Last updated: March 05. 2014 12:10PM - 860 Views
By Lenny C. Lepola newsguy@ee.net



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Area residents who have children in Big Walnut schools would likely know the Hamann family. The Hamanns have always been active students involved in co- and extra-curricular activities. Katie, Maddie and Thomas Hamann have all graduated from Big Walnut High School, and Olivia is a junior at the Delaware Area Career Center.


Katie Hamann, who graduated in 2007, graduated from Xavier in 2011 and now is in her second year with the Peace Corps in the Dominican Republic. The Peace Corps encourages their volunteers to develop projects that will have a lasting impact on the communities they serve. Katie has worked with her small community developing a project called Women and Families United and Capable (Alianza Empresarial de Mujeres y Familias Unidas y Capacitadas).


“I’m working in Las Merceditas that’s situated along the rural coastline in the south,” Hamann wrote in a recent email. “Las Merceditas is a small community of 300 people, and it stretches along one highway that also serves as a route for tourists who travel to beautiful beaches and hotels in the south. I’ve been working as a Community Economic Advisor there with groups of farmers and others to motivate and train new young entrepreneurs, give women the tools to become economically independent, help create sustainable business practices, and generally help the community help themselves.”


Hamann said in Las Merceditas, the average family of 5 to 8 people lives on about $170 a month, with their main form of income stemming from agriculture, fishing and other small home businesses.


“Families here own a plot of land where they plant avocado, banana, potatoes, coconuts, beans, passion fruit and anything else they eat or may be able to sell,” Hamann said. “Furthermore, many of the families in my community also rely on selling these products to tourists, whether it’s a Dominican tourist or ones from other countries, via roadside stands situated along the highway.”


Hamann said her project’s goal is to build some permanent structures that local entrepreneurs can use to market their goods and take advantage of the growing tourism traffic in their area. Many of the people selling their goods on the side of the road are women and children and it’s Hamann’s hope that through these structures and the business training that she is providing the businesses will become more stable and flourish providing much needed jobs and income to the local community.


Hamann said the group of local residents that she works with has been organizing, preparing and planning the current project for over four months, and is in the final stage to make their plans a reality.


“The budget for the project is $9,196.93, of which 48 percent, about $4,500, has been contributed by the local community; this includes the manual labor, land, food for the workers, tools and other materials such as cement, sand, etc.,” Hamann wrote. “The group has worked hard to raise funds, gather materials, attend business courses, and practice those skills within their businesses. The amount we need to raise to get the project moving forward is $4,696.43.”


Hamann said all project funds would go towards building secure roadside stands to give the families of the community a sheltered, hygienic and secure area to start or continue their small businesses.


“The hope is that this project will be adopted and continued by other communities with aid from their municipalities and governments,” Hamann said. “In turn this will bolster the work force in the south and tap into the tourism that is predicted to triple in the next five years.”


Big Walnut area folks can join Hamann’s efforts in the Dominican Republic by going to the following Peace Corps website and making a tax-deductible donation directly to the project that she is working on: < https://donate.peacecorps.gov/index.cfm?shell=donate.contribute.projDetail&projdesc=14-517-016 >. If that email address is a bit confusing, go to < donate.peacecorps.gov > and then search for project number 14-517-016.


“Any donation helps, since until we receive the full amount we will not be able to begin,” Hamann wrote. “I can only receive funds through this site via Peace Corps regulations — but we can however accept the proceeds of any fundraising efforts on the others end — help might include races, jars, office bets; whatever you want to do, use my name and our project.”


For additional information about Katie Hamann’s project, Women and Families United and Capable (Alianza Empresarial de Mujeres y Familias Unidas y Capacitadas), follow the link above.


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