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Summer Student Group.

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 Pre-med, comprised of medical, nurses, public health 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?


Europa Hotel. Groups may choose to stay in single or shared rooms in hotels in the Colonial Zone of Santo Domingo, with breakfast, hot water, WiFi, TV and tax included.

Guest Family: 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/SAS 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. Private per 2 students, per host family in separate bed, with fans, mosquito net, reading night table, sharing bathroom and other services.

Guanín Community Center: Accommodation is rustic, where students share a double bed, with fan/air conditioner, WIFI, three meals.

What to Bring?

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 for the Guanin Center Foundation, 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.


  • 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 pair of 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) sleepwear

  • 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

Special Notes & Traveller Tips

When you come to the Dominican Republic, come with an open mind. Come ready to enjoy yourself among a people who have a world-renowned reputation for being sincerely warm-hearted, open and friendly. But do remember that this is a "developing world." The majority of the people here are not middle class, like they are in the U.S., Canada and Europe. There is a small Dominican middle class, a very small upper class, and a vastly huge class of poor people. You will definitely see some things here and have some experiences here that are very different from "back home."

That doesn't mean the Dominican people or their ways are wrong--just different. Don't spend your precious little time here lamenting how things could be so much better "if only they did it like back in ______." After all, learning something new, having new experiences and meeting new people is what you came for, isn't it?

Garbage & Sanitation--One of the biggest complaints that tourists have about the Dominican Republic is the garbage. True, there is a lot of litter strewn about, especially in the Capital. This is partly due to lax anti-litter laws (in the Trujillo Era, the country was squeaky clean under penalty of death!), partly due to a shortage of garbage cans (garbage cans cost money, which is a scarce resource here), and to too many people living together too closely in too small a space. It's also due, in part, to lack of interest.

Who cares about litter when you and your family are trying to scrounge up enough money for food and rent? Do like Dominicans do. Step over or around the garbage and ignore it as best you can. But please remember your manners and carry your own litter with you until you find a garbage can--hopefully you'll set a good example. (Note that garbage IS picked up on a regular basis here in the Capital. It just accumulates quickly.)

Toilet paper & sanitation--The Dominican sewage cleaning system cannot handle much paper. In the bathrooms of private homes, in hotel bathrooms, restaurant bathrooms, bar and nightclub bathrooms, airport bathrooms... in every bathroom here, there are waste receptacles beside the toilet. These are for used toilet paper. Please fold your used toilet paper in on itself and place it in the wastebasket, not in the toilets.

Safety--How bizarre. Some travel personnel (and even some Dominicans) warn tourists that the Dominican Republic is not a safe destination. Untrue! The Dominican government and the Dominican people go out of their way to make certain that their country remains one of the safest, most crime and violence-free tourist destinations in the world. There is even a special branch of the National Military Police called Politur that is dedicated to helping tourists and to keeping the level of street vendors, beggars and prostitutes down in the most heavily touristed areas so as not to offend the tourists.

Yes, if you wear expensive gold jewelry on the street it might very likely be stolen, but you won't be beaten or killed for it. The prevention is not to flaunt your wealth in front of poor people. Leave expensive jewelry back home or in the hotel safe. Don't take expensive cameras or loaded wallets and purses to the beach and leave them unguarded, either. That's only common sense. And do take care when leaving a casino late at night. Thieves may be lurking in the darkened parking lot to relieve you of your winnings--better to hail a taxi in the well-lit area in front of the hotel or casino, where guards are on duty. In general, however, Dominicans are not thieves figuring out how to rob you or hurt you. They are a poor, but honest and hard-working people. They are warm-hearted and open, returning a smile for a smile, friendship for friendship.

Walking alertly--Particularly in the Zona Colonial of the Capital, or in residential neighborhoods, walking can be dangerous if you do not remain alert. Tiles and cement blocks along the sidewalks, cobblestones, sewer covers, water access covers and the like may be loose, broken or missing completely. Not to watch your step could lead to twisted ankles or worse. Also be aware that pedestrians do not have the right of way. Do not step boldly into a street expecting cars to slow down and allow you to cross. Few will do so. At busy crossings in the touristed areas, policemen will often be stationed to stop traffic while you cross. Smile and say, "¡Gracias!"

Dressing Dominican--Dress is casual in the Dominican Republic, especially during the day and particularly at resorts, where bathing suits are what most people wear, perhaps with a wrap-around. European females are accustomed to going topless at their own beaches, and often do so here as well; if it is a public beach, however, it is not advisable, for it is offensive to Dominicans, who are quite conservative. Dominican women's bathing suits are very modest, usually one-piece, and men and boys commonly swim in their underwear.

Just about anything goes out on the street, from jeans or shorts and t-shirts to mini-skirts and tank-tops, or sexy ankle-length dresses. Some older Dominican businessmen still wear the traditional guayaberas, short or long-sleeved cotton shirts that do not tuck into the waistband of their pants, but lie comfortably loose over the hips, while others suffer in Western suits and ties. You'll note that Dominicans do not wear shorts out on the street, even on the hottest days--shorts are for tourists, or for use at home or the gym.

Women in shorts or skirts above the knee, and men in shorts, are not permitted to enter a church, especially not the Cathedral--skirts and pants must be knee-length or longer. (Enterprising Dominicans outside the Cathedral rent uni-sex wrap-arounds.) At the casinos and night clubs, Dominican women, in particular, dress up "to the teeth." As a tourist you're acceptable even in jeans, as long as they are clean and not tattered or torn, but you might feel more comfortable in evening wear. Note, too, that the evening breeze can be cool from November through January, so women might want to carry a light shawl or jacket, men a long-sleeved jacket. They're also handy for over-airconditioned restaurants, bars, buses, etc.

And remember that cottons, linens and other natural fibers, as well as some light rayon blends, are the most comfortable materials for clothing in the tropics because they "breathe." Clothing should not be too tight, either. Looser fitting clothing is cooler, as are light and pastel colors.

Things to bring with you:

  • sun protection lotion (see "Climate-related tips" in Climate section)

  • insect repellent

  • an umbrella

  • sunglasses

  • personal electric appliances, such as hairblowers (note that the electrical current and sockets/plugs are the same as in the U.S.)

  • a good deodorant/anti-perspirant combination.

  • a small flashlight for blackouts, which are frequent.

  • prescription medicine, though you can generally get whatever you may need here, for no prescriptions are needed at the well-stocked local farmacias.

  • women, bring along tampons, for they are not only expensive here, but hard to find (sanitary pads, however, are available everywhere)

  • loose-fitting clothes made of cotton and other natural fibers (silky underwear, for example, while sexy, does not "breathe," hence can be quite uncomfortable)

Drink lots of water--It is important not to get dehydrated, which is easy to do in a tropical climate, especially when you are not accustomed to the heat.

Drink lots and lots of water. The gallon bottles of drinking water are the same price as the smaller ones! (Though admittedly they are not as handy to carry with you.) Beer, too, is thirst quenching--try the local Presidente--but softdrinks, because of all the sugar they contain, are not. Remember, you can drink the water in restaurants, at least in the Capital and larger cities, because it comes from 5-gallon bottles of purified water. And don't be afraid to order drinks icy cold, for commercial ice is also made from purified water.

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