Dominican Republic (MNN) – The European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO) is sending 1.1 million euros in aid to the Dominican Republic for drought relief this year. And it couldn’t come at a more critical time.
The two previous years of drought hit hard in the Caribbean with irregular rainfall causing loss of livestock and crops. A third year of sporadic precipitation, and lack of food and water would affect the livelihoods of 429,000 people in the Caribbean.
In addition to sending 1.1 million euros to the Dominican Republic, ECHO is sending 12.2 million euros of relief aid to Haiti and 600,000 euros to Cuba, according to ReliefWeb.
Poverty is already an issue for many in the Dominican Republic, even without drought hurting their communities. The CIA estimated in 2013 that 41% of Dominicans live below the poverty line.
Food for the Hungry carries out aid ministry in the Dominican Republic, and was recently inspired by another creative way to lift nine of the country’s villages from poverty. The source of this outreach inspiration? Baseball.
While on a mission trip to the Dominican Republic, Milam Byers of Food for the Hungry was taken by how prolific baseball was in the Western Caribbean country. Even in the most impoverished areas, he found training facilities and fields.
Baseball represented far more than an opportunity for a career – it was woven into the very fiber of the Dominican Republic. “When I asked community leaders what was important to the core of their villages, baseball was always on the list. It provides young men with inspiration and hope.” Byers asked local leaders and Food for the Hungry to help brainstorm an idea.
“What could that look like if we engaged baseball in America to actually help end poverty in a place that really means quite a bit to baseball?”
Striking Out Poverty is a unique fundraising initiative for Food for the Hungry, using each of the nine innings in a baseball game to provide awareness and support. Milam explains, “Each inning represents a specific community where Food for the Hungry is doing active community work.”
Food for the Hungry’s ministry model is focused on helping a community become self-sustaining in 10 years. “These nine communities are in those very early stages, so they need very basic things, like access to clean water, community centers, education programs.”
Though the 2016 MLB season has just started, the first campaign of Striking Out Poverty has proven highly successful.
“Fans can pledge a certain amount per strike-out. We’re doing this with Chase Anderson who is with the Milwaukee Brewers.” Johnny Queto and Santiago Casilla of the San Francisco Giants are next on deck with strike-out campaigns. And later in the season, all 30 MLB teams will celebrate Clemente Day by featuring Food for the Hungry as a charity of choice. “There will be a piece of Clemente Day where fans can support and continue the legacy of Roberto Clemente by helping the most vulnerable people in the world.”
Milam says the partnership may be unusual, but it is presents a unique opportunity for Food for the Hungry to share the Gospel by being the Gospel.
“Partnering with an organization like Major League Baseball may be non-traditional for a Christian relief organization, you know it’s really more about helping, because we all can agree that it’s not OK to just do nothing.”
Discussions are underway with the MLB about extending the initiative beyond the Dominican Republic, and even little league teams are asking if they can host strike-out fundraisers to help with the effort.
“Striking out Poverty will change the future for the Dominican Republic,” he reflects. “Communities will be strengthened, lives will be transformed, and the hope of Christ will be made known.”
Learn more and donate online by visiting StrikingOutPoverty.com.