Community Challenge Fund

Friends of the Dominican Republic’s (FDR) Grant Programs Help Peace Corps Volunteers and Improve the lives of Dominican families in the Dominican Republic (DR)

Friends of the Dominican Republic (FDR), is a non-profit group made up primarily of former Peace Corps Volunteers who have served in the Dominican Republic. Through two of our primary programs we provide small grants to support projects and programs involving current Peace Corps Volunteers and the Dominican people with whom they work. We do this through the Community Challenge Fund and the Program Support Fund supported with donations from our members and other “friends”. The two funds have a different emphasis and are designed to complement each other. A description of each program is provided below.

HOW COMMUNITY CHALLENGE FUNDS ARE REQUESTED - The Community Challenge Fund (CCF) is designed to help poorer communities in the DR to build basic infrastructure projects, including but not limited to water supply systems, electrification, cement floors, improved smokeless wood stoves, latrines, schools, libraries, sports courts and economic development projects. CCF provides funding for 10-15 community projects a year with a maximum project grant of $4,000. A total of 109 projects have been funded through 2016. Eligible projects must include a community contribution of at least 25 percent, often in the form of sweat equity and some construction materials. Active involvement by both Peace Corps Volunteers and community groups is required and a plan for sustaining the project must be demonstrated.

After the community develops a project scope and budget with the help of Peace Corps Volunteers (PCVs), the PCV works with their Peace Corps country staff to obtain the PC-DR Country Director’s approval of the grant application which is prepared using Peace Corps Partnership application forms. The application is then submitted to FDR’s CCF Program Committee for review and approval. Peace Corps Volunteers oversee disbursement of project funds. For more details, see Programs/Community Challenge Fund. If you have questions, you can contact the CCF's Manager, John Epler, at challengefund@fotdr.org.

Recent projects


Conserving forests

  

  Two Community Challenge Fund grants to the rural communities of Tres Ceibos and Higuerito have already begun to pay dividends to the communities and the 93 benefitting families. The grants paid for materials for the construction of improved efficiency cooking stoves, significantly reducing pressures on deforestation in the two communities.

 The stoves were constructed on site for a grant cost of just $64 each, and have not only greatly increased the energy efficiency of cooking for Dominican families by significantly reducing the amount of wood needed for cooking, but they are vented to the outside removing unhealthy smoke generated by the previously open fires. Additionally, they cost much less than the alternative propane stoves, and cook more quickly and evenly than the old open clay stoves.

Quotes from benefitting families tell the story: "I am so very grateful for the savings in gas because of the stove;" "I don't have to pay as much for the wood for cooking;" and "the flavor of the habichuelas (beans) is much better since I started using my new stove!








Clean water project      
   Sometimes it's not easy to overcome obstacles and and achieve success. When the communities of La Hondonada and La Javilla (Sánchez Ramírez) started working with PCV Jennifer Vettel ('12-'14) planning to bring clean water to their community, they didn't envision the difficulties they would face or the successes they would achieve.

   
             Showing community pride.

   
   The task was daunting: just digging the trenches and laying nine kilometers of PCV pipe over hilly terrain was a major feat. Building a 30,000 liter storage tank also presented a challenge.
   FDR's Community Challenge Fund committed early to the project, allowing the community to get started on the tasks. Unfortunately, another major funder that had committed to the project did not release their funds in a timely matter, resulting in several months delay in the work. Frustrated, the community was so anxious to finish the project, they conducted local fund-raising to pool the $1,200 needed to finish. When the agency finally released the funds for the project, the community used the funds to expand the project. Originally planned to reach 50 homes, the finished project provided clean drinking water 24 hours a day to 72 homes, the primary school and two churches!   




Cement floor project
   We can lose sight of the impact Community Challenge Funds (CCF) can have in small communities. The award of CCF funds to the Las Charcas (San Juan) cement floors project resulted in several changes. Just before Peace Corps Volunteer Erin Hicks was scheduled to complete her two years of service, a community member asked if he could make a presentation to the Neighborhood Association on the benefits of cement floors in homes. At the end of the presentation, the entire audience stood up and applauded. Excited community members asked if Erin would stay to help them organize the project. She enthusiastically extended her Peace Corps service and helped prepare an application for $2,500 to replace dirt floors for 12 of the 47 homes in this community.  

