Santo Domingo

Santo Domingo

Santo Domingo is the capital city of the Dominican Republic and is located in the country's southeastern region. Santo Domingo is home to 2.9 million people and is the largest city in the Dominican Republic. Situated along the country's long Caribbean coastline, Santo Domingo is vulnerable to fierce tropical storms between May and November.

Dominican Republic Southeastern Region

The Location


The Population


The Religion

Roman Catholic

The Weather

  • The fragile homes of impoverished people who live in southeastern Dominican Republic provide little protection from the elements. Dominican Republic Small Home
  • To help fight the malnutrition common among children served by church-based Compassion centers, regular nutritious meals are served. Dominican Republic Children Eating at their Desks
  • Children develop their creativity by learning how to make colorful handicrafts. Dominican Republic Arts and Crafts
  • Playgrounds are scarce in low-income Dominican neighborhoods. These children are grateful for the playground equipment at their Compassion center. Dominican Republic Children on the Playground
  • These children are learning the proper way to wash their hands, using clean water, soap, and a clean towel. Dominican Republic Girls Washing their Hands
  • People do whatever they can to earn money. This woman sells shoes at a small vending stall. Dominican Republic Woman Selling Clothes

Overview: Southeastern Region

Between May and November, the time of year known as hurricane season, the Dominican Republic is hit by an average of 21 storms. The coastal southeast is particularly vulnerable to these storms, which often cause flooding and landslides. The worst storms can kill hundreds of people and leave thousands homeless. That’s why Compassion maintains a comprehensive program of emergency disaster relief in the Dominican Republic.

More than one-third of the Dominican Republic’s 9.6 million people live in the eight provinces that comprise the country’s southeastern region. This region includes the sprawling capital city of Santo Domingo. In the southeast, children grow up in both urban and rural settings.


Culture Corner

Dominican Republic Children Playing El Panuelo


(the handkerchief)

This game of strategy and action is popular with children throughout the Dominican Republic.


Divide into two teams.

Each team stands in a line, facing each other, with several feet of space between the teams (similar to a Red Rover lineup).

Team members number off, each team starting with the number one.

One person stands between the two teams, lightly holding a handkerchief by one corner.

The person holding the handkerchief calls out a number.

The opposing team member with that number approaches the middle.

Each one tries to snatch the handkerchief and make it back to his or her team without being tagged by the opposing team member.


Life in Southeastern Dominican Republic

Home to the Dominican Republic’s capital city, Santo Domingo, the southeastern region, with its long Caribbean coastline, is vulnerable to fierce tropical storms between May and November.

Adults in the region’s urban centers work at whatever day labor jobs they can find. Those in the rural areas typically work in the vast sugarcane fields. But this work is only seasonal, from January through June, and pays a meager wage. To help meet their needs, rural families usually keep livestock and grow a few crops on the land around their homes. Many leave their families to work in hotels in the coast’s popular tourist centers.

Children at Home

In the rural southeastern region of the Dominican Republic, children typically live in homes made of corrugated metal sheets. Houses are easily damaged or even destroyed during storms. These flimsy dwellings seldom have electricity or running water, and the community usually shares a common latrine. Without fuel, families cook their meals over wood fires. In the urban areas, children live in crowded slums.


Community Issues and Concerns Community in Dominican Republic

Families in the rural southeast are even more impoverished than those in the cities. Here, adults typically work only from January through June during the zafra, or sugar cane harvest. Cutting sugar cane by hand in the blazing sun is hard work for meager pay. For every ton of sugar cane cut and loaded onto a wagon, a worker is paid between $4 and $5.

Although the government has made it illegal to hire children to work in the sugar cane fields, they are often seen working side-by-side with their parents, sunup to sundown.

Rarely can rural families afford more than two meager meals a day. Most also grow fruit and vegetables in small plots of land around their houses or raise a few goats and a cow to supplement their diet.

Local Needs and Challenges

In addition to the annual danger presented by the hurricane season, children in southeastern Dominican Republic deal with other pressing challenges, such as the temptation to drop out of school to work to help their families. Broken families are also a widespread problem, with many of the region’s children being cared for by single mothers or relatives. Also, many innocent children are forced into sex trafficking, which proliferates in the country’s tourist centers.


Schools and Education Education in Dominican Republic

For Dominican families living in the southeast’s cities, there are few sources of steady work. Even when they can find a temporary labor job, adults receive only about the equivalent of $8 for a full day of backbreaking work. Those lucky enough to have motorcycles can earn a little more by transporting passengers, taxi-style, around the city.

Often, parents leave their children with relatives and move to one of the country’s seaside tourist areas in search of work in a hotel or other tourism-related setting. Nearly 60 percent of the country’s children are growing up in the care of a single parent or relatives.

Children in southeastern cities frequently quit school to look for work to help improve their families’ economic situation. It is common to see children and teens selling items or washing car windshields at busy intersections, or begging on the streets. Tragically, some children are lured into sex or drug trafficking, both huge problems in the Dominican Republic’s popular tourist areas.

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 southeastern Dominican Republic is Juan David Perez Peña, who has been a Partnership Facilitator for the past five years.

Before joining Compassion, Juan David was a schoolteacher for 15 years. In addition to his Compassion duties, he is also a Sunday school teacher at his church. Juan David visits the 10 local churches in his care at least once every month to assist them in operating their Compassion center. Although he often talks to center workers by phone, he prefers being at the centers in person to see firsthand how things are going and to offer his help.


Prayer Requests

  • 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 in the southeast’s rural and urban areas who face unemployment or underemployment.
  • Pray that the parents will understand the importance of education and not encourage their children to leave school or skip Compassion program activities to work.
  • Pray for the vocational training activities conducted by the Compassion centers for the older teens.