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For anyone who knows VISIONS, they will tell you that relationships have always been central to what we do and who we are. In most of our host communities we have spent close to two decades (and in some cases almost 30 years) building relationships that have stood the test of time. We build in an intentional family-like dynamic that contributes to teen volunteers and community partners forming bonds and creating cross-cultural ties that hold strong for years to come.

Additionally, we are proud of the long-standing relationships that we have built with schools, educators, and organizations, such as B’nai Jeshurun of New York. The work completed this month marks our seventh year working with the youth and leaders of B’nai Jeshurun (BJ) on annual service trips that rotate between Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic, and Peru. Taken individually from any given trip, the work has been high impact. Cumulatively over seven years, it is quite impressive.

In Nicaragua, a small village went from walking a great distance to retrieve non-potable water to now having potable, spring-fed water delivered directly to community spigots. BJ groups also constructed ecological latrines and part of the second story to a community center in Nicaragua, while running cross-cultural activities and English classes in the schools. The work in Peru included the completion of eight irrigation canals that greatly help rural farmers during drought seasons and assist with water conservation.

And now, after four trips to the Dominican Republic, the BJ teens, their chaperones and Rabbi have built a concrete backstop at a baseball field, made improvements and expansions at primary schools in very under-resourced neighborhoods, worked at a community garden, built a retaining wall to stop flooding of a classroom, and taught a few classes for young school kids.