Youth Care & Community- Enhance the lives of community members

Video and Photos

Aldeas de Paz
Aldeas de Paz
Playing Baseball with the kids
Playing Baseball with the kids
Teaching at Mama Elba School
Teaching at Mama Elba School
Volunteering at Mama Elba School
Volunteering at Mama Elba School
"Mama Elba" School


Our aim is to empower children, youth, young adults and woman by providing a educational platform where they can be supported in developing their potential and improving their own lives. At our "Mama Elba" school in Samana we are promoting the integration of special need students into the educational system. Our language and skill training programs provide volunteers with the opportunity to make a difference to our local community members who would otherwise lack these important opportunities. Assist with activities like computer literacy classes and teaching language classes in English, German or any other language. In Las Terrenas volunteers assist with public school teaching and tutoring, but also swimming classes, sailing classes or first aid workshops can be offered to local youth. We are involved in youth, family and community development. We promote leadership and life skills, healthy lifestyle and constructive use of free time. We promote gender equality and women empowerment.

  • Organize and lead intercultural events and regular meetings for local community members and international volunteers, expats and travelers with cross-cultural activities fostering exchange and integration.
  • Assist in our school with recreational, developmental and therapeutic activities for children and young adults with special needs
  • Bring joy into the lives of disadvantaged children by taking care of them and playing with them and let their smiles brighten up your day!
  • Get fluent in Spanish by receiving up to six free Spanish lessons per week.
  • Make memories that will last a lifetime while traveling the Caribbean.


We are involved in youth, family and community development as well. We promote leadership and life skills, healthy lifestyle and constructive use of freetime through skill training like language classes, computer literacy, first aid workshops and swimming classes. Volunteers join our staff on family home visits and assist with empowerment and educational workshops as well as community building activities in direct contact with community members from low income neighbourhoods in Samana. We are building community support for youth development and engaging support of parents/caregivers. Intermediate Spanish is required.

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Questions & Answers

You would have to contact the volunteer coordinator. There might be a day long project needing more volunteers, but Aldeas de Paz is usually a live in community where each person is assigned to a program. So yes, I’m sure they won’t turn you away, but better suited for longer stays.


based on 32 reviews
  • Impact 9.3
  • Support 9.4
  • Fun 9.3
  • Value 9.5
  • Safety 9.5
Showing 16 - 30 of 32
Yes, I recommend this program

A lot to tell about my experiences in Samaná...

I don't know how to start my experience report in Samana, because there is a lot to tell. I may start with my arrival seven weeks ago. It was my first journey alone for such a long time, far away from family, friends and my home. On the way to Samana, i had some worries about the time here, but the flew away when my likeable mom came to fetch me on the busstation. We went home and they all welcomed me with balloons and flowers. Then I met the other volunteers and we made friends immediately. After my first week I was beat-up, because of the heat and the work. My task at work was to teach the children in a special school. The most of them have difficult to concentrate or are disabled in a mentally or physically way. The kids demanded so much from you during the class, but after seven weeks I assert that some of the kids made an effort. This is so lovely that you can see that you reached somethig, that you were able to change something during the short time. And not only that kids were grateful to attend the class but also their parents, we especially the volunteers got a good feedback, which also made me proud. My second workplace was in the hospital, where I teach the doctors English. Sometimes it was hard, because they were not on the same level, but anyway it worked! All of the doctors are strained to learn something and I noticed an effort, too! On the weekend was time to relax and to travel, which was maybe the best part here. My highlight here was Jarabacoa, it's a town in the mountain(actually at the height of 2000 ft.), we stayed in a such a beautiful hostel, went paragliding and horse riding! 

Yes, I recommend this program

A life-changing experience

Volunteering for Aldeas de Paz was a life-changing experience that has impacted me in ways beyond what I expected.  Originally, I had signed up for the “Teaching & Tutoring Activities” program.  I expected to be teaching only one class, but after arriving at Aldeas de Paz, there were numerous opportunities to make a difference in addition to this program.  Three days after arriving in Samaná, I found myself teaching English to doctors, Computer classes to adults from the area, and basic classes to children at the local school.  Aldeas de Paz provided me with each of these incredible opportunities.  Through teaching these classes, I formed close bonds with the students while making a difference in their lives through the power of education.  Samaná is undoubtedly an impoverished community.  But make no mistake, the people there want to learn.  If you involve yourself in a different program of the plethora offered by Aldeas de Paz, the same applies.  Samaná is a community in need but a community that longs to improve.  Whether you help in tourism, NGO management, teaching, or medical work,  your efforts will go a long way in bettering the lives of Samaná’s citizens.  In addition to the tremendous philanthropic benefits of volunteering, my review would be incomplete without highlighting some amazing personal aspects of my stay.  First of all, Manfred, Julia, and Yunior, the three administrators, are some of the most passionate human beings I have ever met.  They do everything in their power to welcome you, make sure that you are enjoying your stay, and help you with any projects you aim to pursue.  Second, the other volunteers with Aldeas de Paz are wonderful people.  We regularly ate dinner, traveled to pristine beaches, and walked around the town together.  I am currently 17 years old, and although I was a bit nervous at first to be staying alone in Samaná, these volunteers helped me adjust to living alone.  For other prospective high school volunteers, there is no age barrier to volunteering with Aldeas de Paz at a young age.  Other volunteers as well as locals from the community will make you feel at home from the first day.  Another great benefit of Aldeas de Paz is that the volunteers hail from other countries.  This means that not only are you interacting with the entirely new, fascinating culture of the unique Dominican people, but you are also living with and learning from people representing a multitude of other cultures.  I met people from all corners of the earth, including Martinique, Aruba, Germany, Spain, Canada, and more.  You form a community with the other volunteers that is like no other- it makes you feel at home despite being thousands of miles from your home.  Finally, volunteering with Aldeas de Paz is personally rewarding because working in a town like Samaná truly gives you more perspective about happiness.  Seeing the smiling faces of the citizens of Samaná and the gratitude they express for your help despite the poverty that engulfs them infects you with a happiness that you will carry with you forever.  If you enjoy helping those in need, Aldeas de Paz is for you. Given the potential you have to make a change, the amazing community of Samaná, and the immense personal benefits of volunteering for this organization, signing up to work for Aldeas de Paz will be one of the most rewarding decisions of your life.

