ISV - Volunteer Projects in the Dominican Republic

By ISV   Reviews (26)   97% Rating

The communities of the Dominican Republic tackle with the issues of poverty every day. As an ISV volunteer in the Dominican Republic, you will have the opportunity to improve the quality of lives for the residents of these communities. ISV offers volunteer projects in the Dominican Republic with this goal; they are attempting to achieve this goal through building infrastructure and giving these residents better education programs.
If you choose to volunteer focusing on community development, you will be involved in building and renovating homes, community centers, schools, latrines, water and sewage facilities, sidewalks, and community gardens, and to deliver basic health education and English language programs. ISV's other volunteer option is to work with children and teach English, Math, Geography, Sciences and Health Education in a summer camp setting. They were also be opportunities for fun activities like Music, Ars & Crafts, and physical recreation.

Program Info

Location: 
  • Dominican Republic
Volunteer Types: 
Program Length: 
2-4 weeks
Cost: 
$2,000 - $5,000 (USD)
See Additional Information
Age Group: 
14-18
Languages: 
English
Application: 
Online Application

Program Reviews (26)

97%
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  • Impact
    92%
  • Support
    94%
  • Fun
    97%
  • Value
    94%
  • Safety
    93%
  • Julia
    Age: 19-24
    Female
    Ithaca, NY
    Ithaca College
    Qué increíble!
    11/09/2014

    This was my first big trip out of the US and also where I officially caught the travel bug. There's something almost magical about seeing a new country and a new culture, and it's even more amazing when you get to fully immerse yourself in it for longer than a week. This volunteer program was incredible. We spent a week in Santiago, living with host families and taking Spanish classes while easing into the Dominican lifestyle, then for the next two weeks we worked on volunteer projects in a little rural village, bonding with the kids and the people around us. Overall a life-changing experience which led to close friendships and lasting memories.

    How could this program be improved?

    As awesome as the actual program was, I feel like we weren't told many details beforehand, so perhaps explaining what the days are actually like would be helpful in terms of prior knowledge.

    Photos:
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  • Elli kiselica
    Age: 19-24
    Female
    Coeurd ' Alene Idaho
    University of Idaho
    Dominican Experience
    11/09/2014

    When I arrived at the Dominican, I thought I had got myself into trouble. Our group leader was no where to be found and the terminal starting clearing out from people. I luckily found a woman who spoke English and I was able to call the leader. He was held up in some traffic. He rolled up in flip flops and a moped. After slight panic I couldn't help but laugh. The rest of my experience was remarkable. I expected to be very tense and scared working in a local village that seemed third world, but the locals proved me very wrong. The most beautiful night in La Mina was when we had gotten to know some of the local families from repairing the school and side walks, and one of the fathers invited us all to his home for dinner. We showed up and they were all playing hand made instruments, playing dominos under tiny strung lights across the patio. The father brought out platers of spaghetti, bread, and squash and juices for us to feast on. He was so greatful to have us in his home. The locals became like family. The worked with us, ate with us, and showed us all around their land. If it weren't for the locals the trip would have been pointless. I loved that we as volunteers got to come up with the projects plans all on our own. I was a little surprised there wasn't any specific project laid out for us to follow, so that did leave some frustration for us volunteers to have to really brainstorm, which lead to conflicting ideas, but over all it was good for us to have a raw experience and I ended up liking that the work and plans was all up to us. It was much more rewarding. If I could just travel and volunteer the rest of my life I would. The challenges and the love shared between the volunteers and new cultures is untouchable to anything I have experienced in life.

    How could this program be improved?

    I would improve the punctuality, and the organization of specific project plans. I noticed tension between the team leader and host leader deciding on how things should be done.

    Photos:
    Friendship bracelets
    Family game night
    My heart was left in La Mina
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  • Jessica Bronsing
    Age: 19-24
    Female
    Prescott Wisconsin
    Other
    Dominican Republic
    11/07/2014

