“I am so incredibly grateful that I found ISV to volunteer with this summer. I had been on two service trips with a different company in previous summers, which went fine, and I thought there was no way that ISV or any other company could possibly be better. But, ISV proved me wrong! I had a total blast. My group was incredible and we all meshed together really well. The projects themselves were awesome and very rewarding. ISV was significantly more well organized than the previous company that I had traveled with (which I realized once I got there and they all had everything put together for us), ultimately making the experience much more smooth. My leaders, Danyi and Pedro, were incredibly kind and very positive about the entire experience. They left each person do his/her own thing and fulfill what he/she came here to do which was a really great system. Overall, great company to travel with!
Aug 31, 2016
“My experience volunteering in the community of El Castillo in the Dominican Republic was unreal. I can't think of a single thing I would change about it except the length. I wish I could have stayed for much longer than two weeks. I had the opportunity to work in community development so I got to do a little bit of construction and also spend time with the children in the community school. Every night when I went to sleep, I thought to myself, "wow, today was the best day of my life". Although every day felt like the most wonderful day, I have to say that working with the children was the best aspect of my trip. Getting to interact with them and give them the attention and love they crave was the most amazing feeling in the world. I will never experience as much happiness as I did when I would chase a kid around and finally catch them and tickle them and see the sheer joy in their smiles. Meeting the families and connecting with the children is the most amazing part of this entire volunteering experience.
Las Vegas and Reno
Sep 13, 2016
“We worked on several houses in the community, and there was a house that we built completely from scratch. On the last few days of the project, three groups were working on that house while one group was teaching in the community school. We couldn't tell how shocked and upset we were when we first saw how small, shitty, and torn-apart the house was, and it was definitely not waterproof in rainy days. Everyone working on the same house, the final project felt extremely bonded and supported, that each of us was a very part of something special, together to make an impact to the community people! We formed a line when we were transporting buckets of sand and cement along the slope, and passing those buckets hand to hand made us great evil for such a collaborative and lovely group and excited to see the chances we will keep making in the future!
Chengdu Shi, Sichuan, China
Aug 30, 2016
“So during the middle of the school year my friend just dragged me to a random information session with her and it happened to be for this program. I had not heard about it before and was not particularly interested, but as I heard more and more I realized it was something I really wanted to do, so I just went for it. This program can be 5 weeks total but I opted out of the Spanish immersion and adventure tour and just did the 2 weeks volunteering. Although my time in the Dominican was not as long as others, I still think it was the opportunity of a life time and some of the best two weeks of my life. To begin I will tell you one thing, I did give this program a 10/10 because the opportunity they gave me for these two weeks is something I will forever be grateful for, but information can be a little confusing. The thing is, within ISV there are many different countries with different programs, and then within the different countries, there are different volunteer projects, so a lot the information you receive is general to your country be not specific to your volunteer project. Going into the trip this did make me a little nervous but I also think this in a way added to the fun of it. I did not go in knowing exactly what I would be doing and it was always exciting to find out and get to do things I never thought I'd be doing, just be open to go with the flow and trust that you are in good hands. My project leaders were Pedro and Danyi and if yours are them or anyone like them you will have no worries. These two are two of the most welcoming, interesting, funny, and all around just good guys. The second we spotted them at the airport they made us comfortable with them and they were always open and helpful. The volunteer project I was a part of was called the El Castillo project. It was truly en eye opening experience. We were up a mountain in a rural area of the Dominican Republic in a village called, as you can probably guess, El Castillo. We stayed at a beautiful ecolodge called Villa Pajon and the nearest city was Constanza which we had an opportunity to pend a day in during one of our days off. Our other day off we ventured to the the aguas blancas waterfall. While these days were great and the rest was probably needed, I would venture to say all the volunteers would have preferred to keep working. El Castillo was amazing. We were able to redo the whole school floor, tear down and rebuild an entire new house as well as replace/fix walls, foundations, roofs and floors in many other houses. It was truly rewarding to do all of this because you can really see the difference you make and see the finished products and the atmosphere in the community was unlike any other I had seen. Everyone wanted to help, people were constantly coming to our working sites and offering to do bits of work and help with the construction on other people's houses when they too had very little, and the things they can do (and we learned to do) with their bare hands and no power tools never ceased to amaze me, also the two construction "maestros" (Kiko and Pinguino although I have no idea if those are correct spellings) we got to work with were, just like our project leaders, funny, all around great guys that truly made our experience one of a kind, I think ISV does a great job really picking people out like them that will make your time on project even more fun and memorable. Another part of this project was running the HELP (health and english language program) for the children of the community. This may have been the best part of the program. We got to plan lessons and spend the day with these kids that were so eager to learn and play with us. Each activity we did thrilled them and they could have fun with anything, literally swinging a jump rope around and not even jumping brought joy to the eyes of these kids, and it is that joy that I could see on each of their little faces that made this piece my favorite part and why i think this program is so great. Just go for this program and I can say with almost 100% confidence that you will not regret it for a second, just be ready for some teary eyed goodbyes and make sure to check your junk mail as for some reason a few important emails from ISV went there for me!
