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.

GROUP VOLUNTEER PROGRAMS

 

Our group volunteer programs are open year-round, with durations available from a day, a week, or a year—we’ll customize a program to fit your time schedule, and your group members’ skills, goals, and interests. We feel strongly that the group members’ security is one of our most essential concerns, as well as the security of the residents of La Piedra. For accommodations and excursions, we use the safest sites and services available, so that the program functions at its best and for the well-being of the group and other participants.

 

Accommodation is principally in urban zones with good facilities and easy transportation access, good communication services, and with nearby supermarkets, stores, Internet cafes, and restaurants, as well as quick access to hospitals and clinics, should their services be needed. These homestays and hotels were selected because they are in the safest zones, where group members can interact without worry, and they provide group members with yet another dimension of the authentic Dominican cultural experience.

 

We are confident that through collaboration, open communication, and quality program protocols, we can deliver a high caliber, positive, and beneficial experience for your students and other group members.


Program fees help support on-going development projects and include:

 

  • Full room and board with host families; room and breakfast for hotel stays

  • Lunches when working on site at La Piedra/Fundación Guanín

  • All transportation upon arrival and departure as well as to/from project sites and all agreed-upon optional historic/cultural/adventure day trips and other cultural activities

  • Community project planning, set up, execution, and follow-up

  • Project donation and material project purchase for the community

  • Cultural and adventure activities as well as academic contacts

  • Orientation and organizational discussions, and program materials

  • Extensive staff support throughout all phases of the program

  • 24-hour emergency access, 24 hours-a-day staff available to assist any group member needs, staff who will stay to respond to any and all needs that may arise; staff will also participate in the welcoming activities, excursions, tours, student exchanges, voluntary service work, etc.

 

 Scroll down to see our principle programs and optional activities, all of which can be altered and customized to fit the needs of your specific group. Each program offers amazing benefits for whatever you're looking to accomplish in your visit. With our 20+ years of experience and our dedication to the community we're here to help you make an impact and continue our mission to bring people and cultures together. 

Healthcare Program

This is our most popular group program. Fundación Centro Guanín welcomes groups of medical, dental, nursing students, and their professors to its on-site clinic in La Piedra, Dominican Republic. Your customized group program will provide hands-on practice through participation in free community medical and dental clinics of one to three days duration for infants, young children, teenagers, and adults, including general health and wellness clinics, HIV/Aids clinics and prevention programs, women’s clinics, clinics for the elderly and/or physically or mentally challenged, and vision clinics. Your patients are residents of La Piedra and other nearby impoverished communities of Dominicans and Haitians who do not have easy access to medical assistance and who earn too little money to pay for professional medical care in a country with no Medicare or Medicaid, and no Social Security. All our free medical and dental clinics are organized by Guanín, along with professional Dominican and Haitian doctors, dentists, and nursing specialists.

 

Groups of education students and their professors in all fields, as well as other special interest groups seeking hands-on teaching/learning experience are welcomed with open arms to Guanín’s educational center to help educate Dominicans and Haitians in La Piedra and other nearby impoverished communities. We will arrange your participation in daycare for infants and young children, and/or teaching classes or tutoring in reading and writing skills, mathematics, basic science, English, Spanish, and German languages, computer and Internet skills, health and fitness, ecology/agriculture, urban development, environment and conservation, arts and crafts, theater, music, and vocational classes of all kinds to young children, grade-school students, high-school students, and adult students. Note that Guanín has its own guardaría (daycare center), elementary school, library, and computer facilities. We have on-going after-school programs and literacy programs for youths and adults.

Educational Program

 

Sports

Groups of students and their professors or other special interest groups seeking sports interchange programs and/or hands-on experience in working with young Dominicans and Haitians in La Piedra and other impoverished communities to teach the basic rules, regulations, and skills in such sports as basketball, baseball, softball, soccer, and volleyball, while also teaching sportsmanship and good citizenship, are welcomed with open arms to Fundación Centro Guanín at La Piedra. Guanín is in the process of expanding its basketball court to a full professional size and upgrading its volleyball court and soccer field. Baseball courts are within easy walking distance.

