to prevent an unplanned pregnancy. Oral contraceptives and condoms are available in the health unit.

It is critical to your health that you promptly report to the medical office for scheduled immunizations, and that you let your medical officer know immediately of significant illnesses and injuries.

Women’s Health Information

Pregnancy is treated in the same manner as other Volunteer health conditions that require medical attention but also have programmatic ramifications. The Peace Corps is responsible for determining the medical risk and the availability of appropriate medical care if the Volunteer remains in-country. Given the circumstances under which Volunteers live and work in Peace Corps countries, it is rare that the Peace Corps’ medical and programmatic standards for continued service during pregnancy can be met.

There are many feminine hygiene productsm available on the local market; therefore, Peace Corps/Dominican Republic will not provide these products. If you prefer a specific product, you should bring a supply with you.

Your Peace Corps Medical Kit

The Peace Corps medical officer will provide you with a kit that contains basic items necessary to prevent and treat illnesses that may occur during service. Kit items can be periodically restocked at the medical office.

Medical Kit Contents

Ace bandages
Adhesive tape
American Red Cross First Aid & Safety Handbook
Antacid tablets
Antibiotic ointment
Antifungal cream
Antiseptic antimicrobial skin cleaner
Butterfly closures
Calamine lotion
Cepacol lozenges
Dental floss
Diphenhydramine HCL 25 mg (Benadryl)
Insect repellent
Iodine tablets (for water purification)
Lip balm
Oral rehydration salts
Oral thermometer
Pseudoephedrine HCL 30 mg (Sudafed)
Sterile gauze pads

Before You Leave: A Medical Checklist

If there has been any change in your health—physical, mental, or dental—since you submitted your examination reports to the Peace Corps, you must immediately notify the Office of Medical Services. Failure to disclose new illnesses, injuries, allergies, or pregnancy can endanger your health and may jeopardize your eligibility to serve.

If your dental exam was done more than a year ago, or if your physical exam is more than two years old, contact the Office of Medical Services to find out whether you need to update your records. If your dentist or Peace Corps dental consultant has recommended that you undergo dental treatment, you must complete that work and make sure your dentist sends the required reports or X-rays to the Office of Medical Services.

If you wish to avoid having duplicate vaccinations, obtain a copy of your immunization record and bring it with you. If you have any immunizations prior to Peace Corps service, the Peace Corps cannot reimburse you for the cost. The Peace Corps will provide all the immunizations necessary for your overseas assignment once you arrive in-country. You do not need to begin taking malaria medication prior to arrival.

Bring a three-month supply of any prescription or over-thecounter medication you use on a regular basis, including birth control pills. Although the Peace Corps cannot reimburse you for this three-month supply, it will order refills during your service. While awaiting shipment—which can take several weeks—you will be dependent on your own medication supply. The Peace Corps will not pay for herbal or nonprescribed medications, such as St. John’s Wort, glucosamine, selenium, or antioxidant supplements.

You are encouraged to bring copies of medical prescriptions signed by your physician. This is not a requirement, but they might come in handy if you are questioned in transit about carrying a three-month supply of prescription medications.

If you wear eyeglasses, bring two pairs with you—a pair and a spare. Peace Corps will replace one pair of glasses during your two-year term of service. We discourage you from using contact lenses during your service to reduce your risk of developing a serious infection or other eye disease. Most Peace Corps countries do not have appropriate water and sanitation to support eye care with the use of contact lenses. The Peace Corps will not supply or replace contact lenses or associated solutions unless an ophthalmologist has recommended their use for a specific medical condition and the Peace Corps’ Office of Medical Services has given approval.

If you are eligible for Medicare, are over 50 years of age, or have a health condition that may restrict your future participation in healthcare plans, you may wish to consult an insurance specialist about unique coverage needs before your departure. The Peace Corps will provide all necessary healthcare from the time you leave for your pre-departure orientation until you complete your service. When you finish, you will be entitled to the post-service healthcare benefits described in the Peace Corps Volunteer Handbook. You may wish to consider keeping an existing health plan in effect during your service if you think age or preexisting conditions might prevent you from reenrolling in your current plan when you return home.