Aug 24, 2016
“Prior to leaving for my trip to the DR, my roommate and I were concerned about the disorganization of ISV. I can't remember all the exact details, but I got a lot of emails that had incorrect information or there was incorrect information online while filling out forms. It happened a lot of times, but if I called ISV (which I did a lot) they were super helpful and got everything sorted out. Also, there is some weird rule about packing only 40 pounds or something like that. I asked ISV, and they said that was because the DR only wanted the bags you bring in to weigh 40 pounds. Anyways, my bag weighed 50 pounds and it was fine. I brought a bit too much probably- a bag with my stuff in it, a bag with donations, and then my backpack. I should have brought more athletic gear and less clothing for the adventure tour. Also definitely bring more than one towel. Just be patient with the organization if there is some mess-ups, everything runs smoothly once you actually make it to the DR.
My roommate and I (we went together) flew off to the DR without knowing exactly what to expect (even though we'd read everything), but as soon as we got there everything came together. Our project leader, Danyi, was super helpful and on top of everything. We worked with Rancho Campeche, and stayed in their facilities during our volunteer work for the first two weeks. The volunteer project was great. Our group was a group of 12 and we split into groups of 6. One group would do construction work and the other the summer camp for the kids, and then the groups would swap the next day.
Our first bit of construction work was doing a cement floor for a family. The next part of the construction work was doing a mural for the community center ISV had built in previous years. A lot of members of my group (myself included) would have much preferred to do another floor for another family, as that was what we were supposed to do originally. We felt like that was a lot more meaningful. However, Rancho Campeche (the program we were partnering with) wanted us to do the mural, as we had used more cement than expected on the first floor we did.
The summer camp was amazing- I loved it so much! I went into the program knowing no Spanish at all. The kids taught me a lot! They are so loving and wonderful. I missed them so much once I left! We taught them some words in English each day and then did activities that had something to do with what we taught them. They were so excited to learn. The two weeks of volunteering flew by so fast- I wish I could have volunteered more! It was so bittersweet to leave Rancho Campeche.
The adventure tour was great as well. We did so many cool activities. You really get to see the whole country, and you learn SO much! You pick up so much language, culture and history with the volunteering and then continue learning into the adventure tour. I loved being immersed in the culture those first two weeks. I would definitely recommend this volunteer trip for anyone! First-time travelers or people that have been all over. It's a great experience, and I really hope to travel with ISV again!
Aug 19, 2016
“His name is Dauri. This three year old boy with a sweet smile and shy eyes didn't speak much, this didn't stop him from becoming someone that I admire with every ounce of my being. These children weren't always fed during the day, so a couple volunteers and my self brought peanuts to school for them. Each child held out their hands graciously and we gave each of them a handful. Feeling pure happiness from just being alive, I began rolling around on the grass. This is when Dauri came up to me with with his last peanut placed between his pointer finger and his thumb. He looked at me and forced my mouth open, placing this peanut, his last peanut, right on my tounge. That was the best thing I will ever taste.