 

These programs combine learning goals and community service in ways that enhance both student growth and provide for the common good of members of the impoverished La Piedra community. Volunteering in service learning projects engages your body, mind, and heart, thus providing a more powerful learning experience for the community as well for volunteers. Outreach and Service projects can include reaching out to in-need residents who are too young, too old, too ill, or mentally/physically challenged to come to the Fundación Centro Guanín. Outreach and service can also include building or repairing housing in the community, working on road repairs, drinking water projects, ecological, environmental, and conservation projects, agricultural projects, service in an orphanage, or helping to improve and expand Guanin’s on-site buildings and facilities. Your group could also plan special programs for infants and young children in Guanín’s on-site nursery school or elementary-school, or run special sports, art, theater, dance, or music programs, teach ESL to children and/or adults, teach a general or special health course… the possibilities are endless.

COMMUNITY OUTREACH & SERVICE LEARNING

Construction &Community Development

 

CONSTRUCTION AND OTHER COMMUNITY ASSISTANCE & DEVELOPMENT ACTIVITIES: Groups of students and their professors, or other special-interest groups of volunteers who want to help the most impoverished residents of La Piedra and surrounding communities are needed to repair residents’ leaking roofs and flimsy living structures, help construct new homes, and help build educational and recreational facilities. They could also opt to help set up and train community leadership groups and help residents make plans for future community development.

 

Optional Cultural Activities

Colonial Zone of Santo Domingo

The Dominican Republic is home to many “firsts in the Americas,” and the majority of them are in Santo Domingo’s Colonial Zone. You’ll see and learn about the founding of Santo Domingo on August 4, 1496—which was originally named Nueva Isabela—and its transfer to the western bank of the Río Ozama six years later. You’ll visit the Cathedral named in honor of Santa María de la Incarnación and the plethora of other ancient churches and monasteries in the walled city, as well as mansions of the rich, and other sixteenth- and seventeenth-century buildings and statues. Walk around the magnificent Plaza de España, with its Casa de Colón, a mansion built for Columbus’ son Diego, who was the Second Viceroy and Governor of the Indies. There are expensive but outstanding international restaurants where once there were ship suppliers and ship builders lining the plaza. Enjoy the shade under the Bodhi trees (the same kind of tree that Buddha sat under when he became enlightened) surrounding the Cathedral in what is now called Parque de Colón because of its outstanding statue of Christopher Columbus by the French sculptor Gilbert, and much more…. Your tour includes transportation and lunch.

Isla Saona, Day Trip

This small island off the southeastern tip of Hispaniola is a government-protected nature reserve and is world renowned for its white-sand and turquoise water beaches. It has been used numerous times by film-makers seeking a stereotypical "desert island" setting for their films….You’ll go by bus to/from the launching site of your catamaran and enjoy fabulous views of the Caribbean Sea and coastline. Aboard the catamaran, you can dance to lively Latino music, then will have several hours to enjoy the famous beaches and a delicious lunch before boarding a speedboat for the return trip. Trip includes bus and boat transportation, and lunch.

White-Water Rafting in Jarabacoa 

The city of Jarabacoa, with its tropical rainforest climate and high elevation in the island’s Central Mountain Range, has been nicknamed, “The City of Everlasting Spring.” It’s very refreshing here after the tropical heat of Santo Domingo. Many rich Dominicans maintain summer homes in Jarabacoa, and there are dozens of tourist attractions, including the island’s best white-water rafting…. Your trip includes transportation, rafting with certified guides, and a ranch-style buffet lunch.

Kayaking on Samaná Bay, Day Trip

The mountainous Samaná Peninsula was the least explored and least known part of the island of Hispaniola until recent years. It has more coconut palms than you ever imagined there were in all the world! And its turquoise waters have been the winter mating and nursing grounds for Atlantic-based humpbacked whales for thousands of years. Today its population and culture are very different from all the rest of the country, because in 1824, when the entire island was governed by the Republic of Haiti, the Haitian President, Jean-Pierre Boyer, invited Protestant, English-speaking African Americans from the U.S. to settle the region…. You will travel by bus to the city of Santa Bárbara de Samaná to kayak in the beautiful bay and explore the historic city. Trip includes bus transportation, kayaking fees, and lunch.

Samaná Zipline Adventure, Day Trip

Ziplining through the forested mountains of Samaná has recently become a very popular diversion. Try it yourself!... Your trip includes bus transportation, the ziplining adventure, a visit to the breathtakingly beautiful El Limón waterfall, lunch, and some time at the beach.

Santo Domingo’s Extreme Adventure Park, Day Trip 

You could also choose the zipline adventure at Santo Domingo’s new Extreme Adventure Park, which also offers other aerial experiences, all with views of the cityscape…. Your trip includes transportation, entrance to the park and its many aerial adventures, and lunch.

