Join us for three weeks of community service in a small Caribbean village tucked into the volcanic hills of Dominica’s windward coast on this summer community service program in The Caribbean for high school students. Organize a summer arts program for kids, join local workers to complete small-scale construction projects, snorkel in crystal clear ocean water among schools of tropical fish, and explore the Victorian capital of Roseau.
- July 6, 2013 - July 27, 2013
- Students completing grades 9-12
- Community Service
- Typical Group:
- 16-18 Students, 2 Leaders
- 3 week(s)
Based in a small village on the this Caribbean island’s northeastern coast, work alongside our Dominican hosts on a variety of service projects. On weekdays, rise early to take advantage of the cooler morning hours and volunteer into the afternoon. While volunteer projects are determined by the town council in the spring based on the community’s needs at the time, past projects have included building an infirmary and making repairs to the primary school, helping to repave local roads, conducting town and beach clean ups, and completing small agricultural and environmental projects. Each year we help run an arts-based enrichment program for local grade school children. In addition to the group’s volunteer community service projects, you select an independent project to explore some aspect of Dominican culture, or to pursue a particular service project you are interested in. Learn to cook a favorite Caribbean dish, practice Creole with a village elder, interview community members about the history of Dominica, create a photo portfolio of local scenes, or repair the soccer goals at the town field. Afternoons often include pick-up games of basketball, soccer, or cricket, swimming with local kids, or hiking through the island’s lush valleys. Participants in this volunteer program can expect to complete approximately 50-60 hours of community service work.
We make our home in a house or community building close to the center of the village, which our hosts kindly make available for our use. Accommodations are basic: we use sleeping bags and sleeping pads on the floor and have separate sleeping space for girls and boys. While there are simple showers and running water, both water and electricity are intermittent. Our home has kitchen facilities and we work with local women to prepare meals for the group.
Known as “the nature isle of the Caribbean,” Dominica is a striking land of towering volcanic peaks, extensive rain forests, cool freshwater lakes and streams, windblown surf, hot springs, mud baths, and undisturbed black and white sand beaches. On weekends, we take advantage of this extraordinarily diverse geography. Hike to majestic Trafalgar Falls to bathe in the mineral pools, snorkel above the bubbling geothermal vents of Champagne Beach, and browse the colorful marketplaces of Portsmouth and Roseau.
At the end of our summer community service trip, we head off on an overnight excursion to a rain forest resort in the mountains. With knowledgeable local Caribbean guides, we trek into the mountains to the world’s second largest hot springs–Boiling Lake. Cool off and relax after your hike in the stunningly beautiful waterfalls of Dominica’s Titou Gorge.
“I gained a sense of how other people lived and I learned how blessed I am to have what I have. When I saw all the kids run down to the community center all with smiles and excited to see us, that is when I knew that we did something special for these kids and the community.”
-Walker Buxton, Ashley Hall School for Girls, Charleston, SC
- Run an arts-based enrichment program for Dominican grade school children, then head down to cool off and swim in a nearby waterfall in the late afternoon.
- Celebrate the successful completion of a project by making s’mores on the beach with local friends.
- Snorkel above vibrant coral reefs and relax on Dominica’s black sand beaches.
- Dance to the rhythms of Calypso, Soca, and Zouk music at a lively local fishing festival.
- Soak in natural springs after a group hike through the mountainous rainforest to visit the spectacular Boiling Lake.
What to Expect
For much of each weekday, we are actively involved in community service work. This volunteer work, as well as afternoon and weekend activities, can be physically demanding and you can expect to spend most of each day outside. Weather in Dominica is hot and humid during the summertime, though rain showers provide a welcome cool-down most afternoons. Everyone participates in all of the group’s projects on a rotating basis, and everyone lends a hand in meal preparation and cleanup. Since we live in our village as the local people do, accommodations are very simple with separate space for boys and girls, and basic bathroom facilities. You should come to the program with an open-mind, eager to participate in new experiences and interested in exploring another culture and way of life.
At Putney we take pride in our reputation for careful, thorough planning and attention to detail. The descriptions of our high school summer programs abroad are based on our experiences in previous summers and our plans for this summer. It is inevitable that some things described here will not happen exactly as presented. To get the most out of the Putney experience, participants need to be flexible in responding to unforeseen situations, and creative in taking advantage of unexpected opportunities. We expect Putney participants to share responsibility for the success of their experience.
Putney organizes escorted international flights. Please consult us for fares.
Learn about last year’s program by reading the 2012 Community Service Dominica Blog.
This program begins and ends at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York.
Departure • Join your group for a month of community service in a small village on the Caribbean island of Dominica. Your group flight departs from JFK Airport in New York where you meet one of your program leaders and depart with the group for Dominica.
The Northern Coast • Upon arrival in Dominica, travel by van to our volunteer host community, nestled into the lush, tropical hills overlooking the ocean. We spend the first day settling into our new home, getting to know one another, and joining in an in-depth orientation to Dominican life, our volunteer projects, and our goals for the summer. The village is our base for three weeks as we work alongside community members on a variety of projects in the town and surrounding area.
