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One of the main goals of our Dominican Republic National Mangrove Initiative is to make sure people know how important mangroves are in this island nation. We want everyone to know that without healthy mangroves, there will be more storm damage, fewer fish, and fewer tourists—not to mention that mangroves fight global warming by storing huge amounts of carbon.
Young people are the key to these kinds of changes in attitude. With them on board, the next generation of leaders will take into account the critical importance of mangroves when key decisions are made.
In the sports-loving DR, we can’t think of a better way to engage youth than by pairing mangrove education with baseball and volleyball programs. Dominican baseball players—many of whom have starred in U.S. major leagues—are admired public figures. Volleyball is hugely popular, too. The Dominican Women’s National volleyball team, the Queens of the Caribbean, has made headlines with their victories on the international sports stage, giving girls powerful role models.
However, poverty means that many young people who want to emulate their sports heroes must play with nothing more than rocks and sticks because they don’t have balls, bats, or mitts. Many aspiring young girls with a passion for volleyball have no access to balls and nets. By providing this equipment, Seacology will promote good health through physical activity, teamwork, and leadership among Dominican youth, as well as girls’ empowerment through sports. Studies have shown that both girls and boys who participate in sports have better health, higher self-esteem, get better grades, and are less likely to engage in risky behavior.
Young people who receive sports equipment will get training in mangrove conservation from Seacology’s in-country partner, Grupo Jaragua. They will learn why coastal mangrove forests are crucial to the health and economic well-being of Dominican communities. They will also take a hands-on role in planting trees and cleaning up the coastlines—building skills and gaining pride in the process.