28 Day High School Service Program
– 28 Days –
Below is the planned itinerary for the VISIONS Dominican Republic summer program. The actual schedule may vary due to the flow of community service projects, the weather, impromptu invitations from local friends and other opportunities.
Day 1: Arrive at the Santo Domingo airport, where VISIONS leaders meet each student as they arrive. All teens make a quick call home before heading to homebase. (Additional calls home happen about once a week, but as with all VISIONS locations, this is otherwise a tech free teen summer program.) We spend the day settling into our home in the easy-going, fun neighborhood of Quitasueño and learning what’s in store during the program. We also get to know each other during our first of many Circle meetings, which become a regular opportunity to touch base and plan together during the program. Note that we don’t yet closely interact with neighbors until Day 5 of the program.
Days 2 – 4: In keeping with Covid safety precautions, we plan to 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 will do orientation activities, including learning the tricks of cooking delicious meals, Spanish language workshops, a couple movie nights to learn more about the D.R., outings and starting with worksites where we can easily socially distance from community members. We also begin our homebase days, when rotating crews help with cooking and cleaning up our living space.
Days 5 – 7: We really dig into work projects! Community service projects in the D.R. include construction or renovations of schools using cinder block and mortar, running a day camp for local kids (outdoor distanced activities only for 2021), and other beautification or labor projects like designing and painting a mural at the community center and developing new playground facilities at neighborhood open spaces. At the conclusion of each work day around 2 pm, we head to various activities and excursions such as day hikes in the hills around Cotui, swimming or hanging out at the shore of Presa de Hatillo lake, visiting prehistoric caves called Guacaras, and participating in artisan and other workshops, also called talleres.
Days 8 & 9: Head to Los Haitises National Park and La Cueva de la Linea Nature Reserve for an exciting weekend! The excursion includes boating through mangrove forests at Sabana de la Mar, hikes, swimming in natural pools, and enjoying time as Caribbean tourists of the incredible Samana Bay.
Day 10: Sleep in and have an enjoyable R&R day of unwinding at homebase.
Days 11 – 15: Projects are on a roll, working in the mornings, enjoying lunch at worksites, and wrapping up early- to mid-afternoon. A couple afternoons, we go to beaches or the lake to cool off. We also have rotating taller workshop groups of pottery, chocolate making and coffee processing. From a safe physical distance, we talk with locals and learn more about their lives and professions. We also engage in “Olympics,” a lighthearted competition with neighbor kids, and other cultural exchanges that can be safely done.
Days 16 & 17: It’s time for a break from the worksites with an assortment of fun including attending a baseball game with local friends. We also visit the historic city of Santiago and tour some of the sites such as the Catedral de Santiago Apostol, Fortaleza San Luis and the expansive Mercado Modelo, where there’s time for souvenir shopping.
Days 18 – 21: We make great progress on our projects this week, continuing with rotations that allow participants to home in on favorite projects. Afternoon and evening activities include a movie night, workshop rotations, hikes, swimming and more time getting to know our local neighbors and friends.
Days 22 & 23: We pack up early at our worksites to head to the Dominican Alps, the tallest mountain range in the Caribbean. During our two-night trip, we stay in a hotel in the idyllic mountain town of Jarabacoa. We rest and relax (sometimes by the hotel pool), play volleyball and explore another part of this diverse country, including a hike to and swim in a waterfall.
Days 24 & 25: We return refreshed to our last few days of work and time with Dominican friends, a last afternoon to the beach and other fun afternoon activities. This is also a time to prepare your talents for our program Talent Show.
Day 26: We give our living space a big clean before hosting a cookout for local partners and watching a slide show from the month we all spent together.
Day 27: Adios to our local friends, as we pack up and head to Santo Domingo, where we will explore for part of the day and stay in a hotel before flights the next day.
Day 28: Everyone departs and leaders see each participant off on their flights. Gracias y hasta la proxima!