November 27 – 30, 2018
After arriving at “Destination Good” (Dominican Republican), we got on a bus at the airport and headed to the resort where we would be staying, which was in Punta Cana. Punta Cana is the eastern-most tip of the Dominican Republic with a population just under 50,000 (while the whole DR is just under 11,000,000). It is mostly full of resorts and water activities and known for its beaches.
I have a lot of thoughts on the concept of voluntourism, which is travel funded by, paired with, or for the purpose of volunteering. There are many advantages, and in my opinion, even more disadvantages. It can be done well, but it can also be done poorly and have negative implications. I had some mixed feelings on staying at an all-inclusive resort, and then going out to volunteer in impoverished areas. I’ll reflect more on the idea of voluntourism throughout and likely in separate blog post, too. I don’t want to get too caught up in it right off the bat though. Ultimately, it wasn’t our choice where we stayed, so I accepted it. It was a beautiful resort with a long sandy beach, unlimited drinks, all-inclusive meals, the works. I’m grateful for the opportunity to have stayed there for free. Although, a more authentic experience may have proven more impactful.
Once arriving at the resort Hotel Paradisus Punta Cana, we got in a line where we were given our bracelets (either blue or orange), which indicated what group we’d be in and the schedule we’d have. There were 100 of us plus JetBlue program staff, so we needed to be split into two groups for most of the volunteer excursions.
After getting our welcome packets, we went to find our room and explored a little bit on the way.
At 8 PM, we headed down to the Welcome Dinner on the beach and met more of the other participants. It was interesting to see how many different places people were coming from. They reviewed the plan for the next few days with us and what our goals were. We spent time talking with the Social Change employee at Jet Blue, and she explained why and how each project was chosen. This reignited some hope in me regarding the whole voluntourism thing because the projects and sites were community-selected, which is a very important characteristic of any project. As dinner was winding down, we were able to walk along the beach and find some chairs to rest in and enjoy the weather, the evening, and the beach.
After this, we went back to our room to prepare to rise and shine at 6 AM the next day!