Community Projects

Documentation Efforts & Human Rights Advocacy

While Yspaniola is an education organization, we collaborate with Batey Libertad community members, Dominican organizations, and international institutions to help prevent denial of documentation, deportations, and statelessness.

The background:

In September 2013, the Dominican Constitutional Tribunal’s ruling stripped citizenship from all Dominicans whose family members had come to the country after 1929, effectively denationalizing hundreds of thousands of Dominicans of Haitian descent, including many residents of Batey Libertad. After international outrage and mobilization by activists within the country and the Dominican diaspora, the Dominican government created a process through which denationalized Dominicans could regain citizenship by applying through the government. The application process is convoluted, expensive, and excludes any denationalized Dominican without the means to legal representation or the ability to pay for the process. Those who are not able to apply for the naturalization and regularization plans are being threatened with deportation.

How Yspaniola partners with human rights organizations:

Starting in the late summer of 2014, Yspaniola collaborated with two local human rights organizations, CEFASA (a Jesuit organization) and MOSCHTA (a Dominican-Haitian workers organization), as well as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to help 34 Batey Libertad residents who had been denationalized apply to regain their citizenship.

More recently, Yspaniola partnered with CEFASA to receive funding from the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to help other residents of Batey Libertad complete their applications for the national regularization plan. Various government officials and offices have threatened to deport all undocumented immigrants who do not register under the regularization plan, and the process gives undocumented migrants in the Dominican Republic the chance to obtain legal status in the country. With IOM’s funding, Yspaniola helped CEFASA form a team of three residents of Batey Libertad to help guide and accompany other community members through the application process by organizing their documents, obtaining legal services, and communicating with government offices. We are thankful for the support and collaboration from IOM and CEFASA and are hopeful that by helping members of the community register under the regularization plan, we can help protect them from human rights abuses and deportations.

Improving reporting and accountability:

To ensure that the Dominican government is notified of illegal human rights violations, in the past, we have reported all human rights abuses to Amnesty International, the UN, IOM, and the U.S. Embassy, all of whom maintain contact with the appropriate Dominican government offices. We have also opened up lines of communication with the Department of Immigration and the army in the Valverde area, in the hopes that increased visibility will help protect Batey Libertad from military raids, extortions, and deportations. Anyone who would like access to our reports on human rights abuses should visit the page for Incident Reports. or write to info@yspaniola.org.


should be able to grow healthy and happy, and that includes a strong heatlhy community.

Water Project

In 2011, Yspaniola started working alongside the Batey Libertad Community Council (Junta de Vecinos) to petition the local government to allow the construction of a water pipeline from nearby Esperanza, just a few kilometers away.

Youth from the batey joined together with Dominican and American volunteers to launch a national campaign to raise awareness of the need for running water in the community. Yspaniola organized a complementary media campaign, gaining interviews on Dominican television and radio, including the program Gobierno de la Mañana. Our efforts culminated in a visit by TeleNoticias broadcaster Roberto Cavada in which he interviewed residents about the contaminated water.

Members of the Junta de Vecinos and Yspaniola staff met on several occasions with INAPA, the government water agency, as well as with the governor of Valverde Province. Although the community received the necessary permits, for months the government presented many unforeseen challenges, delaying the full completion of the project.

However, after three long years, we were very pleased to see the project come to fruition in August 2014! Since then, residents of Batey Libertad have potable running water, and many houses have individual faucets.

The Water Project has proven to be a successful example of community-based development and collaboration between Yspaniola and local institutions and organizations.

Yspaniola is grateful for the generous support of our volunteers in this collective effort on behalf of the community. We are especially indebted to Iván Cruz, Ayamahil Francisco, Francina Jiménez, Ing. Fran Jiménez, Cimentos Cibao and ILAC, who supported us in a variety of ways. Many thanks to journalist José Taveras, who assisted with the media campaign in Santo Domingo.

Latrine Project

In the summer of 2011, Yspaniola received a generous donation from John and Mary Lynn Bergman-Rallis to construct latrines in Batey Libertad. With their support, we built 11 new latrines that have improved sanitary conditions in the community amidst concerns about water-borne illnesses on the island.

