Travel to a small, undeveloped village in The Caribbean to complete important volunteer projects on this summer 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 families who support themselves by finishing semiprecious larimar stone for jewelry and ocean fishing from wood longboats.
- June 30, 2013 - July 21, 2013
- Students completing grades 8-9
- Community Service
- Typical Group:
- 16-18 Students, 2 Leaders
- 3 week(s)
We 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 we travel west along the coast to our project village. Located on the largely undeveloped southwestern coast, this small Caribbean village becomes our home for the next three weeks. During this time, we work together with warm and welcoming friends from the host village to complete work on important municipal projects identified by town leaders. We rotate through several volunteer projects including small-scale construction, planting an organic garden or seedlings, and teaching English to eager local Dominican children and adults. You also choose an independent project of your own design to work on over the course of the month. 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 the bachata. In the late afternoons, we take time to enjoy the beach, practice our Spanish, and play games of baseball with friends from town. Upon completion of the volunteer program, you can expect to complete between 40 and 60 hours of community service work.
During our time in the village, we live together as a group in classrooms at the town’s primary school, while the school is on vacation. We sleep on camping pads on the floor of our group house, use simple bathrooms, and shower using buckets with clean well water. Days are full, beginning early with a hearty breakfast cooked by Dominican cooks. We form cooking and cleaning crews to help prepare meals of rice, beans, chicken, eggs, plantains, and delicious fruits including papayas, mangoes, and bananas.
On weekends we take day and overnight trips to explore the country’s diverse natural attractions. Camp for the night on an remote white sand beach and then travel to a sustainable eco-lodge overlooking the brilliant blue ocean where we swim, snorkel, and enjoy the company of our group and Dominican friends.
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, or 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.
This Community Service program is designed especially with 8th and 9th graders in mind. It is one week shorter than our other community service programs and contains a level of structure even greater than Putney’s highly structured norm.
“A highlight was meeting all the amazing people on the trip. Everyone was so fantastic, from the people I went on the trip with, to the people in the village where we were staying. The community there was embracing and the kids were so sweet! The trip was so amazing that it’s so hard to pick out specific highlights, because I enjoyed every second of it!”
– Sophia Harrison, St. Paul Academy and Summit School, Minneapolis, MN
- Design lesson plans and 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 team with Dominican spectators.
- Hike into the lush surrounding mountains to swim in a refreshing spring-fed swimming hole.
What to Expect
For most of each weekday, we are actively involved in community service work. This work, as well as afternoon and weekend activities, can be strenuous, and you can expect to spend most of each day outside. 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 Dominican Republic Blog.
This program begins and ends at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York.
Departure • Join your group to begin three weeks of Community Service in the Dominican Republic. The group flight departs from John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York where you meet one of your leaders who flies with you to Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.
“My greatest sense of accomplishment was being able to interact with the community because I knew enough Spanish to talk to them and having a conversation in a different language really made me feel accomplished. We built a wall together with the whole group and the local workers helped us which really showed why teamwork is important.”
- Japreena Kaur, Awty International School, Houston, TX
Santo Domingo • Spend two nights in the country’s vibrant capital city, where you learn about the country’s history, language, and culture. Get to know each other through a group orientation and prepare for your stay in the host village.
Host Village • Travel by private bus to your host village, located along the country’s southwestern coastline. Here, we live together as a group in the town’s primary school and undertake several important community service projects with the help of our friends from town.
Southwestern Coast Weekend • Camp overnight with Dominican friends on a deserted, undeveloped beach, Bahia de Las Aguilas. Cook dinner together, play guitar around a beach bonfire, and talk with Dominican friends. The next night, stay in bungalows at a sustainably run eco lodge overlooking brilliant, turquoise ocean waters. Eat delicious Dominican food and see a traditional dance performance by local children.
Jarabacoa • For two nights, stay at a mountain eco lodge tucked into the lush Cordillera Central Mountains. White water raft down the Rio Yaque del Norte, hike to a gorgeous waterfall, or ride horseback through the countryside.
Return • Fly with your group and a leader from Santo Domingo to John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, and continue home on a connecting flight.
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 • Located on the eastern two-thirds of the Caribbean island of Hispaniola, the Dominican Republic is a country of rich natural resources and vibrant people. The original capital of the Spanish empire in the Americas, the country’s largest sources of income now come from tourism, cane sugar exports, and remittances from relatives living abroad. Many Dominicans live in poverty, struggling to provide for their families. Public health issues, electricity shortages, and income inequality are constant and real reminders that life is difficult. Despite these obstacles, Dominicans are proud of their country, passionate about their music and sports, and extremely welcoming to travelers.
Population • The Dominican Republic has a total population of just under 10 million, with over 60% of Dominicans living in urban areas and nearly 3 million in the capital of Santo Domingo. Our host village (population under 1000) is located in the southwestern province of Barahona. The nearest city, also called Barahona, has a population of about 80,000.
Language • Spanish is the official language of the Dominican Republic.
“I felt really accomplished when we finished painting the school and when the little kids were just happy and enjoying themselves when we were around them. In part, by seeing and being in our village, and in part by the amazing group I was with, I felt more motivated to go back and live my life. I felt like a changed person coming back. This experience has influenced how I plan to live my life; in short term as well as in the distant future. I am very grateful to my Putney group for that.”
- Maya Garfinkel, The Northwest School, Seattle, WA
Climate • The Dominican Republic has a tropical climate and has only two seasons: wet and dry. We visit during the wet season, when intermittent heavy showers are common, but not a daily occurrence. It is hot during the day–in the 80′s and 90’s most days–so the occasional rain shower is welcome!
Cuisine • Typical Dominican cuisine consists of rice, beans, plantains, eggs, meat, vegetables, and fresh tropical fruit.
Currency • The currency is the Dominican Peso (DOP). ATM cards are the best way to access cash.
Voltage • Electrical outlets run at 110 V/60 Hz so electronic equipment from the US works without modification. There are a limited number of outlets in our group house which can be used for charging digital cameras and other electronic devices.
The Community Service Dominican Republic program is directed by Kelsey Burns. 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!
Kelsey Burns: St. Lawrence University, B.A., Spanish. A Vermont native, Kelsey has led programs in Spain, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, and Ghana, and has co-directed Putney’s Global Action programs at Yale University. Kelsey has worked as an associate director at Putney Student Travel for the last nine years. She currently coordinates outreach efforts and directs various programs in Latin America and Africa. Kelsey loves to travel, ski, dance, and eat good 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.