Dominica: Hurricane Relief | Community Service


On September 18, 2017, Hurricane Maria devastated the island of Dominica, leaving communities in ruin and without homes, schools, hospitals, roads, water, or electricity. Since 1989, Putney has brought students to this small island country, still largely untouched by tourism. Now, the need has never been greater for the people we have grown to care about deeply. Putney’s longstanding contacts, friends, and government officials on the island ensure our service projects are community-directed, collaborative, and safe. We work alongside skilled construction workers to help rebuild homes, schools, and infrastructure impacted by the hurricane.

  • June 23, 2018  –  July 13, 2018
  • July 15, 2018  –  August 4, 2018
At A Glance:
  • Adventure
    Outdoor exploration, hiking, biking, swimming, and other active pursuits
  • Beach
    Stay on the ocean with time to swim, surf, boat, or snorkel
  • Service
    Focus on community-based projects in collaboration with a partner village
Completing grades 9 – 12
US Gateway City:
Community Service
21 days
Typical Group:
14 – 16 students, 2 leaders
$ 4,890 + airfare



  • Collaborate with local government officials to rebuild affected communities
  • Work alongside local foremen on community-initiated projects
  • Organize a summer enrichment program for local students
  • Connect with people whose lives have been affected by the storms

Putney’s Commitment to Hurricane Relief

Putney is dedicated to community-directed service projects that have a purposeful and sustainable impact. Over the past three decades Putney has developed longtime friendships and partnerships in the Caribbean through community service and hurricane relief programs — following Hurricane Hugo in 1989 and Hurricanes Marilyn and Georges from 1996 to 1998. Following 2017’s Hurricane Maria, our previous Dominica host villages of La Plaine and Bense experienced extensive damage, with 90% of community houses damaged or destroyed. Our friends and government officials in the area ensure our service projects are community-directed, collaborative, and safe. We work alongside skilled construction workers to help rebuild homes, schools, and infrastructure impacted by the hurricane, and coordinate summer enrichment programs for primary school students who missed months of classes due to severely damaged school buildings.

Putney Hurricane Relief Fund

In addition, we are announcing a Putney Hurricane Relief Fund to assist in the rebuilding effort. All contributions will be handled through a local Vermont non-profit and 100% of donations will accompany our program to purchase necessary building supplies and hire skilled local foremen who will oversee our projects. More information on where to direct your donations will be posted soon.

Leader Profile: ANNA KAYES

Education: The College of William and Mary, B.A., Anthropology

While at William and Mary, Anna studied Maya Archaeology and played on the varsity soccer team. Anna studied abroad in Guatemala, where she camped in… read more

While at William and Mary, Anna studied Maya Archaeology and played on the varsity soccer team. Anna studied abroad in Guatemala, where she camped in the rainforest and joined excavations at several Pre-Classic Maya sites in Tikal National Park. After graduation, she worked as a research and curatorial assistant in the Department of Archaeology at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C., before moving to India and Thailand for a year to teach English. While volunteering in India, Anna lived in a Tibetan Buddhist children’s community where she ran a youth soccer program and worked with community members to build a soccer field in the local village. She also began a girls’ soccer team at a high school in Thailand, coaching the team through the school’s first tournament in over a decade. During her time in Asia, Anna spent time traveling through Nepal, Cambodia, and Laos. She now lives in Vermont and works full time for Putney Student Travel. She directs programs in Alaska and Iceland. Anna has twice led Putney’s Community Service program in Dominica as well as our Cultural Exploration Thailand, Cultural Exploration Iceland, and Cultural Exploration Alaska programs.


Departure • Travel Day • Meet your fellow students and one or more of your leaders, and fly together to Dominica. To learn more about how we organize travel, click here.

Host Community • 12 days • Upon arrival, travel to our volunteer host community and spend the first day settling into our new home, getting to know one another, meeting the village council, and enjoying an in-depth orientation to local life and our upcoming volunteer projects. The village is our base for the program as we work alongside professional foremen on a variety of community-initiated projects, with a direct focus on supporting families and rebuilding in the wake of Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria which hit the region in September 2017.

Weekend Excursion • 2 days • With knowledgeable guides, head off on an overnight excursion to trek through the dense jungle, repair hiking trails, and explore hidden waterfalls.

Host Community • 7 days Return to our host community to continue working alongside our newfound friends.

Return • Travel Day • Fly with the group and one of your program leaders from Dominica to your US gateway airport, and continue on to your final destination. To learn more about how we organize travel, click here.

A Day in the Life: HOST VILLAGE

Due to the traveling nature of this program, each day is different. Here is a snapshot of a day in the our host village.

7 AM • Eat breakfast together as a group
8 AM • Work on service projects — build a classroom, teach at the school, or clear debris
12 PM • Break for a long lunch and rest time during the heat of the day
2 PM • Continue with your service work
4 PM • Help prepare dinner, hike to a nearby waterfall, or work on independent projects
6 PM • Enjoy dinner together as a group
8 PM • Group meeting to discuss the day and the upcoming schedule

What to Expect

Community Service • The focus of this program is learning about another culture by forming meaningful relationships with local people and undertaking a shared service experience together. You should come to the summer with an open-mind, eager to participate in new experiences and interested in exploring another culture and way of life. During your time in Dominica, you can expect to work on several different volunteer projects — light construction projects where you may learn to mix cement, lay blocks, and paint houses, or assist in environmental initiatives such as constructing shoreline erosion barriers or spearheading a beach cleanup with local youth. You may also partake in educational projects such as running an arts-enrichment program for the village primary school. Everyone participates in all of the group’s projects on a rotating basis, and lends a hand in meal preparation and cleanup. Students can expect to complete 80-100 hours of community service work, and specific projects will be identified by our host communities in the late spring depending on their greatest needs. To learn more about our Community Service programs, click here.

Independent Project • Pursue an independent project and explore an aspect of local culture of particular interest to you—shadow a local farmer, learn to cook a traditional dish, or study the flora and fauna of this volcanic island.

Physical Activity • This is a physically active program. Construction work, painting, hiking, and snorkeling are all activities in which you might participate during this program. 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.

Accommodations • Group accommodations are carefully vetted by Putney Student Travel to emphasize convenience, a positive group environment, and wholesome interaction with local people and fellow travelers. Our accommodations on this program are simple and rustic. Students stay in community-donated housing on sleeping pads and sleeping bags on the floor, or in a family-run guesthouse close to the center of the village. There are separate sleeping spaces for boys and girls, with basic showers and bathrooms in the residence. Leaders reside with students throughout the program.

Meals • Meals are prepared and eaten in our accommodations. Students form cooking and cleaning crews responsible for preparing breakfast and lunch for the group, and assist local women to prepare dinners.


Ask Us

Call Emmett at 802.387.5000 or email

Our Community Service Dominica: Hurricane Relief program is directed by Emmett Peterson. If you have questions, are interested in receiving more detailed information, or would like to talk further about this program or any of our summer student travel programs, please get in touch!

Emmett Peterson

Bates College, B.S., Chemistry

During college, Emmett studied abroad in Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda, where he studied culture, environment, and development in East Africa. Based in Jinja, Uganda, he worked for a whitewater kayaking organization on the White Nile while researching the environmental and socioeconomic ramifications of hydroelectric dams under construction downriver. Before joining Putney, Emmett guided whitewater canoe trips across northeastern Canada for several years, leading unsupported expeditions as far as Hudson Bay. He has led our Community Service Tanzania program and now directs programs in Tanzania, India, and New England. A Vermont native, Emmett loves hiking, fishing, whitewater kayaking and canoeing, telemark skiing, and baking.