British Virgin Islands
25 Day High School Service Program
British Virgin Islands
– 25 Days –
Below is the VISIONS British Virgin Islands summer program itinerary for our high school volunteers! The actual schedule may be a little different because work, community activities and excursions can vary depending on changes in the weather, impromptu invitations from local friends and other opportunities.
Day 1: High school volunteers arrive at the airport on Beef Island, Tortola, or St. Thomas in the USVI (our travel agent assists with the options and you can read more about covid arrival details here). VISIONS leaders meet each student and all teens make a quick call home before the group heads out. (Additional calls home happen about once a week, but as with all VISIONS locations, this is otherwise a tech free teen summer program.) Regardless of the arrival airport, we take a ferry together to Virgin Gorda. Everyone settles into our homebase—a community center atop a hill with refreshing breezes and incredible ocean views in all directions. We also have our first Circle meeting to start getting to know each other. (We come together for Circle meetings on average every other day during the program.) Our dinner cook then delivers a fabulous island-style welcome meal that we enjoy at outdoor tables while soaking up the idyllic surroundings.
Days 2 – 4: In keeping with BVI regulations and safety precautions, we quarantine as a group at homebase (and potentially also at a nearby hotel) and also adhere to pod arrangement within the group when physical distancing isn’t feasible. While quarantining, we still plan to do orientation activities, learn the tricks of cooking delicious meals, watch a couple educational films about the BVI, and a VISIONS carpenter leads a worksite orientation and tool safety class. Everyone gets to practice with all of the power tools so they feel confident about the island service projects to come. We plan to start building projects at the homebase facility such as dog houses for the Humane Society.
Days 5 – 9: We meet up with local friends and project partners (still physically distanced), and do a scavenger hunt in order to know the area better. We get into the groove of our workdays and usually work until about 2 pm in order to take advantage of the cooler hours of the day. Teens get to choose their worksite each day, and many develop favorites they return to throughout the program. Projects include carpentry, environmental work and possible social service with local kids. And, of course, one of our primary partners is grateful for our help with animals, including the care of orphaned pets or creatures needing love, and the construction of dozens of dog houses that give pets a break from the hot sun.
Homebase crew days also continue: Groups rotate on a daily basis, cooking breakfast, cleaning our living space and shopping for food at local markets. Some of the other afternoon and evening activity highlights include snorkeling, exploring the island’s famous picture-perfect grottoes, known as “The Baths,” taking in the small gift shops, music and traditional foods, and enjoying bonfires with the Caribbean as our backdrop. During Circle meetings, our group delves into feedback activities and learning some of what it takes for effective community building.
Days 10 & 11: Get ready to SCUBA dive! We complete the resort course SCUBA certification and then head out to explore some of the best reefs of the BVI. We also take a day to rest, do a deep clean of homebase and have a leisurely cookout with Virgin Gorda friends.
Days 12 – 16: The week involves another solid push with all of our projects. Afternoon activities include volleyball games at Savannah Bay Beach, steel pan drum lessons, a hike up Gorda Peak for a terrific scenic outlook of many islands, snorkeling at a shipwreck and the wildly popular beach olympics.
Day 17: Time for another outing, this one via a large ferry we take to Tortola. We observe some of the still heavily damaged infrastructure and get our hands dirty working at an organic farm that is rebuilding the facilities that were leveled by Hurricane Irma. Khoy Smith is the farmer, a fun and colorful character who puts us to work on projects that are helping to reinvigorate local food systems. After work is done, we take an island tour, check out the shops and head to the beach!
Day 18: R&R at homebase with optional island outings to unwind.
Days 19 – 23: More project days to complete our work on Virgin Gorda! We pack a lot in and still save time in the afternoons for favorite beaches, and a boat trip to another of the islands, Anegada, known for its unique fauna and salt ponds. Circle meetings and our time bonding as a group also take on new meaning as we transition into thinking about how the summer experience might continue to play into our lives back home.
Day 24: This is a day to celebrate and thank our local friends for welcoming us into their lives. After a sleep-in and Big Clean of our living space, we start the preparations for what will be a final dinner and fun evening with our close friends and project partners. We often host a talent show and slideshow, exchange small gifts and say our final goodbyes.
Day 25: Bye for now! Leaders accompany all kids to the airports and see everyone off for their trips home.