Safety and Security—Our Partnership

Serving as a Volunteer overseas entails certain safety and security risks. Living and traveling in an unfamiliar environment, a limited understanding of the local language and culture, and the perception of being a wealthy American are some of the factors that can put a Volunteer at risk. Property thefts and burglaries are not uncommon. Incidents of physical and sexual assault do occur, although almost all Volunteers complete their two years of service without serious personal safety problems. In addition, more than 84 percent of Volunteers surveyed in the 2004 Peace Corps Volunteer Survey say they would join the Peace Corps again.

The Peace Corps approaches safety and security as a partnership with you. This Welcome Book contains sections on: Living Conditions and Volunteer Lifestyle; Peace Corps Training; and Your Health Care and Safety. All of these sections include important safety and security information.

The Peace Corps makes every effort to give Volunteers the tools they need to function in the safest and most secure way possible, because working to maximize the safety and security of Volunteers is our highest priority. Not only do we provide you with training and tools to prepare for the unexpected, but we teach you to identify and manage the risks you may encounter.

Factors that Contribute to Volunteer Risk

There are several factors that can heighten a Volunteer’s risk, many of which are within the Volunteer’s control. Based on information gathered from incident reports worldwide in 2004, the following factors stand out as risk characteristics for assaults. Assaults consist of personal crimes committed against Volunteers, and do not include property crimes (such as vandalism or theft).

Summary Strategies to Reduce Risk

Before and during service, your training will address these areas of concern so that you can reduce the risks you face.

For example, here are some strategies Volunteers employ:

Strategies to reduce the risk/impact of theft:

Support from Staff

In March 2003, the Peace Corps created the Office of Safety and Security with its mission to “foster improved communication, coordination, oversight, and accountability of all Peace Corps’ safety and security efforts.” The new office is led by an Associate Director for Safety and Security who reports to the Peace Corps Director and includes the following divisions: Volunteer Safety and Overseas Security; Information and Personnel Security; Emergency Preparedness, Plans, Training and Exercise; and Crime Statistics and Analysis.

The major responsibilities of the Volunteer Safety and Overseas Security Division are to coordinate the office’s overseas operations and direct the Peace Corps’ safety and security officers who are located in various regions around the world that have Peace Corps programs. The safety and security officers conduct security assessments; review safety trainings; train trainers and managers; train Volunteer safety wardens, local guards, and staff; develop security incident response procedures; and provide crisis management support.

If a trainee or Volunteer is the victim of a safety incident, Peace Corps staff is prepared to provide support. All Peace Corps posts have procedures in place to respond to incidents of crime committed against Volunteers. The first priority for all posts in the aftermath of an incident is to ensure that the Volunteer is safe and receiving medical treatment as needed. After assuring the safety of the Volunteer, Peace Corps staff provide support by reassessing the Volunteer’s work site and housing arrangements and making any adjustments, as needed. In some cases, the nature of the incident may necessitate a site or housing transfer. Peace Corps staff will also assist Volunteers with preserving their rights to pursue legal sanctions against the perpetrators of the crime. It is very important that Volunteers report incidents as they occur, not only to protect their peer Volunteers, but also to preserve the future right to prosecute. Should Volunteers decide later in the process that they want to proceed with the prosecution of their assailant, this option may no longer exist if the evidence of the event has not been preserved at the time of the incident.

The country-specific data chart below shows the incidence rates and the average number of incidents of the major types of safety incidents reported by Peace Corps Volunteers/ trainees in the Dominican Republic as compared to all other Inter-America and Pacific (IAP) region programs as a whole, from 2001–2005. It is presented to you in a somewhat technical manner for statistical accuracy.

To fully appreciate the collected data below, an explanation of the graph is provided as follows:

The incidence rate for each type of crime is the number of crime events relative to the Volunteer/trainee population. It is expressed on the chart as a ratio of crime to Volunteer and trainee years (or V/T years, which is a measure of 12 full months of V/T service) to allow for a statistically valid way to compare crime data across countries. An “incident” is a specific offense, per Peace Corps’ classification of offenses, and may involve one or more Volunteer/trainee victims. For example, if two Volunteers are robbed at the same time and place, this is classified as one robbery incident.

