ISV - Volunteer Projects in the Dominican Republic

Video and Photos

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.

Related Programs

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 16 - 30 of 55
Default avatar
Delia
10/10

The BEST Decision

I spend five weeks in the Dominican Republic, and I want to go back! The country itself is it beautiful and unique. We were welcome with open arms. The Dominicans are very proud of their roots. They love to show it in their family values, food, music, and history. The first week was the Spanish week. We were placed with host families and learned the history and culture of Dominican Republic. The next two weeks, we were off to El Castillo, near Constanza. We spend time with the local children with their English skills and help to rebuild two houses. We also constructed the "jam place" where the local women will make jam and sell it. Those two weeks was the highlight for me. It was worth it to see all the hard work we put in to give a community and the connection we had with the community. The adventure tour which involved a lot of water activities, yet it was fun. We travel around the country, experience new things, see breath taken sites. However, the best part was that you meet amazing people. Our ISV project and tour guide leaders are great. In a short period of time, everyone is family. I would love to go back again and see everyone again.

How can this program be improved?
The packing list should be improved. There were unnecessary things on the packing list that we didn't even used, and there were other things I wished I would have brought.
Yes, I recommend this program
Default avatar
Allie
10/10

Absolutely Amazing!

This program was amazing! The days all had a schedule, that we stuck to, which allowed us to be excited and prepared for each day's work. When the end of the total five week trip was coming to a near, I was not at all ready to leave. At the end of the program we had a debriefing that really laid out just how much of an impact we had on the community. I enjoyed the debriefing since while you are physically cementing the floor or working with the kids everything seems so minuscule as if you could be doing so much more. As for the ISV staff-I cannot even describe how excellent they were! The project leader single-handedly made my experience 100 times better. We also got to interact with the country coordinator- he was not just some name you see in emails of someone you wouldn't ever meet. Overall ISV is an amazing organization! They were the cheapest international volunteer agency I have come across and I feel like I got so much more out of this program than I would have any other.

How can this program be improved?
Even though the communication was very informative from the ISV staff before leaving the USA I think they could have better expressed that the ONLY materials you will have for the summer camp will be the donations brought by volunteers.
Yes, I recommend this program
Default avatar
Erika
10/10

Best experience. So worth it!

The whole experience was amazing!! The service project, the people we served, the volunteers I worked with, the food, and the adventure tour!

Its hard to pick a favorite memory but one thing that stands out is when we road horses through the jungle up to a waterfall. I picked a horse that liked being the leader and was competitive with the other horses and liked to go fast. The hike up to the waterfall was so beautiful and exciting. But on the way down my horse started racing to be the first one down the hike, through the village, and back to the horse corral. I've always wanted to ride a horse galloping all out, so I hung on tight and we flew. The people outside their houses started shouting and cheering as I flew past on my horse with my friends horses racing along with me. It was so fun, and a dream come true. Loved it!

How can this program be improved?
During the first 2 weeks, the service part, all the volunteers stayed in the same big house together and mingled with the villagers in the evening. We ate together and spent the evening together. It was so fun and had such a good feeling of togetherness. After that first 2 weeks, we hit the road for the adventure tour and stayed in hotels. It was really fun and we stayed in beautiful hotels, but we were more spread out in separate rooms and though we did still gather for activities it felt a bit lonelier. I would have preferred some situation where we all stayed together more.
Yes, I recommend this program
Default avatar
Aaron
10/10

Dominican Republic - Community Development

This program provided me with the opportunity to interact with the local community in a way I couldn't have done on my own. The connections that ISV has with each of their countries allows for the maximum utility of time, and a great experience. I would highly recommend this program to students seeking their first experience abroad as the safety of students is paramount to ISV and the volunteering portion is very rewarding.

How can this program be improved?
The two weeks spent touring the country seemed rushed at time. More leisure time during these two weeks would improve the experience.
Yes, I recommend this program
Default avatar
Amber
10/10

Unforgettable Experience with ISV

I had countless unforgettable experiences during my time volunteering with ISV. My volunteer group focused on community development which included, installing cement floors in homes, constructing the foundation for a daycare building, as well organizing a summer school/camp for the local children. Since ISV, I have traveled to many other places across the world. I still look back on this experience as one of my most rewarding to date. My fellow volunteers and I shared many of the same values and goals. We all woke up each morning more motivated and inspired than the day before. I have made some phenomenal friendships that I will cherish forever! Some of us have kept in contact and flown across the globe to visit one another. Aside from the amazing people who participate in these programs, ISV empowers young adults to have a positive impact on communities. This opportunity personally opened a door for me and helped me to discover my passion for travel and helping others. I cannot thank ISV enough for putting on such a wonderful program and helping so many people in the process!

