ISV Facebook Free Trip Winner Travels to the Dominican Republic

by isvolunteers on Sunday, 9 August 2015

Earlier this year, ISV launched a Facebook competition for a lucky follower to win a free trip to the Dominican Republic! The winner, Alicia Dunajcik , recently returned from her ISV Program and has shared her life-changing experience with us, in which she made a valuable contribution to a disadvantaged community and also gained new skills that helped her land an important role with the U.S. Peace Corps.


Alicia (top right) with fellow volunteers and the smiling children of Rancho Campeche. (c) Alicia Dunajckik

Alicia’s first-hand personal experience: 

Winning a free trip with ISV was an unexpected blessing. 

Before receiving the news, I was dreading spending another summer in Missouri with nothing to do. I wanted to travel to a new and exciting destination, but it wasn’t financially feasible at that time. When I found out I won the trip, I couldn’t believe it – but the full impact didn’t hit me until I was sitting on a plane flying over the Atlantic Ocean. I was about to have one of the greatest experiences of my life.

I became fully immersed into both Spanish language and Dominican culture through spending a week in Santiago at a Spanish school. I was surprised at how far my Spanish speaking abilities progressed in just one week; I went from only being able to say phrases like “hola” and “gracias” to forming complete sentences. Additionally, the classes themselves were insanely fun. My classmates and the teachers kept me laughing all week! I don’t think I’ve ever laughed as much as I did in those classes. I also really enjoyed the activities – we danced, cooked, toured the city and visited a waterfall! 


Alicia with her team of fellow ISV volunteers. (c) Alicia Dunajcik


Volunteering in Rancho Campeche was an unforgettable experience. When people ask me my favorite part, I tell them that it was seeing the smiles on the children’s faces as our truck (or “gringo bus” as we called it) rolled into the community. Of course we made a huge impact building infrastructure and running the HELP education program, but I was also touched by the basic interactions with children, communicating with a simple “hola”, “dame cinco” (give five) or just a smile.

My personal mission was to give as many kids high fives as possible, and I believe I succeeded! By the end of my two weeks in Los Francos, kids I didn’t even know would run up to me with their hands out wanting a high five from Alicia.


“My personal mission was to give as many kids high fives as possible, and I believe I succeeded!” (c) Alicia Dunajcik

The project tasks themselves were incredible. I was able to challenge myself in the ISV Children’s HELP Program by speaking Spanish in front of large groups and also using non-verbal communication. Even though most volunteers had very basic Spanish language skills, the kids learned so much and changed a lot by the end of our program. Initially, they were loud and disliked sitting still for more than 30 seconds, but by the end of our time there, they listened intently and were much more courteous, using “por favor” and “gracias” to us and their peers. 

I was also surprised by how much of the construction work we took part in was connected to my love of healthcare. For example, the task of mixing cement may not seem like it is directly saving lives, but it is. Because families in this community now have concrete floors, they no longer have to worry about dangerous, life-threatening, parasites living on the floors of their home. To me, the fact that I was able to fix health problems BEFORE they even occurred was incredible.


Alicia riding a wave in Playa Encuentro near Cabarete, as part of the ISV Adventure Tour. (c) Alicia Dunajcik

I was somewhat excited to return home towards the end of the project (mostly because the other volunteers and I often fantasized about the perfect cheeseburger and what should and shouldn’t be on it) and I missed my family and friends too. But once I was home, I found myself missing the Dominican Republic and the people I met. I miss children running outside on the street, being able to share smiles with people who speak a different language to me, and I miss all of the incredible people that made my ISV Program. ISV was an experience I will remember for the rest of my life and I will be telling stories about it for many years to come!

I am rapidly approaching the next chapter of my life, graduating this December with my BS in Biology. After I graduate, I am very excited to be moving to Senegal, Africa for twenty-seven months to serve for the U.S. Peace Corps as a Health Extension Volunteer. I’ll be educating communities, covering topics such as AIDS, malaria, children and maternal health, and even working to build water systems and improve sanitation in communities, among many other things. I had my interview for this job the day after I returned from the Dominican Republic and I was full of experience and enthusiasm during my interview because of ISV.

After completing my twenty-seven months, I plan to return to the United States to obtain my Master’s in Public Health and possibly a Medical Degree as well. I plan on dedicating my life to working with rural communities abroad. In my career, I want to help find preventative solutions to major health epidemics, and train local community members to become adequate health care professionals.   

I LOVED ISV and I’m ecstatic that it helped me get a job as incredible as the Peace Corps.

To learn more about ISV, our responsible travel principles and volunteer projects please visit our website at

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