The Dominican Republic is a destination famous for its beautiful white sand beaches, energetic culture, and friendly natives. Located on the island of Hispaniola – a part of the Caribbean - the Dominican has the 2nd largest economy in the Caribbean and Central American region. With all that the Dominican has to offer, any visitors are sure to fall in love with this beautiful country and its people.
As a high schooler, you can look at this as a chance to strengthen your Spanish skills, add to your international experience, gain self dependency before heading off to college, and add some impressive service learning hours to your college application. Volunteering overseas while still in high school is an excellent way to set you apart in college admissions.
Photo credit: benkucinski.
For high school students, most volunteer opportunities occur in the summer time and last a few weeks (though trips can span from 2 weeks to 2 months.) Since the time frame is much shorter, it's important to find a program that won't be too disturbed by the constant influx of volunteers.
English Tutoring: With limited access to every-day resources like books, pencils, and teachers, volunteers and supplies are helpful to the education system. However, since students have limited available time, and usually come during the summer, formal teaching isn't an option. Instead, student volunteers can tutor children and help teach them English, or any other subject needed, as a summer program. If living with a host family, there is also a great opportunity to tutor English.
Service Learning: Much of the Dominican is undergoing sustainability projects that involve public health, community development, eco service, and other community projects. Student volunteers are able to be fully immersed in the community while learning important transferable skills, like construction, gardening, and painting. The overall goal of these projects is to improve the general quality of life for the people in these communities as well as to build tangible skills that can be used for college applications or fulfill service learning requirements.
Marine Conservation: As an island, there are plenty of opportunities to explore the coral reefs and marine wildlife. As a student volunteer, you can work on a marine conservation project that could involve gathering data, observing marine animals, and getting your scuba diving certification! This is the perfect opportunity for students interested in biology.
Planning Your Trip
For high school volunteers, the biggest hurdle to face is convincing their parents to let them have freedom. It is difficult for a parent to think of letting their child go to another country alone but they needn’t worry. Most programs offer amazing support systems - e.g. airport pickup, orientation, supervision, and volunteer support.
While vaccinations are a must before heading abroad, parents can always check with their physicians beforehand to get proper instruction. While the body learns to adjust to temporary life in a new country, parents should make sure their students pack anti-diarrheal pills and over-the-counter medicines so that their child is prepared for any situation.
Also, pickpocketing does happen in the Dominican. Educate your child on being aware of their surroundings and how to avoid those circumstances by keeping possessions close and not carrying around flashy items. This will leave children better prepared, and combined with the support from the staff, your child will be safe.
Depending on the length of the trip, where the project is located, and what the program includes, the price of a trip to the Dominican could range anywhere between $1,500-$3,500. To lower the cost of volunteering in the Dominican, consider fundraising and applying for scholarships. There are several websites such as GoFundMe and CrowdRise that allow you to raise money for a personal cause.