How can this program be improved?
It has been a while since I've traveled with ISV but I think they could improve by expanding upon the leadership opportunities within the volunteer program.
Yes, I recommend this program
Default avatar
Christina
10/10

Experience of a Lifetime

I had a wonderful time in this program. I taught health education to young children and built cement floors for families. We also helped build the foundation of a daycare. The impact you make by helping these families is amazing. The people are so grateful and it is such hard work, you feel accomplished. It really opens your eyes to what life is like outside of your bubble. I met amazing people who I am still friends with and you experience life in a new way. Our team leaders were also great and made me feel as comfortable and confident as I could possibly be. I recommend everyone to have an experience like this in their life time.

How can this program be improved?
I would have liked the option of which type of work I wanted to do. I really enjoyed doing the construction work more than the education work.
Yes, I recommend this program
Naomi
10/10

ISV-Dominican Republic

This volunteering experience ended up being the most wonderful experience of my life. Being surrounded by new friendly faces and a completely different culture gave me a sense of happiness that allowed me to express myself completely and laugh the entire time. There were serious times when we needed to get to work and pour our hearts out into our volunteer work, but even this ended up being fun and extremely rewarding. I think the children and environment made more of a difference in me than I could ever give back to them. I know it's cheesy, but when I committed everything I had to experiencing such a beautiful experience, I now look back at that time with such a desire to go back and laugh with the people I met during these four weeks. The two weeks of adventure after volunteering made me wish everyday was filled with that much thrill and excitement. I tried so many new things and made so many fulfilling memories with people that I daydream about when I'm having a bad day.
One of the most memorable moments on this trip was on the adventure tour when we ziplined into a pool that was 50 feet below where we started from. A few people had successfully gone down and plopped into the water shouting and laughing. The next person to go did not hold on tight enough and when she got just barely past the edge, she fell and hit the wall when she plummeted to the bottom. Not a second after he saw her let go, Adolfo dove to the rescue and was in the water before she even got there. He was like superman and although it was a scary situation, the girl who fell was completely fine with nothing but a scrape on her knee, and Adolfo was our new hero.
There is a treasure chest of priceless memories I have of that trip, from skinny dipping in the atlantic ocean, to being intentionally bitten by ostriches, I can't say I have experienced such freedom to do whatever comes to mind. Propelling down waterfalls was by far the scariest thing I have anticipated to do, but once I started, it was beautiful and rewarding. In the volunteering portion, the children were so lively and energized, it gave me a sense of playfulness and happiness. I remember one recess session where the children all lined up to the swing, and I began swinging them and laughing at their extreme excitement to get a turn with the swing!
Another beautiful memory in the school was at the very end when we had a talent show, and two talented dancer boys competed against one another in a dance off. I could see the freedom and beauty in this culture and the joy within themselves spread through their dance moves and into my heart. It was also extremely rewarding to work on the house we finished for a school teacher at the school we were helping with. It was amazing to see a direct correlation between the two types of work we were doing, and it was also amazing to swim down the river behind the house except when we saw a chicken floating down it, inflated with water. This was definitely a memorable time. Yet another memory was when we spent time in Santo Domingo and got to see all of the ruins from the colonial times. It was fascinating to hear the history of this beautiful place, and to spend time in a large city for a change. Dinner at Blue Moon was always special, we ate chicken, beans and rice for basically every meal, and it was delicious to be immersed in the food of this country. There are too many beautiful memories to list them all, but these were a few of my favorite ones!

How can this program be improved?
The program was honestly the best experience of my life and I would not change a thing.
Yes, I recommend this program
Default avatar
Nicholas
10/10

Best Experience of my Life So Far

There were countless things I loved about my five weeks in the Dominican Republic! Whether it was the beautiful scenery of the trees and beaches, the genuinely down-to-earth and kind locals, the amazing kids we worked with, or the friends I made; I will never forget this experience! Each part of the program had a rewarding component. The first week every 2 student volunteers were placed with a host family and taught about some of the local culture and the Spanish language. The second and third weeks consisted of the volunteer portion of the program where we laid down cement for local homes, built the foundation for a nursery, taught Dengue Fever prevention, and worked with the local children. The last 2 weeks were the adventure tour which involved all sorts of exciting activities such as white water rafting, waterfall repelling, horseback riding, and paragliding to name a few. Ultimately my favorite part of the trip were the people I met and the friends I made. The friendships I formed are some of the most meaningful ones I have ever had.

