Friends of the Dominican Republic had a year of change in 2018, primarily due to changes in the program focus of Peace Corps in the Dominican Republic, where they moved to a focus on Education programs, Youth and Economic Development. As a result, we saw a change in the number of applications that were submitted for the Community Challenge Fund (CCF), which we reflected in our fundraising efforts at the end of the year. Another change for us was the election of Alanna Hughes to the FDR Board in January. Alanna served from 2008-2010 in Vicentillo, El Seibo. Our officers for the year included Kim Herman, President; Peter Hainley, Vice President; John Evans, Treasurer; Randy Mauer, Secretary; and, Janice Jorgensen, Membership Director. Other board members included John Epler, Guy Baehr, James Shrefler, Susan Stine, Christorpher MacAlpine-Belton, Bronwen Raff, Topher Vollmer, Tim Durigan and Christina Houtz.
Highlights of our Work in 2018
- In February, John Epler and Guy Baehr met with Kristin Kaper, PC/DR Country Director, Tess de Los Rios, Deputy Director, and Magdalena Guerra, Grants Manager, to discuss the changing program focus in the DR and how FDR could best partner with PC/DR during the year.
- Board member Susan Stine helped promote the National Peace Corps Association (NPCA) Advocacy Day in Washington, DC to lobby Congress for increased Peace Corps funding.
- For the Community Challenge Fund (CCF), we reviewed and approved 4 projects during the year. However, two of the projects were later withdrawn by PC/DR due to Volunteer termination dates. The two funded projects were a Courts for Kids project near the Haitian border and an economic development project on the Bay of Samana which involved the purchase of a boat for a new tour enterprise operated by Brigada Verde.
- For the Program Support Fund (PSF), we funded three regional Brigada Verde workshops in Dajabon, Elias Pina and El Seibo in cooperation with PCV’s, Dominicans and the National Environmental School students and faculty; A regional Escojo Ensenar Teacher Training Fair and Conference, organized by Volunteers working with local schools in Samana; A grant for the purchase of computers, an Inverter, tables and chairs, window bars & other equipment for a Rural community Resource Center in Los Algarrobos, Samana; Peace Corps participation in the Marisco Ripiao Seafood Festival and Ecotourism Trade Show in Sanchez; the printing and binding of 150 copies of a course manual for use by Volunteers organizing Brigada Verde groups in their communities; and, a two-day regional “Train the Trainers” workshops for 40 PCV’s and local Dominican Leaders to teach the PC Skilz youth program on healthy decision making and HIV/AIDs education.
- FDR made a second $500 donation to the PBS Documentary on the Peace Corps being produced Alana de Joseph, which we understand will include a segment on PC/DR.
- We conducted a second Short Story Contest via our Newsletter, La Voz, and awarded cash prizes for the two best entries.
- We received two excellent applications from interested members to replace our long-time treasurer, John Evans.
- We provided an administration grant to renew software licenses for the production of the Gringo Grita by the Volunteer editorial board in the DR.
- We conducted a Professional Development-Networking Committee survey of our members, which received almost 300 responses, which we used to develop the committee’s work in the future.
- We distributed six issues of our electronic newsletter, La Voz, which included an interview with Congressman and RPCV Joe Kennedy; reflections of RPCVs about their sites, projects and recollections during their service; information about CCF and PSF grants; an article about the National Dominican Environmental School; and, RPCV graduate school experiences, among other stories.
The Community Challenge Fund- 2018 Highlights
2018 was a year of transition for the CCF as the Peace Corps/DR programs and priorities changed the types of activities Peace Corps Volunteers (PCVs) focused on during their service, impacting the number of applications we received from PCVs. Prior to 2018, the focus of most newly arriving Volunteers had been health education and health infrastructure. Beginning in 2018, this changed so that the vast majority focused on teacher training and education, with only a limited number of PCVs working on economic development and youth. As a result, applications from Volunteers for community development projects declined drastically.
