The daily uniform of workers at the "Fundación Grupo Puntacana" mainly comprises neoprene. It may sound like unlikely workwear, especially given the hot Dominican Republic sun, but this is no ordinary workplace. Victor Galván, a marine biologist, coordinates the association's revolutionary
Sellarés and the rest of the team - Báez, Yulisa Reyes and volunteers like Brianda Santana - have put their hearts and souls into this project. They all have the special diving certificate. 'We're like a family; there's a very strong bond among the team and also with the community; that's why this programme has been so successful. Even at the worst moments, when we ran out of money, every one pitched in and kept the programmed alive. And, thanks to that collective effort, it's still alive,' Sellarés says, proudly. Currently, six local hotels help out financially, and the staff in their diving centers handles the nursery maintenance under FUNDEMAR's supervision. Báez, affectionately nicknamed "Aladdin", is usually in charge of this task and also monitors the reefs. Having loved the sea and fished since he was eight, he's one of their most valuable collaborators, and divides his time between his working the foundation and the small-scale, sustainable fishing he does with his father. 'We've managed to get the fishermen of Bayahíbe to understand that they have to protect the reefs. The coral project is priceless; it's a privilege to work on bringing balance.
The vision continues to grow. There are currently 52 transplanted areas, and restoration projects continue to spread to other parts of the island: there are already 13 points in the Dominican Republic and two in Haiti where the coral nurseries have been replicated, projects that were started with the support of the Fundación Grupo Puntacana. Many depend heavily on volunteers. But just like Aladdin, they too dream of creating a better world, this time under the sea.
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