27 Charcos de Damajagua, Day Trip

A charco is a natural swimming hole. These 27 charcos have fast become one of the most popular adventure attractions in the country since Peace Corps Volunteers helped local residents to set up a training and certification course for professional guides and make the adventure safe by providing life vests and helmets to all visitors. The charcos were formed by a series of 27 waterfalls. You climb up them—then jump or slide down!... Your trip includes transportation, experiencing the charcos, a buffet lunch, and river rafting.

Cacao Tour & Hermanas Mirabal Museum, Day Trip Cacao is unprocessed chocolate. You’ll be amazed to see how cacao grows and to learn how it’s processed to make the delicious candies and flavorings that we all love…. Your trip includes transportation, lunch, an educational tour of a cacao plantation, as well as a visit to a rice field, and a tour of the museum dedicated to the famous Hermanas Mirabal. They were three Dominican sisters—code name “The Three Butterflies”—who were leaders in the underground fight to end the despotic presidency of El Jefe (Rafael Trujillo), who ruled the country with a firm hand from 1930 to 1961. His orders to brutally club the sisters to death and then stuff their bodies in their car and push it over a cliff to hide what had been done was “the straw that broke the camel’s back,” and brought about his own assassination in May of 1961. The sisters’ brutal death on November 25, 1960, is honored around the world today as International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.

"The Three Butterflies"

Santo Domingo’s Jardín Botánico, Day Trip.

Voted one of the top ten city botanical gardens in the world, Santo Domingo’s Jardín Botánico Nacional is a colorful jewel set in the midst of the crowded capital city. There are plants and trees from every part of the island, including palms, aquatic plants, and hundreds of different bromeliads. The orchid garden features more than 300 different kinds, most of them endemic to the island. And while it’s not typically Dominican, the Japanese Garden with its babbling brook, arched bridge, pagoda, shaded benches, and manicured trees and plants, is delightful. There is a train to take you to the most important sites in the Botanical Garden, but there are other parts that must be explored on foot…. Your trip includes transportation, entry fee, train ride, and a delicious buffet lunch at the Hotel Lino.

Baseball Academy, Day Trip.

Baseball is the number one Dominican sport. It arrived in the 1880s from Cuba, but really began to grow in popularity from 1916-1924, when U.S. Marines occupied the Dominican Republic, and from 1930 to 1961, when El Jefe (the Dominican president/dictator Rafael Trujillo) supported the sport and built the national stadium in Santo Domingo. Since 1947, after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in the U.S.’s Major League Baseball, U.S. teams have been sending scouts to sign Dominican players. Today, there are more Dominicans playing in Major League Baseball in the U.S. than any other nation’s players, after U.S. Americans, of course, and many U.S. teams have established baseball academies in the Dominican Republic. Historian Alan Klein wrote in his book Sugarball, "Nothing typifies the new direction of Dominican baseball as much as the baseball academy, an institution rooted in the increased presence and benevolent paternalism of North American baseball interests in the country." He also wrote, "What the academy does in working with the Dominican players goes beyond teaching baseball skills. They teach career preparation, socialization, and how to cope with the cultural changes they will face in the United States." … Your trip includes transportation, a tour of the academy, and lunch.

IN ADDITION, OTHER OPTIONAL PROGRAM COMPONENTS INCLUDE:

 

Spanish Language Classes. Spanish language classes can be included in any program and will be taught locally with other students. The focus is on conversational fluency. Students will be matched by their levels of proficiency and slotted into classes that will be scheduled throughout the day. The intensity of the class-hour schedule will be determined by the group’s leader and Student Services Promoter.

 

Experiential Learning Cycle and Cultural Awareness Reflections/Discussions. Upon request, structured meetings take place in our on-site center in La Piedra, in the field with program participants, at a central location near all host families, and/or in the hotel where the group is staying. Content will focus on developing tools for understanding and managing the cultural issues group members encounter, as well as offer time for reflection, insight, and strategies for processing their experiences in a developing world. Guest speakers are often invited to offer greater insight.

 

Fortuitous Cultural and Adventure Activities. These activities include trips to local cultural festivals and events that are taking place during the group’s stay. These fortuitous events can also include roundtable discussions with local individuals, visiting specialists, or other on-site volunteers, who are invited to sit with group members to discuss a wide variety of topics. This kind of exercise is an excellent tool for raising awareness of misperceptions and different perspectives. All students are also invited to see what other volunteer projects and ongoing community projects are in progress in La Piedra.

WHAT DOES A TYPICAL GROUP PROGRAM INCLUDE?

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