Long Term Volunteers: Puerto Plata

We hope to encourage and engage a consistent flow of good-intentioned and culturally sensitive expats into the Puerto Plata community with a focus of sharing and service. Providing volunteer opportunities for new expats where there is a learning curve due to language, culture, and other barriers has not been easy. However, we have developed a few different opportunities which are listed below.

We have found that the volunteer experience works out the best when volunteers stay in our volunteer housing and plug in with other volunteers and members of our organization. Additionally, volunteers coming during the times of year that are not our structured trips, (summer, fall, winter, and spring) should be highly flexible and self motivated, realizing that life here in the Dominican Republic is much different than in the developed world. 

One hoping to gain a variety of experiences and create a full schedule should be ready to participate in various activities and should also be self-disciplined and brave in sticking to the schedule and activities. While a path is already paved, it is still a rocky one. Lastly, volunteers should plan realistically financially, culturally, and linguistically. The most productive volunteers will prepare ahead of time by studying both language and culture.

What can long term volunteers do?

Below are some longer term volunteer opportunities that others have done in the past. Please note that we are a very small staff and long term volunteers need to be prepared to work independently on these projects:

Fair Trade Art Shop Worker (actually a paid position on commission but sales can be sparce so this is also listed in the volunteer section) – Project Esperanza has a fair trade art shop in the community of fair trade art shop in the community of Munoz. Both shops are open Monday through Saturday, 9am to 6pm. Store hours are divided into 12 shifts. There are two shifts each day from 9am to 1:30pm and 1:30pm to 6pm. Art shop workers take shifts where they are present in the shop to cover a certain set of responsibilities which includes receiving customers, explaining the work of Project Esperanza and the fair trade art shop, and handling any sales. 7% commission on all sales is rewarded to art shop workers.

Hospital Candy Striper/Health Volunteer – Nurses at the public hospital perform a limited amount of tasks. Many things are left to the personal caregivers of patients who are usually one's family. We have observed in many cases that patients without family to care for them truly suffer. There is volunteer opportunity here for those with the necessary language skills. We are also aware that sometimes sick infants, especially Haitian infants, are left to die when there is no one to take on their case. Volunteers have the opportunity of witnessing such situations and acting as agents in rescuing these infants by getting them to the proper available facilities.

Literacy Volunteer – This requires initiative on the part of the volunteer and involves scheduled meetings with an illiterate adult or youth where you, over the course of your time, teach him or her to read. The following articles are highly helpful in preparation for this:

How to Teach an Illiterate Adult to Read & Important Haiti Creole Vocabulary for Teaching Literacy in Haiti & the Haitian Diaspora

English Teacher – Teach English in Project Esperanza's two grassroots schools. Both schools hold class in both the mornings and afternoons and teach grades Pre-K through grade 6. Many adults in the communities have the desire to learn English as well, so it is easy to put a group together among this population.

Movie Theater/Activity Night Coordinator – We have made efforts toward starting a movie theater in the community of Muñoz in the school building we rent. The goal is to generate an income so that the profit can pay rent on the building. However, we need more effort to be made here as far as organizing, implementing creative ideas to engage the community, etc. One volunteer began organizing a theater group among community members to make a batey soap opera to be shown once a week to draw in a crowd. Ideas like this are pefect, but just need to be executed! We have also orgnized several community BINGO nights, which are always a huge hit, especially if there are prizes! We encourage such healthy, community building activities which provide recreation for those living in the hardest circumstances.

Skilled Art Teacher - We hope to continually educate the artists who sell items through our fair trade art shop and have a list of ideas that we believe could sell. Skilled art teachers who can come and hold training sessions, especially using indigenous natural and recycled products as materials, are needed. Our grassroots schools teachers also lack experience needed to teach art and music to our students, so an hour in each class each week could be set up as well.


Community Health Volunteer - While short term medical groups that do day clinics are important and always in high demand among community members, without community health workers or volunteers continually educating community members about the solutions to the roots of their problems, they are fighting a losing battle. Volunteers who come and teach about proper sanitation, healthy eating habits, HIV prevention, family planning, and other such subjects, can really make a difference here! Of course, communication is huge, so this is best for someone with language skills or who is prepared to pay an interpreter.


