A group of 15 IMS students and three faculty chaperones traveled to the Dominican Republic for an Intersession service learning trip of a lifetime. Based in La Angostura in Manabao, we primarily worked on building gardens in the community. We stayed with host families there for a week (the kids were in groups of two or three per family) and built and planted garden plots for five homes during that time, as well as renovating the garden at the EcoLodge in the center of the town and creating a compost area. These small gardens help diversify the families’ diets and improve their basic nutrition. Additionally, the produce from the gardens can be sold or bartered for further nutritional diversification within the community and additional household income.


For a lot of the students this was a chance to practice their Spanish; for others, it was the first time they had ever learned or used any Spanish and they did great! They ate all their meals at their host homes and got to try lots of homemade and traditional Dominican foods including mangú, fresh batata, plantains, yucca, tayota, and, on the last night, sancocho.

Aside from our garden work, we also planted 80 baby pine trees to help prevent soil erosion in the town, picked strawberries at a local finca, visited a coffee farm and factory, hiked to two different waterfalls and went swimming. The reforestation project will ultimately help keep the river levels stable so that the community can rely on a steady river flow to power their hydroelectric plant.

Other cultural experiences included exploring the town of Jarabacoa for a day and visiting a local potter’s home studio and kiln for clay sculpture workshop about the rich history, heritage, and creative art of the indigenous Taino people.

We played baseball with a local team, learned how to play dominoes and how to dance bachata and merengue, and spent a night at one of the colmados in town to hanging out and dancing. It was a full week!

We left La Angostura early Sunday morning the day before our trip ended and spent our last 36 hours on the northern coast, having lunch at a parada on our way up and then spending time on the beach at Cabarete and at our hotel in Puerto Plata.
View more photos of the trip on Flickr!

The trip was organized by Educational Travel Adventures, and during our time in the DR our group was led by our American Program Leader, Sarah Wilson, as well as our Dominican Program Leader, Yosayra Capellán Delgado.

When asked what the highlight of the trip was, one of the leaders cited the fact that our group created the most gardens (5) of any group so far. Hear what others recalled as highlights of the service trip in this video.