15 & 22 Days
High School Group Service Programs
Environmental Service Work
with French Immersion
Ages 14 to 18
“In a place as small as a Caribbean island, the smallest changes can affect everyone. Rain can come and go in minutes, storms can rise up, there can be shortages easily. I learned to accept the changes in life—like how the pelicans sleeping on the ocean surrender to the waves, trustingly letting the current carry them to an unknown destination.”
Embracing Projects That Matter
While most people in Guadeloupe live humbly, they experience neither dire poverty nor grossly inadequate public services as in many other Caribbean nations. You can be assured, however, that your service is real and appreciated, filling gaps and meeting needs identified by community partners. VISIONS teens have built park pavilions, school additions, footbridges, beach shelters, picnic tables and renovated playgrounds. You might also install fencing, work with animals and generally get dirty on an organic farming cooperative, and help teach English or arts and crafts at a local day camp. Doing all this in French increases the challenge and your sense of accomplishment.
More important than the tangible results of your community service will be your cross-cultural learning and new friendships with the people of Marie-Galante. In our increasingly globalized world, one way to serve is to develop relationships across country, culture and class divides. This is a key objective of our work in Guadeloupe.
“The cultural immersion was one of the coolest aspects of this trip. Unlike other programs where you stay at a hotel, we were really living in the community in a space that locals visit daily. By the end of the trip, I think everyone knew who we were and treated us like locals, not tourists.”
Making Meaningful Connections
VISIONS has worked in Guadeloupe since 1996, offering a true French language immersion experience. You will be based on Marie-Galante, where the charming, unhurried ways of Guadeloupe are ours to savor. Guadeloupeans are sociable and you will find our hosts eager to connect and share a way of life that is centered on relationships and spending time with friends. You will practice your French in conversations with neighbors, project partners and local friends who join us (or lead us) in many of our activities. In pairs, you’ll experience day-to-day life up close during short stays with local families, who also are guests for dinners at our homebase. Marie France, our dinner cook, is an outgoing woman who runs a local restaurant and whose passion is making people happy with her terrific meals. We spend a lot of time with local kids and teens, working on language skills—English for them and French for us—an effort fueled by the desire to build friendships, many of which endure long after the program is over.
“Not only did I meet amazing people, both local and VISIONS participants, but I also felt like I completed amazing projects and grew as an individual. I know I will remember this trip forever.”
Setting Out To Go Beyond
Once known as the “island of a hundred mills,” Marie-Galante retains just a fraction of the sugar industry that rooted there in the 17th century, but ox-drawn carts still transport cane to the few remaining mills. We’ll tour some of those mills and plumb the distillery process. You’ll also learn how to make fruit sorbet and cane sirop, dye indigo and carve calebasse gourds. Lessons in Zouk and Gwoka (exuberant dancing and drumming traditions) will transport you to the heart of the culture in a way only music can. We’ll also hit many of Marie-Galante’s beaches, which are considered the best in Guadeloupe, and mountains, with hikes to waterfalls and ocean lookouts. Island-hopping includes a visit to the popular tourist destination of Terre de’ Haut, where sunbathing iguanas stand guard at the old fort, and the big island of Basse-Terre, where the Grand Marche outdoor market showcases the agricultural and artisan bounty of the island.
Activities and Excursions
- Divide into pairs for a day stay with a local family
- View wildlife among mangroves during a pedal boat and kayak outing
- Learn pottery, cassava flour and bread making, indigo dyeing, calebasse carving and more
- Hike, swim and snorkel through stunning natural beauty
- Tour the Distillerie Bellevue, the History and Kreole Museum and a medicinal garden
- Take Gwoka drumming and Zouk traditional dance lessons
Audrey Colmar is the director and coordinator for a farming cooperative on Marie-Galante. We work on his farmlands around the island. And there’s a lot to do. Audrey has about ten times the number of animals that most people have in Guadeloupe, and he is alone in maintaining the farm and also working for the cooperative. His vegetables are sold in local markets and stores.
A truly gentle and lovely man, Audrey is great with VISIONS volunteers. He gets them to try unfamiliar fruit and teaches them about plants and the land. When he joins us for a barbecue or dinner, it is a real treat.
Guadeloupe Blog Posts
Read what others have said about their experience in this location. You also are welcome to contact the VISIONS office to request student and parent references.
NOT QUITE READY?
Feel free to contact us with any questions! We are happy to help find the best program to meet your goals for the summer.