The Dominican Republic (DR) program has been one of VISIONS longest-running summer community service partnerships. Teen volunteers will immediately feel like family with the neighbors that we have been working with for more than 25 years. The acclaimed VISIONS DR service projects include building schools, homes, and clinics, and helping to run a summer camp. Off hours are infused with the lively Caribbean culture, and time is spent socializing, dancing, playing and watching baseball. Program participants also take excursions to the Zona Colonial, beaches, and Dominican Alps.
Service in the Dominican Republic is immensely rewarding, and during our 20+ years of work with the Lions Club of Sabana Perdida, VISIONS teens have made significant improvements, including building dozens of homes, large schools, a medical clinic, and community centers. Every summer, we also organize a popular summer camp for neighborhood kids. Projects in the Dominican Republic mostly take place in bateys, neighborhoods originally formed by immigrant Haitian workers lured to the country as cheap labor for the sugar cane industry. Living conditions in bateys are sub-standard and public services are meager. We use cinder block and mortar, and work alongside local professionals in the ongoing construction of homes and public facilities.
The Lions Club of Sabana Perdida has earned high acclaim as one of the most active Lions Clubs in the world. They have worked with VISIONS since 1991 on large and small-scale projects alike, and members work year-round to help serve the communities of Santo Domingo.
Days in the DR are characterized by the continual companionship of Dominican friends—neighbors and kids always are spending time with us. Game of dominoes or vitilla, the precursor to baseball that local kids play with a broomstick and plastic bottle cap. You will have dinner visits with neighborhood families, yet another opportunity to immerse in the Spanish language. We enjoy Dominican life beyond our neighborhood, too, visiting marketplaces to buy fruits, vegetables and other goods. We go to a discotheque after taking merengue and salsa lessons from teens of the “Leo Club.” And because there’s music everywhere, all the time, impromptu singing provides daily entertainment at the work sites and at home.
"Can't be described without making up new words. Yes, that’s how incredible this was."
With a wide variety of landscapes, from mountains and beaches to city life and rural communities, summer adventures in the Dominican Republic are diverse. Enjoy a quiet mountain town, a day hike, and a swim in waterfall pools in the Dominican Alps, the Caribbean’s highest range. We visit beaches a couple afternoons each week for swimming in the clear ocean waters, and we explore the historic Zona Colonial and marketplaces in Santo Domingo’s city center. On this trip, you will discover a Dominican Republic unknown to tourists, resulting in an unforgettable summer experience.
On the northern outskirts of Santo Domingo, we make our home in the lively neighborhood of Elio Franco. We live in two neighboring houses and eat all meals together as a group in one of the homes. There are bathrooms and showers, bunk beds and communal areas. The electricity that fuels water pumps can be sporadic, so some showers take the form of cool bucket showers.
Service work begins after breakfast and ends by mid-afternoon to beat the heat. You will work five days per week, and typically get to choose between three different projects each day. Once a week, you will be on “homebase crew” with a few other participants and a leader. The crew makes breakfast, walks to the nearby store to buy food for the next meals, takes laundry to our laundress Lola, and enjoys a “day in the life” of the neighborhood.
After work is a blend of neighborhood activities and outings. There are trips to the beach, a baseball game, dancing lessons, plenty of time with local kids, and ongoing opportunities to practice Spanish. After dinner a few evenings a week, we have meetings to talk through the cultural and volunteer experience.
Weekends and a few other days are set aside for travel and excursions during the first session. The second, shorter session includes some of the same highlights as the first, but condensed into afternoons and one full-day excursion.
Meals on a VISIONS program are varied and plentiful with a mix of Dominican and American cuisine. We serve vegetarian and meat options, and also provide healthy snacks throughout the day.
VISIONS is not a teen tour with a day-to-day travel itinerary. Instead we settle into our home and join in the daily life of the neighborhood. This also is a base from which we travel to after-work activities and weekend excursions. The itineraries show some of the highlights of our time in the Dominican Republic.