San Cristobal

San Cristobal

San Cristobal is the capital city of the San Cristobal province in the Dominican Republic. San Cristobal is located approximately 19 miles from the Dominican Republic's capital city, Santo Domingo.

Dominican Republic Southwestern Region

The Location


The Population


The Religion

Roman Catholic

The Weather

  • Girls pose for the camera in a dusty street of their community, Las Matas de Farfan, in southwestern Dominican Republic. Dominican Republic in School Yard
  • Children enjoy activities at their church-based Compassion center, where they have the opportunity to play, learn and thrive. Dominican Republic Children Interacting with their Teacher
  • Homes are often built on whatever land is available, sometimes perched in precarious locations – one landslide away from disaster. Dominican Republic Girls Walking Uphill
  • Prayer is an important component of the Compassion program, and children are taught early how to talk to their heavenly Father. Dominican Republic Children Praying
  • The Compassion program curriculum gives leaders confidence that they are meeting the developmental needs of the children they serve. Dominican Republic Girls Posing for a Photo
  • Some adults work as motorcycle-taxi drivers for a meager wage. Dominican Republic Men on Motorbikes

Overview: Southwestern Region

Dominicans in southwestern border cities such as Pedernales and Jimani take advantage of the opportunity to trade with neighboring Haiti. Twice a week, the borders are opened between the two countries and local markets are lively.

From Haitians, Dominicans typically buy clothes, shoes, perfume and other items to resell. Haitians buy fresh produce grown in the Dominican Republic’s southwestern region. This trade is not only good for the economy, but it also promotes understanding and relationship between the two countries, which have experienced bitter border disputes in the past.

About 1.4 million of the Dominican Republic’s 9.6 million people live in the nine provinces that comprise the country’s southwestern region. In this region, children grow up in both rural and urban settings.


Culture Corner

Dominican Republic Children Eating


(fish in coconut milk)

This recipe from southwestern Dominican Republic is made with fish, called biajacas, from the two large lakes in the region, Lago Enriquillo and Laguna de Cabral.


  • 1 teaspoon crushed garlic
  • Salt, pepper, oregano to taste
  • 4 medium-size fish filets
  • 4 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 large onion, cut into strips
  • 2 bell peppers, cut into strips
  • 4 medium tomatoes, quartered
  • 4 cups coconut milk
  • 2 lemons, sliced


Mix garlic, salt, pepper and oregano. Rub mixture onto filets.

Heat oil in a large frying pan and add filets. Fry until lightly browned.

Add onion, green pepper and tomatoes. Sauté two to three minutes.

Add coconut milk and simmer over medium heat until liquid reduces to half.

Remove from heat and serve hot. Squeeze lemon juice over each filet to taste.


Life in Southwestern Dominican Republic

In the southwestern region of the Dominican Republic, Compassion serves children both in rural areas and in such urban centers as Barahona and San Juan. Most adults in the southwest work as day laborers on large farms growing sugarcane, tobacco and coffee, the country’s primary agricultural exports. Children also frequently work in the fields instead of attending school, especially during harvest time.

Children in this region live primarily in poorly constructed, rented homes. Often their families are forced to move because they don’t make enough to pay the rent. In the rural areas, it is not uncommon for several families to share a single latrine. And their fragile homes are susceptible to the frequent tropical storms that the southwest experiences every year between May and November.

Children at Home

Typical homes in the Dominican Republic’s southwest area are crudely constructed of wood and other scrap materials. They are small, and in the rural areas lack electricity, running water and sanitation facilities. Many children live in rented houses with their families. Due to the lack of employment and difficulty their parents or caretakers have in paying the rent, some children may move from one community to another, preventing stability in school and with friends. High unemployment rates are a problem for many families. Most parents leave their children with a relative or friend so they can leave to look for work each day.


Community Issues and Concerns Community in Dominican Republic

In southwestern urban centers such as Barahona and San Cristóbal, a typical job is that of motorcycle-taxi driver. Owners of motorcycles can earn an average of $6 to $15 a day driving passengers around the city.

As in rural areas, children in the urban southwest often drop out of school to work. They can be seen in the city streets begging, cleaning car windshields at intersections, and shining shoes. Often, in a desperate effort to earn a little money, children will get involved in such risky activities as scavenging in the city dump for items to sell.

Local Needs and Challenges

Children in southwestern Dominican Republic face many challenges to growing up happy and healthy. Broken families are common, with 35 percent of the children being raised by single mothers. In the rural areas, education opportunities are limited. Some schools combine grades one through four into one class, and school is conducted only a couple of times per week. Beyond primary school, rural children often must travel long and hazardous distances from home to the nearest secondary school.


Schools and Education Education in Dominican Republic

The southwest is the country’s largest source of seafood and agricultural products. In rural areas, impoverished adults typically work as temporary or day laborers on large farms. For their backbreaking work, they make only about the equivalent of $5 per day. Because this pay is not enough to provide for their children’s needs, rural families often grow their own crops to sell in small plots of land near their homes. In rural areas it’s common to see women with baskets on their heads filled with bananas or other produce for sale.

But daily farm labor is only seasonal, and in the off-seasons, few jobs are available. That’s when life, difficult at best, becomes desperate for poor families. During these times, meals are few and children are dangerously malnourished.

At the Compassion Child Development Center

Forty Compassion-assisted child development centers in the Dominican Republic’s southwestern 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 opportunity 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 churches in conducting successful Compassion programs for their communities’ children. Serving churches in southwestern Dominican Republic is Miladys Luciano, who has been a Partnership Facilitator since 2008.

Formerly the director of a Compassion center in her hometown, San Juan de la Maguana, Miladys knows well the challenges local churches face in their ministry to children. At least once each month, she meets with each of the 12 churches under her care, sometimes traveling three hours by bus to reach them.

Miladys has a passion for children, especially those who don’t receive affection in their own homes and turn to their Compassion center for the unconditional love and care that every child deserves.


Prayer Requests

  • Pray for the health of children in southwestern rural areas who are vulnerable to malnutrition, especially during the months when there is no work for their caregivers on local farms.
  • Pray for the parents and caregivers of Compassion-assisted children in urban southwestern areas who face unemployment or underemployment.
  • Pray that Compassion-assisted children will stay in school and complete their education.
  • Pray for the protection and safety of our children and families during the annual hurricane season.