Physical Education Teacher/Sports Volunteers -Our grassroots schools teachers lack the physical education experience that anyone receives by going through school in the developed world, as do many public school teachers as well. Past volunteers have scheduled an hour or two each week with each class in order to expose them to organize exercises and games, and stress the importance of physical activity.


Childcare Volunteer - Our pre-school teachers in our grassroots schools are often spread thin without assistants. Volunteers can help out by assisting the teacher with coloring, writing, songs, games, etc. Additionally, CONANI, the Dominican government agency that provides social aid to youth, has a day care for working parents who cannot afford child care. With between 250 and 300 children from infant to age 4, they are interested in receiving help, especially if it means exposing the children to some English.


Eco-Construction Volunteer - During our short term trips, volunteers work with a leader to construct compost toilets, solar ovens, solar lights, food composts, and other such projects that are low cost, environmentally friendly, resourceful, and wise to implement in the communities where we work. With funding for materials, there is opportunity to build on these projects throughout the year when short term groups are absent.

Recycling/Sustainability Volunteer - There is a recycling plant in Santiago that buys plastics, tetrapak, and tin. There is much to be done as far as educating students and community members about recycling, building recycling bins, and leading kids on trash collecting adventures, complete with a trip to the recycling plant where they can see the process and raise funds for their school!


Computer Education Volunteer - Both of our grassroots schools have computers and we are encouraging our teachers to do more of their work and planning on computers, but most have limited skills. There are internet centers in the area but many of the hundreds of community members have little to no computer skills, so there is lots of teaching opportunity there.


Professional Groups - Doctors, engineers, teachers, counselors, businessmen and women. We would love to work with you to train professionals here and set higher standards in your fields. For one, each year we attempt to provide more and better teacher training for our teachers. 


Additional Independent Projects - If you have new ideas that fit into our mission that you wish to implement, feel free to plan with us and try them out!


Where do Volunteers Stay?

Volunteers typically stay in our volunteer house, where we provide 3 cooked traditional Haitian/Dominican meals a day. This is a home for a middle class Dominican family in a semi rural area. We view this as an opportunity forvolunteers to become immersed in the culture and have a better sense of what life is really like here. 
This is a rustic setting and volunteers should be aware that we do not have air conditioning or wifi. We do have fans and there is internet at our art shop, about 2 minutes down the road. Power goes out twice a week for a few hours during the day when volunteers are generally doing activities, and water goes out ocassionally. The bathroom is shared and rooms are shared when there is more than three people. There is reliable public transportation to go into Puerto Plata (about 25 minute drive away) where most American products can be easily found. 
We encourage volunteers to stretch their comfort zones because we have found that many have a more impactful experience through this immersion. Ourvolunteer house is also very close to one of our schools and past volunteers have enjoyed the opportunity to spend more time with the children and the community. However, if the house does not sound feasible for you, we can arrange alternative accommodations. 

What does it Cost?

Volunteers can plan stay at our housing where they receive airport pickup, orientation, oversight, and 3 meals a day. The cost is $900 per month for volunteers with Spanish speaking abilitities.  For volunteers staying and eating elsewhere, cost depends on whether transportation and translation support is needed. 

Please note that we are a very lean organization, and most of our funding, including a portion of volunteer fees, goes towards our ongoing operating costs. You can find more information about monthly costs in the programs section of the website. As such, we have very limited funds to implement projects outside of our current programs (mainly the schools and group home). If you are interested in doing a project that will require funding, we ask that you work with us to fundraise for the start up and some of the ongoing costs. 

When do I pay?

The non-refundable deposit is due 2 months in advance of arrival date. The rest of your volunteer fees are due at least 4 weeks in advance of your arrival date. 

Partial refunds for extenuating circumstances are possible if requested at least 2 weeks prior to your arrival date (the $100 deposit is not refundable). We cannot offer refunds on volunteer fees within 2 weeks of arrival or after your arrival date.


 E-mail Volunteer@EsperanzaMeansHope.org to set something up.