Aug 9, 2016
“ISV is an amazing program that affects the communities it serves as much as the volunteers who are doing the work. Every aspect of signing up and working with ISV is professional, efficient, well thought out, and fun. ISV has selected excellent leaders and guides to work with their volunteers - every project manager, contractor, activity instructor, host family member, you name it, was knowledgeable, welcoming, and comfortable to be around. I had the honor of working in the El Castillo community which was as wonderful as I could have ever hoped for.
One moment that I think exemplifies the total work that ISV workers completed is the work we did on Marun's house. Marun is an older man who lives in El Castillo. For the past 18 years he has been living in a stick and plastic tarp house barely the size of a college dorm room, and at one point lived with 9 other people. In addition to construction work we did on 2 other houses and the school, we were able to build Marun an entirely new house with a sturdy foundation, secure walls and roof, and a cement floor. So many members of the community came to join in on the labor and when the home was complete, it was so evident how grateful Marun and all of his neighbors were. On days when we weren't doing construction work, we were running a summer camp for the kids who live in the community. I cannot express the love that is shared between the volunteers and local students. The end of the project was full of tearful goodbyes, long hugs, and the knowledge that both the volunteers and the children made huge impacts on each other.
So what are you waiting for? Be a part of helping amazing communities like El Castillo develop through community construction and education. Push yourself out of your comfort zone by signing up for the Spanish Immersion week at the start of the trip (I would HIGHLY recommend this week. You become connected to the country, the culture, and your fellow volunteers so much faster this way). Conquer your fears and see even more of the Dominican Republic by sticking around for the Adventure Tour. If you have any hesitation about signing up with ISV, don't - you are not going to find an organization as valuable, supportive, fun, safe, or welcoming as International Student Volunteers. ISV changed my life and I know it can change yours too.
Aug 4, 2016
“ Going in to this trip, I was scared- worried about anything and everything. To be honest, ISV seemed very disorganized as I first signed up. I realized how wrong that thought was when I received multiple pdfs, hundreds of pages long, all with thorough details of the whole trip, the country, what to expect, how to prepare, and what to pack. I was still unsure of what I was really getting in to. Looking back now, I laugh at myself having worried that I wouldn't have fun. The cultural immersion week was awkward at first- living in a Dominican woman's house, with two girls who seemed to hate me. As the week progressed, I became comfotrable with my host mother, closer with the other participants, and I am blown away at the unbelievable amount of spanish that I learned. Especially considering the price, I would definitely recommend this extra week.
The following volunteer weeks was a very fulfilling experience. The manual labor (putting a cement floor in for a family of 8) was measurable by results (and muscle fatigue), and our accomplishments were obvious, so the fulfillment was obvious. The summer camp that we ran for the children, however, was not easily measurable. But the impact we made on these children was clear. I began this trip hating children, and left loving them. Teaching the children what they don't learn in school is obviously great and helpful, but what made me happier was the social development. For example: there was a hatian boy named Patricio at the camp. He was bullied by most, if not all, of the Dominican students; but by the time we left, he was their star.
I debated wether or not I would sign up for the adventure tour. I'm glad I did, and I enjoyed myself greatly, but the first three weeks are what mattered most to me. Many of the activities we did I had done before, but doing them with this group that I had become close to over the last few weeks is what made it worthwhile. Honestly, I enjoyed going out at night more than the activities, but I couldn't have done that if I went home, so all in all, I would recommend the adventure tour if you have the money.
International Student Volunteers is an amazing organization with incredible organization and talent. It was truly the greatest experience of my life, and I look forward to going again.
Aug 2, 2016
“There are no words to describe how incredibly amazing this trip was. I have never felt a stronger sense of community than I did in my time in DR. I will cherish each memory I made with my project leaders, fellow volunteers, adventure tour leader and the dominican people for the rest of my life. I signed up for this program to impact the Dominican, but didn't realize how much it would also impact me.
