Applications Open September 30th!

—RSVP to an informational webinar & learn more about our summer programs
—Apply between Sept 30 & Oct 15 for a $400 tuition discount—

Frequently Asked
Questions

VISIONS FAQ provides further information about our international community service programs for high school, middle school and gap year students.

VISIONS OVERVIEW

What distinguishes VISIONS from other teen service programs?

We are small on purpose, for purpose. VISIONS is focused on thoughtful community-building in our host locations, and our carefully crafted programs are designed to maximize the impact on the individual. That impact becomes apparent in the short-term during the program as participants come to understand their place in the group and host community, and also over time, as the ripple effects of the experience continue to compound.

Our noteworthy ratio of one leader to every four to five students allows leaders to be active mentors who help each participant tap into the best parts of who they are.

We are tech-free. Being fully present during the program requires that we are truly connected to the experience and people around us. Disconnecting from gadgets allows us to develop sincere relationships with community members who rarely are equipped with tech devices. Putting aside phones also raises the bar for programs like VISIONS—not many organizations will promise to keep participants engaged and having fun without having to resort to screen time. You’ll have plenty of stories and photos to share once you’re home! Read more here

VISIONS is rooted in long-term, respectful relationships with local partners. Participants are welcomed like old friends into communities that have known us for 25 to 30+ years. We partner with local nonprofits on construction and social service projects that are needed by the community. 

VISIONS also can be distinguished by what we are NOT. 

  • VISIONS is not religiously or politically affiliated. Some program locations may offer an opportunity to explore the religion and religious monuments of our host communities, but all programs are secular. 
  • VISIONS is not a teen tour or “voluntourism” program. We live in our host communities for the duration of the program and use the weekends for excursions. Participants become part of the fabric of daily life, building a “home away from home.” 
  • VISIONS is not a homestay program. Instead, we live together as a group and spend our days engaging with neighbors and local friends. This format allows for greater flexibility in scheduling the service projects and program itineraries. Some programs include a “day stay” (done in pairs) with host families.
What are VISIONS values and mission?

Our Mission: To live in harmony with ourselves, each other and the natural world.

Our Values

  1. Connection. Forge connections with the self, others and that natural world in ways that build empathy and make us whole.
  2. Communication. Foster clear and honest communication that becomes the bedrock for meaningful relationships.
  3. Engagement. Actively and fearlessly strive to make a positive difference for other people, living creatures and the earth.
Who participates in VISIONS?
  • VISIONS participants are motivated, curious and adventurous people who want to gain a deeper commitment to self, each other and the natural world. Our expectation is that each participant is open to the experience and to putting the group needs ahead of their own.
  • Most participants come on their own to VISIONS programs. To ensure healthy group dynamics and a spirit of inclusiveness, we do not allow more than two friends to attend a program together.
  • Because the programs focus on service and team-building, age is much less relevant than during regular school life. We prioritize an inclusive group dynamic, and a family feeling defines our programs. Your new friends will include other participants, VISIONS leaders and people of all ages from the host community.
  • VISIONS teen programs are for kids ages 14 through the summer of graduation. Custom Programs are for people of any age. Most participants arrive with little to no construction or outdoor adventure skills. Our leaders teach the requisite skills and guide participants every step of the way.
What does VISIONS expect of me?

VISIONS is challenging in different ways and on different levels. With your commitment, this life-changing experience will expand your comfort zone and push you to embrace the unfamiliar.

  • You’re expected to commit to our goals, to be aware of how your actions and reactions affect others, and to look for ways to contribute positively to the group dynamic.
  • Cooperation and flexibility are imperative, and a sense of humor is indispensable..
  • Considerate conduct and respect for program policies are required. VISIONS is a Zero Tolerance program with respect to alcohol, drugs and inappropriate sexual behavior, and breaking such a rule will result in immediate dismissal from the program.
  • Chronic bad behavior is also grounds for early dismissal. Such situations are rare, but we are nonetheless clear and consistent when we enforce our guidelines. Students who are likely to act irresponsibly should not apply. 
  • You live and work in the public eye, therefore appropriate behavior, language use and dress are essential. You will be expected to be actively curious about, and engage with, the culture and community.
  • We expect you to take advantage of every opportunity offered. There is time to enjoy your surroundings, absorb the culture, participate in fun activities and make life-long friendships! 
Will I receive community service hours?

