Dominica | Community Service

Join us for two weeks of community service in a small village tucked into the volcanic hills of Dominica’s windward coast. On this Caribbean summer program for high school students, organize a summer camp for kids, join local workers to complete small-scale construction projects, snorkel in the crystal-clear water of the Caribbean Sea among schools of tropical fish, and hike an active volcano for a picnic alongside the second largest boiling lake in the world.

  • June 25, 2016  –  July 9, 2016
  • July 10, 2016  –  July 24, 2016
Students completing grades 9 – 12
Community Service
Typical Group:
15 – 18 students, 2 leaders
15 days


  • Run an arts-based enrichment program for Dominican grade school children, then head down to cool off and swim in a nearby waterfall.
  • 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 local beach cafe.
  • Soak in a refreshing natural spring after a group hike through the mountainous rainforest to visit the spectacular Boiling Lake.


Village Life and Service

Known as “the Nature Isle of the Caribbean,” Dominica is a striking island of towering volcanic peaks, extensive rain forests, cool freshwater lakes and streams, windblown surf, hot springs, and undisturbed black and white sand beaches. Based in a small village on the northern 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. Volunteer projects are determined by the town council based on community requests, and past projects have included building an infirmary and making repairs to the primary school, helping to repave local roads, conducting town and beach cleanups, and completing small agricultural and environmental projects. Each year, Putney students organize an arts-based enrichment program for local grade school children.

Afternoons often include pick-up games of basketball, soccer, or cricket; swimming with local kids; or hiking through the island’s lush valleys to a nearby waterfall.

We make our home in a 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. Participants on this volunteer program can expect to complete between 30 50 hours of community service work.

Form long lasting friendships with local Dominicans and with your fellow program participants.

Form long lasting friendships with local Dominicans and with your fellow program participants.

Independent Projects

In addition to the group’s volunteer community service projects, students may select an independent project to explore some aspect of Dominican culture, or choose to pursue a particular area of interest. Learn to cook a favorite Dominican dish, practice Creole with a village elder, interview community members about the history of the island, create a photo portfolio of the village, or repair the soccer goals at the town field.


We take advantage of the island’s 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.

Over the weekend, we head off on an overnight excursion to a rainforest lodge in the mountains. With knowledgeable local Dominican guides, we trek into the mountains to the world’s second largest Boiling Lake. Cool off and relax after your hike in the stunningly beautiful waterfalls of Dominica’s Titou Gorge.

“I attained the greatest sense of accomplishment working with the kids each morning at our Summer Fun Camp. The smiles that it brought to many of their faces was an amazing feeling. Personally, I learned a stronger sense of responsibility, independence, and respect for new cultures and people.”

— Sarah Petrick, Beacon High School, Brooklyn, NY


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.

We make our home in a community resource center 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 (one outdoor, one indoor) and running water, both water and electricity can be sporadic. Often students bathe and do laundry in the nearby Hampstead River. On our weekend excursion we stay at a mountain lodge with twin style rooms and en suite bathrooms.

A Typical Day

During the week we wake up around 7:30 AM, eat breakfast together as a group, and then head to the work site from 9 AM – 12 PM.  Work may include mixing cement, painting, participating in a 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 an independent project. 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 beach, explore an old sugar mill, or swim in a waterfall.

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 often necessitate spending 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 travel programs 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. Rules that provide a safe and structured environment, set curfews, and prohibit the use of alcohol, drugs, and tobacco are in place and enforced. We expect you to behave in a mature and productive way at all times.


$3,490 plus airfare


Putney organizes and reserves seats for students on a round-trip group flight from a gateway U.S. airport to your program destination. One or more of your group leaders will be at the airport to welcome you and to fly with the group on both departure and return. Please consult us for fares.


Learn about last year’s program by reading the 2014 Community Service Dominica Blog.

This program begins and ends at Miami International Airport (MIA) in Miami, Florida.