Aug 2, 2016
“Traveling with ISV was one of the best things I've ever done and I will forever cherish the memories I made throughout my trip and the things that I learned. This summer, I spent 5 weeks in the Dominican Republic (1 week Spanish Immersion program, 2 weeks volunteer project, and 2 weeks adventure tour). Every single portion of this trip was meaningful - the Spanish immersion week allows you to live with a family through a home stay to truly experience the Dominican culture, as well as developing your Spanish speaking skills. The program can definitely accommodate any level of Spanish speaking - I had no experience with Spanish before, but I left with a basic level of knowledge. The volunteer project was incredible! You get to make connections with the members of a small community, as well as truly make a difference for them and leave a positive, lasting impact. On my project, we led a summer camp with the children in the school and taught English, health and physical education, music, dance, and of course had lots and lots of fun! We also did a lot with community development - we laid a new concrete floor in the school, renovated some portions of 2 houses, and even built an entire house from the ground up. The adventure tour was full of conquering fears and stepping out of your comfort zone, and also allowed us to see a lot of different parts of the country. I would recommend this trip to anyone who is looking to see a different part of the world, experience a new culture, and truly help a community and the people living in it. If you go with an open mind, you will definitely leave with a whole new perspective on the world and appreciation for life!
Pittsburgh, PA, USA
Aug 1, 2016
“My experience with ISV in the Dominican Republic was one like I've never had. This trip was my first time out of the country and ISV made me feel very comfortable and safe. My two weeks as a volunteer at the summer camp was life changing. I was challenged in ways I never thought possible and it is such an amazing feeling looking back on what our group accomplished. I was completely immersed into the Dominican culture and fell in love with the country.
Aug 1, 2016
“Last summer I spent 5 weeks in the Dominican Republic with ISV and it was by far the best 5 weeks of my life! I wish I could find the words to express the ways in which this trip has changed me but I guess that’s up to you to experience for yourself. I tell everyone that I think this trip was the best way to travel the island in 5 weeks. You get to experience almost every side of life. The first week you stay with a wonderful host family which allows you to get a glimpse into the everyday life of what I would consider your average middle-class family in the Dominican Republic. Then the next two weeks doing volunteer work you get a glimpse of the more poverty stricken areas and the places and ways these people live which makes you truly appreciate the things we take for granted on a day-to-day basis. Some of the volunteer work we did included interacting with the children in the community, creating cement floors in houses that previously had dirt floors, building several latrines and a community center. The volunteer work itself was so rewarding! The work was definitely physical; I was sore after the first day of shoveling but I also found my passion for cement mixing. Then during the adventure tour you push yourself past your comfort zone during various activities surrounded by beautiful scenery. You also travel basically around the entire island moving from hotel to hotel every 2-3 days. I was expecting to stay in cheap motels, but we stayed in BEAUTIFUL hotels that far exceeded my expectations. From the hotels you take day trips to other areas with beautiful scenery. Some of the activities we did during these two weeks included white-water rafting, surfing, cliff jumping, snorkeling, wind-surfing and swimming in beautiful clear water. Through this trip I have made friends that will last a life time and I am so grateful to have gone on this wonderful trip with ISV.
Jul 29, 2016
“From riding on sketchy horses to trying to speak a limited amount of Spanish I would say my time here in the Dominican Republic was well spent! The immersion week was one of the many experiences in which I won't forget. The host family didn't know much English so it was a definite struggle in trying to understand each other, but we somehow were still able to communicate with each other! Getting to know the locals during our immersion week and our project site was quite interesting. Especially the boys in the Dominican Republic versus the American boys, the Dominicans were quite the tigueres (very flirty). Teaching the children and building a wall to block off a cliff on their school property is one memory in which I'll never forget. I'll never forget their kindness and willingness to put up with us Americans and our limited amount of Spanish speaking. This particular experince was very much rewarding to each volunteer. And the adventure week was well an adventure! Haha back to the sketchy horse riding, that was also quite an experience and learning to trust the horses and the locals. But my favorite adventure activity by far was kayaking through a tiny bat cave and a mangrove forest. The scenery in which I experienced while kayaking through a mangrove forest was definitely beautiful, and one I'll never forget.
