Dominican Republic Northwestern Region

The Location


The Population


The Religion

Roman Catholic

The Weather

  • Homes in impoverished areas of the northwest typically accommodate large families. Often, several children have to share a single bed. Dominican Republic Young Girl Outside of Home
  • Girls at this Compassion-assisted child development center are learning embroidery to help them earn an income in the future. Dominican Republic Girls Learning to Sew
  • A variety of fruits and vegetables are sold at this market in a northwestern community. Dominican Republic Man at Produce Stand
  • Children leave their Compassion center after a day of fun and educational activities. Dominican Republic Boys on Steps of Center
  • The Compassion curriculum, contextualized for the Dominican Republic, gives center tutors the confidence that they are addressing the needs of the children in their care. Dominican Republic Children in a Classroom
  • Clothes drying on fences or rooftops are common sights in the northwest. Dominican Republic Clothes Hanging Outside of a Home

Overview: Northwestern Region

The Dominican Republic occupies the eastern two-thirds of the Caribbean island of Hispaniola. The island was explored and claimed by Christopher Columbus on his first voyage in 1492. For centuries, tensions have existed between the Dominican Republic and Haiti, occupant of the western third of the island. Poor Haitians often cross the border in search of work, putting an even greater strain on the fragile Dominican economy.

About one-third of the Dominican Republic’s 9.6 million people live in the 14 provinces comprising the country’s northwestern region. Here, as throughout the country, children younger than 18 represent more than 35 percent of the population.

With soaring unemployment and underemployment, parents in the northwest struggle to provide for even the most basic needs of their children. The global economic crisis has only made matters worse, as many factories, which previously employed thousands of people, have closed.

As a result, parents look for any work that’s available. But temporary labor jobs typically pay an average of the equivalent of $8 per day. Because of this, in too many cases, parents can afford to provide their children only one small daily meal.


Culture Corner

Dominican Republic Culture

Here are four Spanish phrases commonly used in the Dominican Republic that you can use when writing to your sponsored child:

Mi niño (for a boy) or mi niña (for a girl) means “my child.”
This term of endearment is used by an adult who especially loves the child being addressed.

Hola, campeón! means “Hi, champion!”
Boys in the Dominican Republic enjoy being called champs by people they respect.

Hola, princesa!
If your sponsored child is a little girl, she will be flattered to be addressed by this phrase, which means “Hi, princess!”

Hola, estrella!
Both boys and girls like being referred to as an estrella, or “star.”


Life in Northwestern Dominican Republic

As throughout the Dominican Republic, unemployment is widespread in the northwestern provinces, as is the lack of vocational training opportunities. Adults take whatever temporary labor jobs they can find. And it is common to see children working or begging to earn a little money.

Impoverished families in this region struggle daily to meet their basic needs, and children especially are vulnerable to malnutrition and illness. Services such as electricity and potable water are scarce within these communities. And the lack of proper sanitation poses a huge health risk to young lives.

Children at Home

Typical homes in northwestern Dominican Republic are crudely constructed of wood and scrap materials. They provide little protection from the fierce tropical storms that the Dominican Republic experiences each year from May to November. Clothes drying on rooftops or fences are common sights. Few homes of the poor have the basics of electricity and running water. And the lack of a sewage system in most impoverished communities poses serious health hazards for children.


Community Issues and Concerns Community in Dominican Republic

In addition to unemployment and child labor issues, this region is prone to natural disasters and crises. For example, over the past year, drought in the northwest has caused crops to fail and made potable water scarce. Families dependent on what they grow for their food supply are suffering greatly from this situation.

At the same time, the poor are vulnerable to the fierce tropical storms, which often happen during hurricane season between May and November. In 2007, more than 34,000 people lost their homes and belongings in the wake of Tropical Storm Olga.

Local Needs and Challenges

Growing up healthy and happy in the northwest’s impoverished communities is a struggle. Here, children commonly suffer from illnesses caused by unsanitary living conditions. And because poor parents earn so little, many can’t afford to feed their families more than once per day. Often, parents who don’t understand the importance of education encourage their children to work rather than attend school. Also in this region, children suffer from the breakdown of family life, and domestic violence is common.


Schools and Education Education in Dominican Republic

Throughout the northwestern area, earning an income is the responsibility of every family member, including the children. It is common to see children shining shoes, cleaning car windshields at intersections, or begging in the streets.

One of the worst child labor situations is found in Cienfuegos, where entire families spend their days searching through garbage at the city dump, looking for cardboard, glass, metal — anything they can sell or barter.

Many homes in Cienfuegos are, essentially, warehouses for items scavenged from the dump. The health consequences for children in these homes are dire. They frequently are sick and have skin diseases because of the unsanitary living conditions.

At the Compassion Child Development Center

Thirty-seven Compassion-assisted child development centers in the Dominican Republic’s northwestern region provide registered children with the material assistance and learning opportunities they need to develop their full potential in Christ. In addition to attending school, children receive tutoring, supplemental nutrition, health and hygiene training, and the chance to learn about the love of their heavenly Father. They also spend time praying for their sponsors and writing letters to them.


Working Through the Local Church

Compassion believes that God’s mandate to care for the poor falls on the shoulders of the local church. That’s why in the Dominican Republic, as in every country where our ministry is found, Compassion serves primarily as an instrument of support and empowerment for the local church. Our goal is to enable churches to be what God means for them to be in serving their communities’ needy children and families.

Churches intimately know the needs of the local people and how best to meet those needs. And parents know that at the local church-based Compassion center, their children are off the streets, learning good values, and being provided important benefits that they wouldn’t otherwise receive.

How Compassion Works in the Dominican Republic Compassion in Dominican Republic

Compassion's work in Dominican Republic began in 1970. Currently, more than 48,500 children participate in 167 child development centers.

Compassion partners with local churches, helping them provide Dominican children with a long-term program of physical, educational, social and spiritual development. Through this partnership between Compassion and local churches, children in need have the opportunity to rise above their circumstances and be all God created them to be.

The Role of a Partnership Facilitator

Partnership Facilitators play the important role of assisting local churches in conducting successful Compassion programs for their communities’ children. Serving churches in northwestern Dominican Republic is Clara Tavares, a Partnership Facilitator for the past five years.

Clara visits the nine local churches in her care at least once every month to assist them in operating their Compassion centers. To reach some of the centers, she must travel up to six hours.

During her visits, Clara spends time consulting with the center staff, pastor of the church partner, and the center’s governing committee. She especially enjoys visiting some of the children in their homes to see firsthand the impact that the Compassion program is having on their lives.


Prayer Requests

  • Pray that poor families in the northwest affected by drought will find alternative ways to provide for their children’s needs.
  • Pray for the safety of our children and their families during the annual hurricane season.
  • Pray for the parents and caregivers of Compassion-assisted children who face unemployment or underemployment.
  • Pray that parents will understand the importance of education and not encourage their children to leave school or skip Compassion program activities to work.