Annual Report 2015

We connect our Peace Corps community to promote appreciation of and service to the people of the Dominican Republic
2015 Annual Report

Friends of the Dominican Republic (FDR) is a non-profit corporation created to continue supporting Peace Corps’ work in the Dominican Republic. We summarize our work quite simply: 

We are a “cyber-based” membership organization of former and current Dominican Republic Peace Corps Volunteers, staff, and supporters. Our members:
  • Raise funds to support the work of current Volunteers in the Dominican Republic, 
  • Advance the Third Goal of Peace Corps by sharing our knowledge of the Dominican Republic with other Americans, and
  • Foster “connectedness” by growing our membership network to provide news and information about Peace Corps DR and encourage participation in and support for our work.

For 2015 we continued working on our strategic goals:
Goal 1: Focus on Organizational Sustainability
Goal 2:   Strengthen Core Programs
Goal 3: Increase Membership/Supporter Involvement 

FDR’s Significant Accomplishments in 2015
  • Funded 15 community projects in cooperation with Peace Corps and current Volunteers in the Dominican Republic by providing over 4$42,000, benefitting 6,876 Dominicans.
  • Initiated a University Scholarship Pilot Program with former Virginia Tech athletes and staff to send two Dominican youth leaders to college.
  • Provided Program Support Funds to print 100 copies of a Spanish language Brigada Verde manual for use by current PCVs to support their environmental projects.
  • Initiated a partnership with American University’s Peace Corps Community Archives to accept materials donated by FDR’s RPCV members for the Dominican Republic section of the archives.
  • Published five editions of La Voz, our electronic newsletter that was sent to more than 2,800 FDR members around the world.
  • Raised more than $47,000 in new revenue and spent more than $52,000 supporting FDR’s programs and activities. 

2015 Committee Reports
The FDR Community Challenge Fund 
The Community Challenge Fund had a great year. In 2015, FDR provided over $42,000 to support fifteen community projects in the DR- both new highs for the Community Challenge Fund (CCF).  Working with community leadership, Peace Corps Volunteers help local organizations plan and implement community infrastructure projects.  In the process, PCVs conduct training and workshops on community health and hygiene as well as community development techniques.  A key partner is the Peace Corps Partnerships Program which provides the conduit for transferring funds raised for projects by the Community Challenge Fund to Peace Corps Volunteers working in the communities.
2015 Projects -  
The 15 projects funded in 2015 exceeded the previous record of 13. In addition, the 6,876 persons benefitting from the projects also set a new high and raising the number benefitting since the inception of the program to over 27,000.

A wide variety of projects were funded in 2015: 
  • 5 communities constructed improved, efficient cooking stoves in 235 homes
  • 5 libraries were constructed supporting literacy and education programs
  • 30 sanitary latrines were constructed in 2 communities
  • A community home improvement program constructed 34 cement floors in homes
  • A well-drilling project bringing potable water to a community of 310 
  • An economic development pilot to construct  a greenhouse to support intensive agriculture

2015 Fundraising – Fund-raising continued to be strong in 2015, resulting in a total of $36,568 in donations to the Fund, exceeding our goal of $30,000. A significant factor in achieving the level of contributions was the $10,000 matching incentive fund provided by Joe Epler to encourage new or increased contributions in 2014/15. While many new donors contributed, the total number of contributors remained steady at 145. 

Within the overall contributions was $1,400 donated by 10 donors through the Robert Kulstad Memorial Fund for water projects. 

2016 Projections & Activities – In 2016, we hope to equal the 15 projects we were able to fund in 2015. We have set a goal of raising at least $30,000 in 2016. Our capitalized sustaining fund will be used to fill the gap between funds raised in 2016 and the funding needs of new projects we will approve.

Historical Perspective – Since the first project was approved in 2004, 92 projects have been awarded $199,000.  The following projects have been approved to date:
  • 29 Latrine projects, including latrines for 396 households and 3 schools
  • 29 Community Drinking Water, Aqueduct or Well-drilling projects, including 4 schools
  • 9 Sanitary Cement Floor projects for 188 families
  • 9 energy efficient/healthy cooking stove projects for 427 households
  • 8 Library/Youth Education Facilities               
  • 4 School Expansions
  • 1 Community Health Clinic
  • 1 Community Electrification project
  • 1 Community Water Catchment System
  • 1 Intensive agriculture Greenhouse project

A total of 27,076 persons in 6,177 households have benefitted from assistance since the Challenge Fund provided funding to its first project in 2004. More than $600,000 in other funds has been leveraged by the Challenge Fund. 