While the Peace Corps Office acknowledged that funding for community development activities in the DR remained a significant need, a meeting with the Peace Corps Director and Assistant Director in Santo Domingo revealed that 5-6 project applications a year from PC/DR were likely to become the norm for the foreseeable future. The Peace Corps/DR Office recommended FDR consider entering into partnerships with 5 well-respected non-profit organizations currently undertaking community development activities in the DR. They deemed each to be effective and reliable.
The CCF Committee and FDR Board made the decision to continue to provide funding community development activities through PC/DR, while seeking partnerships among the recommended non-profit organizations. Over the year, research on the organizations and teleconference calls were held with several of the recommended non-profits and a new organization started by ex-PCVs which was also under consideration. A site visit with each of the potential organizations was planned for the Spring of 2019 when the President of FDR and the Manager of the CCF Program will travel to the DR. It was expected that by mid-summer, CCF would be accepting applications from selected organizations, so that we will eventually reach 10-15 application approvals a year.
As a result of the limited Peace Corps-generated applications expected in 2018 and early 2019, we decided to revise our FDR fund-raising appeal for the end of 2018 to ask potential donors to prioritize the Program Support Fund (which had historically received only limited donations) and the General Fund. The strategy was effective, resulting in the vast majority of year-end donations being made to the Program Support Fund. Only a limited amount of funds was donated to the Challenge Fund.
Site visits conducted in spring 2018 by two CCF Committee members, revealed the effectiveness and importance of funded CCF projects. Our visits to 6 projects either completed or underway showed that the projects created significant engagement by community leaders in the projects and improved quality of life or health of the beneficiaries.
We reviewed and approved 4 projects during the year. However, 2 of the projects were later withdrawn by Peace Corps/DR because the Volunteers’ end of service was determined to be too soon for the project to be completed. The 2 approved and completed projects were: a Courts for Kids project near the Haitian border that benefitted 60 families with schools age children; and, an economic development project on the Bay of Samana which involved the purchase of boat for a new tour enterprise operated by Brigada Verde benefitting a community of 500. These projects benefitted 800 persons and raised the total number of projects approved to 117, benefitting 35,527 persons since the program began in 2004. In 2019, we hope to be able to fund 6-10 new CCF projects through a combination of Peace Corps-submitted applications and applications from new partners.
As indicated above, we did not solicit funds for the Challenge Fund during our 2018 year-end fundraising activities. However, the combination of contributions from persons who donated funds earlier in the year and several long-standing contributors who have consistently donated to the CCF annually over the years resulted in $13,755 donated to the CCF in 2018. As expected, this was down from the $46,844 received in 2017. A total of 80 donors contributed to the CCF in 2018, down from 155 donors in 2017. Included in the 2018 contributions was $728 donated by 13 donors to support community water projects through the Robert Kulstad Memorial Fund (named after a PCV who worked on water projects in the 1960s and returned to the DR to assist the country to meet its need for potable water over the rest of his life).
Since the time of the first project approved in 2004, we have awarded $275,496 to 117 projects. The following projects have been approved to date:
- 36 Latrine projects, providing latrines for 501 households and 4 schools
- 30 Community Drinking Water, Aqueduct or Well-drilling projects, including benefit to 4 schools
- 15 energy efficient/healthy cooking stove projects for 584 households
- 11 Library/Youth Education Facilities
- 11 Sanitary Cement Floor projects for 233 families
- 4 School Expansions
- 4 economic development projects, including a Greenhouse, Women’s Coconut Oil Production Facility, Feed Store/Veterinarian Service and an Eco-Tourism project
- 3 Courts for Kids projects
- 1 Community Health Clinic
- 1 Community Electrification project
- 1 Community Water Catchment System
- 1 Drainage Canal Reconstruction
A total of 35,527 persons in 8,197 households have benefitted from assistance since the Challenge Fund provided funding to its first project in 2004. To date, more than $665,000 in other funds has been leveraged by Community Challenge Fund grants.
