Thousands Gather to Clean Dominican Republic Coasts
More than 18,000 volunteers gathered and collected more than 180,000 pounds of trash in 44 beach and river coastal locations throughout the nation of the Dominican Republic to commemorate International Coastal Cleanup Day in late 2010.
In collaboration with Vida Azul, the Dominican representative of Ocean Conservancy, “Mormon Helping Hands,” which officially launched in the Dominican Republic in August 2010, carried out its first major project in the country with about 5,000 members contributing to the effort.
- View a photo gallery of Mormon Helping Hands participants and other volunteers working together to beautify the coasts of the Dominican Republic.
“The Mormon Helping Hands program is a great opportunity for the Dominican Republic—both for our members to give service in meaningful ways and also for the local authorities to learn more about the Church,” said Ingrid Martinez, national director of public affairs for the Dominican Republic. “It helps them see who we really are and how much we love to participate in our community.”
Each of the Dominican Republic’s 18 stakes, many of the 10 districts, and missionaries from the Dominican Republic Santo Domingo West Mission participated in the project. In all, members cleaned 18 beaches, eight rivers, and two public plazas.
“Seeing a massive amount of volunteers doing what seems impossible brings out the best in each of us,” said Oscar Oevideo, director of operations at Vida Azul. “Without the Mormon Helping Hands volunteers, this success would not have been possible.”
The Church also dedicated additional resources to the project. Central distribution facilities were used to distribute garbage bags, gloves, rakes, shovels, and large screens to sift the sand to find smaller particles of garbage.
“The Church members in the Dominican Republic have a wonderful spirit of service,” said Elder Wilford. W. Andersen of the Seventy, Second Counselor in the Caribbean Area Presidency. “We were thrilled to see so many members give of their time and resources for a project that benefits communities and neighbors, and contributes to the beauty of this island nation.”
In many locations, those participating met at churches where they received instructions. The groups were then transported to the different locations, broke into groups of four, and went to work.
In the groups of four, three members collected garbage and one person recorded a tally and description of the items collected. The most common items collected were plastic bottles, plastic bags, fast food packages, shoes, and other forms of paper and plastic. Once filled, garbage bags were weighed and later removed.
Prior to the service project each group wanting to schedule a cleanup had to go to a local city council and arrange for trucks to pick up the garbage bags.
“It was a great way for Church members to walk into a city hall, offer to do a service project for them, and create a relationship with them,” said Rebecca Mehr, a public affairs missionary in the Dominican Republic.
In addition to planning the projects, Helping Hands volunteers assembled beach-cleaning kits on a few different occasions to be used for the project, consisting of trash bags, writing utensils, T-shirts, and hats.
“This was a wonderful opportunity to serve our community and emphasize the importance of caring for our natural resources,” said Cesar Gomez, a counselor in the stake presidency of the Las Caobas Stake. “The spirit of love was evident throughout the project, making it a great experience well worth repeating.”