ISV - Volunteer Projects in the Dominican Republic

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Program Update:

ISV will only be conducting programs for this coming summer, 2018 in the Dominican Republic.

About

The Dominican Republic is famous for its beautiful white sand beaches, vibrant culture and warm, friendly people - but as a volunteer with International Student Volunteers (ISV) you have the opportunity to delve deeper into this Caribbean culture and help improve the quality of life for the disadvantaged.

On ISV’s community development projects, you could be maintaining and developing local infrastructure, or working on children’s programs that include arts and crafts, music, recreation and health and education. Devote your time to enrich the lives of children and families in rural communities who have little access to quality education and employment.

As you volunteer in the Dominican Republic, your heart will be touched by the passion and spirit of the local people. For more details on how to make a difference, visit www.isvolunteers.org and sign up for the experience of a lifetime.

Impact

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Questions & Answers

I agree with Michelle, you don't have to BUT I highly and I mean HIGHLY recommend it. I wish I had taken a couple Spanish classes before my trip but I managed my way with the help of other leaders.
If you want the full experince of being in another country, do the 5-week program but if you don't then do the 2-week project!! I enjoyed the project and adventure more than I did with the Spanish cultural immersion week.

Reviews

98%
based on 55 reviews
  • Impact 9.4
  • Support 9.6
  • Fun 8.7
  • Value 9.7
  • Safety 9.5
Showing 1 - 15 of 55
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Alison
10/10

ISV in the Dominican Republic

My trip to the Dominican Republic this summer was without doubt the most fulfilling and worthwhile experience of my life. I opted to travel out to the DR for the 5 week programme and enjoyed every second of it. Before flying out, I must admit that I felt a little uninformed about the exact tasks we would be responsible for on the project site. Please do not let this put you off - once over there everything became clear and all fell in to place.
The first week was a Spanish and Cultural Immersion programme. This is something I would definitely recommend to future volunteers because knowing a bit of Spanish is invaluable when working in a school and interacting with the locals. Extras such as dance and cooking classes, city tours and a trip to the beach really added to the experience and gave more of an insight in to Dominican culture. For the duration of the week I stayed with a really lovely host family who took great care of me and made me feel extremely welcome in their home.
For the two week programme myself and 13 other volunteers were placed on project at Blue Moon. We worked in a kindergarten teaching the local children a range of subjects including English, Health, Road Safety, Arts and Crafts and Physical Education. On top of this, we restored and developed the worn-out playground at the school, and re-built the foundations of an elderly man’s house and laid concrete floors within it. It was a truly eye-opening experience! Seeing the children playing in their new playground touched my heart and really made all of the hard work and sweat worth it. A really rewarding experience that I felt honoured to be a part of.
The adventure tour was another incredible experience. I would 100% recommend staying for the last 2 weeks as it’s a perfect opportunity to see more of the country and do so many fun filled and adrenaline pumping activities. A couple of my many highlights were rappelling down the side of a 45m waterfall, surrounded by beautiful scenery, and another was cliff jumping.
I must also mention the awesome ISV project leaders Danyi and Pedro, and adventure tour leader Adolfo. They were all full of fun and enthusiasm, constantly keeping a smile on everyones face. The experience really wouldn’t have been the same without them. Think yourself lucky if any of them are involved in your ISV experience!
I would recommend this programme to anybody who wants to make a positive impact in our world. Whether you are an avid volunteer, a wanderlust globetrotter, or a novice traveller, you will fall in love with the Dominican Republic and ISV. I was lucky enough to make some amazing friendships along the way. I’m already looking at another ISV programme for next year! We as volunteers take part in a programme like this to enhance the lives of the less privileged, but my life has also been enriched in so many ways. Amazing experience and I fully encourage everyone to look in to volunteering with ISV or a similar organisation.

Yes, I recommend
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Hasha
10/10

The People of El Castillo

My experience volunteering in the community of El Castillo in the Dominican Republic was unreal. I can't think of a single thing I would change about it except the length. I wish I could have stayed for much longer than two weeks. I had the opportunity to work in community development so I got to do a little bit of construction and also spend time with the children in the community school. Every night when I went to sleep, I thought to myself, "wow, today was the best day of my life". Although every day felt like the most wonderful day, I have to say that working with the children was the best aspect of my trip. Getting to interact with them and give them the attention and love they crave was the most amazing feeling in the world. I will never experience as much happiness as I did when I would chase a kid around and finally catch them and tickle them and see the sheer joy in their smiles. Meeting the families and connecting with the children is the most amazing part of this entire volunteering experience.

