About the Dominican Republic
The Dominican Republic is a sunny and colorful Central American island-nation in the Caribbean, close to Puerto Rico. The island, called Hispaniola, is shared by the Dominican Republic to the East and Haiti to the West. In 1492, it was the first territory in all of the Americas to be settled by Europeans. The Colonial Zone of the capital, Santo Domingo, houses the first cathedral, university, and church built in all of the Americas. These are now established as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
After centuries of Spanish and French colonial rule, the Dominican Republic became independent in 1844. Since then, it has grown into the largest economy of the Caribbean and is ranked as one of the fastest growing economies of Latin America. Traditional exports such as coffee, cocoa, fruits, and vegetables are still important, while telecommunications and tourism have become strong economic forces as well. Currently, the Dominican Republic is visited by more travelers than any other Caribbean country.
Visitors enjoy experiencing some of the Dominican Republic’s favorite pastimes, such as music, dancing, and sports. The friendly people of Hispaniola love to share their lively music, Merengue and Bachata, and the accompanying dances with visitors.
The Brief on the Dominican Republic
Despite the many wonderful aspects of the Dominican Republic, there are great challenges in economic, health, and ethnic relations. Neighboring country Haiti suffers from more poverty than any other nation in the Western Hemisphere. There are about one million Haitian immigrants in the Dominican Republic, and tensions between Haitian and Dominican people run high, affecting the wellbeing of many. About half of the population is subject to the deficient public health system, and the unemployment rate hovers around 15%.
ISL teams serve in many of these communities that struggle with economic and ethnic tensions.
While our programs mostly operate in the Dominican Republic, we do take visits to the Dominican/Haitian border to serve residents of the refugee communities in the border zone. This is often one of the most impactful experiences that our volunteers have.
Where We Serve in the Dominican Republic
ISL in the Dominican Republic works in the rural zone of Santo Domingo, among other cities in the country. Lately, we have been focused in many of the communities that are surrounded by the Ozama River, whose inhabitants are limited by not having access to the national health program. This leaves them vulnerable to disease and untreated injury. They are able to visit small health centers, but they can only be diagnosed, not treated. It is common to see infectious diseases, malnutrition, etc., in these communities. Residents of these communities suffer from a high rate of unemployment, and many face the cruel realities of child abuse, domestic violence, alcoholism, and drugs. Many people lack formal housing as well, living in makeshift homes of zinc, wood, and some concrete.
Haitian Border Region
Teams to the Dominican Republic & Haiti will spend some of the time working in areas near Santo Domingo and some of the time will be spent working in a clinic a few miles across the border in the southeastern part of Haiti. Teams will not be lodged in Haiti, but will spend each night in the Dominican Republic, staying in towns next to the Haitian border.
Children’s Home and Foundations
Children Villages SOS
El Faro Home
Galvan Home Health
Rosa Duarte Asilo Home
What to Expect as a Volunteer
The volunteers who come serve in Dominican Republic and Haiti always arrive at the International Airport of America, located 20 minutes from the center of the city in Santo Domingo.
After volunteers pass through customs and pick up their luggage, ISL staff members will welcome and transport everyone to their accommodations (30 to 45 minutes away).
The groups that go to Haiti are always accommodated in Dominican territory. All the communities we work on are no more than 5 hours away from Santo Domingo on a bus. When we work with one of the provinces on the border of Haiti (Pedernales, Elías Piña or Pedro Santana), we stay at hotels on the Dominican side, just a short drive from the Haitian worksite.
Our volunteers will have the opportunity to learn how to dance to the charming and contagious music of “Merengue” and “Bachata.”
A long walk awaits at the Colonial City (the most colonially historic part of the country), having the opportunity to visit museums (costing no more than five dollars) such as “La Catedral Primada de América” and “Alcazar de Colon”. Volunteers who wish to visit the Presidential Palace need to notify their coordinator ahead of time, so we can make a prior appointment.
After trying Dominican cuisine, any interested in learning how to cook some recipes can do so one night.
This country creates famous baseball players, often making it to the MLB. You can even see some of them playing there for local teams. The baseball season is October through February.
Resort in Juan Dolio Beach
A day pass in one of Juan Dolio’s hotels include lunch, snacks, and drinks through the day. They’ll be able to enjoy all the hotel’s activities like the beach and pool. The approximate cost is $50 or less and it is located 45 minutes from the Santo Domingo.
Saona is one of the most beautiful islands of the country. To arrive you ride a fast boat or “catamaran.” The excursion includes the day’s drinks, lunch, starfish watching and the staff’s animation for $50. It is located two hours away from the city.
Excursion to Salto el Limón y Cayo Levantado
Both places located in the province of Samana, three hours from Santo Domingo. “El Salto el Limón” is a beautiful waterfall. To arrive and enjoy bathing in it a 20-30 minute horseback ride is required.
Cayo Levantado, is a small island with a tropical vegetation, white sand and crystalline water. From January to March you can observe the humpback whales. The cost $60 or less.
Bahía de Las Águilas
This beach will only be visited by those volunteers who go to Haiti and who serve in the province of Pedernales, since it is located 5 hours from Santo Domingo. This beach is considered the most clean and beautiful of the world. It is 37 kms long, and it is home to the Carey Sea Turtle, manatees, and green iguanas.
Whether a hacienda on the beach of the Sea of Cortez in Puerto Penasco, Mexico, a walled convent in the heart of Alajuela, Costa Rica, or an apartment situated above the bustling metropolis of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, ISL’s volunteer lodgings are unique and carefully chosen based on very important criteria. Accommodations are safe, clean, and within a reasonable driving distance to service sites and recreation opportunities. Volunteers are provided their own bed, easy access to restrooms and showers as well as meeting spaces for team training and fellowship. Many ISL accommodations are unique and may include retreat houses, guest houses or home stays, all of which provide a distinctive cultural experience. ISL country coordinators will provide a description of your team’s lodging in every Welcome Letter that goes out prior to your departure.
Hostal Bella Epoca
Av. Independencia #605, Gazcue, Sto Dgo. Rep Dom
Residencial Juan Alejandro II
Prolg Deciderio Arias # 44 Apt 305
Casa San Pablo
Av. Romulo Betancurt casi esq Nunez de Caceres
Dominican Republic's Staff
We love our staff and we are positive that you will too! Each staff member is professional, courteous, and has the same passion as you do: to serve others.