Yes, I recommend this program

We definitely recommend doing a medical elective with Aldeas de Paz!

As 4th year medical students, we had an incredible experience during our one month rotation at the public hospital in Samana! Manfred was incredibly helpful in working with us on preparation for our experience: assisting with our medical school’s required paperwork, processing of payment, and providing guidance on our arrival into the country. Our experience at the hospital was incredibly memorable and impactful. All of the staff were warm and welcoming and were very eager to have us observe and participate in their clinical activities to the extent that was appropriate given our respective proficiencies in Spanish. From our experiences participating in a wide variety of clinics (including pediatrics, adult medicine, mental health, OB/GYN, HIV/AIDS, surgery), we learned a lot about the public health issues that affect the community, how different contexts/cultures deal with similar diseases that we have in the US, the challenges that the hospital faces in terms of human and financial resources, and were also able to see a wide variety of diseases that are common here. Of course, there were plenty of opportunities to practice our Spanish while in the hospital. We also had ample opportunity to get to know more about Aldeas de Paz and their wonderful mission, learn more about the local community as a whole, and also explore the beautiful Dominican Republic in our free time! We definitely recommend doing a medical elective with Aldeas de Paz! -Joe and Courtney, University of Rochester School of Medicine, Class of 2016

Yes, I recommend this program

Being busy with my volunteer position helped me feel at home fast

Before coming to the Dominican Republic I was very nervous. I was worried how life would be here and what kind of conditions I would find. I was scared for my safety and thought there would be danger everywhere. What I found was the opposite of every preconceived notion I had in my mind.
Manfred made everything really easy for me when I arrived. I knew Marcos would pick me up at the airport, and I would not have to worry about the language barrier because he speaks English and he would buy my bus ticket. Arriving is Samana was so easy for me. This helped put me at ease even before I arrived in the country.
Initially, when I booked my placement, I booked a private apartment. I am so glad that I did not end up staying there. I ended up living in the cooperative living apartment and I loved it. Being with two girls from two different countries was so much fun and made living here an amazing time! I never felt any culture shock. I quickly became comfortable with my living situation and the culture because of this. Having other people to do everything with makes adjusting much easier. We also did things on our own and that was ok too. There was mutual respect between everyone.
Another important aspect is diving right into the culture. Immediately I went to the beach, ate the food, explored the town, this made me feel more comfortable with my environment. Another easy way to adjust is practicing Spanish, even if you are not fluent. While we do have Spanish classes, the best way to practice Spanish is talking with people. Soon people began to recognize me around town and would speak to me. Everyone was quite friendly and patient. They are interested in you just as you are interested in them!
Being busy with my volunteer position helped me feel at home fast as well. Being NGO management I was included in many activities with Manfred. I was able to visit a prison with a doctor hoping to start a clinic, go to a cooperative producing coconut oil, attend meetings with different local residents, and have a better understanding of the running of an NGO. By having these different experiences, I kept busy and was able to see a more intimate look into a culture I knew very little about.
Overall, I was impressed with the amount of programs the organization offers. I think it is wonderful that you can become involved in any area you choose, either to apply your skills or gain more. I hope Manfred continues to expand the programs. I think this is a great opportunity for an individual, a group or friends, or even a family to come experience the culture, a beautiful country, and do some hands on work that will benefit a community that deserves it! No matter what age, or from what country you come, you will have an amazing experience here.

Yes, I recommend this program

The Multi Media work I did here was very enjoyable...

My name is Kevin Murton and I have just finished my 7 weeks in Samana, Dominican Republic, volunteering for Aldeas de Paz helping with the Multi Media output.

As everyone would be, I was a little nervous about how the experience would turn out for various reasons, particularly in relation to my age and lack of intermediate Spanish ability.

I quickly realised I didn't have to worry on either account.

Although I was encouraged to speak Spanish whenever I could, particularly in the Spanish lessons, I felt comfortable at all times that my English would get me by, and that was the common language we generally used in any meetings I was involved in.

In relation to my age, genuinely I felt no difference in my relationships with the volunteers as the younger ones did with each other. Having a young open mind and respect for each other was plenty for everyone to generally get along.

I offered my unique set of skills, capabilities and energies and others did the same. I suppose you kind of adopt a role within a temporary family setting, which obviously changes as people come and go.

So when I initally arrived, I had an amazing welcome from Manfred and the rest of the volunteers. I made sure I had no expectations as to the place I was coming to and made myself aware of the fact that cultural differences would be inevitable. A mindful, moment-to-moment approach, without too much judgement, helped me through those intial few days.

Bit-by-bit I felt more and more comfortable with any security concerns I may have had. A healthy awareness of what was going on around me, like I do in London, and common sense decisions became part of my everyday living. It feels very safe here.

Getting used to the heat, changes in diet and the variety of nature that you see (from experience a clean room and a spray every month of insect repellant deters anything that may want to come inside), can all be viewed positively, and some may not be concerned with these changes at all, but if you are, taking the intiative to find the best way you want to deal with these issues quickly is a good idea.

Eating the Plata del Dia or buying vegetables at the local market or the colmardos near to the apartments can make food here quite cheap, but be aware of buying too much at the 'gringo' supermecado. Food can be very expensive here and a lot of it doesn't have the price on it.

It may take a while for the local gift shops to realise that you aren't a tourist, so you will be an amigo/a to all of them. It's a good way to practice your Spanish if nothing else.

The Multi Media work I did here was very enjoyable and working at the school, the hospital, at the Ayuntamiento, interviewing the Mayor. It feels very rewarding having produced film that can only show Aldeas de Paz in a positive light and perhaps create opportunities for future grants.

