Community Service Alliance (CSA) was born out of the belief in the power and strength of local leaders who have a vision for the transformation of their community. As a registered non-profit organization, based in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, CSA works by comingalongside local communities to empower them with the resources and know-how to realize positive change.
When they founded CSA in 2004, Rigil Ballester and Elizabeth Conkin had already worked extensively in cross-cultural education, international volunteer training, and community development in the Dominican Republic. As such, they understood the incredibly effective work of local grassroots organizations, such as parent-teacher associations, women’s groups, local schools, youth associations, after-school programs and other community groups in
some of the poorest areas of the Dominican Republic. However, they also saw that these groups are normally excluded from large-donor funding because of their lack of administrative infrastructure. Therefore CSA was founded with the goal of building capacity through technical training, basic material support, and channeling international resources, thereby empowering these community groups to more effectively realize their goals.
The earliest projects of CSA reflect its commitment to this grassroots work, specifically in the areas of education, health, and youth. One of the first initiatives was working in the batey community of La Lecheria building latrines, which are a critical component in promoting the public health of a community. Then in 2005, in partnership with members of the local community of Hato Mayor, CSA began construction of a school for low-income children who are excluded the public school system due to their lack of official paperwork. This school is now fully operational, and CSA continues its work in education and youth through a variety of projects seeking to develop leadership skills in youth.
From the beginning, CSA sought out meaningful opportunities for international volunteer teams, interns, and fellows to use their specific skills and abilities in service to the local
communities. CSA uses the volunteer experience as a campus for service-learning and cross-cultural exchange, in which students and volunteers learn by working alongside local experts and directly with communities themselves. The relationship which grows naturally out of these partnerships between the international volunteers and the Dominican people, change lives through a greater understanding and mark the way one will perceive the world forever.
Today, CSA has grown to provide an increasing number of critical services throughout the Dominican Republic, and is continuing to pursue new opportunities. Additionally, it has greatly expanded in the number of universities and volunteer groups which take part in the specialized programs for international exchange. Unchanged, however, is the commitment to the local people and the local community.
The history and continued work of CSA is that of bringing together people who dare to challenge the status quo – local leaders who can envision better lives for their families and their communities and international volunteers and students who are passionate about making a difference. As a result, lives are changed and communities are transformed.