The FDR Program Support Fund and Dominican Committee
University Scholarships:
The Dominican Committee has been exploring a possible program to provide university scholarships in the Dominican Republic to exceptional youth leaders who work with PCVs in various youth development programs. Such a program was proposed in 2014 by recent Volunteers on the Dominican Committee and by a committee of then-Volunteers. 
The committee chair met with PC-DR staff in 2015 concerning how current Volunteers could participate in such a program. Although the role of Volunteers must be more limited than envisioned in the original proposal and the role of FDR would have to be greater, the program still seems feasible.

As part of the effort to shape a workable proposal for consideration by the FDR Board, John Evans and Guy Baehr have been working with a group of current and former Virginia Tech athletes and faculty members (not the university itself) who are providing their own scholarships to two youth leaders. The students were selected by them based on their work in Deportes Para La Vida groups organized by Peace Corps Volunteers over the last couple of years. 

Working together over the summer, FDR and the Virginia Tech group were able to start the program just in time for the Fall 2015 semester. This cooperative effort is serving as a joint pilot project to work out the mechanics of a similar FDR program that could include all the Peace Corps youth programs, such as Chicas Brillantes, Chicos Superman, Deportes Para La Vida and Brigada Verde. 

FDR’s cooperation, as authorized by the board, includes accepting tax deductible donations for the Virginia Tech pilot program through FDR. So far the Virginia Tech effort has raised $2,700 for the program through December 2015. The Virginia Tech people, with help from the DR Committee, are continuing to work on formalizing and strengthening their fundraising efforts. No FDR funds or donations by FDR members have been used for the Virginia Tech program, nor is this contemplated. 

FDR has been learning useful lessons from the experience, including how to disburse funds to recipients, how much monitoring, personal contact and counseling is needed and how to best transfer funds from the US to the DR. In the future, if and when FDR goes ahead with its own university scholarship program, we will have a much better idea of the issues involved and how to make it a success.

Brigada Verde:
Over the last several years, PCVs in the Dominican Republic have started and fostered dozens of Brigada Verde (Green Brigade) youth groups in communities around the country as a way to develop environmental awareness. However, Peace Corps/DR has eliminated its environmental sector in order to focus on other priorities. Despite these setbacks, Peace Corps/DR continues to allow current Volunteers the option of working with local Brigada Verde groups as a secondary program in their communities. As a result, more than a dozen current Volunteers continue to work with existing local groups and to form new ones in their communities.

In order encourage incoming Volunteers to get involved in this optional activity, Peace Corps distributes copies of a Spanish language course guide and training manual developed by the last group of environmental Volunteers when they organized a national Brigada Verde Conference in Jarabacoa in 2013. That conference, including the writing and printing of the 139-page bound manuals, was supported with a $1,500 grant from FDR’s Program Support Fund.

In the Fall of 2015, the Dominican Committee learned that the supply of printed manuals available for new Volunteers considering working with Brigada Verde groups had dwindled to just 10 copies. To help foster continued interest in Brigada Verde among current and future Volunteers, the Dominican Committee made a $285 grant from the Program Support fund to print an additional 100 copies. If additional manuals are needed, the PSF is prepared to fund them too. 

Program Support Fund (PSF)
The Program Support Fund did not receive as many grant applications as usual in 2015. A primary reason is that PC/DR spent most of the year revising its small grants program and training Volunteers in new grant application procedures. It also reorganized its sector programs, terminating the Environmental Sector. This dried up the flow of environmental grant requests to the PSF. 

Most of the grant requests received in 2015 were for bricks and mortar community projects which have traditionally been funded by FDR’s Community Challenge Fund. In early 2015, the PSF, which is administered by the Dominican Committee, cooperated with the CCF by providing two grants in the amount of $1,005 to purchase books for two community library projects in which the physical construction was funded with CCF grants. In 2015, the CCF broadened its funding guidelines to cover book purchases in connection with library construction projects. As a general rule, PSF does not consider grant applications for projects that the CCF is willing to fund.

