Next Step Travel Gets Up Close to Peace Corps Project in the Dominican Republic
By Alicia Nelson on Wednesday, January 22nd, 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 third of four reflections below:
DAY 8 – CLEAN WATER IS CRUCIAL
Our day began with a drive across the mountains, which, in between bursts of rain when the clouds cleared, was one of the most beautiful views we’d ever seen. We spent the day learning about a number of different technologies that Peace Corps Volunteers and NGOs have worked with communities to implement.
These kinds of projects are crucial because, as we would learn later that day when we met with Filter Pure (a water filtration NGO), water-borne pathogens account for an estimated 4.1% of the total daily global burden of disease, and cause about 1.8 million human deaths annually.The first project was a water system designed by a Peace Corps Volunteer. Previously, the children of the community would have to spend an entire day lugging buckets of water up a steep hillside from the river, which is mucky, polluted, and unsafe to drink. The Peace Corps volunteer found a natural well farther up the mountain and worked with the people to dig a system of pipes that brings fresh water directly to each home in the area. Each house now has a spigot they can turn on and off to have clean water whenever they need it.
Because the road is so steep, all “motos” have the right of way, so be it car, motorcycle or donkey, we all quickly slid to one side of the road to allow them to pass.
Learning about Clean Cookstove Technology
As we climbed, Dave pointed out the areas where the cacao trees we helped seed on our first day would be planted. We also made a few stops along the hike to meet with a few of the families. One woman gave us a tour of her house, a two-room structure made from dried palm leaves. The kitchen — arguably one of the most important rooms, as women will spend hours every day cooking for their families — is also the most dangerous. People use a traditional method of cooking known as a fogon, in which a fire is built between three stones or cinderblocks. The women will place their cookingware on top.
Dave said that their kitchen must have recently been rebuilt because there is typically a thick layer of soot on the ceiling. The amount of smoke produced from the wood burned coats the ceiling, and has also contributed to high rates of asthma and other breathing problems among children.
Dave has also been involved with projects to provide more efficient, cleaner burning stoves for people. A ceramic container that concentrates the heat and uses more efficient fuel made from condensed agricultural waste has been successfully introduced in some parts, especially the Haitian refugee camp of Ascension. However, Dominicans are very tied to their fogon method, and have not really adopted these new stoves. Another Peace Corps Volunteer has worked to create a stovetop that incorporates many of the traditional aspects of the fogon along with the technology from the clay stoves. We stopped for a short break on the drive back later, and bought some snacks from a vendor who used one of these stoves, and much preferred it.
All in all, it was quite an educational day, and we all learned not only how important these kinds of projects are, but also how necessary it is to understand local custom and culture when creating these technologies. Dave gave glowing reviews of all the Peace Corps Volunteers in the area, and said they truly understood this connection.
NPCA’s 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, 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!