Come spend a semester in this Caribbean country, splitting your time between life in paradise and the beaming faces of the kids you teach. Pick coconuts in the afternoon, join the neighborhood kids for a beach day, and explore this tropical island, all semester long. Volunteers here live a local neighborhood, and give an English education to children who wouldn’t be able to afford it themselves — a huge service in such a tourist-driven country.
Tons of tourists come here to vacation in the Dominican Republic, but you’re here to help. Volunteers are living away from the touristy part of the DR, tucked right next to dirt roads in local neighborhoods. The two are vastly different worlds. As a volunteer here, you’re not living at the beach. Many of the families who live right next to you share a single bedroom under a tin roof. It’s a humanitarian experience, but one that lets you see the best part of the Dominican Republic firsthand: the people. Living here means helping out in the classroom and getting to know the neighborhood kids who run up for a hug and to say “hello”. While there’s plenty of free time, weekend trips, and vacation days, a typical day looks a little like this …
Glimpse a day in the DR
Breakfast starts early so you guys can get to your classes. Meals are all provided and shared with your entire group. Today your group sits down for yogurt and granola, along with some bananas. They’re picked from the trees right outside the front door, by the way. Lunches are either at the school you teach at, or at home, provided by a cute cook. You’ll all come to the house for dinners full of Dominican staples. The ILP experience is all about a semester like the locals, and that includes the food. A bit unsure about what Dominican food is all about? All in all, plan on dishes full of rice and beans, and pasta. You’ll also see fried salami, yucca, plantains, pumpkin soup, and fried chicken to go along with those staples.
After breakfast, it’s time for teaching. Your group might all teach at the same school, or will split up to teach at a few schools nearby. Everywhere you’re teaching is within walking distance, so pack comfy shoes. After teaching, you stop by your favorite empanada stand for a quick snack. Then, the rest of your day is yours! Since teaching is only part time, you have quite a bit of free time … maybe more than you anticipated. That leaves time for playing games with your ILP group, heading down to the city for some live music, or playing with the kids in your neighborhood.
Your whole group is back before dinner, and settle in to watch the huge rainstorm rolling in after the sunset. You love these crazy rainy nights even though it tends to kick the power out for a few hours. Volunteers get a taste of the humanitarian aspect of a semester here: the power cuts out, the WiFI isn’t at all reliable, you’ll use fans to stay cool, and won’t have hot showers. But compared to many of your neighbors who don’t have running water in the first place, you’re living in quite the house. If you’re looking for a semester where you can step back and evaluate what really matters, you’re a good fit for the Dominican Republic!
HELP KIDS IN THE CARIBBEAN LEARN ENGLISH
In this humanitarian program, you’ll be making a difference by helping children who come from limited means learn English. You’ll be teaching up to 20 hours a week, and no experience is needed — we provide training on our teaching method! Particularly in such a tourism-heavy country, speaking English opens many doors for their future.
Volunteering and Costs
The humanitarian aspect of your semester is particularly felt when teaching. Being in the classroom is always one of the most rewarding (and difficult) aspects of an ILP semester, but there are some unique challenges for volunteers in the Dominican Republic. A lot of the kids you are teaching are on their own for most of the day. They aren’t used to the routine and discipline found in the classroom (get ready for some sass and shenanigans). It will be helpful to remember that the kids you are teaching come from difficult backgrounds, and act out for your love and attention. Semester after semester, volunteers say that teaching was the hardest but most rewarding part of their entire semester.
For volunteers who are proactive, there are ways for you to help outside of the classroom. We don’t have extra service projects set up for you (like we do in our Uganda program) but some volunteers have organized their own service projects. In the past, groups have fundraised money for neighborhood homes: some needed a new roof and others got a fresh coat of paint. Volunteers have collected trash on the beach and spent time with residents of a rest home. There are ways to help if you look for them.
Why is the program fee higher here? Unlike the Exchange Program, the families of the children you work with will not be helping to subsidize your costs. All the children you are working with come from very limited means, and the service you provide is completely free for them. Thank you for wanting to help by volunteering in this humanitarian program!
Interested in other ways you’re needed? Compare ILP’s Humanitarian Programs here.
