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29 posts categorized "Santiago Service"

Final Days in the DR

Thanks to Alyssa & Anna for their guest blog post below!

With only 1 day of camp left, we have been so grateful to have the opportunity to get to know and spend time with the children at Ciudad Santa Maria. For the past 2 weeks, we have cherished every moment from playing four square, making friendship bracelets, sharing music, and endless games and fun. Even though we only spend part of the day with the kids, we have built memories and relationships that will last a lifetime. 

This camp has been a true eye opening experience and has given us the opportunity to see the vast amount of differences between education and community in our home towns and here in the Dominican Republic. 

We will admit it was a bit difficult to communicate and figure out how to interact with the kids but we made the best of it and soon after began the fun. It was a learning experience on both ends, they ended up teaching us as much as we taught them! Seeing their eyes light up at such simple things like stickers and candy made us realize how privileged we are to live in a country were these things are unappreciated. No matter what was going on or who they were playing with, every kid seemed to enjoy themselves. Another situation that made us aware of the differences between our environments was the excitement and desire the children had for snacks. We noticed the first day that the kids were shy to ask for more and snuck snacks into their bags and once we acknowledged the situation and told them they were allowed to take snacks home, their excitement sky rocketed :) 

We appreciate CIEE and Ciudad Santa Maria for allowing is to travel to such a beautiful country and work with such amazing children that have impacted our lives forever! 

The Dominican Republic will forever be apart of us!



Thanks to Nya & Natalia for their guest blog post below:


  • tomorrow is our last day at Ciudad Santa Maria. these past two weeks with the kids have gone by so quickly and i can't believe we have to say goodbye
  • we've been working on final projects. the focus is on our personal growth and how we can tackle issues in our home community. i've learned so much about myself and about service in my time here and i can't wait to get home and tell everybody about my study abroad experience through this project
  • even though we're wrapping up the program, i still can't believe that i'm in the Dominican Republic. this experience has been full of laughter and learning and good food. i am so grateful for my peers in this program, my encouraging and supportive leaders, Mercedes (our director), and every opportunity and trip we've had
  • it's that time of the trip when the "lasts" come in. tomorrow is our last dinner with our host family, and our last excursion (27 charcos, here we come!). i came to Santiago thinking 3 weeks here would be overwhelming but i could stay for 3 more and be overjoyed
  • this experience has been incredible and i would recommend a study abroad program to everybody and anybody. having a homestay experience has definitely helped me immerse myself in the culture and again i am so grateful to have lived in the Dominican Republic for three weeks, working at Ciudad Santa Maria with some of the brightest and sweetest kids i've ever met






  • we only have two full days left in santiago so it is finally sinking in that i won't be able to see all of our friends ever again. the relationships that i've built with my host family, the children at Ciudad Santa Maria, and mostly the other students in the program, are so different from any relationships i have at home, and I will try to keep in touch with everyone, even if it's only over social media. 
  • today we had our final spanish class in which we discussed the food and music of Santiago. la bandera, the traditional dominican dish of rice, beans, and any type of meat, is what i look forward to at lunch everyday. 
  • over the past three weeks, my spanish speaking abilities have improved a ton. practicing with my host family has helped a lot, as well as talking with the Ciudad Santa Maria kids. i started out speaking only when necessary at meals with my host family, in fear that i would say the wrong thing and embarass myself, but i gained confidence in myself soon after. i now feel that i can easily express 

Daily update- Isabella & Elise

Thanks to Elise & Isabella for their blog post!


Today was the first time I've ever not slept through my alarm clock! I usually wake up hella late and have to shove my food down as I'm running up the hill to the bus, but today I was able to take my sweet old time. Edwardo was basically on time and we drove once again to the school. As always we played basketball and did arts and crafts with most of the kids while others sprayed the hose at the poor oblivious counselors walking past. I made the mistake of walking past the splash zone about three times and I was completely soaked every time!! Stickers and candy were handed out at the end and we said our goodbyes for the day early so our group could have a little time to get together and fix some of our mistakes. Then headed home, ate a hardy lunch of chicken, plantains, and a ton of rice, and took a fat nap for a good hour.

Elise and I then trekked up the hill again on one of our many 15 minute walks and then drove to the baseball stadium. We walked around it, saw a room with a bunch of trophies, looked in the gift shop and then drove to a field to play baseball with some locals. The other group joined us and we all desperately attempted to play decently, but as expected many of us had much room to improve. I batted terribly, and promptly after missing my first two balls (I got two strikes? I really don't know how to put this into words hahah) I whacked the ball right into the pitchers mitt. Honestly pretty pathetic, but I was juiced that I hit the ball!! I hit again later and made it to first base but unfortunately still not a star player. Then took some pictures, got some Instagrams of the players, and dipped. Many of us then had plans to get our nails done but that didn't work out because of a loooottt of factors coming into play so instead we ate some sweet frog!! Now I'm home, tired, not so into the idea of working on my presentation but it's all good because at the end of it I can treat myself to a shower!! Today's fact on Isabella- showers are no matter what the highlight of my day!! So yeah it was an incredible day as usual! 