The chart is separated into eight crime categories. These include vandalism (malicious defacement or damage of property); theft (taking without force or illegal entry); burglary (forcible entry of a residence); robbery (taking something by force); minor physical assault (attacking without a weapon with minor injuries); minor sexual assault (fondling, groping, etc.); aggravated assault (attacking with a weapon, and/or without a weapon when serious injury results); and rape (sexual intercourse without consent).

When anticipating Peace Corps Volunteer service, you should review all of the safety and security information provided to you, including the strategies to reduce risk. Throughout your training and Volunteer service, you will be expected to successfully complete all training competencies in a variety of areas including safety and security. Once in-country, use the tools and information shared with you to remain as safe and secure as possible.

What If You Become a Victim of a Violent Crime?

Few Peace Corps Volunteers are victims of violent crimes. The Peace Corps will give you information and training in how to be safe. But, just as in the U.S., crime happens, and Volunteers can become victims. When this happens, the investigative team of the Office of Inspector General (OIG) is charged with helping pursue prosecution of those who perpetrate a violent crime against a Volunteer. If you become a victim of a violent crime, the decision to prosecute or not to prosecute is entirely yours, and one of the tasks of the OIG is to make sure that you are fully informed of your options and help you through the process and procedures involved in going forward with prosecution should you wish to do so. If you decide to prosecute, we are here to assist you in every way we can.

Crimes that occur overseas, of course, are investigated and prosecuted by local authorities in local courts. Our role is to coordinate the investigation and evidence collection with the regional security officers (RSOs) at the U.S. embassy, local police, and local prosecutors and others to ensure that your rights are protected to the fullest extent possible under the laws of the country. OIG investigative staff has extensive experience in criminal investigation, in working sensitively with victims, and as advocates for victims. We also, may, in certain limited circumstances, arrange for the retention of a local lawyer to assist the local public prosecutor in making the case against the individual who perpetrated the violent crime.

If you do become a victim of a violent crime, first, make sure you are in a safe place and with people you trust and second, contact the country director or the Peace Corps medical officer. Immediate reporting is important to the preservation of evidence and the chances of apprehending the suspect. Country directors and medical officers are required to report all violent crimes to the Inspector General and the RSO. This information is protected from unauthorized further disclosure by the Privacy Act. Reporting the crime also helps prevent your further victimization and protects your fellow Volunteers.

In conjunction with the RSO, the OIG does a preliminary investigation of all violent crimes against Volunteers regardless of whether the crime has been reported to local authorities or of the decision you may ultimately make to prosecute. If you are a victim of a crime, our staff will work with you through final disposition of the case. OIG staff is available 24 hours-a-day, 7 days-a-week. We may be contacted through our 24-hour violent crime hotline via telephone at 202.692.2911, or by e-mail at [email protected]

Security Issues in the Dominican Republic

When it comes to your safety and security in the Peace Corps, you have to be willing to adapt your behavior and lifestyle to minimize the potential for being a target of crime. As with anywhere in the world, crime does exist in the Dominican Republic. You can reduce your risk by avoiding situations that make you feel uncomfortable and by taking precautions. Crime at the village or town level is less frequent than in the large cities; people know each other and generally will not steal from their neighbors. Tourist attractions in large towns, for instance, are favorite work sites for pickpockets. The following are safety concerns in the Dominican Republic you should be aware of:

Motor vehicle accidents. These are the single greatest risk to your safety in the Dominican Republic. You are strongly encouraged to wear seat belts whenever available and to avoid riding in overcrowded public buses or vans. Volunteers are not allowed to drive motorized vehicles and are prohibited from traveling long distances in cars or buses at night. When you travel for official business, the Peace Corps will reimburse your expenses for bus or airline tickets.