   During the project, a skilled mason provided instruction to an unpaid assistant who was able, by the eighth home, to do the skilled work at a savings to the project, resulting in enough funds for a thirteenth cement floor. To work toward a second phase of the project, the community charged a quota to each benefitting family, developing a fund to help pay for cement in more homes. A raffle and other fundraising activities have added to the fund, giving the community a great start toward paying for a self-run phase two. Erin reported that "this was the most successful project in my community". 

 
Community members prepare the cement floors.
      Community members prepare the cement floors

More and more community members are enjoying a dry home where their children have a clean place to play and a family gets sick less often.



 
Community leaders, Tomás, Francisco (70+ years old) and PCV Joe South.

Altegracia aqueduct
   In Altegracia, a neighborhood of Santiago, 12 families benefited from extending a water supply to their neighborhood. They dug trenches and laid pipe. Each family then connected the faucet outside their house into their home to be able to access water for the first time in their homes. Several homes also received cement floors. 








Los Bueyes sanitary cement floors 

   In the small, rural community of Los Bueyes, families with dirt floors breathed in dust when it was dry and their bedroom floors turned into mud during the rainy season. Thirteen families worked together to construct sanitary cement floors in their homes. All Community Challenge Fund projects require a community support. Here the community provided 26% of the project cost in labor, food for the workers, and sand for the project. 

 





 
Children pitching in to create cement floors in their home.

El Guayabo aqueduct  

   High in the hills of the Cordillera Central, the 38 families in El Guayabo celebrated the completion of a new aqueduct system piping water from a year-round spring to their homes. The project was made possible by a $2,000 Challenge Fund grant and long hours of labor put in by community volunteers, resulting in a consistent supply of clean water for the community. Planned and carried out by the El Guayabo Water Committee, with the assistance of PCV Leigh Forbush, the project involved the installation of several miles of underground pipes over very rough and uneven terrain. Integrated into the project were PVC-led workshops providing training on maintaining the system as well as community health and nutrition. Sustainability of the project is assured by the bi-monthly payments made by families to an Aqueduct Fund for maintenance and repairs.

 CCF water project 2
Workers celebrate the last day of work on the project. 

50th conference attendees tour 51st Challenge Fund project
   Invited by community members and PCV Joe South, a small busload of RPCVs traveled to Santiago to visit the nearby barrio of Altagracia in February, 2012, to tour the community and a Challenge Fund water project. The project piped water from a nearby mainline to 12 households in the impoverished community. 

 
                  Water flows in the kitchen.



In addition, CCF funds enabled construction of sanitary cementfloors for four homes.

   Beneficiaries of the project turned out to greet the RPVCs and invited them for a traditional cafecito at one of the homes. While waiting for the refreshment, to everyone's surprise, a representative of each of the 12 families benefiting from the project stood up and individually expressed their deep appreciation (as only Dominicans can do) for the $2,000 grant and told us how having running water in their homes had changed their lives. Their stories had a special meaning for many in our RPCV group, as over half were Challenge Fund donors, making projects like this one (and the 50 projects before it) possible. A tour of several homes followed - with the proud owners enthusiastically showing the new water faucets and filtration systems in their tiny kitchens.
 

Five key ingredients of all projects
Local Contribution: The community benefiting from this project must contribute or raise at least 25% of the total cost. To date, the average local contribution has been more than 66%, a large portion being community members’ sweat equity in the project. Communities may also assess monthly maintenance fees and raise other funds to support the project.

Sustainability: Each project must demonstrate that it is sustainable. The water projects, for example, require household assessments toward a maintenance and replacement reserve fund.  Health and sanitation projects also include a community health education component.  

Donor Contributions: Two Returned Dominican Republic Peace Corps Volunteers and their family members provided seed money for this fund, almost $130,000, as a match for all donations up to that amount. The full match was met by large and small donations from individuals and families throughout the U.S. and a sustainable fund was created to assure that the program could continue to provide assistance indefinitely. Through conservative, low-risk investments, this fund generally generates enough income through interest to award four $4,000 grants annually for an indefinite period of time. However, the need in the Dominican Republic is so great that FDR has set a goal of funding 12 projects a year. Therefore additional donations are needed to meet this need.