Yspaniola closely consulted with community members in order to determine which families would receive the donated latrines. We trained and assisted a team of local volunteers who conducted a census in the Batey. Yspaniola staff then reviewed the data with community leaders, using a clear criteria for selection.

Yspaniola is grateful to Brannack McLain and the 2011 Yale Service Learning trip for their efforts in coordinating this project.

Local Teacher Training

In March 2015, Yspaniola collaborated with the Batey Libertad public school to host a full-day workshop for local teachers, led by Santiago-based nonprofit CEFASA. During the workshop, public school teachers and Yspaniola and CEFASA staff participated in discussions and activities focused on creating a more inclusive classroom environment and recognizing children’s personal backgrounds and individual learning styles. By collaborating on events such as this teacher training, Yspaniola continues to take steps to improve education, both within and outside of our Learning Center, in Batey Libertad.

Outreach Efforts

Yale Day of Service

Yale Day of Service is an opportunity for Yale alumni to engage with their communities in meaningful ways by encouraging service projects around the world. Yspaniola’s ongoing participation in this yearly event underscores our commitment to global citizenship and service-learning, as we work to build a broader coalition to improve access to quality education in the Dominican Republic.

In 2013, Yspaniola organized a conference to raise awareness and promote our programs for the Yale-ExaTEC Day of Service, so named for our partnership with Instituto Tecnológico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey (ITESM), or Tec de Monterrey. The event, held at the St. George School in Santo Domingo on June 15th, brought together members of the Yale and Tec de Monterrey communities in conversations about the ways in which Yspaniola addresses problems of educational access in the communities we serve. We were joined by His Excellency José Ignacio Piña, Mexican Ambassador to the Dominican Republic, and by interns from Centro de Investigación y Docencia Económicas (CIDE), Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México (ITAM), and Universidad Iberoamericana. Everyone participated in valuable discussions in which experienced professionals conveyed their advice and knowledge to passionate students and staff.

Yspaniola hosted its first Yale Day of Service in 2011, when a group of Yale alumni and friends from across the Dominican Republic came together on May 14th at Jackie’s House, an orphanage in the community of Villa Mella. Yspaniola invited representatives of other organizations working in the country—including Un Techo Para Mi País, Mestizaje, and the US State Department—to help us paint the facility, build furniture, and play games with the children.

For a clip of the 2012 Yale-ExaTEC Day of Service, please click here.

On May 9th, 2015 members of the Yspaniola staff and board and one of our University Scholars, Ramon Sanchez, attended the fifth annual Yale Day of Service. Yale alumni living in the Dominican Republic met at St George School in Santo Domingo for informal introductions, and then continued on to Centro Educativo Loyola – a small school that serves underprivileged children who, for a variety of reasons, have not entered formal schooling.
There, participants met, spoke and read with some of the kids. It was a pleasure for our team to meet others who are dedicated to service and to share with some of the students at Centro Loyola. Thank you to St. George School, SERVIR-D, and Centro Educativo Loyola for organizing the event with us!

Yale student and Gerald McElroy sharing stories with children.
Speakers at the INTEC Conference.

Yspaniola INTEC Conference

In July 2011, Yspaniola coordinated the conference, “Puntos de Encuentro: República Dominicana y Haití,” at the Instituto Tecnológico de Santo Domingo (INTEC). The event highlighted the similarities between the two neighboring countries and focused on the Haitian-Dominican and Haitian experience in the Dominican Republic.

Presenters included INTEC Professors Fátima Portorreal and Yolanda León, Fulbright Scholar Hank González, and Professor Wilfredo Lozano from Universidad Iberoamericana, a renowned expert on Dominican-Haitian relations. Batey residents Wilson Sefo Michel and María Sánchez Gomez, as well as our University Scholars, also spoke about their experiences.

The conference included panels of Haitians and Dominicans of Haitian descent discussing a variety of topics followed by a question and answer session with the audience.

Many thanks to Dr. Yolanda León, INTEC and Grupo Jaragua for their support, and to the City College Service Learning trip for its participation.

See clips from the conference: Professor Fátima PortorrealProfessor Wilfredo LozanoMayra RodríguezMaría Sánchez Gómez.