Caminante Outreach Program

Dominican Republic

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13403762_1121590637904970_8635398355159863008_o.jpgThe island of Hispaniola is the home of both the Dominican Republic and Haiti. Both countries have shared the struggles of poverty, military dictatorships, and hurricanes. They also share beautiful beaches and nice, warm weather.

This island was one of the first conquered by the Europeans in the early 16th century. The indigenous population was practically wiped out and was replaced by African slaves. Now, opportunities are scarce and the economy is supported by money sent back to the island by those living in Puerto Rico or the United States.

The capital city of the Dominican Republic, Santo Domingo, has suffered a dramatic increase in population over the last decades and this rise has continued during the last ten years.  Families and children who previously farmed sugar cane moved to the city after the demand for sugar cane dropped in Latin America. Tourism began to become an important factor in the economy in the mid-1980s. Desperation has driven many children to prostitution in this popular destination for European tourism.

Apart from the typical prostitution, the child sex industry in the Dominican Republic includes both boys and girls, working away from indoor places, mainly in tourist areas. This new type of prostitution has resulted from the increase in tourism, particularly as tourists pay higher prices than local men. While the majority of the children work on their own, some may have someone who finds the ‘customer' for them.  It is not uncommon for bar staff or taxi drivers to serve as intermediaries between their ‘customers' and child prostitutes. 

Children involved in the sex industry are socially stigmatized and legally harassed. In the past, the police regularly rounded up and arrested those involved in prostitution. Corruption within the military and police force was also recognized as widespread. These street children were often mistreated by authorities who considered them a nuisance.

Caminante, meaning "One Who Walks the Path," is a grassroots organization made up of people who have first-hand knowledge of the struggles that face the kids and teens in their community.  Caminante is located in Boca Chica, a beach-resort town, located close to the airport and the capital city of Santo Domingo. The project is providing a safe space where hundreds of youth and their families will receive counseling and participate in recreational and formation programs. Additionally, in coordination with local government and non-governmental agencies, victims of sexual abuse and exploitation are receiving special attention and services. Many of the staff of Caminante are former participants in the program who lived on the streets or had little support from a family.

The purpose of Caminante is to serve children who are at risk of being drawn into prostitution as a result of the culture associated with the tourist economy in the Dominican Republic. Caminante seeks to help develop the self-esteem of these children by teaching Christian values, through education and recreational activities. Also, Caminante works closely with the families, churches, and the community to raise awareness regarding the complexity of this problem.

Caminante offers the following services:

Social/Cultural Activities

  • singing
  • poetry
  • pantomimes
  • drama
  • basketball

Health Services

  • Health and wholeness services
  • Follow up with HIV/AIDS victims
  • Medical services
  • Legal Services
  • Legal assistance in accordance with Law 136-03 (NNA protection)
    The law is explicit in stating that the commercial sexual exploitation of children is a violation of human and child rights. It establishes penalties for those who violate such rights by sexually exploiting children and makes recommendations for ensuring that child victims and their families are protected and supported.
  • NNA follow up to street situations

Vocational and Technical Education

  • Study rooms
  • Reinstate in school
  • Workshops and courses
  • Alliances with technical training centers

Psychological Services

  • Individual therapy
  • Family and group therapy
  • Emotional support

Gifts to Caminante can be used to: 

  • $10.00 help provide needed school supplies
  • $25.00 help provide sports equipment
  • $50.00 help provide medical and psychological services at Caminante

Caminante Christmas Video

Update: September 2013

From July 2012 to July 2013, Caminante assisted 90 youth and children through their academic centers in Bella Vista and Brisas Del Norte. The alternative curriculum provided through these centers is aimed at developing cognitive and social skills in order to reduce risky behaviors. Global Mission Intern Ashley Holst’s work with participants through music has contributed to a significant reduction in the levels of violence and hyperactivity. The participants in these centers are more likely to continue their education and develop greater reading comprehension than children who do not participate.

Families with children attending the academic centers also are involved in workshops that encourage positive parenting methods. These workshops emphasize:

  • Family ties
  • Family participation in educational activities
  • Respect for the rights of children
  • Reduction of physical and psychological abuse of children
  • Awareness of community problems

Caminante’s summer camp programs provided opportunities for dozens of children to learn more about decision-making, the environment, and the importance of universal education.  This last point is crucial for Caminante as many of the children they work with do not have the legal documents required for local schools.

Caminante hopes to continue its educational work and to expand work related to basic healthcare, especially in the areas of nutrition, immunization, and waterborne infections. 

Update: January 2016

cam3.jpgEducational Programs
Caminante offers morning and after school programs for children and youth to practice the areas of reading, writing, homework completion, and academic success techniques. Nearly 200 students have attended the program in the past two years, and each participant meets with a Caminante staff member to identify any potential academic or behavioral problems that can be addressed. In addition to the educational programs, Caminante provides school supplies on a case-by-case basis for children and youth, such as uniforms, shoes, backpacks, and more. 

Recreational Activities and Life Skills
Caminante believes that children and youth should have the opportunity to play games and sports for the purposes of having fun and social development. Caminante provides a space for children and youth to play and understands that through having fun with peers, they are developing skills in decision making, managing peer pressure, and dealing with conflicts.

cam2.jpgSummer Camps and Workshops
Over 250 children and youth attended summer camps through Caminante in the past two years. Summer camps included a schedule of activities, games, and workshops with the primary goal to have fun and socialize in a relaxed and pleasant atmosphere.  Through workshops provided by Caminante, young participants learned about topics such as HIV/AIDS prevention, physical and sexual abuse prevention, and more.

Caminante also held lecture series and workshops on helpful tips and tools for parents and guardians. Common discussions at these workshops include conversations on the topics of participating in school meetings, checking homework completion, and ways to encourage their children to achieve academic goals. 

cam1.jpg“Soy Salud” Health Project
Caminante, through their “Soy Salud” health project, is increasing access to health care services and information on living healthy lifestyles for children, youth, and families in the Bresa del Norte (La Torre) Boca Chica community.  The project aims to support families and local organizations to become jointly responsible for the care and protection of health. Caminante identified the following five areas as the key strategies to a healthier community: promoting health awareness and education, identifying and preventing potential social risks for poor health, treating existing health conditions, emphasizing mental and overall health, and lobbying for provisions from state health ministries.  Caminante has been able to implement activities in each of these five areas, including workshops reaching over 600 attendees.  They also have worked toward a 70% increase of individuals in the community receiving immunizations, better access to dental cleanings and treatments, and an increased partnership between local health care providers and the community for better treatment of existing health conditions.  

Read a donor story supporting the work of Caminante.

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