Today I actually woke up at a decent time and had crackers for breakfast because our host mom had to leave early in the morning and didn't have time to make us breakfast. Our usual walk to the bus stop takes 15 minutes which is exhausting every time but we stop to pet this dog everyday that's our buddy. The bus was on time today which was great because we didn't have to stand in the heat for too long. At the summer camp I played basketball with some kids and got a cat painting on my face, I also talked to other students in my program about the trip coming to an end and that none of us our ready to leave. After an amazing lunch consisting of rice, beans, chicken, and plantains we got to go the baseball field and stand on the grass! Baseball is very popular in this country and means a lot to the people so being given the opportunity to stand on that field meant a lot even though I'm not that big of a baseball fan. Just being able to experience what others love and my not have the opportunity to ever do was incredible. We also got the pleasure of playing baseball with a little league which was  pretty fun and I enjoyed seeing others having fun.  Finishing the day off I went out for ice cream and fries with some of my girls we had I great time enjoying the night life and laughing with one another and being blessed with the company of wonderful people.

Excursion update!

Hello! We are back after a few days of no internet access. Please read our guest blog post from Brooke below!


On Friday, we traveled over three hours in our guagua to the Dajabon Market, which is one of the biggest markets on the border of the Dominican Republic and Haiti. We learned that the market is opened twice a week, from five am to five pm, and it is a chance for people from Haiti to cross over into the DR and both sell and buy goods. The market is one of the biggest resources, and it is their chance to get the money and goods they need in order to provide for their family for the week. We went to the market at the very end (of the legal part anyways), and I personally found it very overwhelming. There were people everywhere, along with goods scattered along the floor, trash, motorcycles, wheelbarrows, and more. People were selling everything you could possibly think of, from clothes to food to bags to bathroom items. It was very emotional for me to see the desperation that these people had to sell their goods, especially when I saw kids my age or younger doing it. I realized that my life is so different compared to theirs, and I am so privileged with everything I have. I found the market to be really eye-opening, and am glad I got to experience it. That night we stayed near a factory on the border of the two countries. We all got to take pictures with one foot on each side!


  It was extremely fun to hang out as one big group for dinner and then the night, as we don't usually get to do that when we are with our host families. The next day, Saturday, we went to the beach!


We first took the boat to a small river like area, and got to scrub ourselves with the sand that made all of our skin really soft! We then went to an island for lunch and swimming at the beach. IMG_9119.JPG We were all so glad that we finally got to go to the beach, and even though all of us got sunburned (all of our shoulders are now constantly burning), it was totally worth it!! That night, we went to a restaurant near the water and ate, danced, hung out, had a fire and ate s'mores. It was a wonderful time!!


Today, Sunday, we had a nice breakfast as a group and then took a small tour of Monte Cristi before returning to Santiago. We got to see a salt mine, the clock tower, and we ate lunch at the house where the June 14th Movement meetings were held to plan actions against Trujillo. These three days were extremely fun, eye opening, and enjoyable. It was a nice break to just get to relax and hang out with each other. Back to service tomorrow!

More about Camp and Puerto Plata!

Thank you to Raegan +  Sienna for their guest blog post!


On day 10 of our service and leadership program in Santiago, DR, we had our second day of summer camp in Santa Maria with the students. We played games, ate snacks, and did arts and crafts. Every day we come home and have lunch with our host family and talk about our morning. After lunch, we took a bus ride to Puerto Plata. During the ride we listened to music and looked out the window at the rural areas of the Dominican Republic. When we got there, we took a tour of the Fort of San Felipe, looked at the view of the coast, soaked our toes in the water, and got to explore the town of Puerto Plata. The ride back was really eye opening because we got to compare the differences between the rural and urban areas of the DR and realize the privileges that we have.


Saludos a todos!! Hello!

