Improving Sanitation in the Dominican Republic

by isvolunteers on Tuesday, 21 July 2015

“I am moved by the fact that a child dies every two and a half minutes from diseases linked to open defecation. Those are silent deaths – not reported on in the media, not the subject of public debate. Let’s not remain silent any longer.”  UN Deputy Secretary-General, Jan Eliasson (May 2014)


ISV volunteers helping children to learn about disease prevention as part of the ISV Health Education and Language Program (HELP) at Rancho Campeche, 2015. (c) ISV

Hundreds of thousands of Dominicans live in homes without any sanitation services. Although significant achievements have been made towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals, including the provision of improved sanitation services globally, we still have a big gap to fill. Progress is uneven in many regions, especially in Latin America and the Caribbean where 4% of this region’s population still live in extreme poverty.

How is it possible to tackle such large scale problems? How can volunteers be part of that process for change? 

Martinique, French Antilles, Caribbean

Martinique, French Antilles, Caribbean

Let’s start with a story about starfish…

Early in the morning on a deserted beach, a seven year old child was picking up starfish that had been washed up onto the shore and returning them to the ocean.

Suddenly, he was approached by an elder man and was asked: “What are you doing?”

The boy replied: “I’m picking up the starfish that have been trapped on the beach, and returning them to the ocean before the morning sun kills them.”

The elder man said: “Don’t you see how big this beach is? There are thousands of starfish on the sand! Can’t you see what you’re doing is useless?”

The boy took another starfish, returned it to the sea, stopped, stared into the man’s eyes and answered: “Now ask this starfish if what I’m doing is useless.”


A single latrine can benefit multiple families and improve sanitation (c) ISV

The persistence of poverty is the result of several complex factors; economic, social, governance, education and more. International Student Volunteers (ISV) helps disadvantaged Dominican communities through sustainable development initiatives. The practice of open defecation in poor communities presents serious health risks in the Dominican Republic. The communities where this is common practice are subject to greater risk of diarrheal diseases, parasitic infections, hepatitis and cholera. ISV volunteers are making a difference by building latrines, helping with sanitation infrastructure, adding concrete floors to family homes, and by working with children to improve their knowledge through our Health Education and Language Program (HELP).


ISV volunteers laying the foundations for a new building in Rancho Campeche. (c) ISV

In 2015, ISV volunteer teams are helping to prevent diseases and infections, and improve the overall health in three beautiful communities around the country by replacing more than 10 dirt floors with concrete ones and constructing four latrines that will benefit more than 12 families. In addition, we are laying the foundation of 5 houses that will benefit at least six families. These activities will help to keep the ground water and family homes free of harmful bacteria and parasites, which can have long-lasting, positive effects on the communities as a whole. In addition, this can improve the cognitive development of local children.

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“You may think that you need special skills and expertise in construction in order to help; however that’s not the case because our projects are specially designed with this in mind.” (c) ISV

You may think that you need special skills and expertise in construction in order to help; however that’s not the case as our projects are specially designed with this in mind.  ISV Project Leaders and our local hosts and construction experts will guide you and make sure that what we are building is safe and sustainable so that the impacts are lasting. Just bring your energy, compassion, work ethic, and a positive and open mind!

Let’s be the kid who takes the starfish back to the ocean. Let’s help people, one person, family and community at a time. Let’s be more active global citizens.

Enmanuel Aybar

ISV Dominican Republic Project Manager

To learn more about ISV and our programs please check out our webpage – or better yet, apply today to volunteer with ISV in the Dominican Republic.



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