Since the Peace Corps first arrived in the Dominican Republic in 1962, well over 4,000 Americans have served in this Caribbean nation. Almost every Dominican community and village has known a volunteer and the short and long term effects on changing people’s lives will probably never be totally known. The Friends of the Dominican Republic, in cooperation with Peace Corps staff, have begun compiling stories and photos of these volunteers. Together these are the beginnings of a comprehensive history.
Following disasters or urgent needs in Peace Corps countries of service, Returned Peace Corps Volunteers have been invited to serve to assist recovery efforts and short term projects. Formerly known as Crisis Corps, Peace Corps Response is now open to anyone who has the specific skills for the position. Response Volunteers have served in the Dominican Republic after major hurricanes.
Peace Corps’ programs in the Dominican Republic evolve over time to meet the new needs expressed by the Dominican government and community groups. Those that served in the early years will find some things the same and others quite different. Community development and capacity building remain the fundamental orientation of the multitude of sectors and special initiatives. Two groups of approximately 40 volunteers each arrive yearly for in-country training. The trainees are hosted by Dominican families to provide friendly immersion in the language and culture. This is has proven more effective than US university campus training of the early years in that the trainees have developed stronger understanding of the culture, language, and projects earlier on.
There currently are six program sectors and several cross-sector or national initiatives. Sectors have third year volunteer leaders (PCVLs).
In addition to the formal project areas, there are a number of cross-sectoral initiatives. Peace Corps DR is creating innovation with new initiatives in HIV/AIDS prevention, Environmental Conservation, Family Communication/Violence Prevention, Girls Leadership, Youth Service and Sports. These initiatives known as ESCOJO, Brigada Verde, Padres Activos de Hoy, Estrellas de Hoy, Futuro Brillante, Celebrando Cibao y el Sur, and Servir y Jugar have resulted in volunteer designed manuals, conferences, and local clubs that engage over 2,000 youth in over 100 communities nationwide in organized leadership and service activities related to various fields of action. The models have been shared with other countries throughout Peace Corps. Many of these initiatives also tie into the Sirve Quisqueya national alliance to promote youth service by all young Dominicans, of which Peace Corps is a founding member.