Yearlong Volunteer Testimonials
The DREAM Project’s Yearlong Volunteer Program has helped shape our DREAM alumni into who they are today. Past and current volunteers have expressed the many benefits of the program, including increased Spanish language skills, independence, professional development, cultural sensitivity, event planning and fundraising skills, and curriculum planning, in addition to valuable classroom experience. Whether you plan on a teaching career or not, the DREAM Project’s volunteer program is a great resume builder that will help lead you to success in future endeavors. Take a look at how it has helped past volunteers:
Madeline Baird – Deportes para la vida Intern
Academic Year 2014-15
“DREAM has been an unrivaled opportunity to continue to advance my understanding of public health education and community-based development work. Joining the Deportes para la Vida team has allowed me to learn effective strategies for engaging youth to teach the fundamentals of prevention and sexual education while they simultaneously have fun with their peers. The support from the DPV team along with the guidance and professional development from our Volunteer Coordinator, Becky, have continued to cultivate my skill set and understanding of this beautiful country.”
Will Merrow – Monitoring and Evaluation Intern
Academic Year 2014-15
“DREAM is an excellent place to volunteer because the organization is committed to giving volunteers real responsibility and actively supporting their professional development. DREAM’s Volunteer Coordinator organizes professional development days and ensures volunteers get as much as possible out of their placements, and also helps volunteers integrate in the community. Volunteers are seen as central to the organization’s work and are a part of the DREAM family.”
Ysanet Batista – Young Stars Intern
Academic Year 2014-15
“Volunteering at DREAM has been an amazing experience that has allowed me to broaden my horizons in terms of the education field. I have been empowered to take on tasks that I previously have not had the opportunity to do and I feel appreciative to DREAM for this. All the coordinators and directors are extremely dedicated and it’s contagious. I am looking forward to continuing my journey being part of the DREAM team and meeting the needs that have to be met, both in the organization and the Cabarete community.”
Victor Flores, Harvard University
Academic Year 2013-14
“As a new DREAM volunteer, I have been welcomed into one of the communities that the DREAM Project serves. DREAM is a flexible space for me to grow and pursue my passion to serve youth and their families. Specifically, I have the opportunity to collaborate with passionate co-workers through trainings on classroom instructions and discussions on performance management of the organization itself.”
Alexander Fønnebø, University of Tromsø
Fall Term 2013
“The work I have been doing for DREAM has taught me a lot. First of all, it has been a cultural learning experience but I have also grown a lot as a person with the responsibility that follows work like this. I am also making good progress to learn a new language. I am very open to come back and work for an organization like DREAM. It is important work and it motivates me.”
Lisandro José M. Luciano, University of Tromsø
Fall Term 2013
“With DREAM I have learned to be professional and learned how different people can live and that all the material things that I appreciate and things of life important to me might be just a wish or a dream for some people in other countries. I also learn more about my own culture and people. I’ve learned how to communicate with kids and parents. DREAM gave me opportunities to get to know my inner-self.”
Stian S. Smørsting, University of Tromsø
Fall Term 2013
“I came into the work with DREAM and had good expectations. DREAM made a lot of those expectations come true. I developed myself as a person, I’ve learned how to appreciate the little things and to be more open to other people and cultures. I’ve learned to be more confident talking to bigger crowds and how to take control. Thanks for a great semester, DREAM! Can’t wait to come back.”
Debra Angely, Columbia Teachers College
Academic Year 2012-13
“When I started at DREAM I began my volunteer work in the public library program, the only children’s library on the North Coast of the country. Along with a co-librarian, I worked to facilitate a book club, reading competitions, and an after-school study group with high school students. We spent a lot of time helping families new to the center navigate their way around and check out books. As the year progressed and I learned more about the programs DREAM offered, I grew an interest in working with the Montessori school…” Read More
Emily Wanderer, University of Oregon
Spring Term 2013
“I began in January 2013 with DREAM as a librarian and special projects art teacher. I continued on in June as the summer camp art instructor and international volunteer coordinator. I most enjoyed working with the diverse individuals who created a highly passionate team at DREAM. The strong bond I feel to the community has drawn me back to Cabarete for another year to work in coordination with A Ganar & DREAM, and US non-profit EverGift. It’s easy to say that The DREAM Project will be the defining experience in my early professional career. It was and will continue to be a wonderful experience which I would recommend it to anyone who has thought about taking a year off from the routine they are used to.”
Maria Blanco, Oakland University
Academic Year 2011-12
“The first time I came to DREAM, I said I would volunteer for 4 months. I stayed the entire school year. The second time, I said I was stopping by while on my 2-week vacation then changed my flight and volunteered for 2 months! What’s the allure? Visiting an orphanage for mentally and physically challenged children during a DREAM service project, and finding a uncharted place in your heart that says every time you step foot on this island you will go back to that orphanage and ask Hermana Mercedes, a benevolent nun who single-handedly runs the orphanage, what can you do to help. DREAM facilitates these unexpected encounters, not because they are listed on an itinerary, but because every single organism in the Project moves in the same direction—a unified motion toward the progress of education, cultural awareness, and social responsibility.”
