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Volunteer in the Caribbean: Cuba, Dominican Republic, Trinidad & Tobago

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By Jordyn Hotchkiss
Guest Writer
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When you think of the Caribbean, you probably picture beautiful beaches, exotic wildlife, thrilling ziplines, and crazy adventures – but there is so much more than meets the eye.

The Caribbean has long been a vacation destination for spring breakers, honeymooners, and everyone in between. But behind the scenes and beyond the tourist attractions, you’ll find families struggling to stay healthy and stable. As you travel to rural communities, you’ll see deteriorating buildings and meet people who are ill without proper access to healthcare.

You certainly shouldn’t be deterred from visiting the beautiful islands that comprise the Caribbean – in fact, tourism is a major part of this region’s economy! To visit responsibly though, there are ways you can make a difference while enjoying the beaches and sunshine.

The volunteer projects we’ve outlined below give you the chance to explore the wonders that come with visiting the Caribbean, while also giving you a sense of fulfillment in knowing that you’ve made a positive impact. If you’re looking for a Caribbean volunteer adventure, there’s a lot to choose from – whether you want to coach sports, sharpen your journalism skills, or even lend a hand with environmental conservation.

On these service projects, you will help to build a stronger foundation for healthier and happier lifestyles in the communities where you volunteer. You also will have the amazing opportunity to learn about a culture different from your own – through sustainable and responsible volunteer programs, not only will you make a difference through your skills and hard work, but you also will get to know the locals, engage in their customs, explore their community (and embark on side trips!), and work alongside them to provide local solutions to local problems.

These rewarding experiences will allow you to enjoy time in a new and exotic place while helping create a better world. If you’re ready to head to the Caribbean and soak up the sun, keep reading to learn about just a few of the many amazing volunteer programs that will get you there!

Volunteer Opportunities in the Caribbean

International Volunteer HQ (IVHQ)

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International Volunteer HQ (IVHQ) offers many different meaningful programs across 40+ destinations in Asia, the Pacific, Africa, Europe, the Caribbean, and Latin America. Working with local NGOs, IVHQ invites volunteers to gain experiences on projects that improve developing communities. And with program fees starting at only $180, IVHQ is an affordable choice for travelers on a budget. Since its founding, IVHQ has hosted over 80,000 participants and sends more than 10,000 volunteers overseas each year.

Volunteer in Puerto Rico

In response to the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria, IVHQ has launched initiatives to connect volunteers with communities in need in Puerto Rico. As the recovery effort progresses, each project is adapted and changed so that eventually volunteers will be focused on contributing to the island’s long-term success rather than short-term needs. Right now, you can choose from community development, environmental sustainability, NGO support, and youth support – all programs that help to build and repair communities, and provide on-the-ground assistance. Learn more and sign up here!

Marine Conservation in Belize

Travel to Belize and become a certified scuba diver while you help protect the marine ecosystem! On this trip, you will work alongside trained biologists on a private island 26 miles off the coast of Placencia. Volunteers focus on researching and gathering data on marine life, including lobsters, whale sharks, and queen conchs, as well as conducting surveys of coral reefs. On this program, you can expect to conduct 13 dives each week, including one night dive. The cost of the program starts at $690 for one week, and dive certification training is extra. A variety of certifications are available – stay for a month and earn your PADI Dive Master certification, a specialty that can advance your career. During the weekends, you’re invited to rent a kayak or paddle board and go exploring. There also are prehistoric Mayan archaeology sites to visit, as well as spice farms and waterfalls within a day’s trip. The adventurous diver can also visit the Great Blue Hole. Learn more about this exciting volunteer opportunity here!

Volunteer in Jamaica

Choose from five outstanding volunteer projects when you travel to Jamaica with IVHQ. You’ll stay in the parish of Saint Mary, near the popular resort town of Ocho Rios. Choose an area of interest from one of these projects:

  1. Teaching and School Support: Take a hands-on role supporting local teachers
  2. Kindergarten: Assist with informal learning and developmental activities
  3. Sports Development: Use sports to strengthen community ties and promote exercise
  4. Animal Care: Work in a shelter for abandoned dogs supporting their health and wellbeing
  5. Business and Community Development: Facilitate learning exchanges between volunteers and start-up enterprises

You will stay with a host family or in a dormitory-style volunteer house in Ocho Rios, with running water, electricity, and Western-style bathrooms. Wifi is available and breakfast is provided, but you’ll cook lunch and dinner in the communal kitchen at your house. Spend your weekends traveling Jamaica, or settle in Ocho Rios, a cruise ship harbor town with restaurants and markets. Discover the beautiful beaches and waterfalls of the island, or go hiking or snorkeling. Sign up for a trip to Kingston, visit the Bob Marley Museum, and take a cultural music lesson. Cruise down the Black River and see alligators, tropical birds, and mangrove trees while on the safari. Stay from one to eight weeks, with program fees starting at $365. Learn more about this island opportunity here!