Jul 22, 2016
“I spend five weeks in the Dominican Republic, and I want to go back! The country itself is it beautiful and unique. We were welcome with open arms. The Dominicans are very proud of their roots. They love to show it in their family values, food, music, and history. The first week was the Spanish week. We were placed with host families and learned the history and culture of Dominican Republic. The next two weeks, we were off to El Castillo, near Constanza. We spend time with the local children with their English skills and help to rebuild two houses. We also constructed the "jam place" where the local women will make jam and sell it. Those two weeks was the highlight for me. It was worth it to see all the hard work we put in to give a community and the connection we had with the community. The adventure tour which involved a lot of water activities, yet it was fun. We travel around the country, experience new things, see breath taken sites. However, the best part was that you meet amazing people. Our ISV project and tour guide leaders are great. In a short period of time, everyone is family. I would love to go back again and see everyone again.
Jul 11, 2016
“This program was amazing! The days all had a schedule, that we stuck to, which allowed us to be excited and prepared for each day's work. When the end of the total five week trip was coming to a near, I was not at all ready to leave. At the end of the program we had a debriefing that really laid out just how much of an impact we had on the community. I enjoyed the debriefing since while you are physically cementing the floor or working with the kids everything seems so minuscule as if you could be doing so much more. As for the ISV staff-I cannot even describe how excellent they were! The project leader single-handedly made my experience 100 times better. We also got to interact with the country coordinator- he was not just some name you see in emails of someone you wouldn't ever meet. Overall ISV is an amazing organization! They were the cheapest international volunteer agency I have come across and I feel like I got so much more out of this program than I would have any other.
Jul 1, 2016
“The whole experience was amazing!! The service project, the people we served, the volunteers I worked with, the food, and the adventure tour!
Its hard to pick a favorite memory but one thing that stands out is when we road horses through the jungle up to a waterfall. I picked a horse that liked being the leader and was competitive with the other horses and liked to go fast. The hike up to the waterfall was so beautiful and exciting. But on the way down my horse started racing to be the first one down the hike, through the village, and back to the horse corral. I've always wanted to ride a horse galloping all out, so I hung on tight and we flew. The people outside their houses started shouting and cheering as I flew past on my horse with my friends horses racing along with me. It was so fun, and a dream come true. Loved it!
Dec 21, 2015
“This program provided me with the opportunity to interact with the local community in a way I couldn't have done on my own. The connections that ISV has with each of their countries allows for the maximum utility of time, and a great experience. I would highly recommend this program to students seeking their first experience abroad as the safety of students is paramount to ISV and the volunteering portion is very rewarding.
Dec 18, 2015
“I had countless unforgettable experiences during my time volunteering with ISV. My volunteer group focused on community development which included, installing cement floors in homes, constructing the foundation for a daycare building, as well organizing a summer school/camp for the local children. Since ISV, I have traveled to many other places across the world. I still look back on this experience as one of my most rewarding to date. My fellow volunteers and I shared many of the same values and goals. We all woke up each morning more motivated and inspired than the day before. I have made some phenomenal friendships that I will cherish forever! Some of us have kept in contact and flown across the globe to visit one another. Aside from the amazing people who participate in these programs, ISV empowers young adults to have a positive impact on communities. This opportunity personally opened a door for me and helped me to discover my passion for travel and helping others. I cannot thank ISV enough for putting on such a wonderful program and helping so many people in the process!
Dec 16, 2015
“I had a wonderful time in this program. I taught health education to young children and built cement floors for families. We also helped build the foundation of a daycare. The impact you make by helping these families is amazing. The people are so grateful and it is such hard work, you feel accomplished. It really opens your eyes to what life is like outside of your bubble. I met amazing people who I am still friends with and you experience life in a new way. Our team leaders were also great and made me feel as comfortable and confident as I could possibly be. I recommend everyone to have an experience like this in their life time.
Dec 15, 2015
“This volunteering experience ended up being the most wonderful experience of my life. Being surrounded by new friendly faces and a completely different culture gave me a sense of happiness that allowed me to express myself completely and laugh the entire time. There were serious times when we needed to get to work and pour our hearts out into our volunteer work, but even this ended up being fun and extremely rewarding. I think the children and environment made more of a difference in me than I could ever give back to them. I know it's cheesy, but when I committed everything I had to experiencing such a beautiful experience, I now look back at that time with such a desire to go back and laugh with the people I met during these four weeks. The two weeks of adventure after volunteering made me wish everyday was filled with that much thrill and excitement. I tried so many new things and made so many fulfilling memories with people that I daydream about when I'm having a bad day.