Michael King, University of Denver
Academic Year 2010-11
“Working with the DREAM Project was one of the most valuable and rewarding experiences of my life. For one year I taught English and mathematics to Dominican children and youth in a challenging but fun environment. The students are wonderful, the staff is supportive, and my fellow volunteers were all passionate and inspiring people. I truly felt that I made a difference in the lives of my students and gave them an opportunity to succeed that they would not have had otherwise. At the same time I made a stronger connection to the local Dominican community than I ever thought possible. On a personal level, I gained a huge amount of flexibility, management, and problem-solving skills that I’ve been able to apply to my educational and professional life ever since, while also boosting my Spanish language abilities to the next level. I would recommend volunteering with the DREAM Project to anyone who is looking for a meaningful and fulfilling experience abroad that goes beyond backpacking and beach-bumming. It’s a life-changing decision that you, and your students, won’t regret.”
Kathleen Bertrand, University of Massachusetts
Academic Year 2009-2010
“I came upon the DREAM Project while searching for a fun, feel good way to start off my summer. I had just graduated college, and signed up to volunteer at their annual five week summer camp. It didn’t take much time for me to make connections with the community. I became passionate and determined to understand the culture, the educational system, and the incredible individuals I’ve been fortunate to get to know. I decided 5 weeks was no where near enough time to make a difference; so I went back to Boston to pack up my things and signed on as a year long volunteer with DREAM. It was the best decision I have ever made, I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”
Laura Siegle, Wesleyan University; Teachers College, Columbia University
Spring Term 2010, Summer Camp 2011, 2012
”Now months after I have left the D.R. and my volunteer position with DREAM, I think of my experience and the experiences of the students I taught nearly every day. As a DREAM volunteer in Cabarete, I felt graciously accepted and welcomed into the Callejón community while feeling like I had an impact on it – and its future – each day. I also gained an intimate look at the inadequacies of the Dominican public education system, and an understanding of the enormous difference DREAM’s programs make in the lives of students that must navigate it.
DREAM’s dedication to educational change was inspiring to witness and be a part of. Knowing that my students would otherwise not have access to resources and courses DREAM offered, such as art classes, the public library, and computers, for example, made each day and each class seem valuable, and DREAM’s work feel urgent. Becoming a part of the Callejón community in Cabarete was also transformative for me. The warm welcome I received from neighbors and families, and their tremendous appreciation for DREAM was unlike anything I had experienced before. For me, the greater understanding of Dominican culture the community offered meant a greater understanding of kindness and the value of those things which are truly important in life at an essential level.
Perhaps most inspiring for me was the experience of Summer Camp. In the planning stages prior to camp, I can’t remember how many times it crossed my mind that it would be nearly impossible to accomplish what we sought to. I was intimidated by the number of components – programs, systems, schedules and people – that would have to fall into place in order for camp to run smoothly. Difficult as it was to admit, I was afraid that the camp we envisioned was simply too ambitious. All my apprehensions were proved dramatically incorrect as soon as camp began. I had never seen so many people from so many different places and diverse backgrounds come together to accomplish one common goal. What had seemed perhaps overly ambitious one week seemed unquestionable the next, as I witnessed the hard work, passion, and dedication of DREAM’s Summer Camp volunteers and staff. Each day of camp left me nearly in a state of disbelief; I could not believe how valuable each day, each class, and each experience was for every student and the tremendous teamwork involved in providing these opportunities. I wondered enthusiastically about the impact the experience of camp would have on a camper’s coming school year and years to come.
Ultimately, my experience with DREAM left me determined to pursue a career in the field of education. Now interested in exploring the effects of education policies and school reform efforts in the United States, particularly those that impact Dominican and Latino immigrant students, I have entered a graduate program in Sociology and Education at Columbia Teachers College in New York. I look forward to applying my experience with DREAM towards working to provide improved educational opportunities for under-served students in the U.S., and will be forever grateful to DREAM and the Callejón community for such a valuable volunteer experience.”
Lindsey Parr, University of North Carolina
Academic Year 2009-2010
“I am often asked about my year spent in the Dominican Republic volunteering with The DREAM Project. It is sometimes hard for me to formulate a response because I don’t know where to begin – there is so much I want to convey in my reply. One thing is for certain, though: My time spent with DREAM has been the most rewarding experience of my life thus far.
Over the course of that year, I woke up every morning excited about the day ahead of me. I knew it would be filled with some of the most amazing children I have ever met and with meaningful work that makes a real difference in each of their lives. There would undoubtedly also be wandering chickens, sticky heat, roaring motos, many hugs and kisses from neighbors, and loud meringue music; but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
As you probably already know, the public education system in the Dominican Republic falls short of providing students with an adequate education. Students living in the communities that DREAM serves, lack the resources and opportunities many of us are familiar with and take for granted. In fact, many of the avenues that are available to them fall outside the realm of education and may not be very positive or healthy choices. Working with DREAM, you will dedicate your time to ensuring these children receive a quality education and reach their full potential. You will help them develop their talents as students, leaders, and responsible community members. You will inspire them to dream big and then reach those dreams. Can you imagine a better cause for which to dedicate your time?
DREAM works to affect change by empowering the children through education, by encouraging families to participate in and support their child’s education, and by involving the community in supporting its youth. Change is a gradual process, but I saw the wheels turning each day that I spent in the classroom with my students.
It is one thing to read this information here on DREAM’s website; it is another to visit and experience it first-hand; and still another thing altogether to take action, and spend your time working toward change in the Cabarete community and Dominican schools. If you are reading this, I urge you to consider volunteering with DREAM. I guarantee it will be one of the best decisions you ever make. It certainly was for me.”