How can this program be improved?
Tell the volunteers to bring MORE than one weeks worth of clothes. Mainly because washers and dryers are not readily available in the Dominican Republic (at least at the places you will stay at).
Yes, I recommend this program
Default avatar
Jane
10/10

Eye-Opening

I was lucky enough to spend one week in the Dominican Republic with ISV, and I got to meet locals and children who were so unbelievably happy even though they had so little. Many families don't have running water, clean drinking water, and clothing, which are basic necessities that many Americans tend to take for granted. The work ISV does in the DR is truly needed, and those who we helped were so appreciative of everything.

Yes, I recommend this program
Default avatar
Maren
10/10

AMAZING

There are no words for the experience I had in the Dominican Republic at El Castillo. It is without a question the most incredible experience I have ever had in my life. I will never forget my first day there. I had a 4 hr plane ride from NYC then after waiting at the airport for an hour, my group leaders picked us up and then it was a 3 hr bus ride through the mountains and then we had to get on a safari truck to drive another hour up into the mountains on this dirt path that was too bumpy for regular cars. The entire way I was terrified of what I had signed up for. There was no cell service. When we got to the cabins where we were staying, there was limited hot water and electricity only for a few hours each day. The water from the faucets was not drinkable. There were no screens in the windows. This was the most remote place I had ever been in my life. But I had promised myself to be open to the experience before I left. The next 2 weeks were a challenge to make friends, to use my high school Spanish to communicate, to try new foods, to deal with a different climate and another culture, but after my initial feelings of being overwhelmed faded, I began to love it.

My group had about 20 kids in it. We all go super close within just a few days. The way it worked was that we split up into 2 groups of 10. Everyday one group would go to work on construction in the village and the other group would go to the school with lesson plans we prepared as a group and run a sort of summer camp/ school program with the kids. We had 2 group leaders who would take turns being with the different groups. Both group leaders were fluent in English and Spanish. On the weekends we did excursions. One was to Constanza (the town at the bottom of the hill where we had gotten into the Safari trucks) and the other was a trip to Aguas Blancas, the tallest waterfall in the Caribbean.

I highly recommend this experience to anyone/everyone. It was so eye opening to see a culture so different from my own. I am a very well traveled person. I used to live in Germany, have been to Italy, Spain, Canada, France, Austria and Denmark, but this trip was different. I felt like I was making a difference in the world. After seeing people live such simple lifestyles, it struck me (especially upon returning home) how much material stuff we have and how unnecessary it is to be happy. The village in which we worked had no running water, no plumbing, no electricity, and most families lived in a 1 room house often with a dirt floor (sometimes cement). Yet, these people living in El Castillo were some of the most welcoming and happiest I've ever met. It really gives you something to think about.

How can this program be improved?
More communication about what would actually happen once we got there. I didn't even know if I would be doing construction or teaching or both until I was in the Dominican Republic. A more detailed description of the project and also the lodging would be helpful for people. More pictures of the location ahead of time would also be nice.
Yes, I recommend this program
Default avatar
Kayla
10/10

El Castillo, Dominican Republic

In the community of El Castillo, there was this little boy named Leo no older than 4. Everyday we were out working to reinforce Luce's home he would be running around wrecking havoc with the other children in the community. My goal by the end of or volunteer project was to get him to smile for more than a minute! He was so stubborn. On the last day i decided to run with him through the community (his preferred way to get around). The joy on his face when we began to play was infectious and unforgettable. Just by being carefree and childish I was able to make memories with a kid who didn't necessarily warm up to everyone. These are the kinds of memories you will make going on this trip. You won't just have fun traveling and trying new things, but you will interact with the most loving, happy and selfless kids there are. We can only hope to impact their lives as much as they have and will continue to impacted ours. I will never be able to look at my life and not be happy. Leo taught me that happiness comes from running around and exploring, not having the latest material items. I am so grateful to have met the wonderful kids and community members of El Castillo.

How can this program be improved?
I honestly wouldn't change a thing about my experience with ISV and the Dominican Republic. The only bumps in the road came from other members not being there for the right reasons.
Yes, I recommend this program
Default avatar
Kaitlyn
10/10

The Children Are Inspiring

The children there impacted me the most. They don't have much, but yet they have more energy and positivity than I have ever seen. It is always so hot in Dominican Republic and while we were sweating our butts off and would complain that we were tired, the kids were having the time of our lives with us. It showed us to take a second and think about the things we have to be thankful for and not take the things that we are fortunate for for granted. The kids were just thankful to be there and to have us there to play with them and teach them. Throughout the days, we stopped complaining and just enjoyed our time there with them and forever have those memories.

