Trips are mainly organized during the months of May and June as this time tends to have the best weather in Ocoa. Each trip typically lasts between 1-2 weeks, as it takes roughly that for a new home to be fully constructed. Upon arrival, the group will spend 1-2 nights in the city of Ocoa before heading into mountainside communities outside of the city where those with the most need reside. This introductory period gives participants enough time to relax and get to know Dominican culture. Groups will be brought up to their designated mountain communities after a day or two in the city and will remain there for the next five days, working their butts off! In the mountain, volunteers will build, dance, drink, and interact with the locals before returning to the city for the weekends. Each group will return to the city for the weekend and be able to have time to relax and see what the Dominican Republic has to offer. This may include a day trip to a nearby beach, a trip to the local pool, walking through the park, or playing dominoes with the locals. Groups will return to the mountains for their final week of work, enjoying their last few days with new friends. After the house is completed, groups will return to the city for one last night of fun before making their way back to the airport.
Your group leader will be in charge of finding the cheapest and most accommodating flights for you and your group, and choosing the best option for purchasing. Once in the country, travel from the airport in Santo Domingo to the city of Ocoa will be provided by bus. The bus seats 20 people with the luxury of air conditioning. When the time comes to travel up the mountain sites for the week of work, groups will be transported in the back of our SJMF worktruck. This form of transportation is most common for the locals in the country and it is safe as long as one remains seated – this way you get the best view driving up the mountains! While in Ocoa and the mountains, volunteers will more or less walk everywhere they need to go, led by their group leader.
In Ocoa, groups will be staying in our new SJMF Clubhouse, a house we have rented where every group will be staying at in the city. Once complete, the Clubhouse will boast everything from a comfortable living room with boardgames, to a fully functioning kitchen. The home is located in a very central and safe area in the city. It is equipped with proper washrooms, beds, and a kitchen, with clean drinking water readily available at all times. The accommodations in the mountains vary depending on the village. Groups will be placed in either the home of a community member or in a local church or community center. No matter what, groups will stay together wherever you are placed! In the mountains, communities commonly use latrines instead of toilets as they are less expensive and more economical. The latrines are holes in the ground with a proper toilet seat built around it – you just don’t flush! However, there will always be clean bathing and drinking water available! We kindly ask that you be very respectful of the houses in which you are staying and remember that you are a guest. In saying this, we also ask that you make an effort to stay reasonably clean. As we all become quite dirty after a hard day’s work, it’s a good idea to bathe every day before bed!
Food & Water
Bottled water is cheap and readily available at every local corner store. We will always have bottled water available wherever we are; however, it will not always be cold. We don’t recommend drinking the tap water – it is fine for bathing, brushing your teeth and swimming. The food is FANTASTIC! Our cooks have over 15 years of experience cooking with Canadians and know how to prepare food with minimum shock to a traveling stomach and to prevent you from getting parasites. The food is fresh and healthy and most dietary restrictions can be easily accommodated. The main foods you will be eating are rice, beans, chicken, pork, potatoes and lots of fresh fruit and veggies! If you have any food issues regarding allergies or restrictions, please let your group leaders know ahead of time so that we may accommodate you.
Contact & Medical
Getting in touch with Canada will be simple as one member of each group (usually the leader) will be equipped with a cell phone to carry around at all times. You will be able to make phone calls with the group phone, or by visiting the local internet café to communicate with anybody back home. Having your family get in touch with you is a bit different. Cell phone reception is sometimes hard to come by in the mountains, so the best time for your family to contact you is on the weekends while in the city. A phone number will be provided, but please remind your family that it is strictly for real emergencies. Miguel will always post a photo on facebook of the entire group once they have landed to ensure all parents are aware that no issues were encountered on the flight.
SJMF recommends the following vaccinations to be up-to-date or taken on the trip:
- Routine Vaccinations
- Twinrex (Hepatitis)
- Malaria Pills
Traveler’s diarrhea is another common experience for first-time travelers when living in a new country. Dukoral is a medication that helps to prevent against certain bacterial forms of traveler’s diarrhea. Please consult with your doctor to see if Dukoral is right for you. Please note that it needs to be taken 3-4 weeks in advance of your trip.
Please consult your travel doctor should you have any concerns or questions