|©2012 Fundacion Mahatma Gandhi. Las Terrenas, Samaná Province, Dominican Republic.
Legalmente incorporada bajo las leyes de la República Dominicana (2012). RNC 430-125-997.
"Be the change
you wish to see
in the world"
Volunteer Central, Pre-departure Orientation
Pre-Departure Orientation for Overseas Volunteers
Plenty of information appears on our Website, please make sure to read about who we are, why we do what
we do and what we’re attempting to achieve. Truth in information is important to us and we do not wish to
We are highly unstructured, meaning that you don’t have to punch a time card, there’s no office place per se
and that we prefer that volunteers decide on their own how to go about providing a service to the community.
In other words, we want you to find out for yourself, with the guidance we could offer, what you will eventually
do and in what manner.
Based on our experience with other volunteers we would say that if you are a very "structured" person or
someone who would rather work under well-defined parameters then our present condition may pose some
challenges. On the other hand, if you are more flexible and willing to take risks, if you have more experience
and are more adaptable to changing conditions, then you may find our conditions non-threatening. We are
an emerging organization and would like to see ourselves as malleable and self-learning. We see you as
contributing to our organizational learning. Ultimately we want you to have a meaningful, productive and
Volunteering for FMG
You'll start with library training so that you can be there and meet many of our clients, kids 6-15 mostly and
youth, then select which projects (crafts, academic support, self-esteem, arts) you'd like to do. There are
possibilities of involvement in the community as well and once you’re ready we’ll be there to assist you in
selecting a project of your choosing.
Your service expectations include at least 30 hours a week, half of that at the library. Special projects will
depend on your talents and experiences and we're here to help. This would be a good opportunity to take
risks, self-motivate yourself into doing something different and taking advantage of an open environment to
expand your creativity.
At the present time we don’t have staff or office (we are totally a volunteer organization as no one receives a
salary or financial benefits) and use the library as our operating center, so you’ll be in the midst of the action
with the freedom to decide based on your talents, experience, areas of interest and local needs. Any craft
projects that you could do with a group of 10-12 people (children/youth) would be interesting. At any time we’
re here to help.
We see ourselves as a channel, a catalyst, for community service for people who are service-oriented,
culturally appropriate and justice-driven. We have a lot of community deficits but prefer to be asset-driven,
seeking to provide our clients and audiences the best of ourselves and the best possibilities for personal
development. When you work with us you’re then helping us accomplish the mission of “bettering the lives
Cross-Cultural and More
This is an introduction to some of the general aspects of your cultural transition in the days ahead. It is
hoped that it will help you prepare well and that you will then feel free to ask any relevant questions before
We suggest first of all that you think in terms of:
1) Giving you the initial first days to adjust to your new environment. This means climate, food, sounds,
noise, water, cold showers in the volunteer house :-), and to get a "feel" for the community, among other
2) You have many ideas about what you would like to do, start checking things out in order to make them
realistic as much as possible. During this time ask us all the questions you like in regards to your areas of
involvement and what you think might be possible.
3) We still consider ourselves an emerging organization. Even when we started in 2005, seven years later
we are still learning about who we are and about what we can do and the fact that in 2012 we became legally
incorporated in the Dominican Republic brought about new challenges and opportunities. As we continue to
grow (or not), we hope that your suggestions or observations will be valuable.
4) Explore your expectations and reflect on what they mean. If you wish write some statements in regards to
each of the following areas and ask yourself "what do I expect?": food, noise level, garbage disposal, wealth
and poverty, social relations, communication styles, expediency, time flow, etc. A valuable tool appears at
http://www.doe.state.in.us/lmmp/pdf/iceburgofculture.pdf, simply ask yourself what do you expect.
Expectations are important because they are bound to be "violated," meaning that some things may turn out
to be better than expected, others worst than expected, in each instance an adjustment might be needed.
The more you know about your expectations the better your chances of good adjustments.
