Student Agency Services or SAS, currently operating as Student Services, was officially funded and incorporated in the Dominican Republic in 2000 as a student & researcher service agency for students and professionals. Its function is to promote, organize, provide, and take charge of logistics, student training, development programs, and academic policies, and to provide and coordinate with professors to provide materials that will be used in the teaching process. Incorporated in the D.R. as RNC#123-014996; registered in the USA under IRS section 501 (c) (3) FID#82-5266169.

FAQ

WHAT DOES A TYPICAL GROUP PROGRAM INCLUDE?

All volunteer group stays are customized to fulfill the goals and interests of the group members as well as the needs of the residents of La Piedra. That said, a typical program includes airport pickup and return, orientation to Dominican culture to help prevent culture shock, active participation in a medical or dental clinic in La Piedra (if the group is comprised of medical or dental students) or a series of classes (if education students) for men, women, or children that run from one to three days (classes often run longer), plus at least one basic health, educational, sports, art/music or general development class and/or activity with the residents of La Piedra. There will be lunches on site that are shared with the local children, plus at least one dance party and maybe watching an evening movie with them, as well as a an optional, but highly recommended, tour of the Colonial Zone of Santo Domingo, an hour or two at a local Caribbean beach called La Caleta, and one or more cultural/adventure trips and activities, depending upon the length of the group’s stay in the Dominican Republic (see optional selections below). Most group members stay with host families in the middle-class region east of the Ozama River called Santo Domingo del Este, although hotel stays in the Colonial Zone on the other side of the river can also be arranged. This kind of volunteer program benefits the residents of La Piedra, while also providing group members with a well-rounded Dominican experience. Programs of a few days, a week, 10 days, or multiple weeks’ duration can be arranged.

Where will I be Staying?

Hotels: Groups may choose to stay in single or shared rooms in hotels in the Colonial Zone of Santo Domingo, rather than with host families. Only breakfast is included, but many restaurants are within easy walking distance for lunch or dinner. You cannot drink tap water in the Dominican Republic, not even in high-caliber hotels! Drink only bottled or filtered water throughout your stay, although you can rinse your mouth out with tap water after brushing your teeth, as long as you spit it out. The hotel will usually refill your water bottle daily at breakfast on the rooftop patio. Guanín will provide you with drinking water in La Piedra, and you can buy bottled water cheaply at any local colmado (small stores that are everywhere in residential areas and the Colonial Zone) or from water vendors.

HOST FAMILIES OR HOTELS:  Most of our groups opt to stay with host families in Santo Domingo del Este for a more well-rounded Dominican experience. These host families have served with Guanín for years now and enjoy welcoming foreign visitors into their lives. They are middle-class Dominican and Haitian families who live in small homes or apartments. Some have both a mother and father in residence, while others are run by single mothers or widows. Some have young children and/or teens at home, while others are headed by couples or women whose children are now grown.

 

You will normally have both breakfast and dinner with your host family. Note that Dominican foods are different from most standard U.S. American meals, but the food is all delicious. Breakfast might be the very typical mangú (mashed green plantains, usually with sautéed onions on top—mangú is so popular, even McDonald’s serves it in the D.R.!), served with eggs and fried salami, and fresh fruit, some of which you may never have seen before. Dinner might be stewed chicken, beef, or pork and rice, served with beans and sweet cooked plantains or tostones (the latter are fried green plantains and you eat ‘em like French fries) and maybe a small salad. Dominicans are very inventive with eggplant, too, which they often substitute for meat. Please at least try everything. Dominican foods are delightful! You’ll miss them when you go back to the U.S. Note: While very few Dominicans are vegetarians, our host mothers will prepare vegetarian meals for you, and if you or other members of your group are allergic to something, need gluten-free, dairy-free, or nut-free foods, etc., let us know in advance, please, so we can advise your host mother!