One of the most memorable moments on this trip was on the adventure tour when we ziplined into a pool that was 50 feet below where we started from. A few people had successfully gone down and plopped into the water shouting and laughing. The next person to go did not hold on tight enough and when she got just barely past the edge, she fell and hit the wall when she plummeted to the bottom. Not a second after he saw her let go, Adolfo dove to the rescue and was in the water before she even got there. He was like superman and although it was a scary situation, the girl who fell was completely fine with nothing but a scrape on her knee, and Adolfo was our new hero.
There is a treasure chest of priceless memories I have of that trip, from skinny dipping in the atlantic ocean, to being intentionally bitten by ostriches, I can't say I have experienced such freedom to do whatever comes to mind. Propelling down waterfalls was by far the scariest thing I have anticipated to do, but once I started, it was beautiful and rewarding. In the volunteering portion, the children were so lively and energized, it gave me a sense of playfulness and happiness. I remember one recess session where the children all lined up to the swing, and I began swinging them and laughing at their extreme excitement to get a turn with the swing!
Another beautiful memory in the school was at the very end when we had a talent show, and two talented dancer boys competed against one another in a dance off. I could see the freedom and beauty in this culture and the joy within themselves spread through their dance moves and into my heart. It was also extremely rewarding to work on the house we finished for a school teacher at the school we were helping with. It was amazing to see a direct correlation between the two types of work we were doing, and it was also amazing to swim down the river behind the house except when we saw a chicken floating down it, inflated with water. This was definitely a memorable time. Yet another memory was when we spent time in Santo Domingo and got to see all of the ruins from the colonial times. It was fascinating to hear the history of this beautiful place, and to spend time in a large city for a change. Dinner at Blue Moon was always special, we ate chicken, beans and rice for basically every meal, and it was delicious to be immersed in the food of this country. There are too many beautiful memories to list them all, but these were a few of my favorite ones!
Dec 11, 2015
“There were countless things I loved about my five weeks in the Dominican Republic! Whether it was the beautiful scenery of the trees and beaches, the genuinely down-to-earth and kind locals, the amazing kids we worked with, or the friends I made; I will never forget this experience! Each part of the program had a rewarding component. The first week every 2 student volunteers were placed with a host family and taught about some of the local culture and the Spanish language. The second and third weeks consisted of the volunteer portion of the program where we laid down cement for local homes, built the foundation for a nursery, taught Dengue Fever prevention, and worked with the local children. The last 2 weeks were the adventure tour which involved all sorts of exciting activities such as white water rafting, waterfall repelling, horseback riding, and paragliding to name a few. Ultimately my favorite part of the trip were the people I met and the friends I made. The friendships I formed are some of the most meaningful ones I have ever had.
Dec 10, 2015
“I was lucky enough to spend one week in the Dominican Republic with ISV, and I got to meet locals and children who were so unbelievably happy even though they had so little. Many families don't have running water, clean drinking water, and clothing, which are basic necessities that many Americans tend to take for granted. The work ISV does in the DR is truly needed, and those who we helped were so appreciative of everything.
Santa Ana, California
Dec 9, 2015
“There are no words for the experience I had in the Dominican Republic at El Castillo. It is without a question the most incredible experience I have ever had in my life. I will never forget my first day there. I had a 4 hr plane ride from NYC then after waiting at the airport for an hour, my group leaders picked us up and then it was a 3 hr bus ride through the mountains and then we had to get on a safari truck to drive another hour up into the mountains on this dirt path that was too bumpy for regular cars. The entire way I was terrified of what I had signed up for. There was no cell service. When we got to the cabins where we were staying, there was limited hot water and electricity only for a few hours each day. The water from the faucets was not drinkable. There were no screens in the windows. This was the most remote place I had ever been in my life. But I had promised myself to be open to the experience before I left. The next 2 weeks were a challenge to make friends, to use my high school Spanish to communicate, to try new foods, to deal with a different climate and another culture, but after my initial feelings of being overwhelmed faded, I began to love it.