Weekend Excursions • On weekends we explore Dominica’s fabulously diverse regions and rich culture. Swim under the breathtaking Trafalgar Falls, or soak in natural hot springs. Dive into the crystal clear pools of the Rosalie River, and explore the history and culture of the Carib Territory.
Tropical Rainforest • Head off on an overnight excursion to a rainforest resort in the mountains. With knowledgeable Caribbean guides, trek into the mountains to the world’s second largest hot springs–Boiling Lake. Cool off and relax after your hike in the stunningly beautiful waterfalls of Dominica’s Titou Gorge.
“Patrick has told many wonderful stories of all the fantastic times he had with the other students, and also speaks a lot about the large amounts of effort put into restoring the village. The leaders provided a wonderful, safe, and secure environment for him to live in and gain new experiences from.”
- Charles and Deborah Weber, Orange, CT
Return • Fly with the group and one of your program leaders from Dominica to JFK Airport in New York, and continue on to your final destination.
This itinerary represents our best projection of the group’s schedule. However, we may implement changes designed to improve the quality of the program.
Background • A lush, mountainous, English-speaking island, Dominica lies between Guadeloupe and Martinique in the eastern Caribbean. This diverse nation reflects a variety of cultural influences including Carib Indian, French, British, and African. Long a stronghold of the Carib Indians, Dominica was colonized by the French in the mid 1600s, but passed under British rule in 1763. The Commonwealth of Dominica gained complete independence from Great Britain in 1978. The tropical rainforest, rivers, and waterfalls of the island’s rugged terrain are home to abundant wildlife, including unique native birds, sea turtles, wild pigs, and reptiles. The hot climate and fertile land provide an ideal location for fruit crops, and most islanders rely on some form of agricultural production for their living.
Population • This tiny island nation is home to approximately 75,000 people, including the last remaining indigenous population of Carib Indians–the original inhabitants of the Caribbean.
Language • Dominica is an English-speaking island, although a French-based creole called Patois developed as a result of early French colonization, and has worked its way into the vernacular of the Dominican people.
Climate • The climate of Dominica is tropical, with high humidity and temperatures in the mid to high 80s during the day. Refreshing ocean breezes and afternoon rain showers result in cooler evening temperatures.
Cuisine • Dominican food is influenced by both British practicality and Cajun flair. Our accommodations have kitchen facilities and we often combine familiar staples like pasta, sandwiches, fresh bread, and fried chicken with local specialties including curried vegetables, seafood, and beef or goat seasoned with Cajun spices. Mangoes, cinnamon, papayas, yams, coconuts, bananas, plantains, and citrus crops are all grown around our host community and are readily available.
“From this program, I’ve become more independent and globally aware. Running the camp for the students in our village was an amazing experience. I also loved the hike to Boiling Lake, the swimming, and the day trips to do community service in places outside of our village.”
- Martha Biddle, Miss Porter’s School, Katonah, NY
Currency • Dominica’s currency is the Eastern Caribbean Dollar (XCD). An ATM card is the most convenient way to access cash. Students may also exchange American dollars at the Credit Union in our village.
Voltage • Dominica uses Type D and Type G plugs. Voltage is 230V/50Hz. A voltage converter may be required for some electronic devices. There is access to electricity in our host community, though it is sometimes limited.
The Community Service Dominica program is directed by Maggie Strassman. If you have questions, are interested in receiving more detailed information, or would like to talk further about the program or any of our high school summer programs abroad, please get in touch!
Maggie Strassman: University of Wisconsin, B.S., Geography, International Studies. Maggie studied abroad in Austria during college and has had the travel bug ever since. After graduation, she moved to the Czech Republic before working at National Geographic as an intern in the Education department. She has led programs in Dominica and at Amherst College. Maggie coordinates Putney programs in India, the West Indies, and Massachusetts. She enjoys trivia, riding her bike, playing frisbee, and exclaiming over delicious food.
How To Apply
STEP 1: LOG ON.
STEP 2: HOLD A SPACE IN THE PROGRAM.
You can hold a space in a program by completing the Online Application Form, submitting a signed Agreement Form, and providing the $700 Application Deposit by Mastercard, Visa, or Discover Card through our secure online system or by sending a check to our office. Our admissions staff is also available to take credit card information over the phone. We will hold a space in a program for a reasonable time, pending completion of the full application process. See Step 3.
After March 15, we will hold a space temporarily as above, but we must receive full payment by check or wire transfer within three days to continue to hold a space in the program.
STEP 3: COMPLETE THE APPLICATION PROCESS.
Before we can make a final admissions decision, an application must be complete. In addition to the Application Form and Application Deposit described above, a complete application includes:
- Applicant Statement - Attach a statement explaining why you would like to join a Putney program and what you feel you can contribute to it. Your application cannot be processed without this statement. Approximately 150–300 words is sufficient. Global Action applicants’ statements must be 300-500 words addressing these questions, and detailing their interest and/or experience in the country and issues on which they wish to focus.
- Two Teacher Reference Forms
These documents are available as part of our Online Application. We review a completed application within a few days, and notify families of our admissions decision by e-mail.