Each participant who successfully completes a VISIONS program receives a Certificate of Service that includes project details and the service hours. We also are happy to provide participants with forms that may be required by their school. Participants who fail to give it their all at worksites on a repeated basis—even after receiving feedback from leaders—will receive reduced service hours from what is published.

IS THERE A LANGUAGE REQUIREMENT?

Language immersion programs longer than 15 days require two years of language study or the equivalent in life experience.

Does VISIONS offer Custom Programs for groups or spring break trips?

VISIONS offers customized volunteer programs for schools and other groups seeking an in-depth volunteer experience. We operate trips to any of our locations on a year-round basis for people of all ages. Read more about our Custom Programs here.

PROGRAM LIFE

What is daily life like on a VISIONS program?

Four days a week, participants get to choose their project site, working until early or mid-afternoon when we then have time for recreation and cultural activities. One day a week, every participant joins the “homebase crew,” cooking breakfast, cleaning, doing laundry and shopping at local markets for the rest of the day’s meals. Weekends are for excursions and travel to popular tourist sites as well as off the beaten path destinations.

Three to four nights a week, we have group meetings that last about an hour. This slow-down time allows everyone to get to know each other while reflecting on our volunteer and cultural experience. Issues that arise naturally in a group of people who live and work closely together are acknowledged and addressed. Group meetings help bind everyone together as we work toward common goals.

What is the living situation?

We live together in a community center or rented home. While basic, accommodations are clean and comfortable.

  • Sleeping / changing areas are separated by genders and leaders live with kids. There are communal areas, kitchens, bathrooms and showers. 
  • We provide bunk beds or floor mattresses. You bring your own sheets and pillow. A detailed packing list is provided.
  • You may encounter unexpected, temporary inconveniences. This is the reality of life in our host communities. What we take for granted at home, such as ample water for daily showers, may not happen reliably at your program site. You can count on having a shower every other day. Electricity and hot water at some sites can be inconsistent at best. Together, we adjust and adapt.
  • Laundry is done once a week.
What are the meals like?

Rotating homebase crews prepare breakfasts and lunches that are plentiful and varied. Scrambled eggs, pancakes, French toast, yogurt, fruit and cereal are among the regular options for breakfast. Lunches feature sandwiches, hearty salads, fruit, and leftovers. VISIONS employs local cooks who prepare dinners that blend Western fare and local cuisine. 

Fruit, crackers and trail mix are just a few of the items available as healthy snacks. Participants also can purchase their own favorite snacks at local stores.

VISIONS programs are accustomed to accommodating allergies and restrictions. There are full vegetarian options at all meals and we also welcome vegan and gluten-free diets. You will note any dietary needs on pre-program paperwork.

Who are VISIONS leaders?

Our diverse leader teams are composed of returned Peace Corps volunteers, teachers, graduate students, wilderness instructors, carpenters and professionals from the host community. They bring with them a wide range of life experiences and skills working with youth. VISIONS leaders are more than just leaders—they’re role models, mentors, and friends to participants. The minimum age is 21 and most are in their mid-20s to early 30s.

All leaders are First Aid and CPR certified, and many hold advanced safety certifications, such as Wilderness First Responder (WFR). Some leader teams may include one junior leader who is an alumni of a VISIONS program or who holds special credentials that make them an excellent addition to our well-rounded teams. For outdoor or adventure activities, our leaders or contracted guides teach the required skills and work with participants who may not have the experience.

Leader interviews are conducted face-to-face or through video calls. We reach out to at least three references and perform background checks. In addition, leaders participate in approximately two weeks of training prior to the start of the summer. Our leader return rate averages 40 to 50 percent and we .

Maintain a leader to participant ratio of 1 to 4 or 5. We also hire local staff as drivers, project coordinators and dinner cooks.

What is the technology & phone policy?

All VISIONS programs are tech-free. You may bring a cell phone for the flight, but we collect all devices upon arrival. Here’s why:

  • Without tech devices, you are able to focus on the immediate experience––the people, sights, sounds and sensations of your program environment. VISIONS is a unique opportunity to step out of the regular routines and distractions of home for a short while to focus on an experience that potentially will be one of the most powerful in your youth. Every season we get feedback from participants who tell us how refreshing it was to live without the constant pull of their devices.
  • Equally important is the reality that people in our host communities have far fewer material objects than we do. VISIONS chooses not to accentuate the gap.
  • Cameras are welcome as long as they are separate from other devices.
  • Parents receive a “safe arrival” call once their child is received at the program airport. Parents are provided with summer contact numbers for urgent matters. Parents are called if their child needs to go to the clinic or if a unique situation deems being in touch with home.
  • Time is set aside every week for participants to write an update or group journal entry, which is posted on our blog. Furthermore, VISIONS leaders do program updates on social media multiple times per week.
How does VISIONS handle risk management?

