The Dominican Republic
This nation of over ten million occupies two-thirds of the island of Hispaniola. The Dominican Republic is home to gorgeous beaches, rainforests, the highest mountain and largest lake in the Caribbean, rich farmland and a vibrant mix of cultures. The country’s warm-hearted people emerge from a history heavy with Taino genocide, enslavement of Africans and, in the 20th century, U.S. occupation and a violent 30-year dictatorship. After centuries of exploitation, Dominican children and adults today face widespread poverty, malnutrition, environmental degradation, lack of access to health care and education, and minimal economic opportunity.
The village of Cruz Verde is located in the Yabacao region of the Monte Plata province. Sister Island Project Co-Director Victoria Santos was born in Cruz Verde and spent her early childhood there. Her roots in the community reach back generations, and her networks and history with community members support strong, culturally grounded partnerships as well as unique opportunities for volunteers.
This economically impoverished rural area is populated by people of the African Diaspora: Dominicans of African descent and Dominican Haitians. Post-high school education requires travel to the capital, Santo Domingo. School expenses and transport costs, as well as other challenges, lead an estimated 3 out of 4 students from the Yabacao region to abandon their studies. Yet there is virtually no employment in Cruz Verde. For this reason, young adults often must move away to work for low wages in Santo Domingo, which separates families and weakens the social fabric and future of rural communities.