A stay at Tubagua Ecolodge is “seeing the real Dominican Republic” says award-winning travel writer

Dominican Republic service learning and experiential education

Dominican Republic service learning opportunity: helping Dominican youth create their own future in ecotourism

This opportunity-focused service learning experience puts high school students shoulder-to-shoulder with peers, who are working in their mountain village to create a sustainable tourism destination, working just with what they have. While sleeping in tiki huts and embarking on numerous adventures in this breathtaking mountain region, students will help local youth become professional tourism guides and while doing so gain insight into recognizing opportunity in their own lives.

Program Details

 

Caribbean Green study/volunteer student program

A once in a lifetime student travel opportunity

Be part of the change as one of the Caribbean’s most popular beach destinations goes green

PUERTO PLATA, DOMINICAN REPUBLIC— After a 30-year boom-to-bust cycle one of the Caribbean’s most famous tourist destinations is undergoing a major transformation as millions of dollars of international development funding are being invested to:

  • develop and re-brand Puerto Plata as a unique travel experience not just the typical fun’n’sun beach holiday
  • create sustainable tourism opportunities out of some 500 natural and cultural attractions that exist in the region
  • engrain/ensure sustainable and eco-sensitive best practices
  • stimulate tourism into rural villages to help those poor communities

As a student, you can be part of this exciting project:

  • visit and study the traditional tourism models (resorts, attractions, excursions) and learn the history of a tourist destination, how and why things went from boom to bust
  • visit NGO’s and rural villages, see how local people are working on projects to create their own opportunity, and how international cooperation is helping them
  • study the processes, methodologies and challenges of community and economic development and how they fit together
  • volunteer and learn Spanish as you immerse and work shoulder to shoulder with young Dominicans in their village to help blaze a trail, build a lookout or create a campsite
  • meet and talk with tourism business owners, community development experts and tourism authorities
  • study the impact of the Dominican Republic’s social programs and policies regarding education, health and human development
  • submit a team report prepared to local authorities outlining your observations and suggestions

But – it’s not all work!

Along the way you’ll be “testing” beaches and boat trips, “inspecting” trails and hidden waterfalls, “surveying” tony beach resorts and remote mountain hamlets, “researching” tropical Dominican dishes and “studying” how locals dance bachata.

And you’ll be doing it all, not like just any tourist but as a behind-the-scenes participant, like a journalist with a press pass, as you are received and hosted by dozens of key stakeholders who are working real-time in the re-launching of this major Caribbean destination.

Visit, learn, write your own story…

This program is appropriate for college and university students studying:

  • Tourism
  • Anthropology
  • Sociology
  • Social Sciences
  • Social Enterprise
  • Economics
  • International Studies
  • Community Development
  • Journalism
  • Education
  • Environmental Studies
  • Marketing

All of these disciplines come into play in a once in a lifetime project that is having historical impact on the most important economic activity (tourism) of the entire province of Puerto Plata. One of the greatest insights will be seeing how all of these disciplines interact, and in discovering that the “answers” aren’t always easy. Your assignment will be to plan with your professor, do the research and write the story as it applies to your area of study.

Itineraries

  • School Groups: Itineraries are customized for school groups of 10+
  • Individuals: Inquire for dates
  • Cost: $2400 plus airfare and travel insurance

Typical 2-week program (14 nights, 15 days):

  • 2 travel days (first and last)
  • 4 days / visit, study the traditional tourism model; resorts, locations, attractions
  • 4 days / visit, study sustainable, eco-tourism and community development tourism model
  • 4 days / work on a community service project / help build a campsite, blaze a trail, etc
  • 1 day / de-briefing workshop followed by a community social event

Program includes several Spanish language workshops, relevant documentaries, Q&A with local experts

Dominican Republic medical mission trips

Project Helping Hands director of operations Ken Weaver cradles a baby while on a medical mission trip in the Dominican Republic, where in July almost 1000 needy inhabitants were served in rural villages and bateyes

Medical mission trips to the Dominican Republic provide health care providers with a way to give back by reaching out into small rural communities where medical care is often non-existent.

More than a third of the country’s total population lives in poverty, and almost 20 per cent are living in extreme poverty. In rural areas poor people constitute half of the population. The poorest of the poor include Dominicans of Haitian origin living in the border areas. They are particularly vulnerable, and they suffer not only from low incomes and poor living conditions but also from social exclusion. In all groups, women who are heads of households and children are extremely vulnerable. Because they are without proper documentation such as birth certificates and identity papers, about 20 per cent of the poorest Dominican families do not benefit from most types of social assistance programs.

The country suffers from marked income inequality; the poorest half of the population receives less than one-fifth of GDP, while the richest 10% enjoys nearly 40% of GDP. High unemployment and underemployment remains an important long-term challenge.

The persistence of rural poverty is the result of several factors, including government priority given to developing the tourism, industry and services sectors during the last decade. Agricultural productivity is low. The country’s poor farmers have little land and their production is too low to enable them to maintain their families. A large number of small-scale subsistence farmers and their families have to seek off-farm employment or another income-generating activity to supplement household incomes.

Join Project Helping Hands during medical mission trips to Dominican Republic each June and November. Write to us to find out more

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