What an exciting experience we have been having here in the beautiful Hispaniola island! The students got settled in well during the first week here as they met their host families, the school where we take classes and the community where we have our summer camp for the children here. Our orientation the first day was in a beautiful quiet setting in the mountains alongside a river. As the week went on the students took a tour of the city of Santiago. We were able to look at many historical buildings and sites and to get a quick taste of the life here in Santiago. 
We have already had various trips and excursions and projects going on! We visited the museum of Centro Leon which has many wonderful exhibits about the nature here in the Dominican Republic and the complex history of the people, culture and heritages. The students had some great questions and observations of the artwork and seemed to really enjoy the artistic portrayal of the history and culture of the country. The students also had a chance to get in touch with the art here by learning how to make their own bracelets and collage artwork made of a soft wood material which was a fun relaxing afternoon. 
In order to understand the current state of the country and its people, as is true anywhere, it is crucial to study and seek to understand the history. The Mirabal sisters were the face and leaders of the revolution against the tyrannical dictator Trujillo who ruled with complete control for 31 years. We watched the movie In the time of the Butterflies to help give context about this era of the country and the sacrifice of the sisters and many more to bring down this tyrannical regime. The next day we took a trip to visit their house and help make the history something tangible. 
The students have been doing a wonderful job working with the children from the Santa Maria school in their summer camp. The students worked in groups to set up their schedule for the camp and what activities they want to do with the children. We have been doing art projects, sports and many different games that the students are leading. 
As the students have been trying to get used to the strong sun, heat and humidity we had a nice afternoon trip to the town of Puerto Playa where we saw another one of the country's strategic forts and enjoyed the water, cool breeze and a delicious ice cream. :)
As we come to the half way point of our time here in the DR we are in a strong rhythm and have so much still to do!! As we continue with our summer camp with the children we also have dance classes, Spanish classes, cooking classes, beach excursions and adventures, a visit o one of the largest markets here, a baseball game, a waterfall and river adventures......... lots to do!! 
My hope for the students as we finish the time here is that they will continue to immerse themselves in the culture here. That they won't be on their phone or talking with people back in the states. My hope is that they will continue to push themselves into a discomfort zone. To play dominoes with Dominicans and Haitians or order a coconut in the street even though they might not be fluent in Spanish. As we travel throughout the country I hope the students carefully observe the world around them. We are fish swimming in new waters and I hope they are soaking up everything and learning to think critically about the world around us. I hope they go back to the US with a new global perspective of how people live in another part of the world and can critically think about how we live our lives. I hope this trip and all the many experiences we are having will be transformative for the students and help them grow into the responsible active global citizens that I see them becoming. 
Stay Tuned!!  :)
Peace, Love and Service. 
Happy Blessings. 
~Douglas Pentland~

Campamento y Puerto Plata!

Thanks to Pader + Olivia for their guest post!

Hola! Today was wonderful day as we got to spend some time in Santiago con los niños. After lunch we ventured out to Puerto Plata! The photos above are of CIEE students teaching the children of Ciudad Santa Maria how to make bracelets. They made some for themselves, friends and family, and for us too!


We also played various games and sports with the kids. Owen can be seen above playing baseball with Jonas and Douglas was playing basketball with Eddie. The kids also invented a game called tree tag where all the trees were bases and you had to move when someone stole your tree! What a game!


After an amazing lunch of sancocho we went to Puerto Plata. There were exhibits of artifacts and a section dedicated to the liberator, Juan Pablo Duarte. The exhibits were very interesting and afterwards we went to the beach!


At the beach, we walked around and took many pictures. Next we drove to the downtown area of Puerto Plata to purchase any souvenirs and to explore the town. Mercedes even purchased ice cream for us before we left for home.


Day 8- ¡Dίa de Descanso!

Muchas gracias to Tara y Nikky for their guest blog post!


    It started out slow, got to sleep in, then had pancakes for breakfast which were absolutely delicious. We were soon called outside to the backyard by our host mom Josephina, who insisted we put our feet up and enjoy the cool breeze. Our host brother Manuel joined us as we relaxed and listened to the sounds of the neighborhood, with Tara reading her book and Nikki journaling. After about two hours, everyone was called in for lunch, a meal of spaghetti and broccoli, then prepared to leave for a trip outside the city. Once on the road, with four people crammed in the backseat, it took around half an hour and an off-road journey across a river to arrive at Manuel’s grandma’s farm. While there, we met a fluffle of bunnies (one of which Tara named Pedro after Peter the Velveteen Rabbit), a horse that hates humans, a parakeet named Puca, and a dog named Tyson who likes watches. After spending time with all the animals, we figured we should actually go and introduce ourselves to the humans of the household. Everyone was lounging under a gazebo (apparently a hard word to remember) with a roof of banana leaves. We weren’t actually introduced to all of the family members present, but we did get to say hello and were received very warmly. Following a bit of relaxation and a bit of music, we joined Manuel and his family for a couple rounds of dominoes. Having never played before and no knowledge of the game, we quickly learned with the help of the little kids on our teams. After multiple rounds of dominoes, we left to see a soccer game. The game, which was between Santiago and Moca, ended in a zero to zero tie, but the people in the stands were more interesting than the game itself. Armed with drums, horns, and güiras, the crowd was constantly yelling and making noise, singing and cheering. When the game ended, we headed back to our house, ready to eat dinner and tell our host mom about our day. As soon as we arrived, we were served dinner, a surprisingly amazing grilled ham and cheese sandwich with a slice of tomato in the middle. Manuel and his family were supposed to leave after we ate, but as we have seen, Dominicans take their time. They ended up going outside and setting up shop for another 2 hours. More people may have showed up, we don’t know. The night ended with Nikki eating an entire chocolate bar (from the cacao farms in Salcedo) and us going to bed later than we probably should have. But hey, at least Tara was finally able to fix her watch and Nikki found her bugspray.



