Letter from Director
VISIONS successfully ran two teen summer programs and a Fall Gap program in 2020 with Covid-19 protocols in place. While we dearly missed our community friends around the world when everything else had to be cancelled, we were fortunate to offer those programs (Montana Farm & Ranch) and are grateful for our partnerships with exceptional nonprofits, hardworking land owners, and distinctive professionals who shared their craft with our participants.
This summer 2021, we look forward to offering our programs at the Montana Farm & Ranch, Montana Blackfeet Reservation, British Virgin Islands and Dominican Republic. The Montana locations have a few sessions to choose from, whereas the BVI and D.R. will each have one longer session.
This is a pared down roster from our usual programming, which is part of our aim to provide as much certainty as possible for summer planning. The locations have been selected carefully as places we have confidence in being able to run, even though the pandemic will still be an issue to work with. We also do not want to create health risks for our partner communities or be subject to such restrictive Covid protocols that we would sacrifice the credo of a VISIONS experience.
As always, be in touch anytime and here’s to a safe and fun summer!
Overview of 2021 Programs
FOUR LOCATIONS | SEVEN SESSIONS
We are excited to continue with our Spring & Fall Gap Programs as well as the Montana Farm & Ranch high school program at the Montana Farm & Ranch near Bozeman. These programs focus on sustainability, food production and community-building. While VISIONS has set the standard for community service programs in cross-cultural settings for 33 years, our programs also now incorporate bold and deliberate attention to sustainability and living in harmony with the natural environment. Montana sets the foundation, and all programs include projects that put a lens on climate issues and solutions.
The Montana Blackfeet Reservation and all reservations in Montana have been greatly impacted by the pandemic. While tribal members constitute 7% of Montana’s population, they have accounted for approximately 30% of the Covid deaths in the state. It has been a devastating situation for many. An area of hope is that the reservations are currently prioritized for vaccines, and thus we are optimistic that we can safely offer the Blackfeet program this season. VISIONS started working on the Blackfeet Nation 30 years ago developing close ties with community partners that look forward to our return this summer as do we, if vaccines remain accessible.
The Dominican Republic has been hit by Covid, even with strict protocols and curfews that have been in place. However, we feel confident that we will be able to safely l run this program. The D.R. is open to travelers with fairly nominal restrictions that we will meet, at minimum.
The British Virgin Islands have taken very strict measures with respect to the pandemic and the country has kept their cases quite low. Along with the Montana Blackfeet Reservation and D.R., the BVI is among VISIONS oldest program sites, at 30 years. Read more below about the requirements for entry to the country, which we are prepared to do. Important note: Because youth who have had Covid will often continue to produce a positive test for as long as 90 days (and because the BVI requires testing upon arrival), no student should plan on attending the BVI if they contract Covid within three months prior to their program.
Ranking Of Programs’ Likelihood
The Montana Farm is our most certain location. We ran the program in 2020, the farm is based outside of Bozeman (VISIONS HQ town), and our projects and activities are easy to run while keeping socially distanced with community members.
The Blackfeet Reservation is the next most likely. We live on a conservation ranch outside of the main reservation town of Browning and many of our projects and activities are easily accomplished while keeping a safe social distance. Because reservation members are among the priority groups for vaccinations, we believe we can safely run programs without putting the community at risk.
The D.R. and the BVI are our two International programs that we feel we can successfully run this summer. We are slightly more optimistic about the D.R., in part because the BVI previously had very strict protocols for entry into the country, and the D.R. has more leniency (though we will have our own protocols to keep everyone safe). We don’t expect strict regulations to be put in place again for the BVI unless the new Covid variant complicates travel and public health (in which case even the D.R. may be cancelled).
COVID-19 Protocols — Summer Programs
Even if a participant has been vaccinated, these protocols still will most likely apply. Note that protocols for Gap programs may be different due to the small groups.
Depart to the program Covid-free. Our success as a group relies on each person doing their part.
*Important: Up to ~ 90 days after having Covid-19, a person can still test positive. Therefore, if a participant contracts covid in the few months before a program, contact the VISIONS office! You will need to keep a record of that positive test in order to potentially override the negative test required pre-trip. If you are enrolled for the BVI and contract covid in the few months pre-trip, then you will want to consider a different program since the country requires a negative test in order to enter (and VISIONS cannot override that requirement).
