Community Economic Volunteer

Before You Apply

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Project Description

One of the central strategies in the Dominican Strategic National Development Plan for 2010-2030 is to foment a planned, innovative and sustainable economy with a productive structure that generates high growth, decent sustainable employment along with competitive insertion into the global economy. The Peace Corps Dominican Republic (PCDR) Community Economic Development (CED) project seeks to support this strategy and address specific challenges and needs of Dominicans at lower levels of income generation. While the DR has experienced sustained economic growth since 2005, there persists a marked income inequality. The poorest half of the population receives less than one-fifth of the Gross National Product, while the richest 10% enjoy nearly 40% of the national income. As of 2013, 41% of the population lives below the poverty line.

The Central Bank reported unemployment in 2013 at 15%. Formal job market employment opportunities are minimal, particularly in rural and small towns, creating a greater need for entrepreneurship and income generation strategies for the unemployed.

The CED project seeks to empower existing and aspiring community based business groups and entrepreneurs with the tools to determine and manage their economic destiny at the grassroots level in rural and semi-urban communities.

The CED project targets two areas of community economic development:

Goal 1: Entrepreneurial Development
Individuals will acquire business skills and create new business opportunities.

Goal 2: Business Management and Organizational Strengthening
Community based business groups and organizations will strengthen their organizational and business management capacity.

The purpose of the program is to help Dominican communities increase sustainable economic development opportunities. Volunteers are generally requested and placed with a community based business organization in different stages of development. Volunteers’ primary assignment is to help this organization realize and work towards their business goals. More specifically, Volunteers will:
• provide business management assistance in marketing, product and service development, and customer service
• help organizations increase capacity in governance, planning, internal management, financial management and organizational strengthening
• instruct individuals on how to conduct a market and feasibility study, develop and present a business plan, set up and manage businesses using appropriate funding options, including microfinance, as well as determine their profitability

Volunteers will also have the opportunity to work outside of the assigned organization with the community in general, supporting entrepreneurship and income generation among youth, women and men, as well as one on one business consulting with interested community members. This may include teaching basic personal money management skills such as budgeting, savings, keeping business/personal accounts separate and other related topics.

Required Skills

Competitive candidates will have one or more of the following criteria:
• Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science degree in any business discipline
• 5 years professional experience in business management

Desired Skills

• Master of Business Administration degree or a Master of Arts/Master of Science degree in Business Administration, Public Administration, Management, Accounting, Banking, or Finance
• Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science degree in Agriculture Economics or a degree combining agriculture and management, including agribusiness, agricultural management, farm management
• At least 3 years of experience in farm management and/or agribusiness
• Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science degree in any business or economics discipline with 1 year experience in farming or agribusiness
• Experience working with entrepreneurship
• Experience in one or more of the following areas: sales and marketing, bookkeeping, management or administration
• Competitive candidates have proven leadership skills and ability to work with adults, will act as positive role models for young people, and work in a professional manner.
• We encourage applicants with strong Spanish language skills to apply.

Required Language Skills

Candidates must meet one or more of the language requirements below in order to be considered for this position.

A) Completed 4 years of high school Spanish coursework within the past 8 years.
B) Completed minimum 2 semesters of Spanish college-level coursework within the past 6 years.
C) Native / fluent speaker of Spanish

Candidates who do not meet the language proficiency levels above can take the language placement exams to demonstrate their level of proficiency. Competitive applicants typically attain a score of 50 on the Spanish College Level Examination Program CLEP exam or a score of Novice-High on the American Coucil on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL OPI).

Competitive candidates will have conversational Spanish skills at the time they apply and will commit to continuing their language learning while awaiting departure. Peace Corps provides intensive language training during the 10 weeks of Pre-Service Training. At the end of training, Peace Corps Dominican Republic requires an intermediate level of oral proficiency in order to be sworn in as a Volunteer. Trainees that arrive with conversational Spanish skills are likely to reach this level.