There is some amazingly beautiful scenery here on the Samana peninsula to explore. Whale watching during February and March, El Salto de Limon (waterfall), the amazingly beautiful Playa de Cayo Levantado and Los Haitises are some, but every so often you catch the beauty shown by the people; typically on the beach, with Bachata music playing as couples dance, as others play table games and still others lay back in the sun with a Carribbean kissed cocktail ready to sip, wrapped in not much more than the hot breeze drifting off the gentility of the ocean.

I have experienced a few of these kinds of cultural immersion trips now and felt genuinely emotional about leaving a group of people, whose heart tells them they want help a society, which at the moment is not able to give the same chances as most of us have back in our own countries.

Manfred is a great man and I have a lot of respect for him. He makes a lot of effort to help make your experience a useful and happy one. I came here to have an adventure, learn more Spanish and help a very worthwhile charity. I leave feeling like a better person, with what I have accomplished. Thanks Manfred, I have had an amazing experience, which will stay in my memories for a very long time to come. I hope our paths meet again in the not too distant future...... byeee I'm off to Costa Rica.

Yes, I recommend this program

Turned out to be exactly what I was pursuing, I was right at the center of the organization

Hi, I’m Tim from Germany. In order to gain practical experience in the field of Management I started considering different options globally and decided to go for NGO-Management with Aldeas de Paz in the Dominican Republic. Within my studies at university I was already able to gain useful theoretical experience which I wanted to put into active use.

And let me just say this, it turned out to be exactly what I was pursuing, I was right at the center of the organization and could experience the restructuring of the organization first hand. As most of you probably already read, the organization had to move from Venezuela to the Dominican Republic in early 2015, and building up all the structures proves to be a long progress. Many things are already done and set up, specifically the school and housing structure, but other parts need further improvement.

Working within the Administration means working with human resources, financials, school and program administration and generally everything regarding the organization. Right from the very beginning there was a need to structure every single day, but I soon got into it and after a few days of work I looked forward to every new day and the new challenges.

Apart from the work, there was also more than enough time to plan trips around the peninsula of Samana for the weekends and other fun activities in or near the City of Santa Barbara de Samana, which could be done after work during the week. It is surely amazing, how many different things you can explore right where you live, right where you feel like you know every corner after living there for a week. This is something, that I can recommend everyone to do, no matter where you are, there is not always a need to travel far away.

But back to the work experience: as I’ve said, I was part of the NGO-Management program, so I’ve surely had another point of view on the programs. But from organizing and overviewing the different programs and the volunteers working in it, I can already tell that there is so much to do and every single person can have such an impact within the community. It is amazing to see, how a person new to a country, a culture or maybe even the language can be integrated, the general spirit of this peninsula and the country overall is to welcome everyone and work together – always tranquilo, but steadily – on developing and executing the ideas for the different programs. Plus, they are always open for new programs, but be prepared for a nice bit of discussion, that is something that most people are very good at! But then again, this just boosts your language skills furthermore, learning by doing just is the best way to learn!

In general I can recommend everyone that’s interested to go volunteering and for sure, Aldeas de Paz was exactly the right choice to learn about the management of a small grass-root NGO trying to find its path in new territory. If you are specifically looking for a small NGO, that focusses on bringing one particular community forward, this is the place to go to. If you are looking to experience volunteering first hand, but want to be in a safe environment to learn how it works, this is the place to go. And if you have the chance, stay longer than the one month that I was only able to stay there, because I’ve just been getting started when I had to leave. If you are willing to dive into a different culture with all the misunderstandings and different work ethics, you will find a place, where every bit of work that you do is highly appreciated, as every single step is a step forward!

Now go and see it yourself and join us in our mission to make this world a little better day by day!

Yes, I recommend this program

One day, I will return to Samana...

...but this time as a changed man because of the teachings in happiness, medicine, and life Samana has taught me.

Three months ago, I decided it was time to leave home and experience the rest of the world, but the question then became, where do I go? My original thought was to go to a country in Africa, but after talking with my family about this possibility, the idea would be shot down for two reasons. First, it costs a lot of money to go to Africa. Second, the culture shock may have been too much for me to manage, as I’ve never travelled alone before. My next thought was to travel to Central America; it’s close to home, and relatively affordable.

The next step would be to find an organization in Central America that is not only reputable and safe, but also where my actions would have a positive impact on the people in the community. After quite a bit of online researching, I came to the conclusion that I would head to the Dominican Republic and volunteer with Aldeas de Paz (ADP). What really solidified my decision to volunteer with ADP was their belief that “learning through service prepares our volunteers to be role models for change worldwide.” Knowing that my heart and this volunteer organization were both in the same state of mind allowed me to feel comfortable making the decision to leave home.

After two months of awaiting my departure date, the time had come, and I was headed to the airport. Prior to beginning this trip, I told myself that throughout this journey I would make sure to never have expectations. The reason behind this logic is my belief that without expectations, you enable yourself to adapt to the culture far more easily. With this in mind, I said goodbye to my family, pulled my luggage out of the trunk, and headed to my flight, but while boarding the plane to Samana, flashes of doubt began to surface and a nervous feeling began to grab hold of me. My mind raced as I thought about how I was about to leave my family for an entire month and spend it in a country I’ve never been to before. Even more terrifying was the fact that I knew very little Spanish, and had no clue what the culture would be like in Santa Barbara de Samana, the town I’d be volunteering in.

Nonetheless, I kept my composure, cleared the negative thoughts, and carried on. After two plane rides, a taxi to a bus stop, and a 3 hour long bus ride, I would arrive in Samana. Shortly after arriving, I would be picked up by the director of the organization, Manfred, and driven to my new home. After dropping off my bags and meeting my new housemates, Henrik and Christian, they would take me to the Malecon to get pizza, as well teach me about the town and culture. The key point, or should I say word, they stressed throughout our dinner conversation was “Tranquillo”, meaning tranquil. This word is not only the normal greeting between men in the Dominican, but also describes the lifestyle of the people. They stated that everything here moves tranquilly, which in Dominican terms meant that everything moved at an incredibly slow pace. This slow lifestyle would prove to be my greatest challenge.