A PSF grant of $2,000 to equip a local community center was approved by the Dominican Committee in 2015, but the grant request was withdrawn by PC/DR after the Volunteer concluded that completion of the project was unlikely because of questionable community support. Another approved grant of $1,500 to help construct a basketball/volley ball court was made unnecessary when the project was unexpectedly fully funded through other donations to the Peace Corps Partnership Program (PCPP). 

Another factor was that Fondo Quisqueya, which operates separately from FDR, also broadened its funding program in 2015 beyond the traditional vocational education grants to individuals that had been its main focus. Its board decided to provide funding for teacher training conferences being run by PCVs in the Education Sector, which has expanded along with the Dominican government’s increased emphasis on primary and secondary education. In the past, program support activities such as these conferences would have been funded by the PSF.

Finally, one program that had previously received several PSF grants was terminated by Peace Corps at the beginning of 2015. That was the Declaro Mis Derechos (Declare My Rights) courses organized by Volunteers in which community leaders learned how to help undocumented people, mostly Haitians and Dominican-born descendants of Haitians, deal with the government’s new immigration rules and procedures for “regularizing” their residency in the Dominican Republic that went into effect in 2015. Volunteers were able to hold a national conference for about 30 such community leaders early in the year just before the program was shut down. Peace Corps officials said the program was terminated because of growing political tensions surrounding the issue of Haitian immigration and prospect of widespread deportations. The national conference held in Santo Domingo was funded with a $1,500 grant from PSF that was made at the end of 2014.

As a result of the dearth of PSF grants the PSF ended the year with $7,561, or $671 more than it had at the start of the year. Due to the lack of grant activity, the PSF did not attempt a separate fundraising effort. That will await developments. PC/DR has said they expect an increase in grant requests for PSF funds as its program changes and grant training for Volunteers take effect. Meanwhile, the Dominican Committee will consider additional areas where PSF funds could prudently be used, including support for Brigada Verde and the proposed University Scholarship program.

The Treasurer’s Report
In the simplest terms, the Treasurer’s primary job is to handle corporate finances, to process and account for all monies received and to account for all monies disbursed.  In 2015, three quarterly Income and Expenses Reports (previously called Operating Statements) plus a year-end Income and Expenses Report were prepared and submitted to the Board.  Similarly, Balance Statements for the same periods were prepared to better reflect the organization’s overall financial condition, including investments.  These reports are posted on FDR’s internal Yahoo Group website.  However, Form 990, the annual reports to the IRS for non-profits, can be viewed on our public website.  In 2015, for the first time, the Treasurer relied exclusively on the accounting software we acquired in 2014 to generate reports.

As discussed above, in 2015, FDR created a pilot project to test the feasibility of awarding university scholarships to young Dominicans who have worked alongside Peace Corps Volunteers for several years in various youth leadership programs.  The Treasurer set up the required accounts for the pilot program, receiving contributions and sending funds to the Dominican Republic in cooperation with the Dominican Committee.

In summary, on a cash accounting basis, the organization started the year with $32,815.80 Cash on Hand.  We received $47,274.28 in new revenue.  In turn, the organization disbursed a total of $52,071.21, which left $28,018.87 Cash on Hand at year-end.  $45,413 (87%) was spent on programmatic activities; $5,118.21 (10%) on administrative expenses, including fund-raising; and $1,540 (3%) of which was received on behalf of, and transferred to, sister organizations.  In addition, the Treasurer maintained separate reports for donations to, and disbursements made on behalf of, our principal program, the Community Challenge Fund (CCF), and liaised frequently with the CCF Program Manager and the Peace Corps Partnership specialist at Peace Corps headquarters regarding necessary disbursements.

In addition to the principal financial responsibilities, the Treasurer completed the following actions in 2015.