5) One important aspect is the social context, meaning that Las Terrenas is a very "special" place. You may
attract a lot of attention, some, I'm sure, unwanted. Being foreign, female and attractive may translate into
wrong ideas for some, not all, but definitely for some, particularly for volunteers who are Caucasian. Many of
the European women that come here do take on temporary or convenient male partners, they're called "sanki-
pankies." If you are Caucasian, single and walk around by yourself may lead some to assume that you're in
the market for one of them, particularly if you go out to some of the dancing places. Dancing is nice, the
atmosphere is informal and everyone is out to have a good time. Going there and dancing as a single
woman will trigger a number of dynamics that may be unwanted. During our in-site orientation you will meet
with her alone and explore this topic further.
g) Misc.: Re clothing, it is more humid here. Volunteers use light cotton skirts and sleeveless blouses. We
encourage them not to use short shorts because of our context of much sexual exploitation in the
community. Incidentally, bring a water bottle to carry with you, so you can refill it at the house as often as you
need. Also, a small flashlight can be handy. Don't bring expensive leather shoes, they'll get ruined. You'll
need more than one swimsuit, if you jog bring jogging shoes for jogging by the beach (then go swimming).
Mosquito repellent is a need and sunscreen as well. The water in the house smells a bit like sulphur (it
comes form our well in the house and it is chlorinated and filtered, but the mineral content is high). We have
a CD player in Casa Paz, bring some favorite music if you wish, something you can leave behind like copies,
there are lots there now. If you have or know someone with a spare cell phone, used, you can bring it and
activate it here for about US$10-15, only need to buy a calling card. Any phone from the U.S. would work
here, seems like and when you activate you're given a new number. If you don't need the telephone back
home you can leave it behind for use by other volunteers just don't forget the charger.
Overall, Las Terrenas is not your typical town and a lot of your satisfaction with the place may derive from
adequately clarifying expectations for you, so that we minimize negative "violations" and maximize "positive"
violation of expectations.
In addition, the topics at http://dr1.com/articles/index.shtml may be useful to you. Select the ones you like and
Information about the Program Fee and for the volunteer house, Casa Paz, appear on the application form.
The following could give you a sense of financial understanding and security in other areas.
Housing and Participation fee
We have reduced costs for Casa Paz depending on length of stay and your program fee is still very low
compared to other organizations that require fees for volunteers.
Transport in mototaxi is readily available but it's risky. The cost almost US$1 a ride around town. Most
volunteers have simply walk to the library, our center of activities, the longest distance within town being
about a mile.
There are six banks in town, all of them offer accounts in dominican pesos or in dollars. There are minimum
amounts required. They all have ATMs and you can draw money in pesos from your accounts in the U.S. or
in Europe. There's also Western Union in town, so money can be sent that way but their fees are very high.
The current exchange rate (Jan 2013) is US$1 = RD$40, so you get 40 dominican pesos for every dollar.
You can also open a checking account, or a savings account, with your passport. Check your bank policies
as there may be substantially fees if using the ATM cards from your bank.
You can buy a typical Dominican meal for about US$4-5, depending on what you want and whether
accompanied by a drink (juice, water) or not. Local food in restaurants is expensive compared to the rest of
the country (we are in a remote place and there are many foreign residents and tourists), but you will find
plenty of tropical foods, fruits and vegetables. A local "European" supermarket sells French goods as well
and there are 12 other supermarkets in various areas. Casa Paz has a fully equipped kitchen and your LPG
gas is included in the rent. Bottled water in 5-gallon jars are available for purchase nearby for RD$40-45 or
about US$1.15. Use bottled water for drinking and cooking. You may spend a total of US$5-15 for food a
day, depending on how you eat, but you'll know better after your first week here.
Safety and Security
Casa Paz is secured, with fencing and iron bars in doors and windows. Keep the house locked at all times,
when not in the house. Keep the front gate closed at all times. Do not leave electronic equipment such as a
laptop outside the house, in the terrace, if not present, same for all valuables. Do not keep lots of cash with
you, just what you need. If you open a local bank account, you can draw money from the ATM at the same
bank where you have your account and there would be no fees. There are three banks about two blocks from
Casa Paz. Casa Paz is well-lighted but nearby streets may not be. It may be wise to bring a small flashlight.
Get to know your neighbors, that's your best safety and we will introduce you to them so they get to know you.
If you befriend the women and the kids you've got it made. Kids will come naturally to meet you and would
want to play with you, particularly next door kids (they did the same with previous volunteers). They look out
for you as well.
Mohandas Gandhi said it best, “be the change you wish to see in the world.” If you’re coming to work with us
it must be because you have values, ideals and intentions similar to ours then we’re very happy about that.
We’re about people, about service, about developmental transformation and about action. We’re small,
unfunded yet committed. In two years we’ve built a good reputation in outstanding areas of service in the
community. We thank you in advance for making your contribution toward a better future for many people in
Pre-Departure Checklist. Go here.
Volunteer photos here.