Kennedy Legacy in the Dominican Republic
By Anne Baker on Wednesday, November 7th, 2012
Joe Kennedy III is now known in the U.S. as one of our newest members of Congress, but he’s been known here in the Dominican Republic for years as a Peace Corps Volunteer (2004-2006). During our Next Step Travel trip, we visited his project: the park 27 Charcos, translated as 27 Waterfalls (literally 27 Pools).
The park is a must-stop on adventure travel tours to the DR. We chose the middle of the three options, visiting 12 of the pools. After a one-hour hike up a shaded path, we reached the starting point of our descent – a descent entirely by jumping, sliding and/or swimming through a series of waterfalls and pools. The first entry point is a doozy – a 15-foot jump. “I have never jumped from that high before,” declared one traveler with a smile, following it quickly with “and I don’t plan to again.” (Note: one other jump a little farther on down was almost twice as high, but there was a much shorter slide option for the less-daring.)
According to the Dominican Republic guidebook authored by RPCVs Katherine Tuider and Evan Caplan, “(a)side from the gorgeous, protected surroundings and adrenaline-pumping adventure, the Charcos also represent the good that can come from local and international cooperation to create a community-focused, environmentally conscious, and, just as important, profit-making enterprise to benefit its workers.” Sounds like a Peace Corps approach!
We all emerged intact, smiling and happy, having slid, jumped and swam our way to the bottom. Was it worth it? You bet!
FYI – Here’s some information from Joe Kennedy’s campaign website about his Peace Corps service:
Joe served in the Peace Corps from 2004-2006, where he worked on economic development and community reinvestment in the Puerto Plata region of the Dominican Republic. Home to the Rio Damajagua waterfall national park, the rural community where he lived had been exploited by outside tour companies for years.
Joe worked alongside residents to establish local control of the park, raise over $100,000 through grants and aid money, and create a sustainable business model that fairly compensated guides for their hard work and turned the park into a profitable enterprise.
Most uniquely, Joe helped create a community fund that reinvested profits from the park into education, infrastructure, and public safety throughout the area.
Learn how you can join future Next Step Travel programs in the Dominican Republic and Guatemala: travel.peacecorpsconnect.org.