During the COVID-19 pandemic, USAID and its partner Agrofrontera has helped secure food for Dominican communities in the Northern Region.
Juan Valerio and Nilda Bueno, two community members from Dominican Republic, have a couple of things in common: they live in Judea Nueva, an isolated town 40 minutes away from the city of Montecristi, in the northwest side of the island; they are both community leaders; and their lives were changed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Juan is a community leader and member of the social assistance committee of the community of Judea Nueva. Although necessary for health and safety, the inconveniences of the curfew imposed by the Dominican government did affect him and his community. “The COVID-19 pandemic has affected us because we have a lot of restrictions. We cannot go out and don’t have access to anything. That also affects our economy because we cannot work (for longer hours).” For Nilda, “the curfew was very limiting, and it’s hard because where I live there are people that don’t have enough money or jobs to have (a certain) food security. There was fear. Food was getting scarce.”
Here is where USAID and its partner Agrofrontera enter the story. Both have been working in seven communities in the Montecristi area, providing food aid relief packages to 700 vulnerable groups and families over the last three (3) months.
Juan, got involved with the program through getting in contact with Agrofrontera. “They requested a list of the people who were in great need of assistance. We thought that the Lord sent it to us when we needed it the most, and when we didn’t have anything left to do. This was the first friendly hand that arrived in the region”, he says.
For Nilda, the assistance provided by USAID has been amazing. “There are widows, single-parent families with jobs that don’t provide a lot of resources. In my house, only my husband works; I don’t work and it’s a great assistance.” It has also helped people that don’t have enough money to cover their needs; they now have a little slack to invest money to get other important things. For example, Nilda has a child with disabilities and sometimes the money her husband gets is not enough to cover her family’s expenses. With the food packages, she invests less money on food and more on covering the medical expenses her child might have. “It has come to make up for an actual need. It has helped cover a big need for us; and not only for me and my family, but also to others”, she says.
The assistance has also made life-long community leaders like Juan feel great. “When I receive something that will benefit the majority of the people of my community, I personally feel great. I feel fulfilled” he says.
USAID has been working with their partners in the Caribbean to provide food security to the Dominican people during the COVID-19 pandemic. Helping communities is important to the agency and to the people in the field. Like Nilda says: “We need to help. It’s good to serve people. We are all here to serve”.
USAID, along with its partner Agrofrontera, has provided weekly food assistance to 700 families in vulnerable conditions in seven communities of the Montecristi province, including boxes of food packages, thanks to a collaborative network of more than 30 local organizations during the last four months.