A Cruise With a Cause

VICE Magazine
Photo/Amy Lombard

Photo/Amy Lombard

Meet Fathom, the world’s first-ever cruise line for vacationers who don’t just want to do beaches, spas, and shopping, but to do good. Fathom exists to make money, but it also exists to fill a growing demand in the global-tourism industry: “voluntourism,” calling its program “impact+travel.”

It’s a bold claim.

Read: November 2016 issue of VICE Magazine

Listen: Tiny Spark

The Relentless Rise of Two Caribbean Lakes Baffles Scientists

National Geographic

Jacob Kushner

In Haiti and the Dominican Republic, the lakes are flooding farmland, swallowing communities and leading to deforestation, baffling climate scientists.  

Story and photos by Jacob Kushner for National Geographic

Jacob Kushner

Mystery of the rising Caribbean lakes

Christian Science Monitor

HISPANIOLA – On the Caribbean island of Hispaniola, home to the sovereign nations of the Dominican Republic and Haiti, two large lakes are rising dramatically.

Lake Azuéi in Haiti submerged an entire community; across the border in the Dominican Republic, Lake Enriquillo has risen nearly 33 feet in just 10 years. As their land flooded, many farmers began cut-ting down trees to make charcoal to earn a living, leading to deforestation.

Scientists from across the globe have tried to solve the mystery behind the rising lakes. Some think climate change is to blame, arguing that warming sea created more evaporation and clouds, which led to more rainfall. But if true, that would be strange, because in most of the world climate change is causing lakes to shrink.

The phenomenon is spur- ring calls for more research to help explain – and mitigate – the situation. Until scientists are able to identify the cause and work toward a solution, thousands of farmers on this Caribbean island will have to adapt.

Driving Dangerously in the Dominican Republic

Uncategorized

JACOB KUSHNER

JARABACOA, Dominican Republic—The Dominican Republic is the Western hemisphere’s most dangerous place to drive, and 15th worst in the world, according to the World Health Organization. Each year, 29 out of every 100,000 people in this Caribbean nation die in road accidents, according to the2015 Global Status Report on Road Safety.

In 2013, the Dominican Republic saw more roads deaths per capita than any other country in the world, but it has since been eclipsed by nations including Libya, Thailand and several African nations. But that doesn’t mean things are improving: in fact, the death rate is still on the rise, up from 21.6 per 100,000 people in 2010.

The vast majority of the fatalities—63 percent—involved 2 and 3-wheeled vehicles, ie. motorcycles.

Francis Ortiz, a paramedic at the public hospital in the small mountain city of Jarabacoa, says hardly a night goes by that he doesn’t see at least one patient in the hospital for a motorcycle accident, and on the weekends he says the numbers become hard to fathom.

“Just last night a moto driver crashed into an older man,” said Ortiz one day in December. “The driver’s entire face was cut open. He had to have intensive surgery.”

Read the full story at the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.

Birthright Denied

Moment Magazine

Juliana Deguis Pierre

Story and photos by Jacob Kushner

The campaign to expel the children of Haitian immigrants in the Dominican Republic is impractical. Their labor—and that of their parents—helped propel the Dominican economy last year to grow faster than all but one other country’s in Latin America, firmly establishing it as a middle-class nation. They are a significant part of the workforce in the booming construction and tourism industries that have helped transform the Dominican Republic into the most popular travel destination in the Caribbean.

But in a chaotic democracy that has adopted 38 different constitutions over a century and a half, anti-Haitianismo is the one enduring notion that mainstream parties across the political spectrum can invoke with impunity. It is driven by the fervor of Dominican nationalists, and, in particular, by one powerful, ultra-conservative family and its allies. Together, they are waging a political, legal and media war to defend the Dominican Republic against what they believe is the nation’s gravest threat: Haitian immigrants and their children.

Read: Moment Magazine 

In Dominican Republic, a T-shirt factory sets the highest bar for workers’ rights

GlobalPost/GroundTruth
One group of workers who earn a high wage and unusual benefits is helping others earn the same.

Elvira Juan Chale sews t-shirts at Altagracia Apparel, where workers earn three times the Dominican Republic’s minimum wage. Now, Altagracia workers are inspiring other textile employees here to demand higher wages and better working conditions from their own companies. (Jacob Kushner/GlobalPost)

By Jacob Kushner

Founded in 2010 by the collegiate clothing supplier Knights Apparel Inc., Altagracia Apparel pays its workers a so-called living wage, calculated to be about three times the country’s minimum wage for factories in its free trade zones. Altagracia workers earn at least $500 US per month, well above the minimum wage of about $150.
cheap nike air max
Four years since Altagracia opened its doors, the factory has become a model of what workers in the Dominican Republic dream to achieve.

