Hand in hand with the Mariposa DR Foundation, you will help empower girls in the Dominican Republic in efforts to lift them out of generational poverty. Nestled on the north coast in the town of Cabarete, we volunteer along with teachers to provide educational, artistic, and athletic activities in the afternoons for girls ages 8 to 11. In the mornings, we work as a team on building and beautification projects (landscaping, painting and general maintenance) around the Mariposa Center. This service learning program is an opportunity for you to enjoy significant cross-cultural exchanges and to open up new horizons for the local community and for yourself.
Participants on this program have the option of joining us on a chaperoned group flight from our departing USA city (New York or Miami to be finalized in the spring) directly to Puerto Plata. We strongly recommend this option to Puerto Plata. Our staff will be with you from the time you check-in onward. We arrange flights from other cities to connect into the departing city. From New York, we typically have 1 leader flying with participants from the area to the departing city depending on how many are from New York. Check with us on your departure date. If you decide to meet us in Puerto Plata, we will help you coordinate your flight and times and greet you as you proceed through immigration and customs.
For your return from Puerto Plata, we offer a chaperoned flight back to the USA. You may choose to join that flight and arrange transfers (if required) at suitable times after the group has cleared customs and immigration in the USA; or you may fly from Puerto Plata to your home city and our leaders help you to check-in and remain in the airport until flights in designated times have departed.
The Mariopsa DR Foundation’s philosophy is “Educate, Empower, Employ” by creating a safe space for young girls to become engaged in their future and become leaders in their communities. They seek to create opportunities for young girls to stay in school, reach higher levels of education and learn practical trade skills which will allow them to contribute to the socio-economic growth of their communities and beyond.
The Mariposa DR Foundation is proud to be an official Girl Effect recognized organization since 2012. The Girl Effect is a worldwide movement. It’s about getting girls onto the global development stage and focusing massive amounts of resources on them by age 12. The Girl Effect is a transformative force that can change the future of humanity. World leaders, economists and policy makers all recognize that an adolescent girl is the most powerful force for change, yet less than 1% of international aid is invested in her.
According to the 2008 UNESCO assessment, the Dominican Republic school system ranked last in reading, math and science. Due to the lack of education of girls in the Dominican Republic, 41% of girls are married by the age of 18 and 12% are already married by the time they are 15 years old. Nearly half of teenage girls in the Dominican Republic become mothers and 88% of children in the Dominican Republic are born to single mothers who are more likely to struggle to sustain economic stability. The less education they receive, the more likely they are to marry young or become single mothers, thus perpetuating the cycle of generational poverty.
By working with the Mariposa Foundation, you will play a part in creating an environment where young girls will want to spend time and you will help to instill the importance of education and allow them to see their greater potential. In the mornings, while the Mariposa girls are participating in their activities, you will be working on various building and beautification projects around the center. You will have lunch together with the Mariposa girls and spend the afternoons with them doing arts and crafts projects, participating in sports, reading or playing games.
The beautiful town of Cabarete, known for its refreshing ocean breezes, is nestled in the northern bay of the Dominican Republic. Begin your experience with a full day of snorkeling, as you bond with your new friends on a catamaran cruise before starting your service the following day.
Spend each morning working on a variety of building and beautification projects for The Mariposa Center for Girls. Enjoy a balance of service and fun with afternoons spent engaging with the Mariposa girls, getting involved in the community, surfing, kayaking, fishing and yoga. You will have opportunities to try new things like stand up paddleboarding, participating in a cooking class and visiting a cacao plantation.
Located on Cabarete’s Kite Beach, the Kite Beach Inn is steps from the Caribbean Sea. Each room is equipped with air conditioning and wifi.
At Westcoast Connection nothing else comes first. From our extensive trip planning department through our management team and our leaders, it is our single biggest priority! Safety procedures, equipment – we’ve got it covered. All Trip Leaders and Directors are certified in First Aid and CPR. We are extremely proud of our safety record and welcome all questions you may have in this area. Please see more under Safety First.
Once you are on your trip, you will have sensitive leaders that are caring, approachable and always there for you. Your Trip Director and Trip Leaders are people with incredible backgrounds including teachers, guitar players, IRONMAN triathletes, SCUBA divers, volunteers, and so much more.
Every staff member takes part in and must complete our extensive training weekends that review our philosophy and procedures to provide a well-supervised and fun-filled program.
Our Trip Directors, the individuals responsible for overseeing each itinerary, take on the roles of teachers, coaches, camp counselors, mentors, concierges and hosts. They’ve been trained to provide individual attention and create an all-inclusive family atmosphere (our EACH & EVERY philosophy). There’s a definite art to building dynamic groups, and we’ve worked hard to master it! We want you smiling on day one right through to a teary goodbye at your farewell banquet.
Our leaders are non-smokers. To learn more about our staff, please visit our Summer Leaders section.
We can’t say it too many times, this is a really incredible group experience. A great dynamic starts with our secrets for group bonding. Our bag of tricks goes way beyond traditional ice breakers. Imagine people hunts, Rock, Paper, Scissors championships, Ninja tournaments, flash mobs and so much more. We work hard to get everyone moving beyond first impressions and creating an atmosphere of total acceptance. Our staff hiring and training emphasizes social safety and establishing an inclusive culture. Many of our travelers come as individuals and we have a geographically diverse enrollment with students joining us from across the U.S., Canada and internationally. This mix helps eliminate cliques at the outset and establish an open environment that benefits you. We take great care in assembling groups to create an unforgettable social experience. Our international service programs are for up to 24 group members.