How can this program be improved?
The only improvement I can think of would be to have a more accurate project overview. Once I got to the Dominican Republic and our trip progressed, I realized that most of what I had been told in the project overview was inaccurate. It wasn't a huge issue or inconvenience for me, but it could end up being one for trips in the future in other places.
Yes, I recommend
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Kirsty
10/10

Dominican Republic ISV 2016!

So, first of all, I was a fresher when I heard about ISV. They came into one of my lectures and talked about these amazing opportunities to travel literally halfway across the world to volunteer and experience an adventure tour over the summer. Travelling has always been a passion for me, so I definitely wanted more information! I went along to the meeting at my university, where they outlined the six different countries and the conservation or community work you would be doing. I chose the Dominican Republic for a couple of reasons. First, I wanted to start learning Spanish, and ISV has a partnership with ALPI which gives an optional Spanish Immersion week in the DR at the start of the program. Second, it was a chance to meet people around my age (18-25 in my case, but ISV doesn't have age restrictions). Finally, and most importantly, it was a chance to travel while making a concrete and positive impact on the community you live and work in for the project itself.
I won't lie and say it's easy work, or that it's a really cheap program, but there are plenty of ways to raise money, and ISV will give you tips on that, and seeing the positive impact you can have on the community, made the trip, for me, completely worth it!
For my two week project, we rebuilt a playground at a local school, replaced the foundations in an elderly man's home, and taught the children at a summer camp. There's a real sense of achievement when you can step back and see the change once you've finished the work. The kids were climbing all over the playground equipment even before we completed the whole playground!
Not only that, ISV also gives you an opportunity to add a two week adventure tour, in which you'll experience plenty of extreme activities, see some amazing wildlife, and basically have the time of your life! My favourite experience was probably the Fun Fun Caves, since it combined four different activities into one action packed day: hiking, horse riding, rappelling, and spelunking. That was a single day of the two week adventure tour. It was all go, and I enjoyed every second!
There are project leaders and tour leaders who look after you over the time you're in the DR. My project leaders were Danyi and Pedro, and you couldn't find anyone more enthusiastic for the work we were doing. Danyi was always full to the brim with energy, and it was clear how much Pedro cared for the people we were working with. They were brilliant, and I would just say a huge thank you to them for making the experience so rewarding.
My tour leader was Adolfo, and he was always ready to help with anything. If you had any questions, he was ready to answer them. He kept our slightly unruly group organised over the adventure tour and even suggested an extra activity of paragliding, which was outwith the included package, but an exhilarating experience and well worth the extra money.
Overall, if you love travelling to new places and experiencing new cultures, while giving back to the communities, this is the volunteer project for you. If this is your first time travelling, and you're not sure if you want to go this far, I still believe this is for you. Life is for new experiences, and what better time to experience than now? Be brave and step into the unknown. I promise it will be worth it.

Yes, I recommend
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Katie
9/10

My 2 weeks in the DR with ISV

I am so incredibly grateful that I found ISV to volunteer with this summer. I had been on two service trips with a different company in previous summers, which went fine, and I thought there was no way that ISV or any other company could possibly be better. But, ISV proved me wrong! I had a total blast. My group was incredible and we all meshed together really well. The projects themselves were awesome and very rewarding. ISV was significantly more well organized than the previous company that I had traveled with (which I realized once I got there and they all had everything put together for us), ultimately making the experience much more smooth. My leaders, Danyi and Pedro, were incredibly kind and very positive about the entire experience. They left each person do his/her own thing and fulfill what he/she came here to do which was a really great system. Overall, great company to travel with!

Yes, I recommend
Alexandra
9/10

We Built The Entire House From Scratch!

We worked on several houses in the community, and there was a house that we built completely from scratch. On the last few days of the project, three groups were working on that house while one group was teaching in the community school. We couldn't tell how shocked and upset we were when we first saw how small, shitty, and torn-apart the house was, and it was definitely not waterproof in rainy days. Everyone working on the same house, the final project felt extremely bonded and supported, that each of us was a very part of something special, together to make an impact to the community people! We formed a line when we were transporting buckets of sand and cement along the slope, and passing those buckets hand to hand made us great evil for such a collaborative and lovely group and excited to see the chances we will keep making in the future!