During the first days in the program, I created a schedule with many activities I wanted to do throughout the week. While the amount of activities planned may have been normal in USA time, it was completely unrealistic in Dominican time. It wasn’t that I couldn’t move fast enough to get to each activity, it was that each event involved the local people, who were living the tranquillo lifestyle. This first week would be my learning week, not just about the pace of the town, but other cultural aspects as well. Much different than the US, here there are very few people that drive a car, instead everybody drives motorbikes. While the motorbike aspect seemed sound, the part that seemed strange to me was the fact that nobody wore a helmet.

After some research, I found out that the single greatest cause of death in Samana is motorbike accidents. Another part of this culture that is completely different than the United States is the friendliness of the entire town. Everybody here greets me with “Hola!”, and nobody ever seems mad or upset. The inhabitants of this village always seem to be happy. With the average salary here of $120 a month, it just goes to show that money does not buy happiness. Without the friendliness of the people, I don’t think I would have been able to adjust to the slow pace of the village. While the culture in Samana may have surprised me at times, the one thing I knew would have a familiar feeling to home would be practicing medicine.

In the United States, I work as a scribe in the Emergency Department of my local hospital, and love the environment associated with the fast paced work. I actually enjoy it to such a great length that Emergency medicine is something I am really considering pursuing once accepted into medical school. With that in mind, it was quite easy to select the program within Aldeas de Paz that I wanted to volunteer with; the medical volunteering program. I figured that this would allow me to be able to keep the fast paced lifestyle I had at home; I was mistaken. I would volunteer at the “Dr. Leopold Pou Hospital” in the heart of Santa Barbara de Samana, where the Tranquillo lifestyle had taken a firm hold, and medicine moved at a pace that reminded me of the blobs of wax rising and falling in a lava lamp.

While not as fast paced as the US, medicine in the DR was still quite amazing to say the least. To compensate for their lack of modern medical technologies, they used their fingers and eyes as medical machines that could locate medical problems with each patient. Also different than the United States, here patient medical history is a huge component of the doctors’ medical decisions. Since many inhabitants of Samana are very poor, they cannot afford x-rays or ultrasounds, or even proper labs for that matter. For this reason, a patient’s history is crucial to the doctor’s decision to prescribe certain medications or have the patient carry out certain orders.

While observing the Dominican patient-doctor interaction was an incredible experience in itself, the most extraordinary part of my medical volunteering experience was helping the American Medical Mission Group who came to Samana to give free medical care to the community. For one week, they provided free surgeries and free consultations for children and adults; during this week my encyclopedia of medical knowledge would grow far beyond what I had ever imagined. Throughout each day, I was able to watch and scrub into various surgeries such as Hysterectomies or cyst removals, as well as help examine patients in the pediatric consultation center. At the end of the week, we must have had seen every single inhabitant of the town. I’m extremely fortunate that this group had come down to help the people of Samana, for they further confirmed my desire to pursue a career in medicine.

In addition to the medical aspect of this volunteering experience, I also got to help with something I never would have thought was so rewarding; construction. In the earlier weeks of my stay in Samana, the hospital was still being built, therefore most of the work in my first days here involved assisting the construction workers in the building of the hospital. This was quite possibly one of the most meaningful jobs of the entire trip, as my life goal is to build a hospital in a community in the United States which lacks adequate medical care.

After hours of volunteering, I began to realize the extraordinary amount of time, effort, employees, and patience it takes to build a hospital. Throughout the construction, the director of the hospital would show me newly finished areas of the hospital, and with an almost childish like gleefulness in her smile, tell me how happy she was to see her hospital transforming into a beacon of hope for the entire community. After the construction was complete, the president of the Dominican Republic held a massive induction ceremony, and thanked Flor, the director, for all of her efforts. He was so proud of her and the entire staff for working tirelessly in their pursuit to make Santa Barbara de Samana a great place.

Not only did I get to help with the construction aspect of the hospital, shadow Dominican physicians, and assist and shadow the American Medical Mission Group, but I also got to help create a patient record documentation system for the hospital. Previously, the hospital lacked any organization involving patient records. There was one single room filled from top to bottom with folders of patient’s records that were mostly covered in cobwebs and dust.

My job throughout the process was to help create a computerized patient record, so that if a patient returned to the hospital, all we had to do was enter in their name or social security number and we would have all the information of the patient at our finger tips. While this seems quite standard in the United States, this concept was brand new to the DR. With over 30,000 patient records, I did not get to finish entering in all of the data, but I’m sure that this will be completed soon, which will allow them to be one step closer to a paperless future and a greener hospital.

While my passion in the Dominican was medical volunteering, I also found it quite joyful to assist the other volunteers in teaching at the Mama Elba School for special needs children. Although the school was founded to help special needs children, some of the students had other medical conditions, and were considered outcasts to society. Unfortunately, some these kids were not attending the regular community school because other children may pick on them, or simply because they cannot be taught in a similar manner as most other kids.

Fortunately, at the Mama Elba School, we are more than happy to assist these children, and strive to make them want to learn. Each Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday afternoon, I would go to the school and assist Henrik and Christian in teaching lessons about the environment, Dominican Republic Independence Day, as well as other various topics.

You could tell from the joy on the children’s faces that they were incredibly happy to be here. This school provided them with time to be free and creative, as well as to laugh and learn and play. One student in particular, Yanet, was very interested in learning math, but because she was deaf it was difficult for her to understand the lessons taught in school. I decided that if her school doesn’t want to take the time to teach her, then I will. After a few quality hours, she was an addition and subtraction master. She was incredibly happy to be solving all of the problems she once struggled with, but I was even more overjoyed for two reasons. First, I was happy to see Yanet was smiling as she was completing math problems, second, I had just taught a little girl a skill that she will use for the rest of her life. Helping people like Yanet is the reason I choose to volunteer. The whole experience provides me with a priceless joy that is unlike any other feeling.

Although I may have come to the Dominican Republic to learn more about Central America and how medicine is practiced, my time here has also given me the opportunity to learn more about myself. One of the most important things the Dominican has allowed me to discover about myself is what drives my happiness. In the States, it was becoming difficult to decipher what made me happy. After being away from Maryland for some time, I realized my happiness stems from my family and friends, as well as my work and research.