How can this program be improved?
A lot of struggled during the teaching program because we couldn't speak Spanish. Luckily, we had Spanish speaking students there with us to take the lead. I would try to have the students going on the trip learn some more simple Spanish. Or make a list of words that they should learn. It would help tremendously when trying to control and teach the children.
Yes, I recommend this program
Default avatar
Emma
9/10

Cliche, but it changed my life

ISV is absolutely incredible. The expensive price throws a lot of people off, but you get so much out of it. I formed incredible friendships with people whom I still speak with on a daily basis today. I was assigned to the El Castillo project. The ISV project leaders were amazing. They were friendly and genuinely cared about us. I was never nervous about safety issues. ISV allowed us a few free days which was nice to see Constanza, a nearby city, and hang out with our friends. My project was in the mountains so I had zero signal; which ended up being a blessing. The food on the trip was delicious. We rebuilt the community and taught children. My group alternated days, so MWF we taught children, and T TH, we did construction work. It was the most rewarding experience of my life.

How can this program be improved?
I would say more educational discussions. Sometimes we had group discussions, but they weren't interesting and I didn't learn anything. One was about tourism and another was about sustainability. I don't think anyone learned new information from them.
Yes, I recommend this program
Megan
10/10

Fulfilling and unforgettable experience!

Experiencing the culture and lifestyle of the Dominican Republic through ISV has singularly been the most incredible and life changing adventure I ever thought I would anticipate. Travelling internationally and alone for the first time seemed insignificant given the amazing people you meet and create memories with!
I participated in all aspects of programme and I wouldn't change it for the world. The Spanish cultural week was highly beneficial and allowed me to be immersed into the culture through developing my language skills to then implement in communicating with my fantastic host family and the locals I encountered. This was invaluable in concreting relationships and building confidence for the rest trip, not least conversing with the children on the Volunteer Project.
This was undoubtedly one of the most enjoyable and rewarding experiences to teach and support the children at El Limon in San Cristobal. I've never been so fortunate to have the opportunity to work with such enthusiastic and charismatic children! Their energy and laughter resonates with you throughout the entire trip, so much so that you become emotionally attached to them. Similarly, it was incredibly gratifying working with such admirable and hardworking individuals whilst on construction site that inspire and motivate you on an unparalleled scale.
Even then, the highlight of my trip has to be the Adventure Tour. Days after returning home I'm still reeling from the myriad of activities I was able to participate in! I can't get over how diverse and dynamic the tour was in making every second exhilarating and memorable. The instructors you work with are amazing and incredibly friendly, always ensuring that your safety is a priority. The best memories are created whilst experiencing every aspect of what the island has to offer and it encourages you to conquer fears and engage in activities that not many get to experience in a lifetime.

Overall, I'm so pleased with what I have achieved in the space of 5 weeks both on a personal and interpersonal level. ISV's programme has allowed volunteers to impact the communities we help, but also gain a wealth of positives from the impact the community has in return. I've grown in confidence immensely, much to the credit of the awesome friendships you build and the unwavering support they give you. Not least, your whole perspective changes and I've left the Dominican with a much greater appreciation for what I had there and what I have at home.

How can this program be improved?
I felt that our introductory email from our Project Leader was left too soon before we were due to travel to our destination. It would have been nice to have ironed out any queries or questions earlier on in the lead up to our project. This was also the case for the information we received about our homestay family, Project Overview and Project Summary. Again, some of the most important and relevant information relating to our volunteering experience were left much later than other information we received. It would be more reassuring to have this much earlier in the year.
Yes, I recommend this program
Default avatar
Alyssa
10/10

Exceeded My Expectations

If you are having doubts - STOP.
ISV is the best thing that will happen to you. It is safe, fun and completely worth every penny you save. Yes its pricy but for what you get, its worth it. I would do it again in a heartbeat! I did the Spanish Week and 2 weeks of volunteer. If you don't plan on doing the adventure, definitely do the Spanish week! Leaders are amazing. ISV is smart and makes sure you help the community but also makes it fun and safe. DO IT. 2-5 weeks isnt a long time, take a leap of faith and do this for yourself and the people of the DR :)

How can this program be improved?
I think it would be nice to be able to switch up groups for when you are on project. My group had 16 people and was divided in two with 8 people in each smaller group. I would have liked having each group of 8 mixed up every other day or week or something. To work directly with all members of the total group.
Yes, I recommend this program

Interviews

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.

Destinations...