My group had about 20 kids in it. We all go super close within just a few days. The way it worked was that we split up into 2 groups of 10. Everyday one group would go to work on construction in the village and the other group would go to the school with lesson plans we prepared as a group and run a sort of summer camp/ school program with the kids. We had 2 group leaders who would take turns being with the different groups. Both group leaders were fluent in English and Spanish. On the weekends we did excursions. One was to Constanza (the town at the bottom of the hill where we had gotten into the Safari trucks) and the other was a trip to Aguas Blancas, the tallest waterfall in the Caribbean.
I highly recommend this experience to anyone/everyone. It was so eye opening to see a culture so different from my own. I am a very well traveled person. I used to live in Germany, have been to Italy, Spain, Canada, France, Austria and Denmark, but this trip was different. I felt like I was making a difference in the world. After seeing people live such simple lifestyles, it struck me (especially upon returning home) how much material stuff we have and how unnecessary it is to be happy. The village in which we worked had no running water, no plumbing, no electricity, and most families lived in a 1 room house often with a dirt floor (sometimes cement). Yet, these people living in El Castillo were some of the most welcoming and happiest I've ever met. It really gives you something to think about.
Oct 11, 2015
“In the community of El Castillo, there was this little boy named Leo no older than 4. Everyday we were out working to reinforce Luce's home he would be running around wrecking havoc with the other children in the community. My goal by the end of or volunteer project was to get him to smile for more than a minute! He was so stubborn. On the last day i decided to run with him through the community (his preferred way to get around). The joy on his face when we began to play was infectious and unforgettable. Just by being carefree and childish I was able to make memories with a kid who didn't necessarily warm up to everyone. These are the kinds of memories you will make going on this trip. You won't just have fun traveling and trying new things, but you will interact with the most loving, happy and selfless kids there are. We can only hope to impact their lives as much as they have and will continue to impacted ours. I will never be able to look at my life and not be happy. Leo taught me that happiness comes from running around and exploring, not having the latest material items. I am so grateful to have met the wonderful kids and community members of El Castillo.
Sep 28, 2015
“The children there impacted me the most. They don't have much, but yet they have more energy and positivity than I have ever seen. It is always so hot in Dominican Republic and while we were sweating our butts off and would complain that we were tired, the kids were having the time of our lives with us. It showed us to take a second and think about the things we have to be thankful for and not take the things that we are fortunate for for granted. The kids were just thankful to be there and to have us there to play with them and teach them. Throughout the days, we stopped complaining and just enjoyed our time there with them and forever have those memories.
Sep 11, 2015
“ISV is absolutely incredible. The expensive price throws a lot of people off, but you get so much out of it. I formed incredible friendships with people whom I still speak with on a daily basis today. I was assigned to the El Castillo project. The ISV project leaders were amazing. They were friendly and genuinely cared about us. I was never nervous about safety issues. ISV allowed us a few free days which was nice to see Constanza, a nearby city, and hang out with our friends. My project was in the mountains so I had zero signal; which ended up being a blessing. The food on the trip was delicious. We rebuilt the community and taught children. My group alternated days, so MWF we taught children, and T TH, we did construction work. It was the most rewarding experience of my life.
San Marcos, Texas
Sep 4, 2015
“So, first of all, I was a fresher when I heard about ISV. They came into one of my lectures and talked about these amazing opportunities to travel literally halfway across the world to volunteer and experience an adventure tour over the summer. Travelling has always been a passion for me, so I definitely wanted more information! I went along to the meeting at my university, where they outlined the six different countries and the conservation or community work you would be doing. I chose the Dominican Republic for a couple of reasons. First, I wanted to start learning Spanish, and ISV has a partnership with ALPI which gives an optional Spanish Immersion week in the DR at the start of the program. Second, it was a chance to meet people around my age (18-25 in my case, but ISV doesn't have age restrictions). Finally, and most importantly, it was a chance to travel while making a concrete and positive impact on the community you live and work in for the project itself.