Robbery/burglary. Some Volunteers’ homes have been robbed in the past, so you need to exercise the same precautions that you would in the United States. The Peace Corps will provide information on proper home safety during training and requires landlords to install deadbolt locks on all Volunteer housing. In addition, many Americans and Dominicans have been the victims of muggings, especially in Santo Domingo.

A common strategy of muggers is for a man to walk up behind a person and grab his or her cellphone, bag, or purse, making a getaway on a motorcycle driven by a partner. It is therefore important to travel on well-lit streets at night with other people around you.

Border conflicts. Dominicans and Haitians have had border conflicts in the past. At times, the disputes have resulted in gunfire and the involvement of the military. For safety reasons, you must get approval from Peace Corps staff before traveling to Haiti.

Harassment. Volunteers have reported varying levels of harassment, such as sexual comments and being called derogatory names, though this rarely happens at Volunteers’ sites, where they are known. Strategies for dealing and coping with harassment will be discussed during pre-service training.

Alcohol abuse. The Dominican Republic has a higher rate of alcoholism than the United States. Volunteers have reported being approached by drunken men asking for money and alcohol. It is best to avoid frequenting non-hotel bars, particularly at night. Alcohol use impairs judgment and must be consumed responsibly. The Peace Corps does not tolerate public drunkenness by Volunteers, which can lead to termination of their service.

Sexual assault. Volunteers have been targets of sexual assault in the Dominican Republic. Alcohol consumption and cross-cultural differences in gender relations often are associated with sexual assaults. In addition, the assailant often is an acquaintance of the Volunteer. Volunteers who take seriously the training provided by the Peace Corps regarding sexual assaults will minimize their risk. Volunteers are urged to report all assaults and threats of assault to the Peace Corps medical officer so that staff can respond with appropriate support. (Note that sex outside of marriage is not looked upon favorably in the Dominican Republic and that promiscuous behavior on your part may jeopardize your safety or your ability to develop mutually respectful relationships in your community and your job.)

Staying Safe: Don’t Be a Target for Crime

You must be prepared to take on a large degree of responsibility for your own safety. Only you can make yourself less of a target, ensure that your home is secure, and develop relations in your community that will make you an unlikely victim of crime. In coming to the Dominican Republic, do what you would do if you moved to a large city in the United States:

Be cautious, check things out, ask questions, learn about your neighborhood, know where the more risky locations are, use common sense, and be aware. You can reduce your vulnerability to crime by integrating into your community, learning the local language, acting responsibly, and abiding by Peace Corps policies and procedures. Serving safely and effectively in the Dominican Republic may require that you accept some restrictions on your current lifestyle.

Volunteers attract a lot of attention both in large cities and at their sites, but they are likely to receive more negative attention in highly populated centers than at their sites, where “family,” friends, and colleagues look out for them. While whistles and exclamations are fairly common on the street, this behavior can be reduced if you dress conservatively, avoid eye contact, and do not respond to unwanted attention. Keep your money out of sight by using an undergarment money pouch, the kind that hangs around your neck and stays hidden under your shirt or inside your coat. Do not keep your money in outside pockets of backpacks, in coat pockets, or in fanny packs, and do not carry beepers or cellphones in visible places, as they are common targets of robbers. Always walk with a companion at night.

Preparing for the Unexpected: Safety Training and Volunteer Support in the Dominican Republic

The Peace Corps’ approach to safety is a five-pronged plan to help you stay safe during your two-year service and includes the following: Information sharing, Volunteer training, site selection criteria, a detailed emergency action plan, and protocols for reporting and responding to safety and security incidents. The Dominican Republic’s in-country safety program is outlined below.

The Peace Corps/Dominican Republic office will keep Volunteers informed of any issues that may impact Volunteer safety through information sharing. Regular updates will be provided in Volunteer newsletters and in memorandums from the country director. In the event of a critical situation or emergency, Volunteers will be contacted through the emergency communication network.

Volunteer training will include sessions on specific safety and security issues in the Dominican Republic. This training will prepare you to adopt a culturally appropriate lifestyle and exercise judgment that promotes safety and reduces risk in your home, at work, and while traveling. Safety training is offered throughout service and is integrated into the language, cross-cultural, health, and other components of training.

