Volunteering in the Dominican Republic with Project Trust gives you a chance to gain an in-depth understanding of the communities and culture; a very different side of the Caribbean tourist destination.
The Dominican Republic is the second largest country in the Caribbean and also one of the poorest. It is estimated that two-thirds of the population live on the poverty line. The majority of Dominicans still lead a rural life, although tourism is playing an increasingly important part in the national economy. The tourist enclaves tend to be concentrated in the North of the island where visitors are attracted to the country for its stunning coastline and superb weather.
The country boasts some magnificent scenery with three mountain ranges, lush green valleys and its famous beaches. The south west of the country is much more arid and has virtually no organised tourism. Dominicans have a reputation for being very friendly and their culture is a mixture of various elements: mainly Afro-Caribbean and Hispanic. Sugar cane is the main crop in the area and many Haitians have crossed the border to work as cane cutters, explaining the settlement in Bombita. Unemployment is exceptionally high here as the cane cutting work is only seasonal.
You will experience a warm and welcoming culture that is alive with vibrant music, traditional dance and colour. You will see your fair share of festivals and Carnivals, but day to day life in one of the villages near Barahona, or in Santiago city will bring with it its own colourful insight into its colourful culture.
You will be living with your partner in a small house or apartment with kitchen and bathroom. You’ll need to arrive in the Dominican Republic with a good repertoire of simple dishes to cook as you’ll be shopping for vegetables in the local market to make meals. Your work may be next door, or a short walk away.
Currently we have three projects in the Dominican Republic. Two are based in villages near Barahona in the South West of the island, close to the border with Haiti. The projects here are associated with COPA, a dedicated Christian organisation that works with schools in the villages of Bombita and La Hoya, running an Art programme and working with teachers.
Our other project works with the charity Accion Callejera in Santiago city. This great organisation works with boys and young men who work or sleep on the streets. You will work in the centre helping out with the running of activities, and in the surrounding villages, teaching English.
Art is not a compulsory subject in Dominican schools and very few schools have access to it so if you are placed in the COPA projects you will have a great opportunity to enrich the lives of your students, giving them time and space to be creative.
The official language in the Dominican Republic is Spanish however being able to speak English will help open doors in a young person’s future. You will have the opportunity in any of the projects to teach some English, whether it is in timetabled classes or in an evening class you want to set up to teach adults in the community.
In the Santiago project you will have the opportunity to develop close relationships and bonds with the boys and young men that attend the centre. Through playing sports with them, or spending time devising craft activities, you will give them a chance to be children and have fun, a respite from the harsh conditions they face in their life outside the centre.
For any of the projects you will have to be resilient and proactive; able to use your initiative to follow up on ideas and able to be determined to see them through, in the face of challenges. You’ll need to be open to forming new relationships and have endless energy – the kids you meet each day certainly will!
Due to the location and work of the projects, you will have the opportunity to get to know many Haitian people who have migrated to the Dominican Republic. You will gain an understanding of both the Dominican and Haitian community and distinctive cultures.
You will have to converse predominantly in Spanish and will be immersed in the language for the year. This means you will return highly proficient, if not fluent.
You will be managing a classroom or activity quite independently and therefore your skills in leadership and confidence will develop. You’ll gain valuable insight to teaching and communicating and you’ll certainly gain new friends.
Eilidh Maxwell | Chile 11/12Country Coordinator for the Dominican Republic
Hey, I’m Eilidh and I’m the Country Coordinator for Chile, Honduras, the Dominican Republic and China. I’m a Returned Volunteer from Chile 11/12, and this is when I fell in love with Latin America and developed a passion for languages. China is renowned for its vastness and a language that is spoken by billions of people.