You will have your own bedroom with an electric fan (turn both the fan and the lights off whenever you leave your room, since electricity is very expensive in the Dominican Republic) and access to a bathroom. Several things are different in the bathroom. First, Dominican homes do not have large hot-water heaters. They either have special shower heads that heat the water as it comes out of the shower head or small hot-water heaters with an electrical switch that you turn on about 5 to 10 minutes before your shower—the switch normally has a small red light that indicates when it is on. Make sure you turn it off when you finish your shower! Someone in your host family will show you where the on/off switch is located. Note that most Dominicans take short showers two or three times a day, a healthy habit in the tropics—note the word “short.” Another bathroom difference that is very important to remember is that you DO NOT FLUSH TOILET PAPER down the toilet. No! Not in private homes, restaurants, nowhere in the country! You put all toilet paper in the trash can (called a zafecón) that will be beside the toilet and is changed out several times a day. All used paper goes in the zafecón. “Oh, um, you mean the, um, wet paper, right?” my mother asked when she first visited the country. “No, Mom,” I responded, “All toilet paper goes in the trash—brown side down.” Please remember that! Dominican plumbing pipes are a much smaller diameter than in the U.S. They are not designed for flushing paper or anything other than urine and fecal matter

You cannot drink tap water in the Dominican Republic! Only drink bottled or filtered water, although you can rinse your mouth out with tap water after brushing your teeth, as long as you spit it out. Your host family will show you where the cold drinking water is. Refill your water bottle daily with it… and know that Guanín will provide you with drinking water in La Piedra, and that you can buy it cheaply at any local colmado (small stores that are everywhere in residential areas) or from water vendors.

What to Bring?

PACKING ADVICE:

 

WHAT TO BRING & WHAT NOT TO BRING ON YOUR VOLUNTEER TRIPS:

Check the luggage limits and requirements of your airline before starting to write up your packing list!

Pack lightly and roll your clothes so they take up less room, which will allow you to bring along donations, such as shoes and clothing for infants and children of all ages as well as for adults, books and other educational and/or arts & crafts materials, good used toys, and sports equipment…. You also want to pack lightly so you can take home Dominican souvenirs and gifts.

PACKING LIST:

  • Passport, driver’s license or other secondary identification, money, credit/debit card, etc. (you will be taken to exchange U.S. dollars to Dominican Pesos shortly after you arrive)

  • Bring several pairs of lightweight jeans or khakis, capris, or knee-length shorts (please ladies, no shorts that don’t reach to at least a couple of inches above the knees)

  • Several lightweight t-shirts, plus one or two lightweight long-sleeved shirts to protect you from the sun and for cooler evenings

  • At least one pants and top combination that can get very dirty if you are doing service work in construction or agricultural; work gloves also recommended

  • A lightweight zip-up sweatshirt is also a good idea for early mornings, evenings, and after swimming

  • Lightweight, comfortable (not-sexy) sleepware

  • Swim suit and towel; after-swim cover-up optional

  • One semi-dressy outfit for evenings out and/or to attend church

  • Underwear, enough for a week, preferably of breathable cotton

  • Bring or wear a pair of sturdy sandals (not flip-flops!), plus tennis shoes and socks

  • You should also bring a small backpack or string bag to carry every-day necessities with you and a good quality bottle for drinking water; males should consume 4 liters of non-alcoholic liquid daily in the tropics, and females 3 liters daily, which equals just over 4 quarts and 3 quarts, respectively

  • Enough insect repellant, sunscreen, and deodorant to last the entire trip, also a sun hat or baseball cap, sunglasses, and your own personal medicine/first aid kit, plus toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo and conditioner, and cosmetics, etc.

  • If you are asthmatic or have allergies, bring extra of whatever you normally take for it

  • Smart phone and/or camera, plus chargers and cables (Note: You won’t have telephone or Internet service in the Dominican Republic, but can make and receive calls using Facebook, What’s App, Facetime, etc., on your smart phone, and can send/receive email, Messenger, and What’s App wherever there is WiFi)

  • If you are staying with a host family, bring some small gift for your host mother, but not chocolates, since they will most likely melt; a small bottle of perfume, fancy soap, a small or medium sized decorative vase or picture frame, or something similar is always a good choice

***DO NOT BRING any expensive or cherished jewelry, flip flops (except for in the shower and at the beach, if you wish), and no short-shorts (the shortest should come to a couple inches above the knee)…but do bring a good sense of humor and a positive, sharing, caring attitude. And remember, you are all ambassadors of your country when you are in the Dominican Republic. Act accordingly.

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