Putney Student Travel: Community Service Dominican Republic

Putney, VT

Overview

Travel to a small, welcoming village in the Caribbean to complete volunteer projects on a community service program in the Dominican Republic. Spend your days volunteering at an enrichment camp for children, laying cement blocks to help build a new classroom, and learning about the lives of local Dominican families.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Teach English to a class of excited grade school children.
  • Work with a local jewelry maker to fashion larimar stones into attractive pieces.
  • Learn to make the traditional plantain dishes, mangu and mofongo.
  • Organize a community baseball tournament and cheer on the local team.
  • Hike into the lush surrounding mountains to swim in a refreshing spring-fed swimming hole.

OVERVIEW

Village Life and Service

Begin with two days in the colonial capital city of Santo Domingo to get to know each other and learn about Dominican history and culture. Then travel west along the coast to our project village. Located in the undeveloped southwestern region, this small Caribbean village becomes our home for the next two weeks. During this time, work together with warm and welcoming friends from the host village to complete work on important municipal projects identified by town leaders. Rotate through several volunteer projects including small-scale construction, planting an organic garden or seedlings, and teaching English to local Dominican children and adults. In the late afternoons, practice your Spanish and play games of baseball with friends from town. Participants can expect to complete between 30 and 50 hours of community service work.

Days are full, beginning early with a hearty breakfast. Students form cooking and cleaning crews to help our Dominican friends prepare meals of rice, beans, eggs, plantains, and delicious fruits including papayas, mangoes, and bananas. Mid-program we take an overnight trip to camp under the stars on a remote white-sand beach with brilliant blue ocean where we spend our days swimming and snorkeling.

This Community Service program is designed especially with 8th and 9th graders in mind.  It contains a level of structure even greater than Putney’s highly structured norm.

Independent Projects

Choose an independent project of your own design to work on over the course of the program. Past volunteer projects have included working with a local cook to compile a book of recipes, designing and painting a mural at the local school, organizing a baseball tournament, and learning to dance thebachata.

Final Adventure

After saying goodbye to our volunteer project village, we travel to the lush, mountainous Cordillera Central region where we stay for two days in a mountain lodge with amazing vistas. Here we ride horseback, hike to waterfalls, and take a professionally guided rafting trip on the Río Yaque del Norte. On our final day, we travel back to Santo Domingo for a celebratory dinner and reflect on all that we have accomplished over the course of our time together.

Accommodations

Group accommodations are carefully selected by Putney Student Travel to emphasize convenience, a positive group environment, and wholesome interaction with local people and fellow travelers. During our time in the village, we live together in a community building. We sleep in sleeping bags on camping pads, use simple bathrooms, and shower using buckets with clean well water.

Physical Challenge Level

Our programs are physically active. Days are filled with movement — playing with local children, working on a community service project, swimming, or going on a hike. In the afternoons, students can play pick-up games of soccer, frisbee, or basketball.  You do not need to be at peak fitness to participate, but it is important that you have a desire to be physically active, and that you are excited about trying all activities. On excursions there may be opportunities to hike, bike, ride horseback, swim, raft, and more.

A Typical Day

7 a.m. – Breakfast
8 a.m.–12 p.m. — Work
12 p.m.–2 p.m. — Lunch and rest
2 p.m.–4 p.m. — Work
4 p.m.–6 p.m. — Help prepare dinner, play soccer, relax
6 p.m. – Dinner
8 p.m. – Group meeting and/or group activity

During the week, we wake up between 6–7am, eat breakfast together as a group, and then head to the work site from 8am–12pm. Work may include mixing cement, painting, participating in a local harvest, or teaching local kids. We’ll break for a long lunch and rest time, then return to work for a few hours in the afternoon. After work, relax, play soccer with local friends, help cook dinner, or pursue independent research. After a group dinner together, participate in a meeting to discuss the day, plan for upcoming excursions, or simply play a game together. Weekends are a time to explore. Hike to a nearby hillside, explore pristine beaches, or raft down a gorgeous river.

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