Dominican Republic Volunteering: My Life-Changing Day

Her big chocolate eyes widened even further. This time, they were filled with hopeful tears. The gasp and loving shove of her daughter was further confirmation that we had achieved something special. I never thought a few hours of Dominican Republic volunteering could break such a thick wall of fear.

Eje!” – a popular Caribbean interjection, typically expressing endearment and surprise, quickly followed.

Dominican Republic volunteering cruise, Fathom

Dominican Republic Volunteering Cruise Excursion: My Life-Changing Day

For about 15 minutes,  Anastasia had been struggling with pronouncing shapes and colors in English — the week’s lesson for Fathom’s Community English. Then, I decided to share my own journey learning the language–while growing up in a Spanish-speaking home in Puerto Rico.

Fear and disappointment softened on her face, but she was still uptight and with a “there’s-no-way-I’m-going-to-ever-get-this” look.

Until I shook my massive afro, lifted my left shoulder and spurted out “say it like you don’t care.”

Anastasia and her daughter looked at me like I was crazy, but they emulated my stance.

Laughing, they faked a serious face, lifted their left shoulder, and said “circle.”

PERFECT. English. Even better than mine!

I couldn’t help myself, yelling almost immediately “BELLO! BELLO!”

BEAUTIFUL! BEAUTIFUL!

At that very moment, I could feel my hands punching the heck out of that wall of fear, crumbling it to the ground.

Her face changed immediately – and so did her attitude for the rest of the lesson.

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Unforgettable PM #teachingEnglish to a local family! VISIT→bit.ly/dominicanday for details These Dominican families welcomed us to their homes and challenged themselves, faced their fears, and practiced their English as we taught them new lessons. Twice a month, groups of travellers flood in from @fathomtravel #cruise to continue the work we have done. Over the course of several weeks, they complete a basic English course and build up on it, putting their skills to practice as other travelers come to Puerto Plata. Without the means to attend English Institutes, these at-risk communities have a fantastic opportunity to offer a better future to their children (and their mothers, brothers, sisters!) in the booming tourism industry that surrounds them–all thanks to the collaborative projects of local orgs & Fathom. Couldn't be more proud to be part of the Fathom changemaker family! #Traveldeep <3

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We went through all the colors and shapes, in addition to reviewing 2-3 lessons from previous weeks. Whenever Anastasia struggled, all I had to do was lift my left shoulder and chin for her to relax, do the same and say the word in perfect English immediately after.

Her daughter kept shoving her shoulder, chuckling with watery eyes, in amazement.

Time was up too quickly, but I had their undivided attention for some last words:

Never fear English, never fear mispronouncing. Whenever you’re having trouble, remember this shoulder lift and say it like you don’t care! It’ll come out, you can do it, you’ve seen it here today. Keep practicing your English with all the tourists that come to your communities; the Fathom volunteers that come your neighborhoods. Only with persistence and practice you’ll be able to become fluent in English just like I did.”

I can only have faith in their hopeful, teary eyes that they will. They will.

Community English Program Helps Build Brighter Futures from Fathom Travel on Vimeo.

One afternoon – that’s all it took for my Dominican Republic volunteering experience to make a lasting social impact. Better yet? Future Adonia cruise passengers, who will come to the same communities 2 weeks a month, will continue teaching the English curriculum where we left off.

You can make an impact too! By taking just one day out of a 7-day Dominican Republic cruise with Fathom, you can touch the lives of locals like I did. Or go on 6 half-day volunteering excursions during your 3 days in Puerto Plata!

Volunteer as much (or as little) as you can – now you don’t have an excuse to give back during your vacation.

Dominican Republic excursion, Fathom cruise

CLICK HERE for video + details of my Puerto Plata waterfalls excursion!

Many thanks to Fathom Impact Travel for inviting me to join this 7-day Dominican Republic volunteering cruise. The story of impact I just shared, however, is a true recollection of my experience during one of the Community English Program excursions. It was much better than I expected and I can’t wait to join them on another social impact voyage! 

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