Manuel with Oscar the Bunny


A soccer game- go orange!


The bunny bin!


El Tiempo de Cacao y Mariposas

Muchas gracias to Erin + Julianna for their guest post!


¡Que lo que! After a week of classes at Dominico Americano we had our first excursion together at El Sendero de Cacao; a cocoa farm about an hour and a half away from Santiago.

Choco intro

After trying some fresh hot cocoa, we were given a tour of the farm and a few lessons about how they grow, harvest, and make the chocolate.



Chocos no

We also got to try the cocao fresh from the plant. Some of us had the opportunity to participate in the process of making chocolate the old fashioned way by hand by grinding the cocao beans with sugar. Afterwards it was passed around, so everyone was able to try it.

Chocos2 Choco2

Then we went inside the factory and watched the current process of making chocolate and we were able to create our own molds and eat them after they cooled.




Afterwards, we took more pictures, ate lunch, and got some more chocolate souvenirs from the gift shop.




Then we went to the historic Mirabeau Sister’s home. They're known for their important roles in the Dominican revolution against Trujillo; a dictator from 1930-1961 who killed thousands of Dominicans and Haitians under his authority. We were given a tour of the house and the garden in which the Mirabel sisters or the “Butterflies” lived and are buried in.


On the ride back to Santiago, we had a fun time on the bus jamming to music together and enjoying our chocolate. We're looking forward to starting our service next week and many more memorable experiences together.

Primeros Días en Santiago, DR!

Ya estamos aquí!! Here's a little bit about what we've been up to since we arrived:

Day 1: Travel to Santiago

  • Tired, but excited, we arrived around 8:30pm on Sunday. Students went directly to meet their Dominican families. 

Airplane pic

 Day 2: Orientation

  • We traveled to Jarabacoa, a mountainous area about an hour outside of Santiago for orientation. 
  • Students went through a Dominican "crash course" of all the basics of being in the country
  • We visited Jimenoa and Yaque del Norte rivers

Day 3:

  • Students visited Centro Cultural Domínico-Americano educational center, where we will have classes and seminars & completed a Spanish placement test
  • After lunch, we went on a tour of Santiago, visiting the monument and the surrounding municipalities



A few of our favorites so far:

  • the FOOD! (plátanos at every meal & rice and beans galore!)
  • the lush vegetation everywhere!
  • our awesome host families
  • the friendly people


Hasta Pronto,

Kathryn (Program Leader)


Al Fin, El Servicio!


During our time here in the DR, we will be helping facilitate un campamento (camp) for students ranging from 7-14 years old in la ciudad Santa Maria en la Otra Banda. The majority of this week’s classes en el Dominico have focused on getting to know the ciudad (city) where we will be working, understanding the systemic issued in the community, as well as getting to know each other’s strengths and weaknesses as leaders. Our group divided into 4 teams and is responsible for planning, organizing, and executing their own camp schedule for their group…they even get to set the rules for their Dominican students!

After spending the week hearing lectures about the challenges this small city faces daily with poverty, pollution and lack of resources and watching videos of some of the children we will interact with, the students have been anxiously awaiting the day where they could finally experience all the things they have been hearing for the past week….that day was TODAY!!!! We went on a short tour of the school where we will work and the kids are now officially ready to begin summer camp on Monday!

After visiting Santa Maria, students watched “En el Tiemp de las Marioposas”. The film is about the Mirabal sisters who fought against the Trujillo dictatorship in the Dominican, and were murdered in 1960 for their role in a secret plot to overthrow the government. The movie sets the stage for our day trip tomorrow, where we will visit el Museo de las Hermanas Mirabal, where we will learn even more about the sisters’ role in the overthrow of Trujillo’s dictatorship.

There’s a look at what we did today, and what we will do tomorrow! Below are a few pictures from the past few days!



P.S. Keep your eyes open for some guest bloggers coming in the next few days!

Hasta pronto,

Kathryn (Program Leader)