    My time in the Dominican was the most unforgettable experience of my life. I remember my first day on project like it was yesterday. We were the first ISV group to be helping out in this community. So it was very nerve wracking for all of us. I didn't know what to expect. I was nervous about interacting with the kids and making connections with them since my Spanish was still a little rusty. The first day was a little chaotic and there were a few misunderstandings but we got through it like champs. And just like that I was addicted to this community and all of the children. It didn't matter that my Spanish was rough. They just wanted to play and have fun and learn new stuff from us. The first day we took a tour of the community and saw the houses we were going to be working on. I remember walking through the streets just in shock of the conditions these people were living in. I cried a bit on the way back to our hostel, because I was so upset. The shock slowly wore of though and I got used to my surroundings. To the children with no shoes. To the houses with no bathrooms. To the garbage in the streets. To the stray dogs. To the children with the biggest smiles on their faces despite all of the suffering life had given them. We were split into two groups. One group would do construction all day while the other was doing stuff with the kids. Then the next day the groups would switch. The days were long and hard but so worth it. The last day of the project was one of the hardest days of my life. Members of the community came to thank us for our efforts. They were so grateful for us to come and help their community. The principal of the school gave a heart wrenching speech that had us all in tears. Saying goodbye to the kids I taught and played with for two weeks was very emotional. I cried like a baby as I hugged all of those beautiful children goodbye. I will never forget the love the community gave to me. I will never forget the lives I touched. I will also never forget how they touched mine. I carry with me the memories of the DR every single day. Not a day goes back that I don't think about. Best experience of my life and I would definitely recommend ISV to everyone.
    After the project I went on the adventure tour. The tour was very rewarding after all the hard work we did. I want to say it was relaxing but it really wasn't. We went repelling, hiking, white water rafting, snorkeling, kayaking, cliff jumping, horseback riding, windsurfing, zip lining, cave exploring, and surfing. Everyday was an adventure. It was the best way to explore everything the Dominican has to offer. From its beautiful beaches to the beautiful mountains and jungles.
    Thank you ISV for the best time of my life!

    How could this program be improved?

    Better food options on the project. But otherwise I really have no complaints or changes

    Photos:
    Our whole group at the school
    Windsurfing!
    Making memories with the best people!
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  • Danielle Ducharme
    Age: 19-24
    Female
    Pullman, WA
    Washington State University
    The Dominican Way
    11/07/2014

    There is nothing like being immersed in a different culture than your own. The week of cultural experiences was definitely worth it because I was able to be more familiar with the country and the people in it. It also gave me the opportunity to form bonds with my fellow volunteers. The actual work we did as volunteers was life changing. It is a good feeling to put effort into something and see results in the short time we were there. Doing actual construction the Dominican way is an experience in its self. Teaching a summer camp was where I go the best experience. I still reflect on my Arts and Crafts class that I taught. I am currently training to be a teacher and my ISV experience gave me many useful skills for not only my career, but for me as a person. I can't stress enough how much of a valuable experience this trip was. I would do it a hundred times again.

    How could this program be improved?

    Because I went for an extra week for the cultural immersion trip, we were dealing with a third party, the International school. There didn't seem to be enough communication between ALPI and ISV so it lead to some confusion at times.

    Photos:
    Just a few of the inspirational people I met.
    Our donations/supplies for our health lessons.
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  • Robbie V
    Age: 19-24
    Male
    Toronto, ON, Canada
    Queen's University
    A Great Trip with ISV
    11/07/2014

    On My trip in the Dominican Republic, I was given the opportunity to experience both the culture and sceneries in a very enjoyable and safe way. Locals were extremely welcoming and open to the volunteer's company, and the activities in the second half of the trip were incredibly fun in awe inspiring places. The organization before the trip was quite poor, and disorganized, however while at location, the staff were professional, fun and extremely nice people.

    How could this program be improved?

    Before departure, there has to be better organization from the administrative team. I was not sure exactly what I was doing until I got to the country, making the preparation time harder. Additionally, I would have liked more freedom while there. Even though I was only 18/19, I felt as though I was forced to stick with a group and to mandated instructions, not allowing me to just explore the country I was in.

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  • Kayla
    Age: 19-24
    Female
    Canada
    Mount Royal University
    A Life-Changing Experience
    10/16/2014

    I was enriched on many different levels by this trip with ISV. I have a greater understanding and respect for the locals from staying with a host family and learning the way of life and culture in the Dominican Republic. I felt contented by the help we provided; there is always more that could be done in poverty-stricken areas like that, however I feel that the day camp and improvements to the school that we did improved the community as a whole. These two weeks volunteering taught me to appreciate what I have, and showed me that you don't need money to be happy. The locals had many needs and struggles but were the happiest people I've met. I also stepped outside of my comfort zone in the most adventure-packed week of my life; I am afraid of heights but forced myself to do one of the scheduled activities, rappelling down a 130 ft waterfall, the end result was increased confidence and overwhelming pride/joy in myself. The adventure tour made me push myself and showed me the true meaning of living life to its fullest with no regrets.

