Down and Dirty: Next Step Travel Plants Seedlings in the Dominican Republic
By Alicia Nelson on Thursday, January 16th, 2014
Kate Schwanhausser, our Membership and Development Assistant here at the National Peace Corps Association, recently stepped out of the office to take part in a Next Step Travel trip to the Dominican Republic. Our trips are designed with the Returned Peace Corps Volunteer in mind, and while Kate hasn’t had the chance to serve (yet!), she had a great time connecting with likeminded people and experiencing the country beyond the tourism. Check out the first of her reflections below:
DAY ONE – DOING OUR PART TO FIGHT DEFORESTATION
Deforestation is a major problem in the Dominican Republic. Palm trees are commonly used for constructing houses—in fact, the Lodge is made of this material, although Dave made certain that only dead trees were used to build it. Therefore, reforestation projects that replant palm trees are typically unsuccessful because the trees will be cut down as soon as they are large enough to be used as building materials.
Dave now works with the communities to plant cacao trees because along with reforesting open ground, the trees will begin to produce cacao beans within 3 years. This provides the families with an additional income.
Our contribution to this project was to get the seedlings started. We filled small bags with a handful or two of dirt and then added a cacao seed to each. These would be tended over by Nido and the community until they sprouted and could be replanted along the base of a nearby mountain. Our goal was to seed about 3,000 of these bags, and we almost reached it, stopping around 2,500 only when we ran out of soil. We ended up finishing much faster than expected because after a few minutes of watching, some of the children approached us and asked about what we were doing. They were eager to help, and we set up an assembly line and finished seeding the bags in no time.
We then built a quick greenhouse to have a place to store the seeds until they took root.
In between shifts we took a tour of the village. Dave showed us the bottle school he helped build after the community collected over 30,000 plastic bottles. To reach the final stop on our tour we crossed a narrow bridge strung between two trees across a ravine. They are in the process of building a wider, sturdier bridge, but in the meantime we all got an adrenaline rush inching our way across it.
On the other side, we met with a man who cares for a number of beehives he uses to make honey that Dave sells at the Lodge, among other places. I think almost all of us left with a bottle of it by the end of the trip, after having eaten so much of it throughout the week.
NPCA Next Step Travel program features small group travel (up to 20), hands-on service projects, educational programs and a close-up view of the impact of volunteer service. Our all-inclusive trips are operated by Discover Corps, a program of Terra Education, an experienced leader in educational travel. Their CEO, Andrew Motiwalla, is also a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (Honduras 1996-98)! Most trips offer both a 14-day and a 10-day option, unless otherwise specified. All trips are accompanied by an NPCA Host.
Learn how you can join future Next Step Travel programs in the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, and Thailand: travel.peacecorpsconnect.org.
Join our Next Step Travel (NST) country groups: Dominican Republic and Guatemala. These are places to ask questions, get program details, & meet other Next Step Travel travel-with-a-purpose travelers. Alumni, future NST participants, and those who are interested in NST can have an open forum to share photos, videos, discuss programs details, and make new friends!