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Young Dominican athletes lead the way on mangrove cleanups

August 25, 2021

This spring, generous donors to our Earth Day crowdfunding campaign stepped in to help young athletes across the Dominican Republic follow their dreams. Many young aspiring baseball and volleyball players, who had no access to sports gear, have now received new Seacology-funded equipment and uniforms. And they are becoming not only champions on the field and court, but of their local environment as well.

Our Play for the Mangroves program is part of Seacology’s new national partnership with local NGO Grupo Jaragua to protect mangroves across the island nation. We’re starting by providing approximately 5,000 young athletes with equipment.Working with local coaches, educators, and parents, we are also involving these kids in the growing nationwide movement to promote and protect the DR’s mangrove forests. Through field trips, cleanups, and other activities, they are learning about these undervalued coastal ecosystems and what they mean for their country’s future — and helping to protect and maintain them.

Our partners at Grupo Jaragua are moving fast to deliver the equipment. Hundreds of players have already received theirs, and teams have begun to participate in outings to some of the DR’s most gorgeous and ecologically important wetlands.

On the outskirts of the city of Baní, a group of 75 youths gathered at Bahia de Las Calderas, a mangrove-lined inlet on the DR’s southern coast. They scoured the mangroves for trash, filling many large bags. After the cleanup, they broke into teams named after mangrove species like Canarios (canaries) and Cangrejos (crabs) for a short tournament.

Four baseball players remove trash from the mangroves at Las Calderas.

Our local partners organized baseball and volleyball tournaments following trips to local mangrove areas.

Just a few miles to the west, 30 more young volleyball and soccer players visited Salinas de Baní, an area featuring striking views of the Dominican coastline and a popular bird watching destination. Accompanied by a staff biologist from Grupo Jaragua and a local eco-guide, the kids learned to identify the many bird species native to the area. 

In Jaragua National Park, a group of 80 led a cleanup of the dense mangroves at Arroyo Salado, just north of our project site at Oviedo Lagoon. After hauling away the garbage they collected, they headed into town for public baseball and volleyball tournaments, cheered on by parents, friends, and other members of the community.

A group visits Salinas de Baní to learn about the many species of birds and other wildlife that can be found in the mangroves there.

The first phase of Play for the Mangroves will provide about 5,000 kids with sports equipment.

The shock of the pandemic on the country’s tourism-dependent economy has only compounded the economic hardship that made it impossible for many families to afford sports equipment. We are delighted to bring environmental education — and some fun — to coastal communities. We’ll be rooting for everyone who is playing for the mangroves!