Living Conditions

Volunteers will live with two families during the 10 week pre-service training (one family in Santo Domingo and the other in a smaller community during community-based training). Volunteers will live with a third host family for the first 4-6 months of service in their assigned community to facilitate language acquisition and community integration. Although most Volunteers are able to move out on their own after an obligatory 4-6 month homestay (in addition to the training homestays), there is no guarantee that independent housing will be available.

Volunteers are assigned to both rural communities and small towns. Living conditions and transportation problems can be physically demanding. You will have to use the available transportation existing in your community (in most cases this includes regular or semi-regular service by pick-up trucks, vans, and/or collective taxis). In some cases you may have to walk long distances to work engagements. Houses usually have corrugated steel roofs, walls of wood or cement block, and cement floors. They may or may not have amenities such as running water, electricity, or reliable phone service. Most communities have phone service within the community, although there are situations where Volunteers have to travel up to an hour to access service. Although some communities have electricity, a great many do not, and in all cases, power outages are common. Many of these communities are located along the Dominican-Haitian border, with more challenging living conditions.

Personal appearance is important for Volunteers representing the Peace Corps and Dominican partner agencies. Dominicans consider personal appearance to be an important indicator about a person, and a Volunteer’s appearance will influence his/her relationship with the community. Volunteers are expected to dress to Dominican standards for development professionals.

Peace Corps Dominican Republic provides support to a diverse group of Volunteers. Volunteers use their experiences as members of different underrepresented groups to help other Volunteers navigate social, cultural, political, religious, personal, and other challenges. Current support networks include the Diversity and Inclusion Committee, the Marginalized Voices Support Group, and the Pride LGBTQ Support Group. Some considerations are:

Sexual Orientation: Intolerant attitudes towards the LGBTQ community are still held by many people. While same-sex relationships are not illegal in the Dominican Republic, most Dominican communities only accept heterosexual relationships. However, LGBTQ Volunteers find safe spaces within the PCDR network and when visiting larger metropolitan areas.

Ethnicity: Different ethnic, racial or national minority American identities are often not viewed as “American.” Volunteers may thus experience negation of their American identity due to local assumptions of what an American looks like. While some Black/African American Volunteers may blend in with the local Dominican population, others including those who choose to wear their hair in its natural state or braided hairstyles, or have darker skin tones, may be perceived as Haitian. While this may lead to one’s citizenship being questioned and ultimately differential treatment. Volunteers find support and representation within active Dominican natural hair movements in large cities. Despite these challenges, many Volunteers have been able to turn these encounters into learning experiences on the diversity of American culture and successfully complete their services with support from the PCDR network and certain community members.

Learn more about the Volunteer experience in Dominican Republic: Get detailed information on culture, communications, housing, and safety — including crime statistics [PDF] — in order to make a well-informed decision about serving.

Couples Information

The Dominican Republic is able to accommodate cross-sector couples but not couples within the Community Economic Development sector. Therefore your partner must qualify and apply for:

Spanish Literacy Promoter- Primary School

All Trainees are required to live with host families during Pre-Service Training. Couples will live together with a host family during training in Santo Domingo. If requested, staff will try to accommodate separate host family placements, however this cannot be guaranteed. If you and your partner are assigned to different sectors, you will live apart for the community-based portion of Pre-Service Training. Couples who are in different sectors are usually allowed to visit one weekend during community-based training.

After swearing-in, Volunteers are required to live with a host family in their assigned community for a minimum of 4 months. For couples, this requirement is reduced to 6 weeks.

While serving, couples in different sectors will attend separate In-Service Training workshops.

Medical Considerations in Dominican Republic

  • Dominican Rep. may not be able to support Volunteers with the following medical conditions: requiring a psychiatrist for psychotropic medications support; ongoing counseling.
  • The following medication(s) are not permitted for legal or cultural reasons: none identified.
  • Volunteers who should avoid the following food(s) may not be able to serve: none identified.
  • After arrival in Dominican Republic, Peace Corps provides and applicants are required to have an annual flu shot, to take daily or weekly medication to prevent malaria, and to receive mandatory immunizations.

Before you apply, please review Medical Information for Applicants to learn about the clearance process and other health conditions that are difficult to accommodate in Peace Corps service.

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