Despite the Dominican Republic’s booming tourist industry, there is a gap between the rich and poor in this Caribbean state.
Many young Dominicans grow up in poor communities where there a few opportunities to build a better future for themselves. Despite the luxury hotels, the youth unemployment rate is high at 35 percent, of which 70 percent are young women.
To address this issue, Plan International is working in partnership with TUI Care Foundation to bring education and employment opportunities to young people through the TUI Academy apprenticeship program.
“We started this project in the Dominican Republic because we noticed that there is high youth unemployment, especially among young women,” said Elise Allart, TUI Care Foundation Executive Director of Programs and Operations. “A lot of these women are already mothers; some already have several children even though they are only 18 or 19 years old. We started this program to give them a chance for a better future by training them in jobs that fit the tourist industry.”
The teenage pregnancy rate in the country is extremely high. Twenty-one percent is twice the worldwide average. Seventeen-year-old Luisa is a single mother of one. She was one of the first 50 participants to take part in the program.
"This project has created a pathway for each of us, especially for the young women who are single mothers and do not have help from the fathers of our children,” she said. “Being mothers does not prevent us from moving forward because we can succeed and be who we want to be.”
Students can choose to study catering, bartending, barista, housekeeping, or hospitality. In addition to learning their choice of technical skills, participants receive life coaching from experienced practitioners in their personal development and advancement, with a focus on gender empowerment.
They also learn the English language and practical work experience during an internship at a blue diamond hotel. Young mothers like Luisa are additionally supported with childcare for children under the age of 5 while they are training.
Luisa recently graduated from the program as a barista, and after completing her three-month internship,she will be supported in her application for a job at one of the many hotels on the island. As part of the program, the TUI Academy offers a six-month job guarantee to help them enter the job market.
"We all have a future,” Luisa said. “My dream is to be an obstetrician-gynecologist, and my passion is to be a bartender. I urge you to follow your dreams because this path that we are treading does not end here.”