Peace Corps Initiative: Declaro mis Derechos

Without an officially recognized birth certificate, a child in the Dominican Republic can’t go to school, receive medical care in a public hospital or, when he or she turns 18, apply for a national identity card (cédula). Without a cédula, he or she can’t vote, get a job in anything but the low-paid “informal” sector of the economy, open a bank account, go to college, enroll in social security, get a passport, or get a recognized birth certificate for his or her own children.

Getting an officially recognized birth certificate is not automatic. Parents must go to the civil registry office to declare their child within 60 days of birth. If they miss that deadline, or aren’t permitted to register their child because they themselves lack a cédula, the process becomes more difficult. Illiteracy, poor official recordkeeping, lost hospital records, the cost of traveling to government offices and paying required fees – and sometimes anti-Haitian discrimination –create additional barriers. (This is by no means a Haitian immigrant problem only; high percentage of undocumented children are [ethnically] Dominican).

As a result, an estimated 1 to 2 million children and adults in the Dominican Republic, perhaps more, lack either a birth certificate or a cédula. Most are poor people living in the countryside or in poor bateys near sugar centrals. Many are Dominican-born children of Haitian parents who have lived in the Dominican Republic all their lives.

Over the past two years, Peace Corps Volunteers have developed a pilot program called “Declaro mis Derechos” (“I Declare my Rights”) designed to train unpaid local “legal promoters” to make people in their communities aware of their rights and help them obtain needed documents.

Members of FDR discussed this initiative with the Lead Volunteers at the 50th Reunion last February in Santo Domingo. A panel presentation on the issue struck a chord with enough attendees that they pledged a total of $2,245 help support the effort. After a successful  “promotor” training program in El Seibo, the FDR Board of Directors approved a grant request of $1,500 to support a series of three full-day training workshops to be held in Bánica, just a few miles from the border of Haiti. To read more about this exciting initiative and FDR’s involvement, please click here

Peace Corps Initiative: Construye tus SueƱos

The seventh annual Construye tus Sueños National Business Plan Competition and Conference is the yearly culmination of the Peace Corps’ youth entrepreneurship initiative in which Volunteers facilitate an intensive business education course and practicum for youth from marginalized communities. The intent is to help them realize their ideas and dreams about starting and maintaining self-sustaining small businesses and thereby improving the economic conditions of their communities. After graduating in July from this course, 70 at-risk Dominican youth submitted 34 business plans for review by a panel of professional representatives. Of these, 16 of the most competitive were selected by the panel to compete for funds to start their small businesses.

Every group that submitted a business plan was invited to the three day conference which featured the competition, inspirational speakers, educational activities, and a micro-finance and savings fair. The 16 groups presented their business plans which were evaluated on feasibility, focusing especially on the thoroughness of their market research, their knowledge of present and future competition, the discipline of their budgets, and their level of innovation or environmental progressiveness. By the end, six businesses were selected by a panel of judges and two additional groups were each given 10,000 pesos for product development. Among the winners were a cafeteria, a beauty salon, and a computer center. To read more, click here

Peace Corps Initiative: Somos Mujeres

In late 2010, two Peace Corps Volunteers, Kaitlyn Malkiewicz ('09-'12) and Bob Tuttle ('09-'12), began "Somos Mujeres" (We are Women), a program that now is a countrywide initiative. In San Cristobal in March and in Jarabacoa in April, 80 Dominican women hosted by 27 Peace Corps volunteers came together for the 2012 Somos Mujeres Regional Conferences. These 3-day events focused on empowering women to become leaders by enacting positive, sustainable changes in their communities, organizations, and families. For most of these women, this was a once-in-a-lifetime experience!

 

Healthy cooking, the importance of exercise, and general women's health issues were important topics discussed during these conferences. Volunteers presented interactive "charlas" on the detection of breast and cervical cancer, prevention of heart disease and diabetes and, most importantly, HIV/AIDS and proper condom use.  

 

Community Economic Development volunteers used their expertise to assist women in starting or strengthening their own small businesses. This activity, along with exercises in family budgeting and savings promoted a degree of economic independence. When a woman is more economically independent her self-confidence rises and she becomes much more likely to take better care of herself and her children.

Somos Mujeres conference
Participants of the Somos Mujeres conference in Jarabacoa 

Throughout the three days, the PCVs encouraged the participants to see each other as resources and become a network of strong, local female leaders. By building their know-how, their confidence, and their network, Somos Mujeres helps women make positive changes in their families and their communities.  

 

For more information on how you can help educate and empower women in the Dominican Republic, please visit Somos Mujeres on Facebook.

Peace Corps Initiative: Brigada Verde


Brigada Verde group near Bonao giving their musical charla.

Brigada Verde is a good example of a cross-sector initiative and is an environmental component of the national youth service initiative, Sirve Quisqueya. Its mission is to promote leadership and civic action among Dominican youth through the implementation of environmental education activities and environmental youth groups.  Members are youth promoters who raise awareness of environmental issues in their local communities and spur action to counter practices detrimental to the environment. These youth serve as multiplicadores, or trainers, who are trained to teach others to be leaders and protectors of their local environments through workshops, classes, community action activities (earth day celebrations, summer camps, community trash clean-ups) and promotion of youth leadership.