Certain site selection criteria are used to determine safe housing for Volunteers before their arrival. The Peace Corps staff works closely with host communities and counterpart agencies to help prepare them for a Volunteer’s arrival and to establish expectations of their respective roles in supporting the Volunteer. Each site is inspected before the Volunteer’s arrival to ensure placement in appropriate, safe, and secure housing and work sites. Site selection is based in part on any relevant site history; access to medical, banking, postal, and other essential services; availability of communications, transportation, and markets; different housing options and living arrangements; and other Volunteer support needs.

You will also learn about Peace Corps/Dominican Republic’s detailed emergency action plan, which is implemented in the event of civil or political unrest or a natural disaster. When you arrive at your site, you will complete and submit a site locator form with your address, contact information, and a map to your house. If there is a security threat, Volunteers in the Dominican Republic will gather at predetermined locations until the situation is resolved or the Peace Corps decides to evacuate.

Finally, in order for the Peace Corps to be fully responsive to the needs of Volunteers, it is imperative that Volunteers immediately report any security incident to the Peace Corps safety and security coordinator. The Peace Corps has established protocols for addressing safety and security incidents in a timely and appropriate manner, and it collects and evaluates safety and security data to track trends and develop strategies to minimize risks to future Volunteers.


In fulfilling the Peace Corps’ mandate to share the face of America with our host countries, we are making special efforts to see that all of America’s richness is reflected in the Volunteer corps. More Americans of color are serving in today’s Peace Corps than at any time in recent years. Differences in race, ethnic background, age, religion, and sexual orientation are expected and welcomed among our Volunteers. Part of the Peace Corps’ mission is to help dispel any notion that Americans are all of one origin or race and to establish that each of us is as thoroughly American as the other despite our many differences.

Our diversity helps us accomplish that goal. In other ways, however, it poses challenges. In the Dominican Republic, as in other Peace Corps host countries, Volunteers’ behavior, lifestyle, background, and beliefs are judged in a cultural context very different from their own. Certain personal perspectives or characteristics commonly accepted in the United States may be quite uncommon, unacceptable, or even repressed in the Dominican Republic.

Outside of the Dominican Republic’s capital and tourist centers, residents of rural communities have had relatively little direct exposure to other cultures, races, religions, and lifestyles. What people view as typical American behavior or norms may be a misconception, such as the belief that all Americans are rich and have blond hair and blue eyes.

The people of the Dominican Republic are known for their generous hospitality to foreigners; however, members of the community in which you will live may display a range of reactions to cultural differences that you present. In particular, there are still subtle to overt forms of racial discrimination that are seen on a regular basis towards darker-skinned persons due to the historical tensions between Dominicans and Haitians.

To ease the transition and adapt to life in the Dominican Republic, you may need to make some temporary, yet fundamental compromises in how you present yourself as an American and as an individual. For example, female trainees and Volunteers may not be able to exercise the independence available to them in the United States; political discussions need to be handled with great care; and some of your personal beliefs may best remain undisclosed. You will need to develop techniques and personal strategies for coping with these and other limitations. The Peace Corps staff will lead diversity and sensitivity discussions during pre-service training and will be on call to provide support, but the challenge ultimately will be your own.

Overview of Diversity in the Dominican Republic

The Peace Corps staff in the Dominican Republic recognizes adjustment issues that come with diversity and will endeavor to provide support and guidance. During pre-service training, several sessions will be held to discuss diversity and coping mechanisms. We look forward to having male and female Volunteers from a variety of races, ethnic groups, ages, religions, and sexual orientations, and hope that you will become part of a diverse group of Americans who take pride in supporting one another and demonstrating the richness of American culture.

What Might a Volunteer Face?

Possible Issues for Female Volunteers

Female Volunteers should know that Dominican society has elements of machismo. Men often hiss and make comments to women walking by, and women must learn to deal with this by completely ignoring men who behave in this way. Most female Volunteers never fully accept this sexual harassment, but, rather, develop a tolerance within which they are able to function effectively. Dating for American women in the Dominican Republic is also a sensitive subject. The Dominican culture follows its own guidelines as relates to male-female relationships; for example, female Volunteers who live alone should not invite males into their home unless they have intentions of beginning a serious relationship with the man.