Supervision, Training & Local Contacts

A primary component of risk management is our relationships with local people who we have known for years, some of whom we employ and who alert us to risks or health issues. Because we know the characteristics and challenges of our locations, fewer risk factors are left to chance. In addition:

  • Our ratio of one leader to four to five participants ensures that kids are well supervised.
  • There is time for participants to explore our neighborhoods within clearly defined boundaries and with at least three buddies together. Our buddy system means that no participant goes beyond homebase boundaries alone and without informing a VISIONS leader.
  • Our friends in the community are an extension of the leader team, widening the scope of trusted adults.
  • The VISIONS model is to return to places for consecutive summers. The knowledge accrued systematically from season to season is carefully documented and updated annually.
  • Our Leader Handbook outlines risk management and health protocols, basic policies and contingency plans. During leader training, we teach and review these protocols and guidelines and also train on site-specific considerations. In addition to First Aid and CPR, some leaders carry advanced certifications such as Wilderness First Aid (WFA) and Wilderness First Responder (WFR).

Health & Wellbeing

  • Water is a critical focus at international locations. In places that lack clean drinking water, we use bottled water. Leaders remind participants to carry water bottles and to hydrate throughout each day.
  • We have protocols regarding sanitation, food preparation and clean up that participants, leaders and hired cooks all follow.
  • Under the guidance of leaders, participants take responsibility for keeping their living spaces tidy and clean.
  • Driving is one of the most important risk factors for any summer program. At sites where VISIONS leaders drive, we verify driving records in the hiring process and conduct driving training. On sites where leaders do not drive, we hire seasoned drivers and occasionally take public transportation. 
  • Most of our sites are near medical clinics or hospitals. We usually use local clinics for basic care and travel to hospitals with more sophisticated care if needed. As an extra safeguard, VISIONS tuition includes evacuation insurance for each participant.
  • We recommend that families consult a travel doctor and refer to the CDC website when making health decisions before the program.
What do I pack & how do I prepare?

Packing lists and everything you need to know to prepare for your program are provided within the Program Location FAQ pages.

Is there a dress code?

Articles of clothing not permitted on VISIONS programs:

  • Spaghetti straps
  • Low cut shirts
  • Bikinis
  • Clothing that reveals undergarments
  • Short shorts or skirts
  • Low-rise jeans

APPLICATION PROCESS

What is the application process?

PART ONE: APPLY. You will submit the following as part of the online application. 

  • Contact information for participant and parent/guardian(s).
  • Participant Questionnaire. Emailed to the participant directly and will take ~ 10 – 15 to complete.
  • Contact information for two references (email and/or phone). One should be school-related and the other can be an adult who knows the participant well and is not a family member. We email references a form that takes ~ 5 – 10 minutes to complete, or references may call us. VISIONS alum do not need to provide references. 
  • Passport expiration date and number. This is required for participants traveling out of their home country. If you do not have a current passport, you will be able to skip this step and complete it later. 
  • Application Fee of $75. The application fee is nonrefundable and is waived for alumni and financial aid recipients.

Decisions for program acceptance are typically made within three business days of receiving the completed application materials. Please ask your references to check their spam folders if they do not receive the form. 

PART TWO: ACCEPTED (CONDITIONAL). Once accepted, your space on the program will be held for one week while providing time to complete the following items.

  • Enrollment Contract
  • Health & Behavior Form
  • $800 tuition deposit (or full tuition if enrolling after March 1 for summer programs). If your plans change, this deposit is fully refundable until January 15th, or you may use it to change to another VISIONS program as long as spaces are available.  


PART THREE: REGISTERED
. Space on the program is now held. Tuition balance is due March 1st for summer programs, or payable in full if applying after March 1st. Once registered, it’s time to review program preparation materials and get ready for your VISIONS experience!

How do I apply for a job as a VISIONS leader?
VISIONS leaders are the backbone of our successful teen community service programs. We seek exceptional people who are hard-working and spirited. To learn more about being a VISIONS leader, please read here.