Within five days of traveling to the program, participants must take a COVID-19 PCR test and receive a negative result. *NOTE that all participants must do this EVEN if vaccinated.
Five days before traveling means not greater than five days from when a student begins to travel directly to their program. The date & time of a student’s first flight is the benchmark for this. Results must be digitally submitted here
Travel and arrive safely.
- Wear the most protective mask(s) possible during travel days. Wash your hands, use hand sanitizer, and keep interactions to a minimum.
- Leaders meet each participant upon arrival at the airport, where health check screening will be completed (taking temperatures and asking about any Covid-related symptoms). Leading up to the program, VISIONS will provide additional information regarding specific entry requirements for those registered for the BVI and D.R. programs.
Get off on the right foot.
- The first five days of the program may have tighter protocols in terms of masks, social distancing and daily health checks.
- Interaction with people outside of our group may be limited to outdoor activities, where we are able to physically distance. Note that this is easily accomplished at our sites.
- Students may be divided into smaller pods for activities when physical distancing isn’t possible (i.e.: riding in vehicles).
- Activities, projects and meals will be outdoors as much as possible.
- Sleeping arrangements will be carefully considered, as well.
- Participants at the Montana programs may sleep in a cluster of individual tents that VISIONS provides for the first five nights before getting tested and then moving into “bunk wall tents” or a bunkhouse. Participants in the BVI and D.R. may have sleeping quarters as spread out as possible for the first four nights, which may be achieved by renting an additional house or staying in hotel rooms.
- Each location may have additional requirements that we will follow and keep families informed of in advance of each program. Stay up to date:
- Dominican Republic. Quarantining and testing after arrival are not currently required, though VISIONS may incorporate both steps into the program.
- British Virgin Islands. The BVI has the strictest protocols of all VISIONS 2021 program locations. The country currently requires: testing upon arrival, tracking device, four-day quarantine (that we will do as a group while incorporating engaging activities and service projects at our homebase), and another test at day-four. The total cost of tests and tracking device is $175, which is not included with tuition.
- Testing may take place on day 4 or 5 on each program. Most health insurance policies cover the cost of testing, which is not included with program tuition.
Off & running!
- Health will be monitored, communication will be open and transparent, and engagement with community members will be kept to a safe distance with masks when needed.
- While we cannot guarantee that the program and individuals will remain Covid-free, we believe that our protocols should keep the group and community safe.
- Participants are required to follow leader instructions pertaining to protocols. Should a participant test positive for Covid, they will be quarantined locally and checked on regularly. Quarantine and medical costs would be the responsibility of each family.
- Pre-departure requirements may include completing another Covid test with negative results before departing to another country (including to the U.S.).
Credits from 2020
If your 2020 program was cancelled and you rolled your tuition forward:
- If you are ready to register for a new program, contact VISIONS office and we will make all necessary changes for you. You do not need to submit an application or references. A program space of your choice will be guaranteed until February 20th, after which date your space will depend on availability.
- Your 120% credit from tuition paid may be applied to the 2021, 2022 or 2023 season.
- The credit is transferable to friends or family, and extra funds may be shared between two participants.
- The credit cannot be combined with other discounts, and extra funds cannot be cashed out and do not have monetary value towards expenses beyond tuition.
- The credit cannot be combined with a trip insurance claim, as insurance companies do not pay claims if refunds are also issued.
- If the program you were enrolled in for 2020 is not offered in 2021, and you choose not to roll your tuition forward towards 2022 or 2023, you may request a refund of tuition paid.
- Alternatively, any 2020 tuition that is unused may be rolled into a donation to the VISIONS Foundation for a tax-deductible donation.
Help Support VISIONS Foundation
OUR COMMUNITIES AND ASPIRING STUDENTS WILL THANK YOU!
While we are fortunate to be planning several programs, we have missed our friends around the world, many with whom we have worked for 30 years. When the hard decisions were made last season to cancel each of our long-standing programs, we did not anticipate grappling with many of those same decisions this season for some of our locations.
We want to thank everyone who is contributing to the VISIONS Foundation in order to support local partners and also provide financial aid scholarships for students who would like to attend programs like these. Our own capacity to fulfill these needs has been greatly hampered this season, so if you have the capacity to make a tax deductible donation to support these communities and other deserving young people, you may do so here.