Volunteers live on the northern coast, in the suburbs of Puerto Plata
—Spring: Depart early January — return home the end of April
—Summer: Depart end of April/early May — return middle of August
—Fall: Depart end of August — return middle of December, just in time for Christmas
—15-30 volunteers in a group
—Single males/females and married couples
—18-about 25ish years old
—US and Canadian volunteers
—No experience needed!
A QUICK NOTE ABOUT COVID-19
We paused our DR program at the start of the pandemic and are so excited to be back again (and have been here since Spring 2021)! So what’s life like in the DR now? We’ve seen some shifting requirements on the island, like a curfew and mask requirements, but in general, life is operating pretty typically. Schools have partially reopened or teaching is happening in small groups with “home teaching”, and many things to see and do in the DR are open. The Covid-19 vaccination for DR volunteers is recommended but not required.
We are so happy to have volunteers in this location again!
EXPLORING THE CARIBBEAN
You don’t even have to travel to get to a vacation destination because you’re already living in one! Puerto Plata’s stretch of golden sandy beaches attracts tourists from around the globe. The Dominican Republic is the most visited island in the Caribbean by far and for good reason. You can whale watch, explore national parks, enjoy seafood at a beachside restaurant, and have excursions through the tropical, mountainous countryside.
While you’re already living in a beautiful area, volunteers do have vacation time to explore surrounding areas as well. Most choose to stay in the DR for their vacations because there’s more than enough to see and do. However, you can also take a trip to Caribbean islands like Turks and Caicos and Puerto Rico if you want.
Samana — Stay in an actual tree house for your vacation here! If that’s not the highlight of your vacation, the adventures will be. Ride bikes on the beach, swing from rope swings at the base of a waterfall, go snorkeling and island hopping, then try out zip lining. Lastly, go visit Los Haitises National Park.
Jarabacoa — This is a favorite destination tucked away in the lush green central part of the D.R. Ride horses to a waterfall, go white water rafting, hang out in a jungle bungalow and more.
27 Waterfalls — This is an all-time favorite when it comes to things to do in the Dominican Republic. Hidden up in a tropical canyon is a string of waterfalls that you can hike to and slide down, swim under, and jump off on your way back down. You’ll head up with a tour guide (it’s required) who will help make sure you’re jumping off of safe spots, might explain some of the history of these gorgeous falls (some of which have ancient legends stemming back from the Taino Indians who first discovered this gem), and have your fill of the baby-blue water here.
Punta Cana — Take your vacation in style. This is one of the most popular getaways on the island for tourists, full of resorts and pristine beaches. It’s also the perfect jumping off point for other popular day trips that we love like Isla Saona and Santo Domingo.
Santo Domingo — Don’t skip the country’s capital. The center of Santo Domingo is so full of Spanish influence that you might wonder if you’re actually visiting Europe for the day. Ride bikes around the town before heading out for a boat tour around caverns at Los Tres Ojos National Park.
Barahona — Ready to break free of the touristy spots? Head southwest to this remote (but just as beautiful) surfer’s paradise. Go zip lining over the tropical forest, swim and enjoy the beach, and hike through the rainforest to emerald pools. All in all, Barahona is pretty perfect.
Pedernales — Pedernales is the other spot to visit in this portion of the country if you’re up for the adventure. Pedernales is gorgeous, and remote, and can be tricky to get to, but the reward is incredible. Here’s what one volunteer said about her visit “I’ve never seen more clear water, or white sand in my life, and the best part is that we were the only ones there”.
Dudu Lagoon — Come swim this crazy blue lagoon. Dudu Lagoon is a natural cenote with crystal clear water which contributes to the stunning color. The main highlight here is zipping over the water via biplane before letting go and splashing in the crystal pool. The whole thing is surrounded by rocky cliffs and lush jungle, making for a pretty spot to take a swim.
+ So many beach and island trips — You’re living on an island that has not only the dreamiest coastline but also has smaller islands floating just offshore. Some islands are so tiny that you can see to the other side, but we still love boat trips out to enjoy the white sand surrounded by turquoise blue water. Some volunteer favorites are Paradise Island, Saona (Starfish) Island, and Catalina Island. And there are too many beaches stretched along the mainland for you to see in one semester, but luckily volunteers live close to some of the best along the northern coast: Sosua, Cabarete, and Playa Alicia.