Friends of the Dominican Republic first began supporting Brigada Verde, the Peace Corps’ youth environmental conscious program in 2013 when it provided $1,500 towards its national conference in Jarabacoa in 2013. In 2018 it funded Brigada Verde’s first three regional workshops held in Dajabon, Elias Pina and El Seibo at a cost of $1,460.
The 63 attendees at the regional workshops were young people who are members of local Brigada Verde youth groups led by Peace Corps Volunteers and their counterparts in their mostly rural communities. The PCVs and local leaders collaborated with 18 students from the National Environmental School to plan and organize the one-day workshops. The students from the environmental school, who are working towards associate degrees in environmental conservation, designed the curriculum and conducted the workshop sessions. The focus of each workshop depended on the interests of local groups. For the two near the Haitian border the focus was deforestation and reforestation and for the workshop near El Siebo the focus was family gardens and composting. A major part of the PSF grant was for transportation of the students to and from the workshops. The residential school is located in Jarabacoa. PSF also supplied students and faculty at the school with more than 60 copies of the 140-page Brigada Verde teaching manual used by PCVs to help organize local Brigada Verde groups.
“I was very impressed with the students from the environmental school,” said Chloe Kouglas, one of the two PCV coordinators for the Brigada Verde program. FDR and the Peace Corps Volunteers are hoping to continue building a strong relationship with faculty and staff at the state-run Environmental School as a way to sustain Brigada Verde in the future. Martha Fernandez, director of the school, said this will also benefit the school and its students because an important part of the school’s mission is to give its students an opportunity to practice their teaching and leadership skills as a way of promoting awareness of the need to protect the natural environment.