Read the full article as it appeared at GlobalPost.

A Thread of Hope

On Wisconsin Magazine
At a factory in the Dominican Republic, workers are sewing UW apparel, providing for their families, and spreading hope that the global textile industry can change.

During an age in which nearly all clothing sold in the United States is made in developing countries by workers who are paid just pennies an hour, Alta Gracia Apparel is not your typical textile factory: its employees earn three times the nation’s minimum wage of $150 per month. They get health insurance, a pension, vacation days, and maternity leave. They sit in ergonomic chairs and drink water that they themselves have quality-tested for pathogens.

It’s hard to fathom that a decade ago, many of these same people produced hats for a company that paid them just eighty-four cents an hour, forced them to work overtime without extra pay, and sometimes verbally and physically abused them.

See the full article and photos that were published in the Winter 2012 edition of On Wisconsin Magazine.

Haiti’s Gold Rush

Guernica

A woman holds the gold she found this week. Image by Ben Depp. Haiti, 2012.

Riches beckon from beneath Haiti’s hills, and mining companies are hoping to lock in huge tax breaks to get at them.

Deep in Haiti’s northern mountains, a half-dozen supervisors at a mining exploration site spent their days playing dominoes at a folding table next to a helicopter pad. For weeks they waited in La Miel, off a dirt road deep in the countryside, for Haiti’s government to give them the go-ahead to search for the gold they believe is buried in the hills around them.

Read the full story as it appeared at Guernica.

PHOTO: Haitians face persecution across Dominican border

uncategorized

Photos and Story by Jacob Kushner for NACLA.

Haitians Face Persecution Across Dominican Border

NACLA

When a 7.0-magnitude earthquake struck Port-au-Prince, in January 2010, the Dominican Republic, which shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti, responded immediately by sending doctors, rescue teams, and over $34 million worth of emergency aid. Since then, the Dominican government has constructed a state-of-the-art university in northern Haiti and worked with Haiti’s new government to improve conditions across the border.

But neither the Dominican state nor the majority of its citizens have shown any such mercy to the estimated 500,000 to 1 million Haitians and Dominicans of Haitian descent living in their midst.

Access the article through NACLA subscription services

Read the accompanying sidebar story, Life in a Border Town Marred by Tension (no subscription necessary).

Dominican crackdown on Haitian migrants sows fear

Associated Press

By JACOB KUSHNER and DANICA COTO, Associated Press

JIMANI, Dominican Republic – The Dominican Republic has deported thousands of illegal immigrants in recent weeks, sowing fear among Haitians living in the country and prompting accusations its government is using a cholera outbreak as a pretext for a crackdown.

In the largest campaign in years to target Haitians living illegally in the Dominican Republic, soldiers and immigration agents have been setting up checkpoints and conducting neighborhood sweeps, detaining anyone without papers and booting them from the country.

Click HERE to read the full AP story as it appeared at the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Johnbern Thomas: Jazz in Exile

JazzTimes Magazine
Haitian drummer, displaced by the earthquake, makes his way across the border

Caribbean jazz drummer Johnbern Thomas remembers the dates that changed his career much like any other musician. He remembers the Sunday in 1999 when, at the age of eight, the pastor of his church pulled him aside to say “God has a project for you,” asking him to play in what would be his first ever public performance. He remembers January 28th, 2010—the day he left the only home he’d ever known to try and earn a living in a country where he didn’t even speak the language.

And he remembers how, two weeks earlier, on January 12, he was concentrating so hard practicing riffs from a West African Roots book by Royal Hartigan that he didn’t notice the 7.2-magnitude earthquake that would postpone his dreams of becoming a jazz star in Haiti.

Listen to clips of Thomas performing and demonstrating an African-based rhythm he incorporates into his jazz music:

Click HERE to read the full article as it appeared at JazzTimes.

In Latin America’s baseball capital, a soccer town stands out

90 Soccer

By Jacob Kushner

At the Viejo Jack bar in the town of Jarabacoa, the World Cup match between Brazil and the Ivory Coast is playing on a fuzzy projector screen. At this very moment across most of Latin America, millions of soccer fans are gathering in bars just like this to watch their favorite team progress toward the championship. Here at the Viejo Jack, there are exactly five such fans.

This is the Dominican Republic, where baseball is the second most commonly spoken language—where kids with no bats, balls or gloves use broom sticks, pieces of plastic and their bare hands to imitate what is indisputably this nation’s athletic passion.

But now the language of fútbol—‘estriker,’ patada and gol—is sneaking into the baseball-centric vocabulary of Dominicans who are taking interest in the world’s most popular sport.

Click HERE to read the full story as it appeared at 90 Soccer.