    I am now using the experiences from this trip in my everyday life (appreciating the little things, volunteering more, donating to worthy causes, and pushing myself outside of my comfort zone), as well as in my academic and professional life (I am studying to become a social worker while working at a homeless shelter).

    How could this program be improved?

    During the volunteer portion I felt like there were too many days off. I wanted to do more work than what we did and then use the last two weeks to rest.

    Photos:
    Market in town
    Playing with the children at the school we worked on
    White water rafting on the adventure tour
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  • Kacie Thomas
    Age: 19-24
    Female
    Greeley, CO
    University of Northern Colorado
    The Trip That Still Travels With Me
    10/15/2014

    I had just finished my freshman year in college. I had heard a presentation from a very attractive Australian man about some program that had multiple location options and could "change my life." Usually I didn't fall for this kind of presentation, as I knew it was usually a scam to get some money out of adventuresome and wander-lusted college students. For whatever reason, though, this one latched onto me, and I thought about it for weeks after I had listened to the mesmerizing accent of the Australian man.

    Once I finally agreed with my gut feeling and signed up to go, the program made it so easy for me to become familiar with fundraising resources and ways to prepare for my trip. I only had to pay a fraction of the total cost out of my own pocket, which was basically the best news I could have given myself as a college kid. May eleventh grew closer and closer, and I became more and more excited.

    I was part of the first group of that summer to attend the Dominican Republic trip. I also attended the week-long immersion program that was an option to add on; and I'm so glad I did, as I learned more Spanish language and culture in that one week than I did for four years in elementary school. I became so close with my trip-mates, and when the next week rolled around that welcomed in another nine students to join us on the volunteer and adventure portion, it wasn't long before we all became a family. I know that sounds cliche, but really if you think about it, there's a certain type of person who signs up for these trips. We are vastly different in appearance and personality and mannerisms, but we all have a good heart, grounded by good feet. It's easy to become a family with such good people.

    The next four weeks were the most amazing weeks of my life: not amazing in that it was awesome and stellar and butterflies and rainbows all the time, but amazing in that I was amazed at what I experienced. I helped children learn about health and fitness (en espanol!), competing in push-up contests. I spent long days bent in half, pouring and smoothing cement floors into homes that were barely the size of a typical American bedroom. I helped children as young as eight and nine understand the importance of safe sex - something that is extremely dangerous in their lifestyle. I laughed and cried with families who were more grateful for cement than anything else in the world. I gave kids piggy-backs, shoulder-rides, high-fives, and encouragement. I sat in the ranch cafeteria, listening to the sound of the rain on the over-sized palm leaves. I admired the greenery. I smelled the soil and humid air. Dominican coffee each morning was the most amazing taste I could ever imagine. I was living in the poorest condition I had ever experienced, and I was amazed at how absolutely satisfied I was with my life.

    Just as I was loving the serenity of the community, it was time for the two-week adventure tour. As hesitant (and truly teary-eyed) as I was to leave the volunteer ranch, I couldn't wait to adventure and explore the wonders of the Dominican.

    I hadn't prepared myself quite enough.

    We went from the poorest of poor, to the richest of rich. We stayed in luxury hotels, suites, even places with full-sized kitchens (with which we took advantage and made a family dinner, multiple nights). We went horseback riding to waterfalls, repelling into caves and spelunking, zip-lining into freshwater lakes, kayaking in pretty vigorous island waves, hiking on the sides of cliffhangers, snorkeling in the clearest water I've ever seen. We stayed in hotels with water slides, we stayed in cabins that could only be reached via a truck ride across a river, we stayed in places that had flowers spread throughout the room for a more luxurious and genuine scent. We went out to dinner, we visited beaches, we made jewelry out of exclusive Dominican rock, we went dancing.

    I was in awe. I was amazed. I was also upset with myself for not bringing a stronger sunscreen.

    There were bumps in the trip, I'm sure. Especially considering we were the first trip of the year, there were some leadership issues we encountered. Looking back, though, I wouldn't take it any other way - because we came so much closer together as a group to take on that leadership role as a whole and make the trip something unforgettable.

    And, that's what it continues to be. Unforgettable. I made a 3 ft by 2 ft collage of pictures, tickets, maps, and our bus bingo card that is still hanging on my wall. I think of inside jokes that were made on this trip. I still chat with a majority of the "family", and I visit the ones who live close by (relatively). I think of the lessons we learned while helping these families who were so grateful for everything we did. I think of the smiles on the children's faces when we would challenge them to a sit-up contest. I think of the support that was shouted to any of us who struggled with heights, speed, or deep water.

