CRS Work in Dominican Republic
Working with community leaders, beneficiaries and their families, Catholic Relief Services' programs in the Dominican Republic foster human development and community empowerment. CRS works primarily through Caritas Dominicana and secular civic organizations. Currently, CRS works in four key sectors where continued action and assistance are vital:
Providing Refugee Assistance
The most marginalized people in the Dominican Republic are Haitian immigrants and Dominicans of Haitian descent living in rural area border towns, urban slums and bateyes (shantytowns once used to house sugar industry workers). Though there are Dominicans living in conditions of poverty in the Dominican Republic, Haitian immigrants face additional threats to their well-being, including racial discrimination, exploitation and deportation.
CRS partners with the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the Dominican Episcopal Conference's Haitian Pastorate to provide emergency and humanitarian assistance—including temporary housing, food, health care and basic education—to Haitian refugees and asylum seekers, particularly children, single mothers and the elderly. The assistance is intended primarily for Haitian refugees and asylum seekers as recognized by UNHCR, but the Haitian Pastorate also assists needy migrants on a case-by-case basis.
To give families the opportunity to increase their incomes, CRS provides training in financial self-management, including skills training, and provides small grants for starting small businesses. With newly approved support from the U.S. government, CRS will expand our focus to assist refugee, asylum-seeking, and stateless Haitian girls and women who have been, or are at risk of becoming, victims of gender-based violence in the Dominican Republic. The project will involve both men and women in addressing the problem, and will work to educate government authorities.
Strengthening Human Rights Networks
CRS partners are in the process of training, consolidating and strengthening the Human Rights Network, a coalition of 30 human rights committees operating in Dominican-Haitian communities throughout the Dominican Republic. With CRS support, our partners train the leaders of these member committees—many of them community leaders and schoolteachers—to promote peace and serve as conflict mediators. A significant impact of CRS' human rights training has been the change in the way local, municipal and provincial authorities respond to the demands of community leaders.
CRS and our partners work to ensure respect for the human rights of Dominicans and Haitians along the border by:
- providing legal representation for victims of human rights violations in Dominican courts
- obtaining legal documents
- providing advice on immigrant rights and responsibilities
Worker Rights Support
To attack the root causes of labor violations and support a culture of labor law compliance, CRS Dominican Republic, in partnership with Jesuit Refugee Service, runs four worker rights centers. Established to educate workers about labor rights and provide them with legal guidance concerning the procedures and documentation needed to exercise those rights, the centers are part of a regional effort that includes CRS programs in all six countries participating in the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA).
Street Children and Adolescents
For the last three years, CRS and five local partners have implemented the Niños, Niñas y Adolescentes (Boys, Girls and Adolescents) project, funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). The program, implemented through a consortium of five grass-roots leaders, helps children and youth who live and work in the street by providing them with quality care, protection and support. The project has provided holistic support to 4,040 children and youth. This success prompted USAID to continue funding the initiative through a follow-up project called "Learning Together," which aims to reach an additional 950 at-risk children and their families. In this second stage, CRS will expand learning opportunities for street children by creating a computer-based learning program for math and reading, and by opening a number of study centers in the neighborhoods where the participating children live.
The Ministry of Health of the Dominican Republic estimates that between 1.1 and 1.9 percent of the population in the country is HIV-positive. However, because the rate of teenage pregnancy is high—up to 40 percent for adolescent girls—and because many people living with HIV are under the age of 17, the spread of sexually transmitted diseases among young people merits special attention. Health officials believe tourism has played a major role in the spread of the virus, as has a large network of sexually trafficked women and men, many of them victims from Haiti, where HIV rates are higher. In the bateyes, the prevalence is even higher. Meanwhile, more than half of all women living in bateyes claim to feel no risk of contracting the disease.
In coordination with the Caritas network, CRS works to reduce stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV and their families, while improving their access to quality health care. CRS provides HIV testing combined with counseling and emergency assistance, including food and emergency health care, as well as home visits to families affected by HIV. To control the spread of the disease and reduce the stigma associated with it, CRS and our partners develop and distribute educational material and use radio spots to raise awareness. We also train youth leaders to educate their peers about prevention and abstinence through street theater, educational workshops and presentations in schools.
In the border cities of Dajabon in the Dominican Republic, and Wanament in Haiti, children and teens are at heightened risk due to high cross-border migration, extreme poverty and a collective lack of awareness and acknowledgment about the risks of HIV and AIDS. To help reduce the prevalence of sexual activity among young people, CRS and partners train teachers and peer educators between the ages of 10 and 18 to promote abstinence as a path out of danger.
Hurricanes, tropical storms and floods exact a devastating toll on the Dominican Republic. Last year, Tropical Storm Noel, the deadliest storm to hit the region since 2004, killed 56 people and left thousands more homeless in the Dominican Republic. Having worked in the Dominican Republic for more than 40 years, CRS has built key relationships with local Church partners to help maximize the community's preparedness and response to such disasters. We invest heavily each year in stocking warehouses with supplies—plastic sheeting, water containers, mosquito nets and more—so we can meet people’s immediate needs. CRS routinely conducts disaster and emergency preparedness training with partners throughout the Caribbean, and has drafted an emergency preparedness and response plan jointly with Caritas Dominicana.