The Most Outstanding Volunteer Project in 2014

by isvolunteers on Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Volunteer in Dominican Republic

Together with the Ruth Plaut Foundation (aka Blue Moon Project), ISV volunteers positive impact the lives of local children (c) ISV

Some of you may know that we entered the WYSTC Global Travel Awards held in Dublin, Ireland last September 2014. ISV’s submission was the Dominican Republic based ISV / Blue Moon Community Development Project, a project we have been proudly supporting since 2007 (see more about this project below).

preventing dengue fever

Dengue- symptoms, causes and prevention. All part of the ISV Children’s “HELP” (c) ISV

Alas, we didn’t win this year’s ‘Most Outstanding Volunteer Project’; but a little bird told me that we only missed out by a point! As far as the WYSTC awards go, we have a pretty great history of success and I’m not embarrassed to talk about it: we won in 2011 for ISV’s sustainable development project with the San Juanillo Fisherman’s Association in Costa Rica; we chose not to enter in 2012; we made it to the top three in 2013 for the “Happy Feet” Youth Empowerment project in South Africa, and received second place in 2014!

building latrines

Latrine building is hard work but the benefits for improved sanitation for the community are enormous (c) ISV

Congratulations go to the 2014 winner, African Impact, who just happens to be one of ISV’s respected and valued project partners in South Africa with whom we join forces and send ISV volunteer teams to undertake community health care and HIV/AIDS education programs, for “special interest” nursing/medical/health students!

I want to be clear, however; it’s not about winning.  Sure, the recognition is terrific, but realise that although we didn’t win the top prize in 2014, please know that ISV could not be more proud of the positive impact our volunteers and staff have made in the communities of La Mina and Los Brazos, working in close collaboration with the wonderful Ruth Plaut Foundation (aka Blue Moon). I thought I’d share a synopsis of our official entry, as it was a humbling experience to look back at our impact over the years. While each ISV volunteer team only stays for two weeks, their collective impact in the long term is evident, as you’ll read below. (Special note, the entry criteria word-count limit was BRUTAL; we could have given so much more info without it!)

Blue Moon Community

Cultural immersion is an important part of the experience; not only do volunteers learn about how local Dominicans live, they exhange part of their own culture in the process (c) ISV

volunteer in the dominican republic

The children LOVE it when the ISV volunteers are part of their lives over the summer (c) ISV

Why this Project?

Almost half of Dominican children live in poverty with limited access to housing, food, potable water and sanitation, while two-thirds fail to finish primary school. ISV and Blue Moon partner to alleviate the effects of poverty through volunteer projects that improve village health and infrastructure and provide basic children’s education.

Program Achievements

Blue Moon’s focus is to engage young children in learning at their kindergarten, which requires safe accessibility and reduction of preventable illness within the community. Achievements of 534 ISV volunteers:

  • Delivery of ISV’s (HELP) Health Education and Language modules to ~475 children (read more about the ISV HELP here).
  • 1.5km sidewalk connecting two communities to the school, used daily by 700+ children/locals
  • Cement flooring replacing dirt in houses benefiting 20+ families
  • New home for a single mother with two children
  • 13 latrines built, serving entire village
  • Construction of a computer lab for the community
  • Two school libraries serving 350 students
  • Educational murals
volunteer work in dominican republic

Locals working alongside our volunteers. Communty buy-in is key to development activities (c) ISV

Evidence for Innovation or Best Practices

ISV developed “HELP” curricula (Health, Language and Education Program) specifically for children in the DR and adapted them with Blue Moon to fit local needs: disease prevention (HIV-AIDS, dengue, chikungunya), environmental conservation (recycling), and child rights and values (anti-violence, tolerance). Programs are delivered by ISV volunteers in a fun, summer camp style, with donated materials they collect from home. Unused donations are sold for a nominal price in a flea market with proceeds invested in school projects. The kindergarten provides free breakfast and all materials for school children and employs parents on a rotational basis for cleaning and meal preparation.

Financial Sustainability

Blue Moon provides 90% of finances for the kindergarten. ISV pays BM for volunteers’ accommodations and meals plus materials for construction, e.g., ISV volunteer funds enabled the purchase of 2,500 cement bags, necessary tools and employment of local workers to supervise volunteers during construction. Construction outputs require minimal maintenance long-term.

Environmental Sustainability

Volunteers eat and stay locally. ISV HELP teaches recycling and creativity: “trash” can be used for art projects and linked to health (mosquitos breed in discarded containers which can be made into “eco bricks”). Latrines are built to last 10 years, do not use water and convert waste to compost.

make a difference

As a volunteer, your eyes are opened to the culture and challenges of living in a developing nation much different to home (c) ISV

Evidence of the Personal Development of Volunteers


  • “…allowed such amazing opportunities to experience the culture…I could not have expected the amount of growth and knowledge I (gained).”
  • “…opened my eyes to a vastly different world….the things I learned are unquantifiable.”
  • “…I got to step out of my comfort zone…learn so many new skills.”

(there were so many alumni testimonies to choose from, it was hard to limit it to just three!)

Promotion of Civil Society

Alumni are strongly encouraged to become active global citizens, volunteering in their home communities to earn the President’s Service Award. ISV DR alumni are hired to return as ISV Project Leaders to inspire others. “Blue Moon has honestly changed my life and inspired me to give back and help others.”

Describe your Main Operating Systems for this Project

ISV site-inspects all projects and engages community stakeholders, has strict risk management procedures, incident/accident reporting systems, volunteer screening, first-aid certified leaders, volunteer orientation and training, daily safety briefings, and full supervision of volunteers during construction and children’s activities. Regular program evaluations are communicated between ISV, volunteers and Blue Moon.


Blue Moon Project enhances the lives of hundreds of impoverished Dominicans through community infrastructure improvements and engaging children in the ISV Heath Education Language Program. Volunteers are profoundly impacted through cultural immersion, and an entire village benefits from proper sanitation and safe access to school, libraries and a computer lab.

isv volunteers in the dominican republic

Each volunteer team may have completed a short piece of this sidewalk, but now 700 people use this daily because of combined efforts! (c) ISV

The Good News….

We’ll be sending more teams to Blue Moon and throughout the Dominican Republic this summer. Check the ISV website if you want to help us, we need every volunteer’s help we can get and it will be the most rewarding experience of your life. Just ask any of our DR alumni!

(Huge, immeasurable thanks once again to Blue Moon/Ruth Plaut Foundation, and all ISV alumni and future volunteers for the Dominican Republic).




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