Here is a list of the frequently asked questions about CSA. If you don’t see your question answered here, please don’t hesitate to contact us.
1. Does CSA have any sort of religious affiliation?
No, CSA is a secular registered not-for-profit organization. We do not have any particular religious affliction. However, church and other religious groups are very welcome take part in our trips. We can easily accommodate room in your schedule for devotions etc.
2. How do I come on a trip?
If you are coming as part of a group, simply sign up with your group leader who will give you all the details about how to make payments and etc.
3. What type of stuff could I do in the DR?
We have a wide variety of opportunities available depending on your interests and abilities. Some groups want to spend all their time out working in a local community as part of our Volunteer Service program.
Meanwhile, other groups want to deepen their understanding of some of the local culture and social issues. For these groups, we offer specific programs in Social Work, Public Health, Education and Spanish and Culture. These Academic Service Learning programs first provide a foundational understanding through workshops given by local experts, fieldtrips, and group discussion that then is put into practice through a hands-on service experience.
With either option, you’ll have a chance to get to know a local community taking part in a dynamic local project. Our students and volunteers are a key part of each local project. You could do things such as work with youth community leaders, training them how to spread drug-prevention and STD awareness messages to their peers. Or you could build latrines with local families helping to prevent the spread of contagious diseases, which are particularly dangerous for young children. Or you could work alongside a local community health worker, helping provide support to individuals living with HIV/AIDS. These are all example of local projects supported by CSA.
If you prefer, there are also opportunities for you to focus your time in developing your Spanish language skills. This can be done through an intensive language program or as an option add-on to an Academic Service Learning program.
4. Who can come?
CSA trips are open to everyone regardless of their age, sex, or religious background. We are also happy to make accommodations for individuals with special needs.
Our programs are generally designed for groups. If your university, school, office, church, or other organization is not currently planning a trip, we can give you the tools and guidance to make it happen. We have a very simple step-by-step guide which outlines out to do this. And we promise to be there alongside you each step of the way providing coaching and support. So please, get in touch with us right away and we’ll be happy to answer any questions you might have and talk you though how this works.
Individuals or groups can come and take part in Spanish Immersion program which will develop your Spanish language abilities and provide you with opportunities to put what you learn in class into practice through field trips and excursions lead by your instructor.
We also occasionally have openings for interns, which are for individuals or small groups of students or young professionals.
5. Why do I have to pay to volunteer?
CSA is an independent not-for-profit organization, and so most of our programs are financed by our volunteer’s contributions. Our focus is in working with local communities who have the greatest needs, and so therefore are not able to pay for the health, education, and other services that they need. Your contribution as a volunteer is literally doing things such as providing a family with a latrine or putting the roof on a school.
In addition, your financial contribution supports your time here in the Dominican Republic, including prepared meals, housing, transportation, orientation, an experienced team leader, and administrative costs. In addition, as the projects that you are taking part in as a volunteer are on-going and part of a larger impact, CSA staff will provide not only pre-trip coordination with the community, but also on-going support and training to ensure the long-term results.
6. How much does it cost?
The cost to participate varies depending on the program type and duration. Please see the International Exchange section for details for each specific program. CSA is committed to providing the absolute best possible experience to our volunteers and students at the most affordable prices.
7. What is included in the program cost?
When you take part in a CSA group program, once you get off the plane in the DR until your return trip back home, CSA will provide almost everything you need for a fantastic experience. You will not need to worry about managing any logistics or details during your time with us.
Specifically we provide:
- Airport pick-up at start of project
- Airport drop-off at end of project
- All ground transportation as described in calendar
- All housing
- 3 meals a day, water and snacks
- 24 hour support and supervision by bilingual CSA staff
- Volunteer project preparation, coordination, and follow-up
- Materials needed for volunteer project
- All recreational and fun activities as described in the program calendar
- For Academic Service Learning programs, all lectures, workshops and field visits as described in calendar
- For Spanish Immersion program, all classes and materials
- T-shirt for each participant
- Orientation and guided debriefs during projects
Flights, medical or travel insurance, purchase of the government issued tourist card ($10USD), and personal spending money (for things such as souvenirs, alcohol, or additional snacks) are not included in the program cost.