During 2018 the Program Support Fund/Dominican Committee approved Six Grants totaling $10,113:
- Three regional Brigada Verde workshops in Dajabon, Elias Pina and El Seibo held in cooperation with National Environmental School students & faculty. Brigada Verde is a decades-old initiative originally developed by Volunteers in the environmental sector in which PCVs give courses and organize and maintain groups designed to spread consciousness of environmental issues among young people in their local communities. The program has been sustained by the efforts of individual volunteers, with informal support from Peace Corps staff, since the environmental sector was terminated in 2016. During 2018, more than two dozen Volunteers from other sectors are maintaining active Brigada Verde groups as an optional secondary activity in their home communities. FDR’s in-country Dominican Committee has been working with Volunteers, Peace Corps staff and administrators and faculty at the National Environmental School in Jarabacoa to help continue and strengthen the program. This grant to the school was used primarily to transport and house students from the school who worked with PCVs to organize and run the workshops. - $1,460
- A regional Escojo Ensenar teacher training fair and conference organized by Volunteers working with local schools in Samana. This conference was designed to help introduce and provide training in more effective curriculum and teaching methods for interested school teachers and administrators. The grant from PSF filled a gap in funding from other sources to allow the conference to be held. - $778
- A grant for the purchase of computers, an inverter, tables and chairs, window bars & other equipment for a rural Community Resources Center in Los Algarrobos, Samana. The community center, which serves in part as an educational resource, had recently been constructed by the community using funds from FDR’s Community Challenge Fund and a large in-kind contribution from the community, including land, labor and some materials. - $3,000
- Peace Corps participation in the Marisco Ripiao seafood festival & ecotourism trade show in Sanchez, Samana. The grant supported attendance at the three-day festival by PCVs and local artisans and local leaders involved in starting and operating successful ecotourism and craft enterprises in the region. Peace Corps, which previously supported such participation, was unable to do so due to budget cuts. - $1,400
- The printing and binding of 150 copies of a 140-page course manual for use by Volunteers organizing Brigada Verde groups in their communities. The original manual was written and produced in 2013 by PCVs working in PC/DR’s environmental sector. This printing was the fourth batch of manuals provided by FDR since 2015 in its effort to sustain the program. About half of this printing were provided to students and faculty at the National Environmental School to facilitate their growing involvement with Brigada Verde. - $475
- A two-day regional “Train-the-Trainers” workshop for 40 PCVs and local leaders to spread the Peace Corps-developed PC Skillz youth program on healthy decision making and HIV/AIDS education. PC Skillz has proven to be well-accepted and popular among educators and others involved in working with young people in local communities. The aim of the workshops is to sustain and expand its use both among PCVs and beyond to communities where no Volunteers are currently assigned. - $3,000
- Since 1998 the Program Support Fund (PSF) has directly contributed $40,729 to support the work of Peace Corps Volunteers in the Dominican Republic. In addition, FDR arranged an in-kind contribution of $15,980 from Typing Master for 2000 licenses to be used in Dominican schools where Peace Corps had created computer rooms and assigned Information Technology Volunteers. PSF also donated $375 for plaques honoring PC staff at the 40th reunion. In total, FDR/PSF has contributed or arranged total contributions of $57,084 in its first 20 years of existence.
The Professional Development-Networking Committee in 2018
The primary activity of the committee during 2018 was completing a survey of FDR’s members asking them about their PCV experience and their thoughts about post-PCV plans and how FDR and the committee could help them think about graduate school or employment opportunities. The survey also asked if they wanted to be listed in an RPCV Professional Directory to be kept by FDR. The survey received almost 300 responses, which were compiled for the committee’s consideration and follow-up. For respondents that agreed, their professional information was released to other respondents that requested the information be shared with them.
