Bridges to Community (bridgestocommunity.org) is a poverty alleviation-focused nonprofit organization. Our motto, “building communities, changing lives,” encapsulates both the how and why of what we do. Our volunteers work with community leaders in impoverished regions of Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic to accomplish these important goals. In this article, we will focus on the criteria we use to select communities for our programs as well as the process by which we seek to offer help to the people living in these economically struggling municipalities.
Basic Criteria for Community Selection
In nations like the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua, there are many people living in poverty. With limited resources, groups such as ours must, therefore, choose where to begin offering much-needed assistance. We’ve developed several benchmarks by which we hope to gauge the lasting benefit our work could provide to the communities we’re reaching through our programs. These criteria include:
1. A significant level of general poverty
2. Specific needs in the areas of housing, education, health, and economic development
3. A high commitment level of community leaders and residents
In our experience, when these three criteria are met, a community is most likely to reap the rewards which our programs have to offer them. At this point, we’re working with four communities in Nicaragua and one community in the Dominican Republic.
Community Development Process
Once chosen by our leadership, a community undergoes a certain process with a high likelihood of success. The process involves several steps, such as evaluation for one year, program training and education of community leaders, as well as community studies and individual conversations with residents. This process helps to lay the groundwork for future work in that local area.
This foundational stage is followed by general community information meetings. These early organizational steps help get as many of the local people as possible on board, equipped, and excited about the benefits of working with Bridges to Community.
Dominican Republic: San Juan Region
Our organization’s work in the Dominican Republic began with survey trips starting in 2012. Though this nation is known as a tourist destination, over 30% of the nation lives in poverty, especially in rural areas. The poverty level is greatest along the Dominican-Haitian border.
The Dominican Republic’s San Juan province is naturally beautiful but filled with impoverished people. These areas are isolated from tourist spots and there are few employment opportunities available. Due to extremely low income of less than $100 per month and lack of jobs, younger people are susceptible to falling into a self-destructive cycle of behaviors that can lead to even greater poverty.
Our group has sought to assist the San Juan area communities of Derrumbadero and Caimonial in several concrete ways, such as reforestation, improvement of homes and educational facilities, and building of a community youth center.
Nicaragua: Masaya, Jinotega, Nindiri & Siuna
In Latin America, Nicaragua is second only to Haiti when it comes to impoverishment. Over 60% of Nicaragua’s rural population lives on scarcely more than a dollar per day. Since 1993, our organization has sought to empower Nicaraguans for a better future. We currently have programs operating in the communities of Masaya, Jinotega, Nidiri, and Siuna.
Bridges to Community has helped to build health, educational, and residential facilities in these areas. We’ve also worked to provide access to fresh drinking water, improve sanitation, and plant fruit trees and shade trees to bolster water conservation efforts. We’ve even provided training in environmental improvement to local people.
Bridges to Community seeks to inspire, educate, and encourage both economically challenged Nicaraguan and Dominican residents. We’re thankful for the part we are privileged to play in helping to break the cycle of poverty for these communities. Learn more about our regular volunteer trips to both Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic on our website: bridgestocommunity.org.