Through the Tranquillo culture, I also came to realize that I had little patience. Everything at home was a rush and each day had to follow a plan; it seems as if often times I would not get to fully enjoy one activity because I was in a hurry to get to the next. Fortunately, my time here allowed me to recognize that not everything in life is a race. Sometimes in life, you need to take the backseat and watch events unfold, rather than always try and run into the storm. As I leave Samana, I hope to carry these lessons, as well as all the memories, with me as I grow into adulthood. One day, I will return to Samana, but this time as a changed man because of the teachings in happiness, medicine, and life Samana has taught me.

Yes, I recommend this program

Im großen und ganzen hat mir meine Zeit in Samana sehr gut gefallen und mir eine neue Sichtweise auf meinen weiteren Weg gegeben

Ich bin 20 Jahre alt und komme aus Hattstedt, Schleswig-Holstein in Deutschland. Nach meinem Abiturabschluss wollte ich gerne mehr von der Welt sehen und mein Spansich verbessern. Außerdem war ich mir mit meinen Zukunftsplänen noch nicht sicher, interessierte mich aber für ein Lehramts Studium. Das Angebot einer Freiwilligenarbeit in einem Land das weit entfernt von mir ist, kam mir also sehr gelegen. Durch die tolle und schnelle Vermittlung von „StudentsGoAbroad“ und „Fundacion Aldeas de Paz“ kam ich in den Kontakt mit Manfred Mönnighoff, der mir ausführlich ,freundlich und schnell die Informationen über das Projekt und notwendige Dinge gab, die ich in der Dominikanischen Republik brauchen werde.

Für meinem neunwöchigen Aufenthalt wählte ich ein Schulprogramm für Kinder mit besonderen Bedürfnissen und unterrichtete Englisch für Schüler aller Altersklassen. Das Projekt war anfangs schwer für mich, weil mir die Verständigung und Übersetzung in Spanisch schwer fiel, man sich an die neue Umgebung gewöhnen musste und die Kultur einfach sehr anderes war. Bei meiner Arbeit mit den Kindern bereitete ich mich mit den anderen Lehrern auf den Unterricht vor oder wir dekorierten die Schule die zu der noch nicht sehr Lebhaft aussah. Der Englischunterricht war für mich interessanter ,als die Arbeit mit den Kindern, weil ich selber die Sprache lernte, obwohl es anfangs sehr grundlegend war. Jedoch gefiel mir das Unterrichten von Woche zu Woche besser und ich hatte nicht nur tolle Lebenserfahrungen in der Schule, sondern auch beim Zusammenleben mit den anderen Freiwilligen und Freizeitaktivitäten mit den Einheimischen gesammelt. Dadurch, dass ich als Freiwilliger mich selber und das Projekt mit organisiert habe, lernte ich fiel über eigenständiges Arbeiten und den Umgang mit anderen Menschen.
Mir hat es einerseits gut gefallen das Projekt aufzubauen und mich zu engagieren, andererseits ist es manchmal unorganisiert gewesen, was aber an ungeschulten Personal und der unzuverlässigen Gesellschaft lag. Neben meinem Projekt habe ich gerne auf der Straße Basketball gespielt oder bin ins Fitnessstudio gegangen. Außerdem habe ich mit den anderen Freiwilligen an einem Projekt für die Wiederverwertung, Organisation und Einführung von Mülltonnen gearbeitet, die für Santa Barbara de Samana notwendig sind. Da das Projekt der Müllverwertung ein langer Prozess ist hoffe ich das die kommenden Freiwilligen es weiter führen können.
Im großen und ganzen hat mir meine Zeit in Samana sehr gut gefallen und mir eine neue Sichtweise auf meinen weiteren Weg gegeben. Nach meinem Aufenthalt in der Dominikanischen Republik nutze ich die Zeit um durch Mittel und Südamerika zu reisen.

Yes, I recommend this program

Overall those five weeks in Aldeas de Paz were a ground-breaking, exciting, and wonderful experience, which I would have no hesitation in recommending to any high school graduate who wishes to expand his or her horizons

Finding out my weaknesses, strengths, and goals for my future life was the main ambition for my Latin American trip. After high school I wanted to get out and discover both myself and the world. I wanted to expand my horizons, to escape from societal structures, and, as the saying goes, to “think outside the box”. I experienced all of these things in Samana in the Dominican Republic in my five weeks as a volunteer in the fundacion Aldeas de Paz.

Samana is a great place to get closer to the Dominican culture and in my opinion also a suitable place to start a foundation. I say this as it is a fantastic location, where the special feeling of Caribbean life with endless white beaches on the peninsula of Samana cannot be missed. Samana has approximately 40 000 inhabitants, where the roaring, energetic life takes you over. I had to get used to it in the first week, but I learned quickly to deal with the new circumstances and to become more open-minded. My boss and my fellow volunteers helped me a great deal with this first step. The feeling of isolation never came to me because someone was always close at hand whenever problems arose. The security in Samana and the friendliness towards tourists was especially noticeable and it has to be emphasized, because this is not the case in Latin America as a whole.

The foundation Aldeas de Paz is currently under construction in the Dominican Republic, because it has had to move from the political situation of Venezuela. This played straight into my hands, because therefore I had more freedom in my volunteer program and job scope, and nobody could put me in pre-defined structures (as I had hoped). The freedom of the working situation was increased by the horizontal management consciously exercised by my boss, so that each and every volunteer could participate as they wanted and were able to. This gave me the satisfaction of learning more about myself, making a difference, taking part in a development, and growing with progressively difficult tasks. I could not expect to make a big impact with some of my work, because volunteer work is often associated with a long development process. This was something I had to learn in the beginning. Because of the short duration of my volunteering, I operated in many different sectors, e.g. working with children with learning difficulties, or social media marketing. Through it I found some new interests and I was able to make sense of my future plans, which brought me a little bit closer to my goals.

Overall those five weeks in Aldeas de Paz were a ground-breaking, exciting, and wonderful experience, which I would have no hesitation in recommending to any high school graduate who wishes to expand his or her horizons and is exuberant.

