Prior to leaving for my trip to the DR, my roommate and I were concerned about the disorganization of ISV. I can't remember all the exact details, but I got a lot of emails that had incorrect information or there was incorrect information online while filling out forms. It happened a lot of times, but if I called ISV (which I did a lot) they were super helpful and got everything sorted out. Also, there is some weird rule about packing only 40 pounds or something like that. I asked ISV, and they said that was because the DR only wanted the bags you bring in to weigh 40 pounds. Anyways, my bag weighed 50 pounds and it was fine. I brought a bit too much probably- a bag with my stuff in it, a bag with donations, and then my backpack. I should have brought more athletic gear and less clothing for the adventure tour. Also definitely bring more than one towel. Just be patient with the organization if there is some mess-ups, everything runs smoothly once you actually make it to the DR.
My roommate and I (we went together) flew off to the DR without knowing exactly what to expect (even though we'd read everything), but as soon as we got there everything came together. Our project leader, Danyi, was super helpful and on top of everything. We worked with Rancho Campeche, and stayed in their facilities during our volunteer work for the first two weeks. The volunteer project was great. Our group was a group of 12 and we split into groups of 6. One group would do construction work and the other the summer camp for the kids, and then the groups would swap the next day.
Our first bit of construction work was doing a cement floor for a family. The next part of the construction work was doing a mural for the community center ISV had built in previous years. A lot of members of my group (myself included) would have much preferred to do another floor for another family, as that was what we were supposed to do originally. We felt like that was a lot more meaningful. However, Rancho Campeche (the program we were partnering with) wanted us to do the mural, as we had used more cement than expected on the first floor we did.
The summer camp was amazing- I loved it so much! I went into the program knowing no Spanish at all. The kids taught me a lot! They are so loving and wonderful. I missed them so much once I left! We taught them some words in English each day and then did activities that had something to do with what we taught them. They were so excited to learn. The two weeks of volunteering flew by so fast- I wish I could have volunteered more! It was so bittersweet to leave Rancho Campeche.
The adventure tour was great as well. We did so many cool activities. You really get to see the whole country, and you learn SO much! You pick up so much language, culture and history with the volunteering and then continue learning into the adventure tour. I loved being immersed in the culture those first two weeks. I would definitely recommend this volunteer trip for anyone! First-time travelers or people that have been all over. It's a great experience, and I really hope to travel with ISV again!