Peace Corps Volunteers:  Peace Corps Volunteers are key to the successful delivery of CCF support to local communities. Volunteers work with community leaders to define, plan, and implement projects.  They oversee the allocated funds, assuring they are used for intended purposes.  They also work with the community to assess the results of the project and provide photos and a final report

How the fund works

Peace Corps Volunteers work with local community leaders to identify needs and priorities. The Volunteer then works with the community to plan and organize the project, calling in Peace Corps technical staff as needed (for example to test water quality). If found to be feasible, the project is planned and local funding is committed.  Community leaders, with the help of the Peace Corps Volunteer living in the community, prepare an application for CCF funding for up to $4,000 per grant. The application is then reviewed by a Peace Corps staff/Volunteer committee. Carefully planned, high­need projects are recommended to the Peace Corps Country Director. The Director then recommends projects to FDR’s CCFCommittee. The CCF Project Committee reviews and approves projects meeting the program criteria. Once approved, funds are released to Peace Corps Dominican Republic and eventually to the Volunteer to purchase materials. The Volunteer assists the community during construction, monitors the project and funds, and provides a final report on the project.

How you can help

The Community Challenge Fund is a sustainable fund that, through low­risk investments, is able to fund about five projects a year. The need is much greater and our goal address a larger need by funding 10 projects yearly. Your contribution is essential. Due to in­kind administrative donations, 100% of contributions designated to the Community Challenge Fund go directly to project costs (materials and technical labor), making your gift ­large or small ­ go a long way

Make a gift today!

 

The Friends of the Dominican Republic is a 501(c)(3) organization and your contribution is tax deductible. 


Make a gift today

Did you know?

Sixteen percent of rural Dominicans do not have access to an improved water source which is defined as access to at least 20 liters per person, per day within one kilometer of home. (Source: World Bank)

Only 25% of rural communities have drinking water services.

Cholera was absent from the island of Hispañola for 100 years until 2010. UN aid workers are suspected to have brought a strain from South Asia. 

Since then, 8,000 people have died on the island from cholera, a water transmitted disease, 481 in the Dominican Republic.

The Community Challenge Fund has helped more than 30,000 Dominicans

With the approval of a $3,800 grant to the community of Juan Santiago for the construction of sanitary cement floors, the Community Challenge Fund met a new milestone: Meeting the needs of over 30,000 Dominicans. 
Through 2016, the Fund has awarded grants to more than 100 communities. 
Congratulations to all those who have contributed over the years AND to those we know will continue to support these grants through their donations!

The Community Challenge Fund (CCF) helps the poorest communities of the Dominican Republic with 
basic needs by providing grants for community-based projects such as water, electricity, educational facilities, youth projects, economic development, sanitation and health. With your help, grants of up to $4,000 for construction materials support the contributed labor of community members to construct needed improvements. On-site Peace Corps Volunteers help to plan, coordinate, and monitor projects.

Stanford Investigation shows...

A Stanford Center for International Development investigation finds that replacing dirt floors with cement floors significantly improves the health of young children. Specifically, there are significant decreases in the incidence of parasitic infestations, diarrhea, and the prevalence of anemia, and an improvement in children’s cognitive development. Additionally, replacing dirt floors by cement floors significantly improves adult welfare, as measured by increased satisfaction with their housing and quality of life, as well as by lower scores on depression and perceived stress scales. 

Past projects

Projects since 2004.

Past projects have included:

- Water supply/
aqueducts
- Latrines (ventilated, compost, sanitary)
- Cement floors
- School (classrooms, library)
- Hydroelectric power
- Clinic
- Adult education facility
- School generator

Current Volunteers

If you are a current volunteer and are interested in soliciting funding from the Community Challenge Fund, you can contact John Epler
challengefund AT fotdr.org. 

CCF Video

This video is from 2003 but it is still relevant. CCF continues to support the types of projects illustrated in this video.

Peace Corps recognition