Yes, I recommend this program

Its a great experience and very helpful to learn how to deal with the life and yourself

We are two 20 year-old girls from Germany. Although we had different reasons to do this volunteer work in the Foundation Aldeas de Paz for half a year, we have the same aim: we want to do a useful work. Useful for the society and also for our personality. Further we want to get to know an other culture, different ways of living and working, improve our spanish knowledge and learn how to deal with problems that people have here.

At first we didn't know that the organization is really at the beginning in the Dominican Republic and everything is still in a process of development. To be part of this process has advantages and disadvantages, of course. On the one hand we had to recognize that nothing is perfect and that there is still a lot of work to do and that this won't be easy. Furthermore the life in this country is slower and in a way lazier and more relaxed than the life in europe, to which we are used to. On the other hand there are much advantages for us: its a great experience to be part of this developing process. We are learning a lot at our work, how to deal with difficult situations and always stay positive, thats the most important thing we learned here. When you solved one problem the next problem comes up. But actually that's the reason why we are here, there are a lot of challenges and problems which have to be solved. We are going in the right direction, little by little.

At the end its a great experience and very helpful to learn how to deal with the life and yourself.

A other aspect we want to speak about is the life beside the work in the organization. The organization is located in Santa Barbara de Samaná. It is the capital of the Province Samaná in the north of the Dominican Republic. It's a small city with the character of a village. The people are friendly and very helpful. What is very important for the community of this village is to say hello to the people on the street even when you don't know them. That manner is a part of their culture and will help the volunteers to get integrated. That leads to the next point; with the right attitude volunteers can have a nice time here. The "right" attitude means to be open minded, because without that you can not get along with a other cultured person. Samaná is a really peaceful place nevertheless there is always something going on and it is a good combination of young and old. The social life is very important for the people here, they are very open and interested in getting to know new people. We found a lot of good friends here. Even though we have to say that it is not a city with big clubs and shopping-malls. You have little shops and on the promenade there little bars. But Samaná is a great starting point to go to nearby cities like Las Galeras or Las Terrenas. In Las Terrenas are more options to go out in the night. There are clubs, a lot of restaurants, beach bars and shopping places. In Samaná are a lot of Activities you can do, Samaná has a beautiful landscape and there are a lot of places you can travel to. For example the national park Los Haitises, the waterfall in El Limón, the island Cayo Levantado and a lot of very beautiful beaches with a lot of options for watersports like surfing or diving. The most famous thing in Samaná is watching the whales which are coming between December and February to get there birth here. There are a lot of places and things to discover in Samaná.

The place where the Volunteers are housed is an apartment for 5 persons. There are three sleepingrooms, one single room with a bathroom and two double rooms. One living room with two couches and a dining table. An other Bathroom a big kitchen and a balcony with a beautiful view to the sea. For general living conditions in Southamerica this apartment is very good and clean. Nevertheless we had to get used to this living conditions first.

All in all we are really happy with our choice to stay here in Samaná with this organization, even though there are many problems that have to be solved. We are growing on our tasks and we are learning a lot.

No, I don't recommend this program

Would not recommend this program

Last year, I decided I wanted to make an impact on the world and do something to help others. I found Aldeas De Paz, and their multimedia program, and decided to quit my job and head to the Dominican Republic for 10 weeks.
While talking to the program's director, I quickly realized this was a very small program and the multimedia program still needed to be launched.
Despite the fact it was only a few volunteers, I was excited, and I was really looking forward to taking the Spanish classes offered on the website. I arrived in Samana, on June 6th, with my camera, tripod, and 2 mics.
For 2 weeks, it was only me and an NGO manager, in the guest house. The manager is wonderful, and the only person that was interested in helping the volunteers.
For two weeks, I attempted to find more information on the Documentary's topic, "Sexual Exploitation of Children," and find people to interview. During this time, I was robbed. Luckily, my money was returned, but due to a communication error with the director, I had to confront the man, who claimed to know where I lived, face to face.
Not to mention, during this time, the director gave out my PERSONAL phone number to a local gym instructor, who then proceeded to harass me. I felt so uncomfortable, I stayed away from the gym I already purchased a membership at.
I quickly learned the Spanish lessons would go nowhere. The "textbook" was from the 1990's, which was fine, if we used it. In 10 weeks, we did less than 30 pages in the workbook. My instructor was much more concerned with forming a relationship with me than teaching me Spanish. Mid-summer, I talked to the director about the lack of Spanish I was learning, but a few weeks later he claimed we never had that conversation and called me a liar.
Three volunteers came while I was there. Two of them left early because of how unorganized the program was. One of those two, booked his ticket back to the United States after being there for 3 days because the program listed on the website was not running.
I spent my entire time there, focusing my energy on the documentary, learning Spanish with the locals, and traveling around that beautiful country.
When I returned to the states, the director sent an email to ALL the volunteers, EXCEPT ME, asking for feedback on the Documentary. Yes, He asked for feedback on something I worked on, but left me out.
If you are looking for an excuse to travel the DR, then this program could be great, because it's affordable living. However, if you're looking for any support, a large group of volunteers, or developed programs, save your money and look elsewhere.

Response from Fundación Aldeas de Paz

My name is Manfred and I am the founder and Director of Aldeas de Paz. I have received and attended more than 1000 volunteers in over 10 years. We have hundreds of positive reviews and many volunteers came back more than once! We have a great horizontal managing environment and volunteers are always invited to express constructive criticism since this is what Aldeas de Paz enabled to grow through the years!

However, in Sara´s review things need to be put in perspective and the unjustified discreditation of locals needs to be addressed! I will comment on each of Sara´s accusations in her review and offer written testimonials or declarations from the people discredited and/or blamed in the review!

I was directly supervising Sara´s assignment, the MultiMedia program, on on a daily base and was specially involved with organizing the interviews with authorities, victims and public servants. I assisted with translation work, logistics and was the interview partner while MultiMedia volunteers where taking care of filming the interviews. The production also required several day trips and even a weekend trip for interview production. As the charity representative and founder I was directly communicating with volunteers and was always accessible and ready to respond to volunteer suggestions and questions.

