To ethically build a service learning program in another country, working directly with local communities, schools, or organizations is critical. Although students around the US frequently travel abroad for enrichment, service learning trips give young people the opportunity to both serve as well as become more intimately acquainted with the local culture.
Dominican Republic volunteer opportunities with ILI Travel are intended and designed to help serve communities while also changing the worldview of participating students. Unfortunately, service learning too often involves Americans showing up with their own agenda that can be counterproductive and even harmful to the communities they are ostensibly serving.
At ILI Travel, we strive for the highest of ethical standards in service learning by committing ourselves to the following priorities:
- Safety First
- Locally-Identified Needs
- Locally-Owned Small Businesses and Fair Trade Wages
- Economic, Educational, and Environmental Sustainability
1. Safety First
Our groups always utilize local, experienced tour guides who know the community, as well as designated bus drivers who know the locations of the best places to park along with those of local pharmacies, doctor’s offices, and hospitals to ensure our group’s safety.
Check out our video below with our Dominican Republic Field Director and the owner of the bus company. Rather than focusing on price, we retain the bus company known for the highest safety standards. This company has worked with highly regarded non-profits in the region, and they have never had an accident.
2. Locally-Identified Needs
Unfortunately, nonprofits with otherwise good intentions are not always in touch with what their communities actually need. As an illustrative anecdote, there is a small town in the mountains of the Dominican Republic that does not have a local school. Even though the community was getting along quite well without an educational institution, a nonprofit volunteered to build them a school anyway, although they never needed nor requested one.
The project took a full year, and once built, the Dominican government did not staff it; to this day, it is an empty building.
Simply assuming that a local town will support our vision can lead to the waste of valuable time and money. Partnering with local schools and organizations for locally-identified needs is essential to success, and when money is managed well, it can achieve incredible results.
On this trip, for instance, we visited a local school to volunteer with to learn more about their needs from their own words.
3. Fair Trade Wages
Sometimes, American tourist money does not benefit local communities in the way that it should. On our trips, we investigate locally-owned restaurants and hotels so that the money we spend in the community stays in the community.
Additionally, we always pay Fair Trade wages because (A) it is the right thing to do and (B) having the best people prioritize our group further ensures student safety and the quality of their experience.
4. Economic, Educational, and Environmental Sustainability
Part of our focus on locally-owned businesses and Fair Trade wages is intended to keep the money we spend spreading through the community. While here, our service is designed to empower students and protect the local environment, itself often invaluable to their economy. In fact, one of the goals of our service work is to help create local jobs — and what better way is there to support sustainability than that?
Are you looking for Haiti volunteer opportunities, or maybe to even lead your own program? Get in touch with ILI Travel by calling 866-881-1249 today!