There’s no doubt about it. The Dominican Republic was lucky not to get a full blast from Hurricane Irma. There was some damage on the North Coast and people did lose their homes. But it wasn’t the devastation that we’ve seen elsewhere in the Caribbean or the USA. BeachCorps has contributed to help the victims (we believe direct cash donations to reputable organizations like the Red Cross are the best) and urge you to consider doing so. On September 13, the nonprofit volunteer organization of the tourism industry Tourism Cares brought together 12 travel industry associations to develop and support the Destination Disaster Recovery Fund, with the hopes of becoming the primary resource for travel and tourism-related recovery efforts for hurricanes Harvey and Irma.
Beyond that, let’s take a step back and ask: how does BeachCorps deal with hurricanes? First, it’s important to realize that while the risk is real the Dominican Republic has over time been relatively less affected by hurricanes and serious storms over the years owing to its geographic placement, compared to other Caribbean countries and even the southeastern USA. The hurricane seasons lasts from June through September each year. Only 11 hurricanes have reached the country in the past 80 years, as the country is naturally protected by Puerto Rico to the east, and the Mona Channel in between the two islands, where temperature variations create a pressure system that (usually) pushes storms towards the sea, as was the case with Irma. No Dominican Republic city appears in this list of the top 50 cities in the Atlantic and Caribbean to be affected by hurricanes and severe storms.
Despite the rarity of severe storms, all areas in the Dominican Republic have seen storm damage at some point. Hotels catering to foreigners are well-versed in hurricane preparedness. On the off chance you happen to be caught in a hurricane in the Dominican Republic while on a BeachCorps vacation, most hotels will provide adequate instructions and have plans and facilities in place. Moreover, since hurricanes that affect the Dominican Republic tend to form along the west coast of Africa, hurricanes are not likely to sneak up on unsuspecting travelers; there is plenty of opportunity to be warned and evacuate, or not come in the first place. BeachCorps will of course warn you if we are aware of any danger and will not put people in harm's way.
In terms of the nonprofit causes that BeachCorps supports, we have a hurricane plan in place. If a hurricane or other disaster affects your travel plans, BeachCorps will refund your excursion payments 100%. The tax deductible donation you will have made will stay with the nonprofit that you were going to support. So you can rest assured that your donation will go directly to hurricane relief exactly when the country needs it, because each nonprofit that BeachCorps supports will have a contractual obligation to have a disaster relief plan in place and to produce expense reports, just like any BeachCorps project.
For example, BeachCorps hopes to support the wonderful Dominican Dream Project, whose work supporting education for underserved communities is focused on the North Coast of the Dominican Republic. Before Irma hit, the Dream Project announced it had a plan and then after Irma had passed sent a message out to supporters afterwards confirming its intent to follow through on providing hurricane relief.
That’s the kind of effectiveness, transparency, and accountability that BeachCorps will ask for in ALL of our partners!
Despite occasional stormy weather, the Dominican Republic will forever be a special and exquisitely beautiful place in the Caribbean as described by the nation’s poet laureate, Pedro Mir:
“There is a country in the world”
A country in the world
In the same path as the sun,
A native of the night
In an improbable archipelago
of Sugar and rum...
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