Possible Issues for Volunteers of Color

In rural sites and even in some cities, Volunteers are usually the only foreign resident and receive extra attention, especially because of their racial or ethnic background. Volunteers in certain areas of the country are more prone to racial discrimination than others. African-American Volunteers in the northwest or near the Haitian border, for example, may be asked for their passports. Most Volunteers of color say that despite initial confusion regarding their nationality and discrimination, they are well-received in their communities.

African-American Volunteers may face some unique challenges. They are sometimes mistaken for Dominicans or Haitians. If seen as Dominican, this can lead to an expectation of Spanish fluency; if seen as Haitian, it can result in poor treatment by Dominicans. African-American Volunteers should be prepared to face mild cases of discrimination and racism. However, Volunteers should remain open-minded and calm. Many of these situations are due to lack of education and the history of the Dominican Republic. On the other hand, misidentification with black ethnic groups other than Haitians, such as members of the English-speaking Eastern Caribbean population, may lead to faster acceptance. Female African-American Volunteers should also be prepared to face issues concerning their hair. The straightness of a woman’s hair is considered an important quality by many. Though natural hairstyles are accepted, they are not as highly looked upon as straight hair. Relaxers, usually manufactured locally, are available for Volunteers who wish to use them. US brand name hair products may be available but they may be more expensive.

Hispanic American Volunteers may be surprised to find that some Dominicans are unaware that not all Hispanic Americans are of Mexican origin. Because there is a small population of Dominicans of South Asian descent, some Asian-American Volunteers have been misidentified as Dominicans, especially in urban areas.

Possible Issues for Senior Volunteers

Approximately 5 percent of Volunteers in the Dominican Republic are seniors. The vast majority of other people in the Peace Corps community are in their 20s. Service in the Dominican Republic can present significant social and logistical issues for senior Volunteers. Dealing with family emergencies, maintaining lifelong friendships, and arranging power of attorney for financial matters may be more problematic for older Volunteers than younger ones. Still, senior Volunteers find Dominicans, the Peace Corps staff, and fellow Volunteers to be very welcoming.

Possible Issues for Gay, Lesbian, or Bisexual Volunteers

Homosexual or bisexual Volunteers are not able to express their sexual orientation as openly as they may have in the United States because of cultural differences and machismo in the Dominican Republic. Because of prejudice against homosexuals in Dominican society, it is wise to know your community and co-workers well before disclosing your sexual orientation.

While there are certainly homosexuals in the Dominican Republic, they do not have the level of acceptance found in much of the United States. Although some Dominicans consider homosexuality immoral, their view of homosexuality among foreigners may be quite different from their view of homosexuality among nationals. Styles of hair and clothes and earrings on men may be considered inappropriate by Dominicans.

Most Dominican homosexuals probably have migrated to larger cities, but many Peace Corps Volunteers are posted in small communities. Relationships with homosexual or bisexual host country nationals can happen, but as with other cross-cultural relationships, they may not be easy.

Possible Religious Issues for Volunteers

Volunteers are frequently asked about their religious affiliation and may be invited to attend a community church. Volunteers not in the practice of attending church may be challenged to explain their reluctance, but it is possible to politely decline if the church or religion is not one of your choice. Most Volunteers find effective ways to cope with this and feel quite at home in the Dominican Republic.

Possible Issues for Volunteers With Disabilities

As a disabled Volunteer in the Dominican Republic, you may find that you face a special set of challenges. In the Dominican Republic, as in other parts of the world, some people may hold prejudicial attitudes about individuals with disabilities and may discriminate against them. What is more, there is very little of the infrastructure to accommodate individuals with disabilities that has been developed in the United States.