The History Committee’s Activities in 2018
The History Committee collects articles, stories and information about PCVs, RPCVs, Peace Corps, Dominicans and the Dominican Republic that are of interest to FDR and our members. Many of these articles are about RPCVs from the DR in their current professional occupations that show up on internet searches using key words that relate to these subjects. They include death notices of RPCVs from the DR and other volunteers, announcements about Peace Corps in general, famous Dominicans and articles about travel and interesting cities, sites and locations in the DR. In addition, the History Committee promotes the donation of materials collected by DR/RPCVs to the Peace Corps Community Archives at American University. These materials can include written or printed training information and materials; letters written or received during an RPCVs time in the DR, books and articles written by an RPCV about their Volunteer experience and other articles relating to their Peace Corps experience. You can see the first FDR member donation on the American University Peace Corps Community Archives website at: https://blogs.library.american.edu/pcca/ Geer Wilcox. Donation information and materials can be obtained by request to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Third Goal Committee Activities in 2018
The Third Goal Committee was active in the NPCA Advocacy Day in 2018 to lobby Congress for more funding for Peace Corps. The committee also monitored other Third Goal activities by NPCA and DR related RPCVs and reported to the FDR board on these happenings as they came to the committee’s attention.
Membership Committee/Database Annual Report for 2018
The follow chart outlines the number of RPCV’s and other friends of the Dominican Republic that are in FDR’s membership database as of the end of 2018.
Grand Total: 4492
Everyone Including Deceased 4226
Deceased PCVs 191
PCVs or RPCVs 4092
Bad Email or unsubscribed 231
No Emails (all PCVs) 741
No Years of Service 61
Sites Listed 2171
Projects Listed 2328
Not a DR PCV 127
Membership issues to work on and resolve:
- Get more PCV’s to be champions for their groups
- Working successfully with PC/DR to have current PCVs and trainees learn about FDR and join while in the DR
- Increase publicity of the benefits of FDR to current PCVs and RPCVs
- Have every board member and committee member to log into their information and correct it and be a champion for their group
- Remove errors on the website so looking at the membership database is a more positive activity
The Membership Director’s primary job is to maintain the database and help people who have trouble logging-in to be able to have a successful access experience.
Treasurer’s Report for 2018
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 2018, three quarterly Income and Expense Reports as well as a year-end Income and Expense Report were prepared and submitted to the Board. Similarly, Balance Statements and Trial Balance Statements for the same periods were prepared to better reflect the organization’s overall financial condition, including investments. Form 990, the annual report to the IRS for non-profit organizations, can be viewed on our public website at www.fotdr.org. In 2018, the Treasurer continued to rely exclusively on the accounting software we acquired in 2014. With the exception of a manually produced Trial Balance, all reports were generated by the software.
In summary, on a cash accounting basis, the organization started the year with $51,402.36 Cash on Hand. We received $41,518.59 in new dues and donations, including a refund of $4,000 from the Peace Corps Partnership Program for a cancelled project. In turn, the organization disbursed a total of $25,677.44 leaving $67,243.51 Cash on Hand at year-end. Note, additional administrative expenses for postage and printing of our 2018 year-end mailing were not available for this report and will be included in the 2019 report.
Given the magnitude of our principal program, the Community Challenge Fund (CCF), the Treasurer maintained separate reports for donations to, and disbursements made on behalf of, that program and liaised frequently with the CCF Program Manager and the Peace Corps Partnership specialist at Peace Corps headquarters.
In addition to the annual cash flow of revenue and expenses, FDR has an investment portfolio that can be used to support CCF should annual revenue be insufficient. Unfortunately, given the extraordinary rise and fall of the stock market in 2018, we experienced a net negative income of $16,549.45 in our investment portfolio. Total assets at year-end, including cash and investments, totaled $449,403.30.
In addition to the principal financial responsibilities, the Treasurer completed the following actions in 2018.
- Annual filing of Form 990 and supporting schedules to the IRS
- Annual report to the Virginia Corporation Commission on status of the organization
- Confirmed 110 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 regularly in monthly FDR Board conference calls as well as occasional calls and emails to/from the President and Executive Committee
If you are interested in further information about the activities of Friends of the Dominican Republic, you can go to our website at www.fotdr.org or contact the board president at: email@example.com.