    Three years have come and gone since my trip, and the memories that were made still travel with me every day.
    Would I go again? Yes.
    Would I go somewhere else to create more memories? Absolutely.
    Will I forever find adventure in what I do, rooted from the experiences of this trip? Forever and ever, yes.

    How could this program be improved?

    The leadership roles were unstable at the time - there was some turnover in who was to be the adventure leader for the upcoming summer. My only improvement suggestion, which seems like absolute common sense, would be to find a leader with the passion and desire for teaching and leading adventure of the Dominican Republic.

    (Unfortunately, this poor new leader was scared of many of the elements that we faced in the adventure tour, which made us apprehensive about the groups that she might lead in the future. Fortunately for us, the experienced leader was with her, so we were still able to experience everything full-throttle.)

    Photos:
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  • Kuei
    Age: 19-24
    Male
    United States
    Northeastern University
    Development; community, personal, professional
    10/15/2014

    Hi reader,
    Kuei speaking. I went on this ISV trip in the first summer of my college career, leaving as an ex-high-schooler and coming back feeling like a real person. I have done some pretty crazy travelling and cultural immersions, as well as outdoor excursions, in the past but never have I felt like it was more than just for fun or eye-opening wonder. This trip not only did all 3, but it also gave me the opportunity to stick my hands in the mud and live a couple of hours per day in poverty. Seeing the world from the lives of Haitian-immigrants in the DR gave the world "helplessness" another dimension of meaning. I'm not talking about waking up and realizing you have too much work to handle or don't know what to do with your day in the middle of an empty campus on a thanksgiving in America (and you don't celebrate thanksgiving). No, I'm talking about the kind of helplessness where one has literally nothing to do because there is nothing they can do. Not only is human capital so in need of development there, there is rarely anything the locals can do to fix problems either due to resource scarcity or due to lack of awareness.
    Imagine running into a man that hasn't showered for half a year and wondering why he has skin infections. No, it is not a spirit cursing you nor is it disfavor from a supernatural being. It's simply a lack of awareness to shower as well as a lack of showering facilities! I taught hygiene for the next half month. And English.
    Using that same perspective, I resolved many bad personal habits and used this trip as an example of leadership and human service to apply for my first job/internship at a refugee resettlement agency, ultimately landing me the professional job developer position.

    This trip let me grow as a person, develop professionally, and have fun and learn Spanish while doing that.

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  • Michelle Fielder
    Age: 19-24
    Female
    Santa Rosa, CA
    Sonoma State University
    The Cliche -This Trip Changed My Life
    10/13/2014

    When I decided I wanted to volunteer it had been one year since I graduated from college. I had been working at an accounting office. I did not find joy in my work, but I was at a loss as to where I wanted my life and career, post-college, to go. I researched ISV and chose to go to the Dominican Republic. Although I didn't know it at the time, this was the best decision I could have ever made. The trip was amazing and powerful. I knew I was a part of something BIG. I loved experiencing new things, like making concrete by hand and using a pickax! I met so many amazing individuals (locals and other volunteers from the US and Canada) and got an opportunity to practice my rusty high school Spanish. When I got back my career path began to change - I quit my job and searched for something that would bring me joy like being in the DR did. I landed a job at a non-profit organization helping my local community and I love it. The trip brought me some much needed clarity, along with some lifelong friends. I would recommend this trip to all of my friends.

    How could this program be improved?

    The one thing I felt a little unsure about when I left was what I needed to pack. I was provided a list, but I wasn't sure how much was suggestion and how much was essential. Bring anti-itch lotion for mosquito bites!! I didn't forget anything essential, but I probably would have packed a few more clothing options..things get dirty quick when you are in humid climates! I brought a small container of biodegradable laundry soap that I found at REI that was a lifesaver. You never realize how nice it is to have clean socks until you are without them. I know the price is a concern for many people, but I believe travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer. It is well worth it for me.

    Photos:
    Teamwork made everything possible!
    Our whole group after a discussion
    The beautiful Dominican beaches will make you want to come back!
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  • Megan VanSparrentak
    Age: 19-24
    Female
    Michigan
    Oakland University
    Dominican Republic
    10/12/2014

    This was by far the best experience I have ever had. The one week Spanish classes were a great refresher. It was also great being able to use what we learned/reviewed during our volunteer experience. Helping with the kids camp was the most rewarding thing I could think to do. They were all so loving and appreciative of the work we did with them and in their camp.The adventure tour was also a blast. Everyday brought something new and exciting; we got to see everywhere on the island!