As part of the medical clearance process, the Peace Corps Office of Medical Services determined that you were physically and emotionally capable, with or without reasonable accommodations, to perform a full tour of Volunteer service in the Dominican Republic without unreasonable risk of harm to yourself or interruption of your service. The Peace Corps/ Dominican Republic staff will work with disabled Volunteers to make reasonable accommodations in training, housing, job sites, or other areas to enable them to serve safely and effectively.

Possible Issues for Married Volunteers

Being a married couple in the Peace Corps has its advantages and its challenges. It helps to have someone by your side to share your experience with, but there are also cultural expectations that can cause stress in a marriage. It is important to remember that you are in a foreign country with new rules and you need to be open-minded about cultural differences. A couple may have to take on some new roles.

A married man may be encouraged by Dominicans to be the more dominant member in the relationship, be encouraged to make decisions independently of his spouse, or be ridiculed when he performs domestic tasks. A married woman may find herself in a less independent role than she is accustomed to or may be expected to perform “traditional” domestic chores such as cooking or cleaning. She may also experience a more limited social life in the community than single Volunteers (since it may be assumed that she will be busy taking care of her husband). Competition between a couple may become a difficulty, especially if one spouse learns faster than the other (e.g., language skills, job skills). There also may be differences in job satisfaction and/or different needs between spouses. Younger Volunteers may look to couples for advice and support. Married couples also are likely to be treated with more respect because the community sees marriage as a responsibility. They may be asked when they will have children.


How much luggage am I allowed to bring to the Dominican Republic?

Most airlines have baggage size and weight limits and assess charges for transport of baggage that exceeds those limits. The Peace Corps has its own size and weight limits and will not pay the cost of transport for baggage that exceeds these limits. The Peace Corps’ authorized baggage allowance is two checked pieces of luggage with combined linear dimensions of both pieces not to exceed 107 inches (length + width + height) and a carry-on bag with dimensions of no more than 45 inches. Checked baggage should not exceed 80 pounds total with a maximum weight of 50 pounds for any one bag.

Peace Corps Volunteers are not allowed to take pets, weapons, explosives, radio transmitters (shortwave radios are permitted), automobiles, or motorcycles to their overseas assignments. Do not pack flammable materials or liquids such as lighter fluid, cleaning solvents, hair spray, or aerosol containers. This is an important safety precaution.

What is the electric current in the Dominican Republic?

It is 110 volts, 60 cycles (similar to that in the United States). Many Volunteers do not have electricity in their houses or have it for only a few hours a day.

How much money should I bring?

Volunteers are expected to live at the same level as the people in their community. They are given a settling-in allowance and a monthly living allowance, which should cover their expenses. Often Volunteers wish to bring additional money for vacation travel to other countries. Credit cards and traveler’s checks are preferable to cash. If you choose to bring extra money, bring the amount that will suit your own travel plans and needs.

When can I take vacation and have people visit me?

Each Volunteer accrues two vacation days per month of service (excluding training). Leave may not be taken during training, the first three months of service, or the last three months of service, except in conjunction with an authorized emergency leave. Family and friends are welcome to visit you after you have completed pre-service training and the first three months of service as long as their stay does not interfere with your work. Extended stays at your site are not encouraged and may require permission from your country director. The Peace Corps is not able to provide your visitors with visa, medical, or travel assistance.

Will my belongings be covered by insurance?

The Peace Corps does not provide insurance coverage for personal effects; Volunteers are ultimately responsible for the safekeeping of their personal belongings. However, you can purchase such insurance before you leave. If you wish, you may contact your own insurance company; additionally, insurance application forms will be provided, and we encourage you to consider them carefully. Volunteers should not ship or take valuable items overseas. Jewelry, watches, radios, cameras, and expensive appliances are subject to loss, theft, and breakage, and in many places, satisfactory maintenance and repair services are not available.

Do I need an international driver’s license?

Volunteers in the Dominican Republic do not need an international driver’s license because they are prohibited from operating motorized vehicles. Most urban travel is by bus or taxi. Rural travel ranges from buses and minibuses to trucks and lots of walking.

What should I bring as gifts for Dominican friends and my host family?

