Faby Manzano (left).
From a very early age, I have thought that all people are connected through a common struggle and that our mission in the world is to teach others and learn from others. That’s to say that when you climb a figurative ladder and make it to the next step, you should support those that are coming up behind you to occupy that step. Likewise, those ahead of you should help you to the next step, too. When I joined Barrick Pueblo Viejo in late October 2007, I saw a world of opportunity to help local communities reach that next rung.
When Barrick began to operate the Pueblo Viejo mine in the Dominican Republic in 2008, its first action was to hire local staff. But when we conducted a survey in our host communities, we found that, not only were the number of people with mining-related skills low, there was also a high rate of illiteracy.
Pueblo Viejo recognized that adult literacy education could improve the lives of local residents. So in 2008 and 2009 we partnered on a program with the Maria Liberadora Training Centre for Organized Women, an organization based in Cotuí that specializes in adult literacy classes. In its first year, the program graduated more than 400 students from 16 local communities. Nearly two-thirds, 255 of the students, continued their studies to achieve their professional development goals, and 55 began careers in their chosen fields.
This is what sustainability is all about.
All of the programs that we develop hinge on the axis of education because in providing people knowledge, new ways of doings things and adequate tools, we are developing their capacity to provide for themselves and make positive changes in their world, no matter where they are. This is what sustainability is all about and everything is related to education.
For example, our Math and Leveling Program benefited 229 students from grades 5-8 in the communities of Lower Zambrana, Sabana del Rey and El Rayo. This initiative strengthened students’ logical reasoning and numeracy, self-esteem and overall academic performance — something they will take with them wherever they go.
Through our educational programs, we also realized that, as important as it was to educate prospective students, it was just as important to ensure that local educators could meet their students’ needs. That’s why the company has supported initiatives focused on developing teachers such as the School that Transforms pilot project. This project enhances teachers’ skills and communication strategies and is offered in eight communities near the mine.
A similar initiative called The Professional Development for Educators program graduated more than 1,000 teachers from Azua, San José de Ocoa, Rincón del Pino, Nizao, Rancho Arriba, Piedra Blanca, Maimón, Zambrana, Cotuí and Quita Sueño. These educators received training in a broad range of subjects, from environmental studies to reading and writing to math to conflict management studies.
We also developed the Digital Literacy Program to strengthen teachers’ computer skills. This program benefited 50 teachers from Maimón, La Raíz, El Pino, El Copey and El Batey.
Teachers are facilitators that motivate students to seek out answers and help them find answers to their questions; they help students develop creativity among other attributes and that’s where real learning happens — when both parties involve each other in this shared experience. This is what our teacher training programs strive to improve: teachers’ ability to connect with their students.
Over time, we have developed strong local partnerships to help us strengthen our educational initiatives. For example, we have partnered with the Institute of Technical and Vocational Training (INFOTEP) to implement the Dual Program. The program trains young people between the ages of 18 and 23 in communities near the mine to become mechanics and offers participants apprenticeships at Pueblo Viejo. As a result, 1,000 young people in the mine’s host communities have received this vocational training, giving them a better opportunity to establish their own businesses.
Similarly, we support the Enterprising Youth pilot program, which provides entrepreneurship training to high school students for six months. Students also receive technical assistance from the Business Incubator of South Cibao, which advises local business proposals from initial conception to product development and marketing. At the end of their training, the have the opportunity to present business ideas in a competition and the top three ideas are awarded seed money.
In addition to supporting the Enterprising Youth and School that Transforms initiatives, the Business Incubator of South Cibao also provides advice to small and medium-sized businesses that are already operating. The creation and strengthening of the Business Incubator, located in Cotuí, have been driven by Barrick Pueblo Viejo.
Barrick arrived at Pueblo Viejo with the intention of leaving the environment in better condition than it found it, and the company is also firmly committed to leaving our host communities better off than when we first arrived in the Dominican Republic. That is our biggest challenge and that is why Barrick has invested a large part of its human and financial resources in this important goal.