  • Annual re-affiliation package for NPCA
  • Annual filing of Form 990 and supporting schedules to the IRS
  • Annual report to the Virginia Corporation Commission on status of the organization
  • Confirmed 46 donations to our smaller program funds for tax deduction purposes
  • Updated expiration dates of individual memberships in corporate web database
  • Updated address changes received from USPS in corporate web database
  • Liaised with Fondo Quisqueya, attending their quarterly Board meetings in DC area
  • Participated in monthly FDR Board conference calls as well as frequent calls and emails to/from the Executive Committee

Communications Committee/La Voz Report

The March 2015 issue of La Voz included information about the December election of two new FDR board members, John Miller and Peter Hainley; Mary Latka, the new Peace Corps Country Director in the Dominican Republic, wrote about changes taking place in PC’s programs and thanked members of FDR for their continued support for PCV projects in the DR; Community Challenge Fund work was outlined, including information about fundraising success; Glen Milstein wrote about his return to the DR in 2014; and, there were links to articles about DR-RPCV’s, RPCV career events and recommended reading about happenings in the DR.

The June issue pointed out that PCV requests for project support through the Community Challenge Fund was setting a fast pace with eight applications in the first five months of 2015; Guy Baehr wrote about FDR’s support for Volunteer initiatives to assist undocumented people in the DR to obtain documents to prevent deportation; and, a short summary of FDR’s accomplishments in 2014. In addition, there were links to recommended reading from the DR; a  story about a reunion of the DR-4 Well Drillers group held in Caspar, CA attended by ten RPCV’s; and, an article by featured PCV Katy Falleta from Williamsville, NY about her health project. 

The August La Voz included information about the career milestones of six DR-RPCV’s; the visit of Community Challenge Fund manager John Epler to eight ongoing volunteer projects that received funding and CCF’s work with Rotary clubs; John Miller outlined how to find your PC group members using the internet; Dominican-Haitian relations; the agreement between FDR and American University’s Peace Corps Community Archive to accept materials from DR-RPCV’s; and, the usual list of recommended reading about the DR and related subjects.

The October issue included information about a pilot program to provide college scholarships to three young Dominicans in cooperation with a sports organization related to Virginia Tech; a request for DR-RPCV’s to become FDR board members and active members; the record setting pace of the Community Challenge Fund to assist volunteer projects in the DR; Haitian documentation and deportation; an article from featured volunteer Lisa Lugo about her youth, Family and Community Development work in San Juan province; and recommended reading about the DR and related subjects. 

In November we published the board election issue of La Voz and in December we published the year-end fundraising issue to ask for your support for the Community Challenge Fund and the Program Support Fund.  

Invitee Match and Mentoring Program
There were no requests for participation for this program in 2015.

History Committee Report
In 2015 the History Committee focused attention on spreading the word about the agreement reached between Friends of the Dominican Republic and the Library at American University to include a Dominican Republic section in its Peace Corps Community Archive (PCCA). To date, six RPCVs from the DR have requested the information packet about how to donate to the PCCA at American University. 
The History Committee has also continued to collect materials and photos from DR-RPCVs and to catalog them in the FDR files. 
Beginning in 2015, several FDR members began working with Alana DeJoseph, the producer of a documentary being made about Peace Corps. Alana has plans to visit the DR in late April 2016 to begin filming a segment there. FDR has provided her with historical information about Peace Corps’ history in the DR and we hope she will be able to talk with Frank Moya Pons, the Dominican historian that spoke at our 50th Reunion and has been collecting information about the PC in the DR since it arrival. The documentary – A Towering Task – will tell the Peace Corps story – its promise, stumbles and impact as a movement at home and abroad. The producer, Alana De Joseph (RPCV Mali 1992-1994), has been working on it for three years. This independent production is intended for PBS broadcast in 2017 with online streaming and community showings to follow. Alana has worked in video and film production for over 20 years. She was associate producer of the PBS documentaries The Greatest Good (about the history of the U.S. Forest Service) and Green Fire (about conservationist Aldo Leopold). 
2015 Annual Report

2015 FDR Board members
President: Kim Herman; Vice President: John Epler; Treasurer: John Evans; Acting Secretary: John Epler; Board Members: Kathryn Hanowell, Janice Jorgensen, Guy Baehr, Mark Feedman, Steve Johnson, Lauren Abreu, James. W. Shrefler, LeeAnn Wolf , Robert Davis; Sarah Henry. (Some board members served only part of 2015). Two new Board members were elected in 2015 that began their board terms in January of 2016; Susan Stine (PC-DR 2013-2015) and Jeremy O’Brien (PC-DR 1998-2000).