The Dominican Republic shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti. Though the island is often promoted to tourists as a Caribbean playground, a far different reality pervades. Originally colonized by Spain and France, the DR and Haiti still bear the scars of colonialism, and continue to be exploited today. Unfortunately, those who are poor suffer most. In Haiti, 70% of the populace lives in extreme poverty, 72% lack basic sanitation, and 50% lack clean water. In the DR, where more Haitians increasingly seek a better life, the reality is still grim:
- 42% of populace lives in poverty; 16% in extreme poverty
– nearly 1 million families lack decent housing
– 36% of rural residents lack sanitation; 15% lack clean water
– 18% adult illiteracy
– 22% of children finish 8th grade; 10% finish high school
– average daily wage for unskilled labor: $6 US/day
EAB’s mission and programs respond to these realities, meeting the immediate and long-term needs of residents in the two communities in which we collaborate.
Batey Libertad is located in the northwestern Cibao region of the Dominican Republic and is a community of migrant farmworkers and their families. Like most bateyes, it was originally founded by the Dominican government to house Haitian laborers brought under duress to cut sugarcane. Once the government abandoned the the region’s sugar industry in the mid-1980s, residents turned to work in the rice plantations that arose in sugar’s stead. Currently, Batey Libertad is home to Haitians, Dominicans of Haitian descent, and Dominicans forced to the margins of society. Many people in the community speak both Kreyol and Spanish.
Franco Bidó is located in the Cordillera Central, the lush mountain range running diagonally toward the DR’s northwestern border with Haiti. It is a rural, Spanish-speaking community near the town of Juncalito. Most families earn a livelihood through coffee farming, and continue to maintain the agrarian campesino lifestyle so central to the Dominican experience. Economic pressures, however, have depleted the population of this and surrounding communities as residents migrate to urban areas or out of the country. Increasingly, Haitian migrants come to the community to fill the labor shortage on coffee farms.
Despite their differences, both communities are afflicted by the conditions of poverty that are too commonplace in the country. Illiterary is not unusual, and residents would be unlikely to complete a high school education without EAB’s support.
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