UN development agency honours baseball stars for relief aid Dominican Republic, Haiti

30 June 2006

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has joined the Dominican Ambassador in honouring Dominican stars from the United States Major League Baseball at a pre-game ceremony at Boston’s Fenway Park for their successful efforts to raise funds and public support for the rebuilding of flood-destroyed areas of the Dominican Republic and Haiti, including their personal contributions.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has joined the Dominican Ambassador in honouring Dominican stars from the United States Major League Baseball at a pre-game ceremony at Boston’s Fenway Park for their successful efforts to raise funds and public support for the rebuilding of flood-destroyed areas of the Dominican Republic and Haiti, including their personal contributions.

“UNDP is thrilled to get the chance to express our gratitude, and the gratitude of the people of Jimaní, to these players for their good work off the field,” said Niky Fabiancic, the chief UNDP Resident Coordinator in the Dominican Republic, of the baseball superstars, Pedro Martínez, David Ortiz and Manny Ramírez, on Thursday evening.

At the sold-out Fenway Park Red Sox/Mets game, the Boston fans joined Dominican Ambassador Flavio Dario Espinal and UNDP’s Fabiancic in saluting the three players as well as Red Sox principal owner John Henry and the team’s charitable foundation.

As the Fenway Park scoreboard displayed a message saluting the United Nations Development Programme “for recognizing these three gentlemen,” Mr. Ortiz, Mr. Ramirez, Mr. Martinez and Mr. Henry accepted plaques in honour of their leadership in the effort. The stadium crowd cheered loudly for Mr. Martinez, a former Red Sox pitcher who now plays for the Mets, and cheered even louder after viewing a video presentation of thanks from the people of Jimani.

John Henry spoke of the players and the rebuilding effort: “The generosity of Pedro Martínez, David Ortiz, Manny Ramírez, and the entire ‘Red Sox Nation’ was extraordinary during a time of need in the Dominican Republic and Haiti,” he said. “Through their efforts, the United Nations Development Programme has been able to rebuild not only homes but the lives of people in these two countries. I salute these accomplishments.”

On May 24, 2004, torrential tropical rains in the Dominican Republic caused catastrophic flooding of River Blanco and the town of Jimaní, in the country’s mountainous southwest, was swiftly inundated by the raging waters. More than 700 people perished; more than 250 homes were destroyed and 620 others suffered major damage; roads were swept away and telecommunications connections destroyed. The town with population of 5,800 was left almost completely destroyed and isolated.

“We have so many guys coming out of the Dominican Republic, and we keep together, especially when something bad happens,” said Mr. Ortiz before the game. “It was a tough situation in Jimani; we just feel so proud, so happy, to help out.”

“A lot of people lost their lives, and a lot of people lost their homes. When you see that going on anywhere, especially in a place you’ve been or you know, it just makes you more sensitive about it,” said Mr. Ortiz, who initiated the effort with a collection box in the Boston clubhouse. “All the fans helped us out – it was unbelievable. And then the Red Sox doubled the money we collected. It made me so proud of being part of New England, being a part of this team.”

After the flooding, UNDP immediately launched its emergency response to the disaster in Jimaní and other flood-ravaged areas of the country and neighbouring Haiti, working with government institutions and civil society to provide short-term relief and begin the process of recovery. After helping organize rescue operations in the hours and days after the floods, UNDP provided financial assistance and counselling to victims and began the task of rebuilding Jimaní.

The sluggers Mr. Ortiz and Mr. Ramírez and ace pitcher Mr. Martínez responded to news of the floods with donations, and soon rallied their teammates, ball club and Red Sox fans to pitch in. The result: More than $200,000 in funding support for relief and recovery in Jimaní, including $100,000 from Red Sox owner John Henry and over $31,000 from fans. Athletic gear maker Majestic chipped in with 1,200 T-shirts and 1,000 pairs of shorts for flood victims. Other companies and individuals also gave money and goods.

UNDP and its local partners put the money to work, supporting the construction of 50 new homes in the first phase of the Jimaní project. The reconstruction effort was guided by the people of Jimaní themselves as UNDP sought to help them find solutions that would maximize the impact of outside aid and enable the town to heal its wounds and build a secure future. It also convened a housing commission to conduct a census of affected families and determine exactly what needs existed.

The two- and three-bedroom residences have kitchens, dining areas, bathrooms and back porches – and innovative architecture designed to withstand future flash flooding, according to UNDP. The government has built entirely new roads, power lines and sewage systems for the rebuilt village. Now, two years later, the flood victims of Jimaní are ready to move into their new homes, with hopes for a better life.

 

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