The Dominican Republic: A welcoming place to create lasting change
An introduction to the Dominican Republic
There’s no place quite like the Dominican Republic, where you can experience a blend of three distinct cultures: European, African and native Taíno Indian.
In 1492, Christopher Columbus arrived on the island, dubbing it Hispaniola. The capital, Santo Domingo, was the first city established in the Americas. Over the centuries, the island has been subject to several different periods of colonial rule.
Those cultural influences can still be seen in the country today, reflected in the food, music, art, sports and religion of the people.
For example, in Dominican cuisine, you’ll find Spanish ingredients (rice, beans, seafood) and traditional Taíno and African dishes made with yucca, plantain and potatoes.
Dominicans also demonstrate their heritage through bright and colorful artwork. In local markets, you’ll find Taíno-influenced jewelry made from natural objects, like amber and coconut husk. You’ll also find jewelry made from larimar, a beautiful blue stone native to the Dominican Republic. One of our girls residential homes–La Casa de Larimar–is named in its honor.
Baseball is the country’s favorite pastime and a major source of national pride. Many U.S. Major League Baseball players come from the Dominican Republic, including famous names like Pedro Martinez, Alex Rodriguez, Albert Pujols and Sammy Sosa.
Another critical part of Dominican culture is the Carnival. Each city puts on its own unique version of this festival celebrating independence, filling the streets with colorful masks, music and dancing.
Faith is an important part of Dominican life, too. The country is 95.2% Christian, including 88.6% Roman Catholic and 4.2% Protestant. Recent immigration, as well as proselytizing, has brought other religions to the country.
In metropolitan areas, Dominican life is similar to what you’d find in cities in the U.S. and Western Europe. However, it’s estimated that more than a third of the country’s total population lives in poverty. In rural areas poor people constitute half of the population.
Poverty is difficult to escape as agricultural productivity is low and government investment in social and productive development in rural areas is limited. Natural crises such as hurricanes and tropical storms are a recurring threat to the living conditions and incomes of the rural population.
Caribbean Mountain Academy: Our setting for service
Nestled amid the Dominican Republic’s stunning natural beauty is the Caribbean Mountain Academy, a residential boarding school for teens, and your home during your mission trip.
During your stay, you may perform mission work side-by-side with Academy students, or work on your own group service projects in the community. In either case, you provide an example of service to these teens.
The Caribbean Mountain Academy is also the perfect location to unplug and reconnect. Here, we focus on the value of relationships and faith, and set aside the more material world we are often so caught up in.
For families, mission trips create a chance to learn more about each other and just “be” instead of always “doing.” This experience can be immensely healing. Volunteering and sacrificing your time to serve others also teaches children the value of giving and helps sensitize them to the fact that there is always someone in greater need than ourselves.
Committed to Change
Crosswinds mission trips strive not just to serve Dominican communities, but to be part of them, working side-by-side with the native people to create change that can transform lives.
Our long-term presence in the Dominican Republic, and the immersive setting of our Caribbean Mountain Academy, makes our mission work so uniquely memorable for participants and valuable to those we serve.
When you serve with Crosswinds in the Dominican Republic, you will quickly learn that while many Dominicans are materially poor, they are rich in their relationships with God, family and friends. That joy will rub off on you, helping you gain perspective on what is really important in life.