This is not a requirement. A token of friendship is sufficient. Some gift suggestions include knickknacks for the house; pictures, books, or calendars of American scenes; souvenirs from your area; hard candies that will not melt or spoil; or baseball cards or photos to give away.

Where will my site assignment be when I finish training and how isolated will I be?

Peace Corps trainees are not assigned to individual sites until after they have completed pre-service training. This gives Peace Corps staff the opportunity to assess each trainee’s technical and language skills prior to assigning sites, in addition to finalizing site selections with their ministry counterparts. If feasible, you may have the opportunity to provide input on your site preferences, including geographical location, distance from other Volunteers, and living conditions. However, keep in mind that many factors influence the site selection process and that the Peace Corps cannot guarantee placement where you would ideally like to be. Most Volunteers live in small towns or in rural villages and are usually within one hour from another Volunteer. Some sites require an 8- to 10-hour drive from the capital. There is at least one Volunteer based in each of the regional capitals and about five to eight Volunteers in the capital city.

How can my family contact me in an emergency?

The Peace Corps’ Office of Special Services provides assistance in handling emergencies affecting trainees and Volunteers or their families. Before leaving the United States, instruct your family to notify the Office of Special Services immediately if an emergency arises, such as a serious illness or death of a family member. During normal business hours, the number for the Office of Special Services is 800.424.8580, extension 1470. After normal business hours and on weekends and holidays, the Special Services duty officer can be reached at 202.638.2574. For nonemergency questions, your family can get information from your country desk staff at the Peace Corps by calling 800.424.8580.

Can I call home from the Dominican Republic?

Yes, you can call the United States easily from the Dominican Republic. Many businesses sell calling cards that work with any phone.

Should I bring a cellular phone with me?

You do not need to bring a cellular telephone with you; Peace Corps/Dominican Republic issues a cellphone to each Volunteer to ensure efficient communication with staff. Your phone can also be used to call internationally or locally by using a calling card, however not all areas of the country currently have cellphone service

Will there be e-mail and Internet access?

Many communities have computer centers or Internet cafes that provide e-mail and Internet access, and the resource center at the Peace Corps/Dominican Republic office has computers for Volunteer use. It is a good idea to set up a Hotmail or Yahoo! account before you leave the United States so you have an e-mail address family and friends can use to contact you in the Dominican Republic.


This list has been compiled by Volunteers serving in the Dominican Republic and is based on their experience. Use it as an informal guide in making your own list, bearing in mind that experience is individual. There is no perfect list! You obviously cannot bring everything we mention, so consider those items that make the most sense to you personally and professionally, considering your work sector.. Please keep in mind two important factors that might affect your decision on what to buy and what to bring: 1) you have a baggage weight limit; and 2) You can get almost everything that you need in the Dominican Republic.

General Clothing

Dominican extension workers in forestry and water (male or female) usually wear a button-down short- or long-sleeved shirt, neat trousers, boots and a hat. Volunteers in health, education, youth, and small business projects will find that their co-workers often are casual-professional in their dress. In general, men wear pants and short-sleeved sports shirts or Dominican chacabanas (also called guyaberas), and women wear skirts or pants with nice tops. Worn, torn, patched, tight, overly baggy, or very low-cut clothes are not appropriate for Volunteers. Nor is military-style clothing (i.e., camouflage or olive-green Army surplus items). Also, shorts and flip-flops are not appropriate to wear, either to work or when visiting the office in Santo Domingo. Following are suggested items for both men and women.

For Men

For Women


You can buy almost anything available in the United States in the way of clothing and toiletries in the Dominican Republic. However, if you have any favorite brands of toiletries or cosmetics, you may want to bring a supply, as most imported items are considerably more expensive here than in the United States.

You can easily buy most kitchen supplies (e.g., dishes, pots, glasses, and utensils) locally. There are a few items you might consider bringing:


Items You Do Not Need to Bring

The following items are either available in-country or provided by the Peace Corps:


The following list consists of suggestions for you to consider as you prepare to live outside the United States for two years. Not all items will be relevant to everyone, and the list does not include everything you should make arrangements for.





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