    How could this program be improved?

    I honestly don't have many complaints about this program. It was costly, but you definitely see where your money goes at your volunteer project and after during the adventure tour.

    Photos:
    DR family!
    The DR has the mot beautiful views
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  • Larissa Gutscher
    Age: 19-24
    Female
    Germany
    University of Alberta
    Life-changing
    10/11/2014

    Doing a volunteer project with ISV was truly life-changing. While I wasn't sure where I wanted to go at first, I'm so happy I was assigned to work on human development projects in the mountains of the Dominican Republic. Having daily interactions with people who have so little and yet are still happy was incredible. Seeing the children in the Domincan have as much, or more, enjoyment from day-to-day things than people I encounter at home was truly eye-opening; despite not having the luxury of buying toys and gadgets, I rarely heard kids complaining.

    Upon returning home I really started to consider how fortunate I am and how important it is to put things into perspective. I hope the families we met during the assignment will remember the experience as fondly as I do.

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  • obianuju caroline ngene
    Age: 19-24
    Female
    Canada
    McMaster University
    TIME OF MY LIFE
    10/10/2014

    Spent two weeks in DR. My group ran a 2 week summer program for the kids with different activities each day. Was such a pleasure to work and play with the children. Also spent a good portion of our time building a kindergarten school and making floors for the houses of some of the locals. Lovely people and great food and company. Love the different dances and the spirit of the country

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  • Jailyn Channell
    Age: 19-24
    Female
    Riverside, California
    University of California- Riverside
    The Absolute Best Time of My Life!!!!
    10/10/2014

    This program does so well because it attracts volunteers who are 150% dedicated to the cause. Not one single moment was wasted. I cannot stress enough how impactful and engaging the entire trip was, from the Spanish lessons in Santiago to the countless smiles I encountered in El Limon. This program changed my life for the better and I plan to eventually work as a program assistant in the future!!!

    How could this program be improved?

    Being more clear in the information packets. More precise dates of departures would be beneficial.

    Photos:
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  • Bryanna Anderson
    Age: 19-24
    Female
    Canada
    University of the Fraser Valley
    Great first overseas experience
    10/10/2014

    My first international solo trip was with ISV to the Dominican Republic. This program gave me access to an experience unlike any other. I was able to witness extreme poverty and begin to see how organizations work to address issues related to poverty. This trip was also a great way to meet like-minded people from different countries - my trip was in 2011 and I just went to a wedding of a friend I met and have continued to travel with and keep in contact with.

    Overall, the trip was very well organized and the guides we had were amazing and contributed to the experience. Our mentors or team leaders during our projects were also awesome and very easy to relate to.

    Based on my other travels overseas since then, this program does seem to be fairly overpriced and the NGO seems to have very high overhead.

    One suggestion I have is considering longer term projects...2 weeks was not enough for me and I would have loved to do more before going on the adventure tour.

    How could this program be improved?

    As stated above, cost. Another is extended program length for volunteers

    Photos:
    Me and some lifelong friends painting the preschool we were working on
    ¡el lugar favourito de mi!

Seriously the most beautiful place I have ever been.
    Playing around with Medina, a girl from the summercamp we taught in
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  • Melissa Quisenberry
    Age: 25-30
    Female
    Jackson, MI
    Central Michigan University
    ISV Trip Dominican
    10/10/2014

    I had an excellent experience in the Dominican volunteering for ISV. My favorite part was building houses and meeting the people who's lives would be positively changed because of us. I LOVED IT!!!!!!!!

    How could this program be improved?

    Probably offer more opportunity and variety while on the trip. We had a really large group and probably could have worked better if we were divided into smaller groups. Also smaller groups for the adventure trip, because some people didn't want to participate as much as others.

    Photos:
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About the provider

Our mission is to support sustainable development programs around the world through life changing student volunteer programs designed to positively impact our world and to educate, inspire and result in more active global citizens.

Destinations include South Africa, Costa Rica, Thailand, Australia, New Zealand and the Dominican Republic. ISV has won multiple awards and over 30,000 participants from around the world have experienced our volunteer, educational, cultural and adventure programs. Volunteers can join small teams for two-week projects in conservation or community development, followed by a two week adventure tour. Many university students earn academic credit for their involvement and local staff carefully oversee programs and volunteers abroad. ISV is recognized as one of the highest rated volunteer and travel organizations in the world. ISV is a non-profit organization in California, USA and its Australian operations are based in Sydney. Begin your ISV adventure today!