How can this program be improved?
N/A
Yes, I recommend
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Aislinn
10/10

Just go for it!

So during the middle of the school year my friend just dragged me to a random information session with her and it happened to be for this program. I had not heard about it before and was not particularly interested, but as I heard more and more I realized it was something I really wanted to do, so I just went for it. This program can be 5 weeks total but I opted out of the Spanish immersion and adventure tour and just did the 2 weeks volunteering. Although my time in the Dominican was not as long as others, I still think it was the opportunity of a life time and some of the best two weeks of my life. To begin I will tell you one thing, I did give this program a 10/10 because the opportunity they gave me for these two weeks is something I will forever be grateful for, but information can be a little confusing. The thing is, within ISV there are many different countries with different programs, and then within the different countries, there are different volunteer projects, so a lot the information you receive is general to your country be not specific to your volunteer project. Going into the trip this did make me a little nervous but I also think this in a way added to the fun of it. I did not go in knowing exactly what I would be doing and it was always exciting to find out and get to do things I never thought I'd be doing, just be open to go with the flow and trust that you are in good hands. My project leaders were Pedro and Danyi and if yours are them or anyone like them you will have no worries. These two are two of the most welcoming, interesting, funny, and all around just good guys. The second we spotted them at the airport they made us comfortable with them and they were always open and helpful. The volunteer project I was a part of was called the El Castillo project. It was truly en eye opening experience. We were up a mountain in a rural area of the Dominican Republic in a village called, as you can probably guess, El Castillo. We stayed at a beautiful ecolodge called Villa Pajon and the nearest city was Constanza which we had an opportunity to pend a day in during one of our days off. Our other day off we ventured to the the aguas blancas waterfall. While these days were great and the rest was probably needed, I would venture to say all the volunteers would have preferred to keep working. El Castillo was amazing. We were able to redo the whole school floor, tear down and rebuild an entire new house as well as replace/fix walls, foundations, roofs and floors in many other houses. It was truly rewarding to do all of this because you can really see the difference you make and see the finished products and the atmosphere in the community was unlike any other I had seen. Everyone wanted to help, people were constantly coming to our working sites and offering to do bits of work and help with the construction on other people's houses when they too had very little, and the things they can do (and we learned to do) with their bare hands and no power tools never ceased to amaze me, also the two construction "maestros" (Kiko and Pinguino although I have no idea if those are correct spellings) we got to work with were, just like our project leaders, funny, all around great guys that truly made our experience one of a kind, I think ISV does a great job really picking people out like them that will make your time on project even more fun and memorable. Another part of this project was running the HELP (health and english language program) for the children of the community. This may have been the best part of the program. We got to plan lessons and spend the day with these kids that were so eager to learn and play with us. Each activity we did thrilled them and they could have fun with anything, literally swinging a jump rope around and not even jumping brought joy to the eyes of these kids, and it is that joy that I could see on each of their little faces that made this piece my favorite part and why i think this program is so great. Just go for this program and I can say with almost 100% confidence that you will not regret it for a second, just be ready for some teary eyed goodbyes and make sure to check your junk mail as for some reason a few important emails from ISV went there for me!

How can this program be improved?
The only that needs to be improved in my eyes is making some of the information before the trip a little more clear and program specific.
Yes, I recommend
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Sarah
9/10

Amazing Volunteer Work & Activities- Just go for it!

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!

How can this program be improved?
I wish that we could have done the cement floor rather than the mural during the volunteer project. Since ISV was partnering with Rancho Campeche, though, we didn't have much control over it.
Yes, I recommend
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Madz
10/10

Love Brings Life

His name is Dauri. This three year old boy with a sweet smile and shy eyes didn't speak much, this didn't stop him from becoming someone that I admire with every ounce of my being. These children weren't always fed during the day, so a couple volunteers and my self brought peanuts to school for them. Each child held out their hands graciously and we gave each of them a handful. Feeling pure happiness from just being alive, I began rolling around on the grass. This is when Dauri came up to me with with his last peanut placed between his pointer finger and his thumb. He looked at me and forced my mouth open, placing this peanut, his last peanut, right on my tounge. That was the best thing I will ever taste.