Sara claims:
"For two weeks, I attempted to find more information on the Documentary's topic, "Sexual Exploitation of Children," and find people to interview. During this time, I was robbed. Luckily, my money was returned, but due to a communication error with the director, I had to confront the man, who claimed to know where I lived, face to face."

My comment:
Sara was in fact asked by a poor man on the street to help with some small money to buy milk for his sick child and when she handed over a donation the man grabbed her money and went instantly off. As soon as I heard about the theft I personally intervened and spoke to the local police director, a friend of mine. The man from the street was located and agreed to return the money to Sara. I received a call from the police chief who told me to have Sara come in and pick up her money at the police station. I was not told that the return of the money would happen directly by the thief who is well known to the police and seemed to be a regular.

Sara claims:
"Not to mention, during this time, the director gave out my PERSONAL phone number to a local gym instructor, who then proceeded to harass me. I felt so uncomfortable, I stayed away from the gym I already purchased a membership at."

The gym instructor´s comment:
My name is Pedro Cepeda, I am the gym instructor in Samana. I want to respond to Sara´s accusation that I harassed her. Sara became a member in our gym and one day she asked me about the beautiful waterfall nearby and if I can take her there. She gave me her phone number and asked me to confirm our excursion for the weekend. But than my wife got sick and I couldn´t follow up on my appointment with Sara and wanted to tell her. I asked Manfred to give me Sara´s phone number because I lost it. Later she called me back and asked me to go out with her but instead I put her in contact with one of my good friends and so finally she went to the waterfall with him. Later she told me that they had a great time with my friend and spend the night with him and that I didn't know of what I missed out that night.......! Later I saw her with other guys here in the village. I think Sara has a serious psychological problems and needs help....

Sara claims:
"I quickly learned the Spanish lessons would go nowhere. The "textbook" was from the 1990's, which was fine, if we used it. In 10 weeks, we did less than 30 pages in the workbook. My instructor was much more concerned with forming a relationship with me than teaching me Spanish."

The Spanish teachers comment:
My name is Elson Dimijour, I am the Spanish teacher for Aldeas de Paz. This is my comment on Sara´s accusation that I as her Spanish teacher was much more concerned with forming a relationship with her (Sara) than teaching her Spanish. I think that this was a misunderstanding from Sara because I never had the intention to be in relationship with her and at no moment did I do or said anything in that direction. I think that Sara has a disorder which makes her think that way....
(Original Spanish comment: Lo que paso fue un mal entido de la parte de Sara porque nunca tuve la intencion de tener una relacion con ella es decir en ningun momento dije ni hice algo similar. Pienso que eso fue trastorno que le hizo pensar asi.)

Sara claims:
"Mid-summer, I talked to the director about the lack of Spanish I was learning, but a few weeks later he claimed we never had that conversation and called me a liar."

My comment:
Upon Sara´s request she was granted extra spanish lessons and the teacher was hold to teach at the individual learning capacity of each student since classes are quiet individualized. (two levels) Shortly after I noticed a abrupt change of mind in Sara and she started to out herself negatively about quiet a lot of things..... By that time it seemed that certain expectations she had about relationships with locals didn't quiet work out and she turned bitter started to blame everything and everybody else ...... I actually sensed the potential of conflict but nevertheless took care of the volunteers well-being with equanimity and patience until her last day of placement.

Sara claims:
"Three volunteers came while I was there. Two of them left early because of how unorganized the program was. One of those two, booked his ticket back to the United States after being there for 3 days because the program listed on the website was not running."

My comment:
While it is true that three volunteers left before their planned leave each one had a particular different reason!
The first volunteer who had originally booked for a 3 weeks placement felt uncomfortable with the tasks he was assigned by the NGO manager within the conservation program which included a 2 weeks preparation phase which the volunteer felt was not what he expected.
The second volunteer asked me for permission to leave early because she was unexpectedly offered a dream job at the Italian embassy in London where she had to present herself within 3 days! Of course I gave her permission and wished her the best for her future carrier!
The third person was a young lady who signed in for a 5 weeks nursing internship at the local hospital. She was working for about 10 days when she received message of the sudden death of her grandfather. She left immediately to be united with her family! Obviously this was a sad moment for all of us and we said good by to her! (I am happy to provide the volunteers personal testimonial on request)

Sara claims:
"When I returned to the states, the director sent an email to ALL the volunteers, EXCEPT ME, asking for feedback on the Documentary. Yes, He asked for feedback on something I worked on, but left me out."

My comment:
Actually Sara left before the editing and post production phase started and was in contact with the volunteer who than finished the production within 3 weeks after her leaving. This volunteer agreed with Sara to be in closed contact while doing the post-production and I trusted that when he presented the finished documentary that this happened with the permission and the input of his ex-co-producer (Sara) which by than was already 4 weeks back in the US!

I recognize that this review was written by an angry and frustrated person and I am sad to see that Sara left with bitterness in her heart. So much though that she did not even bather to say good by to our local staff and also acted often rude and impolite which hearted local peoples sentiments in many situations.

While myself, the volunteer manager and the local staff always tried to do the best with patience and compassion we where not always able to satisfy Sara´s special needs and unfortunately her review is the reflection of not talking the truth and trying to blame everybody else for oneself's challenges.........

Kind regards,

Manfred Mönnighoff

Yes, I recommend this program

Four months in Santa Elena de Uairen

I had three important criteria's before I decided to go to Aldeas de Paz in Santa Elena de Uairen in Venezuela. First of all I wanted to get practical experience in manageent, specifically in a multicultural environment. Second of all I wanted to learn Spanish, because I always wanted to know a third language well. My final criteria were that I wanted to go to South America, because I wanted to explore the continent.
I decided to use four months in the foundation, because this was the first place that was totally open to give me the responsibility I wanted, that not just offered Spanish classes, but encourages people to learn as much as possible as fast as posssible. That the NGO is located in Venezuela only gave me more motivation, because I wanted to go a place where they actually needed my help, and a place where I could get a culture shock, but in the most positive way.

