Dominican Republic (8th and 9th Grade) | Community Service

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 Dominican families.

July 3, 2016  –  July 17, 2016
Students completing grades 8 – 9
Community Service
Typical Group:
14-16 students, 2 leaders
15 days


  • 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 local team.
  • Hike into the lush surrounding mountains to swim in a refreshing spring-fed swimming hole.


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 on the largely undeveloped southwestern coast, 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 eager local Dominican children and adults. 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 the bachata. In the late afternoons, take time to enjoy the beach, 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.

Teach English at the local school and work with students on art projects.

Teach English at the local school and work with students on art projects.

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. Students form cooking and cleaning crews to help our Dominican friends 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 under the stars on a remote white-sand beach with brilliant blue ocean where we spend our days swimming and snorkeling.

“The most meaningful aspect of the trip for Hannah was working with the kids and making connections with people in the village. At the young age of 14 she understand now how to take care of herself oversees – navigate airports, pack and unpack, handle herself with people who come from a totally different background. She understands the importance of knowing another language and is motivated to work hard in Spanish class to be able to speak fluently.” 

— Jamie Hooper & Marti Meyerson, parents of Hannah Hooper, Ethical Culture Fieldston School, New York, NY

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 contains a level of structure even greater than Putney’s highly structured norm.

What to Expect

For most of each weekday, we are actively involved in community service projects. This volunteer 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 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.


$3,790 plus airfare



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

This program begins and ends at JFK International Airport in New York, New York.

Departure • Gather at the airport in New York City to meet one of your leaders and fly as a group to Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.

“All of the community service we did was very rewarding, and so was getting to know and bonding with the Dominicans in the community. It was one of the best experiences of my life.”

— Sophie Fischer, St. Ann’s School, New York, NY

Santo Domingo • Spend two nights in the country’s vibrant capital city and learn about the Dominican 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. 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 on a deserted, undeveloped beach, Bahia de Las Aguilas. Cook dinner together, play guitar around a beach bonfire, and talk with Dominican friends. Eat delicious Dominican food and see a traditional dance performance by local children.

Rafting in the Dominican Republic Teen Adventure Travel

With professional guides, make your way down the Río Yaque del Norte together as a group.

Jarabacoa • For two nights, stay at a mountain eco-lodge tucked into the lush Cordillera Central Mountains. Raft down the white wanter of 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 New York City, 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 welcoming people. The original capital of the Spanish empire in the Americas, the country’s largest sources of income are now 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 there is plenty of work to do. Despite these obstacles, Dominicans are proud of their country, passionate about their culture, and extremely welcoming to travelers.

Dominicans are known for their incredible warmth, hospitality, and, of course, their joyous music and dancing!

Dominicans are known for their incredible warmth, hospitality, and, of course, their joyous music and dancing!

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 1,000) 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 with 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 80s and 90s most days — so the occasional rain shower is welcome!

A refreshing dip in the crystal blue waters of the Caribbean can be the perfect end to a day of community service work.

A refreshing dip in the crystal blue waters of the Caribbean can be the perfect end to a day of community service work.

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 U.S. 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.

Visa  U.S. citizens are not currently required to have a visa to enter The Dominican Republic.  Non-U.S. citizens must check local visa requirements.


The Community Service Dominican Republic program is directed by Zufan Hagos. 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!

Zufan Hagos

Zufan Hagos: University of Vermont, B.S. Secondary Education, Spanish; School for International Training, M.A. International Education (expected 2015).  Zufan fell in love with travel during high school, when she participated in exchange programs in Costa Rica and Honduras, and later in Granada, Spain, where she studied during college. She moved to Prague after her graduation, where she taught for two years before returning to her native Vermont.  Zufan is part of the marketing team and directs programs in Spain, The Dominican Republic, and Costa Rica.  In her free time, she enjoys hiking, skiing, and everything to do with food.

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.