TUITION & OTHER COSTS

What does tuition include?

Tuition includes almost all program expenses, such as: 

  • Lodging
  • Meals and healthy snacks
  • Service projects
  • Activities and excursions 
  • Weekly laundry
  • Transportation beginning at airport pick-up and ending at airport drop-off. (Exception: British Virgin Islands arrival to St. Thomas will incur a ferry fee.)
  • VISIONS leaders, local staff, and guides
  • Evacuation insurance

Tuition does not include: 

  • Airfare, baggage fees or other individual travel expenses to get to and from the program airport
  • Medical expenses or cost of evacuation not covered by insurance
  • Health and optional travel insurance
  • Personal spending money
  • Airport and departure taxes
Does VISIONS offer financial aid?

Yes, we strive to make the VISIONS experience attainable to students who come from diverse backgrounds and experiences. Please find more information here.

How do I arrange travel?
  • We strongly recommend that flights be arranged through our travel agent so we can coordinate arrival and departure times for all involved. Our travel agent has pricing that is competitive with online fares. Booking a flight using miles should be the only exception to using our travel agent, and in that case the itinerary must be pre-approved by the VISIONS office.
  • We do not require that participants fly from any particular airport, therefore allowing the convenience of traveling directly to the program site. Participants receive VISIONS T-shirts, which we recommend wearing on travel day. Parents do have the option of purchasing Unaccompanied Minor service with the airline, though this must be discussed with the VISIONS office beforehand.
  • Our program leaders meet each participant at the airport upon arrival. Leaders also see off each participant at the airport at the end of the program.
What is the tuition refund policy?

Tuition Dates & Refund Policies

  • Deposit: $800 deposit is due upon being accepted, is applied toward tuition, and holds a space on the program. It is fully refundable until January 15th and then becomes nonrefundable. 
  • Tuition Balance: 
    • Summer Programs: Due March 1st or must be paid in full if registering after March 1st. 
  • Refunds: Tuition is 50% refundable until 75 days before the program start date, after which point it is nonrefundable. 

We understand that personal and family plans sometimes change, and we therefore strongly recommend purchasing trip cancellation insurance for additional protection. Contact your insurance provider or refer to the VISIONS website here for options. 

Notification of a participant’s program cancellation must be received in writing in order to receive the 50% refund.

Because VISIONS makes commitments and financial decisions related to each person’s participation in advance of the program, tuitions outlined above are nonrefundable for any reason, including but not limited to, family or personal emergencies, physical or mental illness or injury voluntary departure, participant dismissal, and general concerns, anxieties, and/or failure to comply with quarantine and testing requirements related to communicable diseases or epidemics. 

IF VISIONS MUST CANCEL, REFUND POLICIES ARE MODIFIED: Program activities or sites may be altered or cancelled due to any force majeure, including, but not limited to, weather, fires, inaccessibility, disease outbreaks or epidemics, governmental order or other such reasons, cultural sensitivities, or other conditions affecting the wellbeing of participants. Participants will be notified as soon as possible in the case of significant changes. VISIONS is not responsible for other expenses incurred including airfare, credit card fees, and any other costs, losses or other damages. Trip insurance is always encouraged.

In the case of cancellation by VISIONS, the options include:

  • Transfer to another available program of participant’s choice (transfer to a less expensive program will receive a refund of the balance; transfer to a more expensive program will necessitate payment of tuition difference). 
  • Carry full tuition (including the $800 deposit) to a future program (three year deadline; transferable to family or friends).
  • Receive a full refund of tuition paid, less the $800 deposit.
  • Roll tuition to the VISIONS Foundation for a tax-deductible donation.
Should I purchase Trip Cancellation Insurance?

VISIONS strongly recommends purchasing travel insurance to supplement the mandatory evacuation coverage that is billed with your final tuition payment. 

You may research options online or read about VISIONS-recommended policy here. Note that there are time sensitive provisions for when insurance is purchased.

STILL HAVE QUESTIONS?

Contact us anytime to chat about the programs or to request a list of references. It is our goal to accurately convey the VISIONS experience so that families can determine if VISIONS is the best fit for a participant’s summer or Gap program.

Email: info@visions-service.com
Call or Text: 406.551.4423
Book a Call: Click here to schedule a time for us to call you