Dominican Republic | Community Service

Beach, Bachata, & Community Building

Explore the Dominican Republic, a Spanish-speaking Caribbean country known for its vibrant culture, gorgeous beaches, and complex colonial past. Begin in Santo Domingo, then head southwest to your host village to work alongside community members on service projects. Take overnight trips to the mountains of the Cordillera Central, the northern coast, and the Samana Peninsula.

June 30, 2018  –  July 21, 2018
At A Glance:
  • Beach
    Stay on the ocean with time to swim, surf, boat, or snorkel
  • Language
    Opportunities to practice or learn the language of your host country
  • Service
    Focus on community-based projects in collaboration with a partner village
Completing grades 9 – 12
US Gateway City:
New York
Community Service
22 days
Typical Group:
14 – 16 students, 2 leaders
$ 4,590 + airfare


  • Work with Dominican friends on service learning projects
  • Play a game of baseball with Dominican peloteros
  • Camp under the stars on a white-sand beach
  • Snorkel the  pristine waters of the Samana Peninsula

Leader Profile: LAUREN KENNEDY

Education: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, B.A., Anthropology, Hispanic Studies, Documentary Studies, Arizona State University, M.Ed., Elementary Education

While at UNC, Lauren focused her studies on community development and documenting migrant identity by working with communities in her college town, as well as… read more

While at UNC, Lauren focused her studies on community development and documenting migrant identity by working with communities in her college town, as well as communities in Mexico, Peru, the Dominican Republic, and Tanzania. She also explored her interest in preventative health by working as a fitness consultant and director of a bilingual women’s wellness group. Lauren taught sixth grade with Teach for America in Phoenix, Arizona, while earning her master’s degree in elementary education. Her passion for arts education and the Latino community inspired her to become a K–8 art teacher and to develop the visual arts program at Chavez Leadership Academy in South Phoenix. She now works as a yoga teacher and health coach at Iora Primary Care, where she collaborates with other health professionals to transform health care by focusing on disease prevention. Lauren is fluent in Spanish and believes the best way to learn a language is to practice without fear of failure.  She has led Community Service Dominican Republic.  


Departure • Travel Day • Meet your fellow students and one or more of your leaders in New York, and fly together to Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. To learn more about how we organize travel, click here.

Santo Domingo • 1 day • Spend one night in the country’s vibrant capital city and learn about Dominican history and culture. Get to know each other through a group orientation and prepare for your stay in the host village.

Host Village • 4 days • Travel by private bus to your host village. Located in the undeveloped southwestern region of the Dominican Republic, this small village is your home for the next three weeks. Work together with warm and welcoming community members to complete meaningful projects identified by town council. Rotate through several different projects including small-scale construction, planting an organic garden or seedlings, and teaching English to local children and adults. In the late afternoons, practice your Spanish and play baseball with friends from town.

Students explore the Dominican Republic's beaches on our community service program

Two aspects of the trip were meaningful for Emerson: getting to know and understand the people and social dynamic of the village, and knowing that he tangibly improved the lives of those families through his own hard work. It was amazing for me to see how proud he was of this and how empowering the experience was for him.

— Marina Ecklund, Burlington, VT

Jarabacoa • 2 days • Spend two nights at a mountain lodge tucked into the Dominican Republic’s lush and rugged Cordillera Central Mountains, home to the highest peaks in the West Indies. Raft down the whitewater of the Rio Yaque del Norte, one of the three chief river systems on the island  with professional guides. Hike to a gorgeous waterfall, or ride horseback through the countryside.

Host Village • 6 days • Return to your host village and continue working on your service projects.

Beach Excursion • 1 Day • Camp overnight under the stars on a beautiful, remote beach overlooking the Caribbean Sea. Swim in the turquoise waters, enjoy a meal together, and play guitar around a beach bonfire with new Dominican friends.

Host Village • 2 days • Return to your host village to finish your projects and say goodbye to new friends.

Samaná • 3 days • Cap the program with a stay on the picturesque Samaná Peninsula. Snorkel along the white-sand beaches of Los Haitises National Park, and explore its untouched mangrove forests and limestone caves. Once considered sacred spaces for the Taíno people, the island’s indigenous population prior to colonization, view Taíno pictographs and petroglyphs adorning the walls of these ancient caverns. Hear tales of the pirates who once used these same caves as hideaways, and kayak through the lush mangroves to see pelicans and manatees in their natural habitats.

Santo Domingo • 1 Day • Spend the final night of your trip together as a group in Santo Domingo. Enjoy a celebratory meal and reminisce about your shared adventure.

Return • Travel Day • Fly from Santo Domingo to New York with your group and a leader, and then continue on to your final destination. To learn more about how we organize travel, click here.

This itinerary represents our best projection of the group’s schedule. However, we may implement changes designed to improve the quality of the program.


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

7 AM Breakfast together as a group
8 AM Work on construction projects helping to lay cement foundations for family homes
12 PM Lunch and rest in the shade
2 PM Teach English to local children and learn about the sugarcane harvest
4 PM Join a pick-up game of baseball
6 PM Prepare dinner with local cooks and enjoy a family-style meal
8 PM Group meeting to discuss the day and upcoming schedule

A baseball player swings for the fence on our Dominican Republic community service program

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 the Dominican Republic, you can expect to work on several different volunteer projects — construction projects where you may learn to mix cement and lay blocks or paint a community building, environmental projects such as planting seedlings or shadowing local farmers, and educational projects such as teaching English to local children and adults. 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 60 – 80 hours of community service work during the program. To learn more about our Community Service programs, click here.

Language Practice • Proficiency in Spanish is not required, however students who study Spanish in school will have opportunities to practice while communicating with local people. Students who do not speak Spanish will have the opportunity to learn some basic language skills.

Independent Project: Pursue an independent project and explore an aspect of local culture of particular interest to you — design and paint a mural at the local school, organize a baseball tournament, or learn to dance the bachata.

Physical Activity: This is a physically active program. You can expect to play baseball, swim, raft, ride horseback, and hike. 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: Living accommodations in the project village are basic. The group lives together in a local school and students sleep in sleeping bags on camping pads with access to simple bathrooms. On overnight excursions, we camp in tents for a night at the beach, stay in a beautiful mountain lodge in Jarabacoa, and stay in a beachside hotel in Samana. In Santo Domingo, we stay in a small hotel. Leaders reside together with the students throughout the program.

Meals: In the host village we eat delicious home-cooked meals prepared by local cooks. Each day several students from the group form cooking crews and help prepare our meals. During excursions, the group eats in restaurants and occasionally goes to local markets to shop for a picnic lunch.

The most eye-opening part of my experience was being able to communicate with Dominicans and have conversations in Spanish. I finally put my Spanish skills to use in real-life scenarios!

— Amy C., National Cathedral School, Potomac Falls, VA

Ask Us

Call Kelsey at 802.387.5000 or email

The Community Service Dominican Republic summer 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 summer student travel programs, please get in touch!

Kelsey Burns

St. Lawrence University, B.A., Spanish

A Vermont native, Kelsey has led Language Learning programs in Spain; Community Service programs in Ecuador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, and Ghana; and directed our Middle School program in Costa Rica. She has worked as an associate director at Putney since 2003, and coordinates programs in Spain, Costa Rica, and the Dominican Republic. Kelsey loves to travel, ski, dance, make music, and spend time with her son, Zebulon.