8. Is the Dominican Republic dangerous?
As a politically stable country, the DR is generally considered to be a safe place for visitors. Although like many other developing countries there is some pottery crime, by taking simple, common-sense precautions most issues can be avoided. By not wearing flashy jewelry, by leaving your valuables at home and staying with the group are all ways to reduce your risk. CSA participants have had minimal issues and our staff is always available to help.
9. What is the food and housing like?
When selecting our housing and food providers, we make the safety and well-being of our international volunteers and students our first priority. As such we only work with people we know well and trust.
If your program has you spending time in Santo Domingo, you have two options. You can either stay in a very comfortable family-owned hotel where you will share 2-3 people per room. Or you can choose to stay with local host families, which gives you a chance to practice your Spanish with native speakers and have more insight into Dominican culture.
During our time in the ‘campo’ (field and rural communities) we stay and have our meals in either family-owned hotels or local nonprofit retreat centers. The staffs are very accustomed to international groups and so are well-trained in food safety standards.
Food is blend of traditional plates with items that are more familiar. This allows you to experience local food and culture, without being too uncomfortable. Please let us know before you arrive if you would like vegetarian meals or have any specific food allergies.
Rather than staying in large resorts (which are often foreign-owned so the money does has much less benefit to the local people), we purposely practice good eco-tourism by only working with all small locally owned businesses so to support Dominican families and the local economy. This also gives you more opportunities to interact with local people and experience its rich culture. To read more about this, see Why Choose CSA.
10. What if I don't speak Spanish, can I still volunteer?
Dominicans are incredibly friendly and welcoming. Even if you speak very basic or no Spanish at all, if you are willing to make an effort, you’ll be surprised by how well you’re still able to communicate.
If you come on a group volunteer or academic service learning trip, CSA will provide bilingual group coordinators and translators, so language ability is not a limitation. And during your volunteer project, there are a number of different ways for everyone to get involved, regardless of their Spanish ability.
CSA also offers optional Spanish classes for our Academic Service Learning groups. During the first week of your trip, during your time in Santo Domingo, in addition to workshops and field trips, your group can choose to add Spanish classes. See this section for more information
For a longer-term internship you’ll be more on your own, and so we do required an advanced level of Spanish to participate. We’ll have an initial interview by phone to assess your Spanish before arriving in the DR, and may suggest that you take some Spanish classes with us before beginning your internship experience.
11. What kinds of local projects does CSA support?
CSA supports a variety of local initiatives, but the uniting theme is empowerment of local people by providing them with the training, tools, and resources needed to live healthy and economically stable lives.
For more information, check out the Community Work section of our website.
12. What should I pack?
For a detailed packing list can be found here.
13. Will I be able to contact home?
There will be some opportunities to you to be in touch with loved-ones back home. We provide each participant with an initial phone card to be able to make a brief call to let your family know you arrived safely. There is also some limited access to wifi and internet cafes depending on your exact site location. However, we suggest that you emphasis to friends and family back home ‘no news is good news’ and really immerse yourself in your time and experience here.
14. Do I need a visa to enter the Dominican Republic?
There is no visa required for US citizens staying in the DR for less than 60 days. For non-US citizens or more specific visa questions, please consult the Dominican Embassy at their website, www.domrep.org
However, do be sure to have $10 USD cash for the government issued tourist card upon entering the DR at the airport.
15. How do I pay for my trip?
For groups we ask that the group leader collect the funds from each team member and send us a check by Fed Ex or by wire transfer. The first payment (50% of total) should be received 45 days before your arrival date and the second payment (50% of total) should be received by 30 days previous to your arrival date.
Because of problems with the mail system, please do not sent checks by US mail.
Individuals should make payments through the same methods and same timeline.
16. Are there any required vaccines to enter the DR?
There are no required immunizations to enter the DR. However, CSA suggests consulting your physician or a travel medical specialist for advice on any recommended vaccines or special precautions whenever traveling outside North America.
As an organization, in addition to all routine vaccines up-to-date, CSA suggests following the recommendations of the Center for Disease Control for travel to the DR, which can be found on the CDC website.
While the majority of our work does not occur in high malaria prone regions, your physician can discuss with you if anti-malaria pills should also be considered when traveling to the DR.