How can this program be improved?
The quality of experience that is provided by this program is absolutely incredible. Nothing could be any better. That is me speaking honestly.
Yes, I recommend
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Julia
10/10

Eye-opening, exciting, and worthwhile: ISV will change your life as you help change the world

ISV is an amazing program that affects the communities it serves as much as the volunteers who are doing the work. Every aspect of signing up and working with ISV is professional, efficient, well thought out, and fun. ISV has selected excellent leaders and guides to work with their volunteers - every project manager, contractor, activity instructor, host family member, you name it, was knowledgeable, welcoming, and comfortable to be around. I had the honor of working in the El Castillo community which was as wonderful as I could have ever hoped for.

One moment that I think exemplifies the total work that ISV workers completed is the work we did on Marun's house. Marun is an older man who lives in El Castillo. For the past 18 years he has been living in a stick and plastic tarp house barely the size of a college dorm room, and at one point lived with 9 other people. In addition to construction work we did on 2 other houses and the school, we were able to build Marun an entirely new house with a sturdy foundation, secure walls and roof, and a cement floor. So many members of the community came to join in on the labor and when the home was complete, it was so evident how grateful Marun and all of his neighbors were. On days when we weren't doing construction work, we were running a summer camp for the kids who live in the community. I cannot express the love that is shared between the volunteers and local students. The end of the project was full of tearful goodbyes, long hugs, and the knowledge that both the volunteers and the children made huge impacts on each other.

So what are you waiting for? Be a part of helping amazing communities like El Castillo develop through community construction and education. Push yourself out of your comfort zone by signing up for the Spanish Immersion week at the start of the trip (I would HIGHLY recommend this week. You become connected to the country, the culture, and your fellow volunteers so much faster this way). Conquer your fears and see even more of the Dominican Republic by sticking around for the Adventure Tour. If you have any hesitation about signing up with ISV, don't - you are not going to find an organization as valuable, supportive, fun, safe, or welcoming as International Student Volunteers. ISV changed my life and I know it can change yours too.

Yes, I recommend
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Garrett
10/10

The greatest experience of my life, with an incredible organization.

Going in to this trip, I was scared- worried about anything and everything. To be honest, ISV seemed very disorganized as I first signed up. I realized how wrong that thought was when I received multiple pdfs, hundreds of pages long, all with thorough details of the whole trip, the country, what to expect, how to prepare, and what to pack. I was still unsure of what I was really getting in to. Looking back now, I laugh at myself having worried that I wouldn't have fun. The cultural immersion week was awkward at first- living in a Dominican woman's house, with two girls who seemed to hate me. As the week progressed, I became comfotrable with my host mother, closer with the other participants, and I am blown away at the unbelievable amount of spanish that I learned. Especially considering the price, I would definitely recommend this extra week.

The following volunteer weeks was a very fulfilling experience. The manual labor (putting a cement floor in for a family of 8) was measurable by results (and muscle fatigue), and our accomplishments were obvious, so the fulfillment was obvious. The summer camp that we ran for the children, however, was not easily measurable. But the impact we made on these children was clear. I began this trip hating children, and left loving them. Teaching the children what they don't learn in school is obviously great and helpful, but what made me happier was the social development. For example: there was a hatian boy named Patricio at the camp. He was bullied by most, if not all, of the Dominican students; but by the time we left, he was their star.

I debated wether or not I would sign up for the adventure tour. I'm glad I did, and I enjoyed myself greatly, but the first three weeks are what mattered most to me. Many of the activities we did I had done before, but doing them with this group that I had become close to over the last few weeks is what made it worthwhile. Honestly, I enjoyed going out at night more than the activities, but I couldn't have done that if I went home, so all in all, I would recommend the adventure tour if you have the money.

International Student Volunteers is an amazing organization with incredible organization and talent. It was truly the greatest experience of my life, and I look forward to going again.

How can this program be improved?
Perhaps include an email to prospective participants stating something along the lines of "We know our organization looks very unorganized, but don't worry, you're 100% wrong"
Yes, I recommend
Ariel
10/10

Life Changing

There are no words to describe how incredibly amazing this trip was. I have never felt a stronger sense of community than I did in my time in DR. I will cherish each memory I made with my project leaders, fellow volunteers, adventure tour leader and the dominican people for the rest of my life. I signed up for this program to impact the Dominican, but didn't realize how much it would also impact me.