Departure and the Northern Coast • 12 days • Join a group of 15 – 18 students and one of your leaders to begin two weeks of travel and community service work in a small village on the Caribbean island of Dominica.

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 enjoying an in-depth orientation to Dominican life, our volunteer projects, and our goals for the summer. The village is our base for the program as we work alongside community members on a variety of community-initiated projects in the town and surrounding area.

We’ll explore Dominica’s rich culture and diverse landscapes in the afternoons outside of our host village. Swim under the breathtaking Trafalgar Falls, or soak in natural hot springs. Meet the island’s leading historian and learn about Dominica’s turbulent history as you wander the ruins of Cabrits National Park. ,Visit the Carib Territory, the last autonomous native population in the Caribbean, and peruse their handicrafts of jewelry, woven baskets and carved calabash shells.

Lend a hand in a beach clean-up in nearby Anse de Mai.

Lend a hand in a beach clean-up in nearby Anse de Mai.

Tropical Rainforest and the Southern Coast • 2 days • Head off on an overnight excursion to a rainforest resort in the mountains. With knowledgeable local guides, trek into the dense jungle and traverse valleys of bubbling sulphur springs to the world’s second largest hot springs — Boiling Lake. Cool off and relax after your journey in the beautiful waterfalls of Dominica’s Titou Gorge. Snorkel above the steam vents — an ode to Dominica’s nine active volcanoes — in the sea floor of the famous Champagne Bay before returning to your host village.

“I loved both of my leaders!! They were both able to lead us in a way that still allowed us to learn for ourselves and make our own decisions. Both of them were very open and understanding which was so helpful throughout the trip.”

— Sophia Alexandra Korfmann, Shipley School, Wynnewood, PA

Return • Travel day • Fly with the group and one of your program leaders from Dominica to Miami International Airport in Miami, Florida, 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 windward islands of the West Indies. 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.

Sample fresh fruits and vegetables at a local Dominican market.

Sample fresh fruits and vegetables at a local Dominican market.

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 • English is the official language of Dominica, although a French-based Creole, called Patois, developed as a result of early French colonization, and has influenced 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 ranging from 70 – 80℉.

Dominica's white-sand beaches and hidden coves are well off the beaten path.

Dominica’s white-sand beaches and hidden coves are far from the beaten path.

Cuisine • Dominican food is a blend of both British and Cajun influence. 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, seasoned with Cajun spices. Mangoes, cinnamon, papayas, passion fruit, bread fruit, yams, coconuts, bananas, plantains, and citrus crops are all grown around our host community and are readily available.

“Seeing how appreciated we were in the small and tight-knit community of Bense was an amazing feeling. Once I realized this, I felt a lot more accomplished, especially because it was only for two weeks. I gained a new perspective on life outside of America, people outside of America, and my daily life at home. I was definitely in need of this new perspective and outlook, which I am grateful I now have.”

— Sophia Alexandra Korfmann, Shipley School, Wynnewood, PA

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 Portsmouth.

Visa • U.S. citizens are not currently required to have a visa to enter Dominica. Non U.S. citizens must check local visa requirements, including requirements for countries passed through in transit.   


The Community Service Dominica program is directed by Anna Kayes. 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!

Anna Kayes

Anna Kayes: The College of William and Mary, B.A., Anthropology, Archaeology.  After working at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History as a research and curatorial assistant, Anna moved to India and Thailand for a year to teach English and coach youth soccer. She returned to the United States and spent a year working for an international education provider in Boston before joining the Putney staff full time.  Anna has twice led our Community Service Dominica program and now coordinates programs in Alaska, Iceland, London, the West Indies, and Thailand. In her free time, she volunteers for a non-profit that supports children of Tibetan refugees living in Northeast India. She enjoys hiking, dancing and spending time with her family and yellow lab.

How To Apply


If you are new to Putney Student Travel, visit our Online Application.  
If you are a Putney Student Travel alumni family, 
use your existing account information to Log In.


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.


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.