History of the Peace Corps in Dominican Republic
|History of the Peace Corps|
|Since 1960, when then Senator John F. Kennedy challenged students at the University of Michigan to serve their country in the cause of peace by living and working in developing countries, more than 182,000 Peace Corps Volunteers have served in 138 countries all over the globe.
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.