Yes, I recommend
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Cristina
10/10

The Experience That Changed My Life

Traveling with ISV was one of the best things I've ever done and I will forever cherish the memories I made throughout my trip and the things that I learned. This summer, I spent 5 weeks in the Dominican Republic (1 week Spanish Immersion program, 2 weeks volunteer project, and 2 weeks adventure tour). Every single portion of this trip was meaningful - the Spanish immersion week allows you to live with a family through a home stay to truly experience the Dominican culture, as well as developing your Spanish speaking skills. The program can definitely accommodate any level of Spanish speaking - I had no experience with Spanish before, but I left with a basic level of knowledge. The volunteer project was incredible! You get to make connections with the members of a small community, as well as truly make a difference for them and leave a positive, lasting impact. On my project, we led a summer camp with the children in the school and taught English, health and physical education, music, dance, and of course had lots and lots of fun! We also did a lot with community development - we laid a new concrete floor in the school, renovated some portions of 2 houses, and even built an entire house from the ground up. The adventure tour was full of conquering fears and stepping out of your comfort zone, and also allowed us to see a lot of different parts of the country. I would recommend this trip to anyone who is looking to see a different part of the world, experience a new culture, and truly help a community and the people living in it. If you go with an open mind, you will definitely leave with a whole new perspective on the world and appreciation for life!

Yes, I recommend
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Taylor
10/10

ISV Dominican Republic June-July 2016

My experience with ISV in the Dominican Republic was one like I've never had. This trip was my first time out of the country and ISV made me feel very comfortable and safe. My two weeks as a volunteer at the summer camp was life changing. I was challenged in ways I never thought possible and it is such an amazing feeling looking back on what our group accomplished. I was completely immersed into the Dominican culture and fell in love with the country.

Yes, I recommend
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Chelsea
10/10

Life Changing Experience with ISV !

Last summer I spent 5 weeks in the Dominican Republic with ISV and it was by far the best 5 weeks of my life! I wish I could find the words to express the ways in which this trip has changed me but I guess that’s up to you to experience for yourself. I tell everyone that I think this trip was the best way to travel the island in 5 weeks. You get to experience almost every side of life. The first week you stay with a wonderful host family which allows you to get a glimpse into the everyday life of what I would consider your average middle-class family in the Dominican Republic. Then the next two weeks doing volunteer work you get a glimpse of the more poverty stricken areas and the places and ways these people live which makes you truly appreciate the things we take for granted on a day-to-day basis. Some of the volunteer work we did included interacting with the children in the community, creating cement floors in houses that previously had dirt floors, building several latrines and a community center. The volunteer work itself was so rewarding! The work was definitely physical; I was sore after the first day of shoveling but I also found my passion for cement mixing. Then during the adventure tour you push yourself past your comfort zone during various activities surrounded by beautiful scenery. You also travel basically around the entire island moving from hotel to hotel every 2-3 days. I was expecting to stay in cheap motels, but we stayed in BEAUTIFUL hotels that far exceeded my expectations. From the hotels you take day trips to other areas with beautiful scenery. Some of the activities we did during these two weeks included white-water rafting, surfing, cliff jumping, snorkeling, wind-surfing and swimming in beautiful clear water. Through this trip I have made friends that will last a life time and I am so grateful to have gone on this wonderful trip with ISV.

How can this program be improved?
I wish they sent the T-shirts through mail before hand so that everyone could wear their shirt to the airport and easily detect other volunteers
Yes, I recommend
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Morgan
10/10

Adventure is out there!!

From riding on sketchy horses to trying to speak a limited amount of Spanish I would say my time here in the Dominican Republic was well spent! The immersion week was one of the many experiences in which I won't forget. The host family didn't know much English so it was a definite struggle in trying to understand each other, but we somehow were still able to communicate with each other! Getting to know the locals during our immersion week and our project site was quite interesting. Especially the boys in the Dominican Republic versus the American boys, the Dominicans were quite the tigueres (very flirty). Teaching the children and building a wall to block off a cliff on their school property is one memory in which I'll never forget. I'll never forget their kindness and willingness to put up with us Americans and our limited amount of Spanish speaking. This particular experince was very much rewarding to each volunteer. And the adventure week was well an adventure! Haha back to the sketchy horse riding, that was also quite an experience and learning to trust the horses and the locals. But my favorite adventure activity by far was kayaking through a tiny bat cave and a mangrove forest. The scenery in which I experienced while kayaking through a mangrove forest was definitely beautiful, and one I'll never forget.

How can this program be improved?
By approving of certain adventure activities and making sure that they are actually safe. (Ex. Horseback riding to El Limon Waterfall)
Yes, I recommend

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About ISV (International Student Volunteers)

ISV’s 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.

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