After a long journey from Denmark to Caracas, and 24 hours in the bus to Santa Elena de Uairen, I was more than tired when I arrived. I was picked up by Kelvis the director in Aldeas de Paz, who with a big smile, tried to explain me the way to the car that would bring me to our hourse on the top of the mountain right by the village. When I arrived, I met the founder of the place, Manfred, who had dinner and a room ready for me.
The time after that went faster than I would ever had imagined! Every week I got more responsibility, and before I knew it I was standing with the responsibility that I asked for. Sometimes it was also hard, because as a manager at the foundation I had to always be on the top of what was going on, and what people needed. When people live close together on a mountain you gain so much trust and friendship with the others very quickly, but it also means that sometimes there is communication problems and culture differences, which has to be dealt with. Every weekend was free, and we often used the time to see different waterfalls in the area, to explore the Gran Sabana or hang out in the village. I also went with some volunteers to see the Angel Falls, and do the Roraima trek as well. These two places, I will never be able to forget as well.

Aldeas de Paz promised me I could get as much responsibility as I wanted, that I would learn Spanish, I would have a great cultural experience and that I would have the opportunity to do and see all the sights I also dreamt of. They delivered all of it and even more! I loved knowing what we really did for the kids, the community and how we as volunteers were there for each other. I loved my relaxed life there, and I will never regret that I choose to spend my time in the foundation.

I will strongly recommend this place, for someone who wants to try a different lifestyle, wants to help others, and who wants to be in control of what, when and how much work they want to do. I would recommend it to a person who would love working outside in the shade, while looking at all the mountains in the horizon, and hearing the Spanish tones playing from the radio in the kitchen.

To who ever, that is reading this; I hope you will love this place, as much as I did.

Read my full story
Yes, I recommend this program

Aldeas De Paz is a place where you can grow and find yourself as an individual, all while helping others.

During my six week stay at Aldeas de Paz, I was able to enjoy the perfect balance between work and relaxation. During the week I worked in the NGO Management program as well as helped with the school children. Weekends were spent exploring the beautiful country that is Venezuela.

As part of my internship I spent a number of days with the indigenous community at Chirikayen. As an anthropology student, I found my time there fascinating. I am so happy that Aldeas de Paz offers this program.

Through these experiences, I have a renewed focus on what my goals are i.e. starting my own NGO, and how I can better achieve them.

I thoroughly enjoyed my stay and felt right at home from day one. I really feel that the staff and fellow volunteers do their best to make your time with them pleasurable and a valuable experience that lasts a lifetime.

What would you improve about this program?
As with any program, you only get out of the program what you put into it. That being said, the programs are not structured in a way that the staff will make sure you are at work at a certain time and finish your duties by the end of the day. You are your own keeper, for better or worse.This is not a flaw in the program, this is a learning process for those of us who love to be plugged into the system and need a rigid work schedule. Venezuela is the perfect place to learn to slow down, relax, and enjoy life. If you are the type of person who needs to be doing something all the time or have an immediate and tangible result, talk with the staff and make sure your goals are known before you make the trip. That way a program can be tailored to fit your needs and you can feel confident you are getting the full experience.
Yes, I recommend this program

A really great experience

My stay at Aldeas de Paz was really great.
I have learned a lot about myself and others. You not only get to know the Venezuelan culture but also a lot of others due to all the different countries the other volunteers come from.
In my 4 months here, I have seen people from 17 to 57 come and leave, from at least 9 countries and even more cultures - not to speak about all the different characters.
I can truly say that it never gets boring with all the people here and the work with the children is really great, too. My farewell was very heartbreaking when all the children begged me to stay or at least to come back.
Of course, you have to adapt a bit to the Venezuelan culture. Sometimes it takes a while to find things that you want to buy. But usually people here are very friendly and helpful.
And Santa Elena is really safe and situated in the beautiful setting of the Gran Sabana. You can see two table mountains from the Foundation, there are a lot of trips you can do on the weekends and the sunrises and sunsets are usually amazing!

Yes, I recommend this program

Aldeas de Paz

The foundation is a great space. It is very homey, and to my surprise I felt at home from the first day (usually I don't accustom that easily). What I really liked about the foundation was the humble atmosphere; everyone lives together as a big family. It doesn't have a feeling of an "organisation" or hotel or anything like it. Even Manfred, the founder, lives with us, sleeps in a hammock on the grounds and participates in weekly cleaning chores (his is the cooperative bathrooms). It is a very laid back atmosphere and I felt like a family member there.

Manfred is teaching Kelvis to be the new Coordinator of the foundation. He is a Venezuelan guy (the uncle of manfreds daughter) and lives at the foundation with his brand new family; wife Betania and baby Susana. It's great to live so close to Venezuelans. Really improves language skills and culture exchange! They are wonderful people.

I signed up for ecological building (youth care and community, actually) expecting that that would be what I would be doing for two months.
This was not the case, for the better though. I got to engage in everything a bit, a lot of teaching at the community school and some eco work (for example I tried to design an ecological playground for the foundation) and was also involved with NGO work. I figured a big part of volunteering is helping wherever you can, apart from your own goals (in my case it was to gain building experience as I am studying architecture)

Working with the children is extremely rewarding. Although circumstances are poor, they make it rich and truly seem to enjoy the attention volunteers give them. And vice versa: we enjoy and benefit from their enthusiasm.

Everything was different from what I expected it to be. This constant changing of everything is something very present in Venezuelan life, and maybe even more as a volunteer in Venezuela. It's challenging and wonderful to learn to accept this rhythm and for me one of the best things of the whole trip!
It's a very cliche thing to say but "go with the flow" is the most suitable slogan for it.

Venezuela is a breathtakingly beautiful country and the Aldeas de Paz surroundings are stunning.

Basically, I can only encourage people to go to Aldeas de Paz! I feel I have learnt a lot in those two months about the culture, Spanish, and also myself (I guess this comes inevitably when you live so close to others for a while)

What would you improve about this program?
Before I left for Venezuela I was a bit concerned safety issues (travelling alone as a young female), and although nothing happened to me, it does make you travel somewhat cautious