I won't lie and say it's easy work, or that it's a really cheap program, but there are plenty of ways to raise money, and ISV will give you tips on that, and seeing the positive impact you can have on the community, made the trip, for me, completely worth it!
For my two week project, we rebuilt a playground at a local school, replaced the foundations in an elderly man's home, and taught the children at a summer camp. There's a real sense of achievement when you can step back and see the change once you've finished the work. The kids were climbing all over the playground equipment even before we completed the whole playground!
Not only that, ISV also gives you an opportunity to add a two week adventure tour, in which you'll experience plenty of extreme activities, see some amazing wildlife, and basically have the time of your life! My favourite experience was probably the Fun Fun Caves, since it combined four different activities into one action packed day: hiking, horse riding, rappelling, and spelunking. That was a single day of the two week adventure tour. It was all go, and I enjoyed every second!
There are project leaders and tour leaders who look after you over the time you're in the DR. My project leaders were Danyi and Pedro, and you couldn't find anyone more enthusiastic for the work we were doing. Danyi was always full to the brim with energy, and it was clear how much Pedro cared for the people we were working with. They were brilliant, and I would just say a huge thank you to them for making the experience so rewarding.
My tour leader was Adolfo, and he was always ready to help with anything. If you had any questions, he was ready to answer them. He kept our slightly unruly group organised over the adventure tour and even suggested an extra activity of paragliding, which was outwith the included package, but an exhilarating experience and well worth the extra money.
Overall, if you love travelling to new places and experiencing new cultures, while giving back to the communities, this is the volunteer project for you. If this is your first time travelling, and you're not sure if you want to go this far, I still believe this is for you. Life is for new experiences, and what better time to experience than now? Be brave and step into the unknown. I promise it will be worth it.
Sep 5, 2016
“My trip to the Dominican Republic this summer was without doubt the most fulfilling and worthwhile experience of my life. I opted to travel out to the DR for the 5 week programme and enjoyed every second of it. Before flying out, I must admit that I felt a little uninformed about the exact tasks we would be responsible for on the project site. Please do not let this put you off - once over there everything became clear and all fell in to place.
The first week was a Spanish and Cultural Immersion programme. This is something I would definitely recommend to future volunteers because knowing a bit of Spanish is invaluable when working in a school and interacting with the locals. Extras such as dance and cooking classes, city tours and a trip to the beach really added to the experience and gave more of an insight in to Dominican culture. For the duration of the week I stayed with a really lovely host family who took great care of me and made me feel extremely welcome in their home.
For the two week programme myself and 13 other volunteers were placed on project at Blue Moon. We worked in a kindergarten teaching the local children a range of subjects including English, Health, Road Safety, Arts and Crafts and Physical Education. On top of this, we restored and developed the worn-out playground at the school, and re-built the foundations of an elderly man’s house and laid concrete floors within it. It was a truly eye-opening experience! Seeing the children playing in their new playground touched my heart and really made all of the hard work and sweat worth it. A really rewarding experience that I felt honoured to be a part of.
The adventure tour was another incredible experience. I would 100% recommend staying for the last 2 weeks as it’s a perfect opportunity to see more of the country and do so many fun filled and adrenaline pumping activities. A couple of my many highlights were rappelling down the side of a 45m waterfall, surrounded by beautiful scenery, and another was cliff jumping.
I must also mention the awesome ISV project leaders Danyi and Pedro, and adventure tour leader Adolfo. They were all full of fun and enthusiasm, constantly keeping a smile on everyones face. The experience really wouldn’t have been the same without them. Think yourself lucky if any of them are involved in your ISV experience!
I would recommend this programme to anybody who wants to make a positive impact in our world. Whether you are an avid volunteer, a wanderlust globetrotter, or a novice traveller, you will fall in love with the Dominican Republic and ISV. I was lucky enough to make some amazing friendships along the way. I’m already looking at another ISV programme for next year! We as volunteers take part in a programme like this to enhance the lives of the less privileged, but my life has also been enriched in so many ways. Amazing experience and I fully encourage everyone to look in to volunteering with ISV or a similar organisation.
Sep 26, 2016