Our service projects can change from one year to the next as we adjust to the needs of the local communities and the guidance of our service partners. This way, our service hours have the greatest impact and move forward the projects with the greatest priority. We also focus on service-learning throughout the process, where education and reflection are key to enriching these experiences for all.
Our groups participate in well-planned and substantial community service projects in between surfing near Encuentro Beach, snorkeling and exploring the Atlantic by catamaran cruise to visiting and touring a cacao plantation. We know when to pick up the pace to get the adrenaline flowing; we also know when it’s time to chill with some downtime on the beach. The balance of service and recreation is what sets our programs apart. By integrating adventure and recreational highlights into our itineraries, we are able to maintain a high level of enthusiasm.
Volunteer with experienced non-profit organizations and alongside the locals who often directly benefit from your help, as you become part of a team working towards a common goal. Everyone’s contribution and cooperation are so important to help the service projects progress as planned, so please join us with the right expectations and a positive attitude. The rewards in sharing this experience are many, such as lasting friendships, improved interpersonal skills and personal growth. You will receive a letter of completion recognizing your hours of service and listing the work you helped to complete.
Westcoast Connection is a Certifying Organization for the President’s Volunteer Service Award. The award program was developed in 2003 as a way to honor and thank U.S. citizens and residents who engage in service both domestically and abroad. Presidential recognition of what you have achieved speaks to the type of person you are and hopefully inspires others to take positive action to change the world. The award requires completing 100 hours of community service within a 12 month period. Your service hours with our program qualify towards that total to earn the award.
As you travel to new places and experience different cultures, your journey may challenge your ideas and preconceived notions. We recognize this and strive to provide an environment where you are free to question and learn. This is nurtured by our leaders’ open and non-judgmental guidance. The opportunity for growth through service learning is endless!
Of all our summer programs, community service provides the greatest opportunity to interact with the local people and culture. Being exposed to families and children who have different customs and daily realities can broaden our perspective and raise our awareness of important issues. In a multicultural world, this education can break stereotypes and help us understand the role we play as global citizens.
There really is a difference in how different summer programs operate! Motivated teens going away with qualified leaders is a given. But what sets us apart is the depth of our qualified personnel that allow us to perform with the greatest consistency at the highest level.
Your Trip Director and Trips Leaders are with you throughout your program. They have daily contact with one of our two 24-hour Communication Centers and are in regular contact with our Company Directors. Our Company Directors are the most seasoned veterans who each oversee specific programs providing support to trip staff and to assist with any situations that may arise. Our Company Directors alternate between traveling to visit programs and being reached in the office. Program visits enable us to provide ongoing support and development to our Trip Directors, allows trip staff to have a sounding board for their own progress in reaching trip goals, helps us to identify any challenging areas for improvement while it still has relevance to your summer rather than as a mention on your end-of-summer survey, and helps us to identify the future Directors from the current crop of all-star summer staff. These visits are by Company Directors along with our Regional Supervisors, who are former Trip Directors with further experience out in the field. Collectively our team is an incredible resource with 420+ summers of combined teen travel experience. This way, we can lend a hand wherever and whenever a little extra effort is called for. Last year, we had 208 scheduled supervisory trip visits to make sure all was running well, provide ongoing support to our staff in the field, and have fun! This investment in depth of personnel is unrivaled in teen travel and is a critical element to achieving consistent, excellent program quality and surpassing client expectations!
Included in the trip tuition are all activities and entertainment described, breakfast & dinner daily, lunches as indicated on your specific program, gratuities, taxes, land transportation, accommodations, and fanatical customer service from our full-time team and summer Communication Centers. This can add up to tremendous value!
We provide clean and comfortable accommodations. Please don’t expect luxury resorts and at the same time we know you need a good night’s rest to perform community service as well as have energy for our many other included activities. For quality and consistency of the group experience, we do not have any homestays. Each student has their own bed. For more detailed information on any specific program, visit the section marked Where We Stay.
A big part of a program’s success depends on how well you eat. We are proud of the fact that year after year we are complimented for our quality and quantity of food and variety of options. Meals vary by destination. Part of your travel experience will be immersing yourself in the local cuisine and culture, so please bring with you an open mind and a willingness to try new things. Although you can find a lot of North American style cuisine in the Dominican Republic, there is also lots of fresh fish, seafood, fruits and vegetables. In the Dominican Republic, we recommend against drinking the local tap water and we provide clean water for our travelers.
We have satisfied the choosiest of eaters and gladly accommodate most special dietary requests including vegetarian, anaphylactic food allergies, lactose intolerance, celiac disease and kosher style. We welcome discussing your individual requirements with you and have extensive personal experience in this area. International travel may present more challenges than domestic locations and we are happy to review your personal needs and help you select an appropriate itinerary.
On this community service program, you’ll ride in an air-conditioned motor coach with a professional driver.
You only need to bring one week’s worth of clothing as outlined in our packing list as we have the opportunity for laundry weekly.
On our international programs, every week you will drop off your laundry at a local wash and fold service and then pick it up clean, folded and ready to go.
While you’re out having the summer of your life, your parents should feel like they are in on the action as well. We post updates to our blog and Facebook page and e-mail photos approximately once a week so those at home can be in on the fun. Parents also have access to our dedicated office Trip Monitors 24/7 for any questions and/or concerns. We’re as in touch as any trip operator could possibly be via smartphones with e-mail and text. The goal is uncompromising safety and peace of mind, day after day, hour by hour, minute by minute. Participants may bring their personal cell phones.
In last summer’s surveys, 99% of responding teens and parents said they would recommend us to others. We must be doing something right!