Hannah Morrissette '15 and Taylor Berry '15
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This past spring, Taylor Berry ’15 took part in the annual L.A.C.E.S. alternative spring break trip to the Dominican Republic. Inspired by her 10 days there, Berry, along with Hannah Morrissette ’15, will be returning to the Dominican Republic to do full-time environmental research on mangrove restoration in Las Terrenas, a town on the northeast coast of the Dominican Republic.
“I have always had an interest in environmentalism and I plan to go to law school for environmental law,” said Berry. “However, I don’t have much experience in the field; so, when I met Jose Bourget (executive director, Fundacion Mahatma Ghandi) and he offered me the opportunity to work on mangrove restoration, I knew I wanted to be a part of the Fundación Mahatma Gandhi. I feel that environmental conservation and, more importantly, the education that comes from conservation and advocacy is vital to communities.”
While in Las Terrenas, their main task will be to plant, protect and advocate for the importance of the mangrove restoration. A mangrove is a tree that provides a habitat for wildlife and minerals to both the soil and water banks. Mangrove ecosystems have been torn down in many places for industry or agriculture creating a dry and nutrient robbed environment. In order to create healthier and thriving ecosystems, mangroves need to be planted in order to balance the ecosystem.
They will dedicate much of their time on the beach planting mangrove sprouts, setting up protective fences and lobbying government officials. Along with restoration, the two will spend time educating students in the international schools on the importance of conservation so that the local community can learn to understand the importance of mangrove ecosystems.
“I knew I wanted to return to the Dominican Republic when we were standing in the middle of a downpour under a little shack on my last day,” said Berry. “Jose was telling us about how so many people say they want to come back but don’t. I remember thinking how sad it is that people say they will be back but have no intention. I promised him I would make it happen, and now I am!”
A.C.E.S. North America and Foundation Mahatma Ghandi will support them by connecting them with individuals and organizations in the Dominican Republic to help them complete their mangrove restoration. Berry and Morrissette will be responsible for travel expenses, living expenses and the project costs. If you’d like to contribute to the two alumni, please visit their GoFundMe page.
Advancing Communities by Educating and Serving (ACES) is a non-profit organization that works tirelessly to improve the lives of impoverished people in the Dominican Republic. They work with communities to develop individualized plans and solutions that focus on sustainable solutions that will eliminate poverty and improve the standard of living for the long-term. They do this through efforts such as education, health initiatives, and entrepreneurial programs.
Fundación Mahatma Gandhi (FMG) is an emerging community organization of recent formation that seeks to better the quality of life of people in Las Terrenas through service and development in education, health, technical and professional formation, the environment and the arts. They are a service-oriented, not-for-profit, non-governmental and non-partisan organization.