19 & 12 Days
High School Service Program
with Spanish Immersion
Age 14 to 18
DOMINICAN REPUBLIC 1
DOMINICAN REPUBLIC 2
DOMINICAN REPUBLIC 1
DOMINICAN REPUBLIC 2
“I had a blast on the VISIONS program. I believe that community service builds character. I would do this all again in a heartbeat. Throughout this program I learned values that will stick with me for the rest of my life. I also learned not to take anything for granted.”
Embracing Projects That Matter
Service in the Dominican Republic is immensely rewarding, and during our more than 25 years partnering with the Lions Club of Sabana Perdida, VISIONS teens have made a significant impact. They’ve helped build dozens of homes, large schools, a medical clinic and community centers. Work on these cinder block and mortar buildings is totally hands-on. Local maestros show volunteers how to place blocks evenly, how to use concrete for different purposes and where to place the rebar that fortifies the block construction.
Each year, more than 3,200 Dominican children attend classes in schools built by VISIONS. Every summer, we also organize a popular summer camp for kids. These projects mostly take place in bateyes, neighborhoods originally formed by immigrant Haitian workers lured to the country as cheap labor for the sugarcane industry. Living conditions in bateyes are substandard and public services are meager, so being a part of improving things here is deeply gratifying.
“My VISIONS trip to the Dominican Republic was the most life-changing experience of my life. Living in the local community with Dominicans immersed us in a culture where family is the number one priority. By the end of the trip I feel like our group truly replicated this concept.”
Making Meaningful Connections
Our home is in a small, middle class neighborhood on the northern edge of Santo Domingo. Days are characterized by the continual companionship of Dominican friends and neighbors who have welcomed VISIONS for almost 30 years. Many afternoons end with a game of dominoes or vitilla, the precursor to baseball that local kids play with a broomstick and plastic bottle cap. We experience the culture beyond our host neighborhood as well, visiting marketplaces to buy fruits and vegetables, trying out newfound merengue skills in the discoteque, and working side by side with Dominicans who do not speak English—the perfect conditions for sharpening your Spanish skills. And when words fail us, our strong basis of mutual respect and deep friendship in the community provides a bridge across the language barrier.
“VISIONS was unforgettable. I snorkeled and walked through a bat cave—activities that I never imagined I would do. The country is beautiful, and the people are the nicest I’ve ever met.”
SETTING OUT TO GO BEYOND
A place as varied as the Dominican Republic delivers an abundance of choices for adventure, a hallmark of this location. In addition to regular beach visits for swimming in actual aquamarine water, we’ll explore the country’s Taino, African and European heritage in places like the Zona Colonial and marketplaces in Santo Domingo’s city center. Because there’s music everywhere—all the time—impromptu singing and dancing provide spontaneous daily delights. The longer program includes a weekend excursion to a quiet mountain town, a day hike and a swim in waterfall pools in the Dominican Alps, the Caribbean’s highest range. On these outings, you will discover a Dominican Republic that most tourists can’t tap into, making it truly unforgettable.
ACTIVITIES AND EXCURSIONS
- Wander among peaks and waterfalls in the Dominican Alps
- Check out the Zona Colonial historic district, the oldest permanent European settlement in the Americas
- Browse El Mercado Modelo, a three-story artisan market featuring vibrant paintings from Haiti, Dominican amber, and other crafts and wares
- Walk among stalactites and stalagmites in the Tres Ojos caves
- Watch an Oakland A’s training league baseball game
- Learn first-hand about the realities of living in a garbage dump community
- Take merengue and salsa dance lessons
(Santos Ramos pictured above from when he visitied the VISIONS home office in Montana)
In many ways, the Ramos family is like most Dominican families—warm and outgoing, loving, hard-working and humorous. In other ways, though, they stand alone. They are legendary for their integrity and selfless service in their community and as part of VISIONS. The Ramos family has been our family in the Dominican Republic since we began working there in 1991. They have embraced, guided and advised us, providing loving wisdom and active support.
Santos and Lidia Ramos are longstanding members and past presidents of Club de Leones (Lions Club). Santos owns a small colmado, or corner store, in the neighborhood where the Ramoses make their home and where VISIONS teens have their homebase. Every summer, Santos leaves his shop in the care of a neighbor and joins VISIONS to supervise work projects, and to create and nurture ever-stronger ties between our host community and us. Santos is a wise, discerning and eminently respected elder.
Lidia served as the principal at Escuela Melvin Jones, a school built by VISIONS and the Lions Club in the ’90s, which serves more than 800 school children every year. She, too, is an active community volunteer and coordinator for philanthropic and service projects in poor batey communities. Lidia offers love and affection to VISIONS teens who are living far from home.
Their son, Alberto, has also been a part of VISIONS since, as a teen, he worked with our kids. He then served as director of the VISIONS Dominican Republic program for more than 15 years and was beloved by participants. Like his parents, he holds a profound belief in the power of VISIONS to positively affect the communities and our participants. He and his wife Kenia (our former dinner cook) have three fantastic kids who are carrying on the tradition of being part of our programs every year.