Projects Abroad

Volunteer in the Caribbean with Projects Abroad

For over 20 years, Projects Abroad has offered impactful volunteer programs and internships overseas. As one of the world’s largest volunteer travel organizations, Projects Abroad sends more than 10,000 volunteers each year to Africa, Asia, Europe, the South Pacific, and Latin America and the Caribbean to help with programs ranging from teaching, to conservation, to construction, and much more.

Travel to the Caribbean with Projects Abroad and help support local communities in need on the island nation of Jamaica. The organization offers a variety of volunteer opportunities to suit different interests and goals.

Medical Internships in Jamaica

Gain invaluable practical experience to boost your resume during a global medical internship in Jamaica. You’ll work in a large hospital shadowing doctors, observing as they diagnose and treat patients with various conditions, and asking questions about what you see. You can spend time in different departments like surgery, gynecology, and pediatrics. You’ll also take part in important outreach work to take healthcare to underprivileged communities in need. Program fees begin at $3,065, and you’ll live and work in Mandeville, where you’ll have an unparalleled learning experience surrounded by the beauty of the tropical Caribbean! Read more about this unique opportunity here.

Volunteer with Children in Jamaica

Support children in underprivileged communities in Jamaica by helping with their educational development. You’ll provide much-needed assistance to teachers and caregivers at daycare centers, kindergartens, or at a special-needs center. Play educational games with the children, teach them songs and dances, and contribute to the country’s long-term early childhood development goals.

If you would like to travel to Jamaica and work in other areas, Projects Abroad offers the following:

  1. Building volunteer work
  2. Human rights internship
  3. Teach English in Jamaica
  4. Teach physical education

Get ready to dance to reggae rhythms and enjoy the warm Caribbean sunlight. You can also relax on the beautiful white beaches or explore Jamaica’s lush green interior on hikes. Learn more.

Global Works Travel

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Founded in 1989, Global Works Travel combines community service, cultural exchange, language immersion, and adventure for an incredible travel experience for high school students, educators, and private groups. Service trips last 8 to 21 days, and can focus on community development, conservation, language immersion, and pre-med or public health. And with Caribbean destinations such as Cuba, Martinique, and Puerto Rico, Global Works has lots of amazing opportunities for travelers who want to have fun and make a positive impact wherever they go.

Authentic Cuba Trip

A truly unique experience being offered right now through Global Works is their Authentic Cuba trip, which invites high school students on a 12-day summer adventure focusing on global action and community service.

On this trip, you’ll travel to the city of Havana for orientation, and during the following three days, you will explore the city, visit a farmer’s market, take a cooking class, play soccer, and learn about Cuba’s history. After that, you will travel to the west side of the island to go zip lining and hiking, plus you’ll have the chance to practice conversational Spanish and volunteer at a community center and farm co-op.

During the second week of your trip to Cuba, you will visit the Bay of Pigs and learn about the history between Cuba and the United States, and how US foreign policy still affects Cuban citizens today. In addition to that, you will go snorkeling at a shipwreck, listen to an orchestra, and ride a bike taxi – a fun way to immerse yourself in Cuban culture! From there, you’ll go on a tour of Trinidad and the countryside, and then wrap up your trip by visiting the small colonial town of Remedios and the city of Santa Clara.

Throughout your travels, you’ll stay in casas particulares, or the Cuban version of a bed and breakfast, owned and operated by local citizens, and you’ll share a room with your fellow students. Tuition for Global Works’ Authentic Cuba program is $4,995 – learn more about this group experience here!

Global Leadership Adventures

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Founded in 2004, Global Leadership Adventures offers teen and high school trips that combine community service with learning and adventure. With an emphasis on safety – outlined in Global Leadership Adventures’ five-point safety system – this organization sends thousands of travelers every year to 23 countries in Africa, Asia, Europe, and Latin America. As a leader in youth development, Global Leadership Adventures’ co-founder was recognized by President Obama for making a positive impact in Africa, and hosts a database with thousands of references happy to attest to the value of their programs worldwide.

Dominican Republic: Beachside Service Adventure

If you are looking for a volunteer project where you can spend your days at the beach, then check out Global Leadership Adventures’ amazing beachside experience in the Dominican Republic! On this 10-day adventure for high school travelers, you’ll complete 20 hours of community service and explore this island paradise. A few highlights include:

  1. Building safer homes and community centers for underserved families
  2. Snorkeling in the Caribbean
  3. Ziplining and free-falling into a freshwater lagoon
  4. Hiking through the island’s lush interior
  5. Riding a boat over crystal blue waters

Despite the Dominican Republic’s beauty and tourist-friendly atmosphere, behind the scenes there are many who struggle with access to basic necessities. As a volunteer, you can help make a difference by constructing community buildings and safe homes and schools with sustainable materials and methods. You also will have the chance to teach safe cooking practices and plant trees for reforestation. In addition to volunteering, you’ll learn about sustainability, climate change, global action to alleviate poverty, and much more through nightly seminars and discussions.

Your trip to the Dominican Republic also is a wonderful chance to immerse yourself in a different culture: you’ll experience music, dance, and explore an amazing mix of indigenous, African, and European cultures. During your travels, you’ll stay at the GLA home base in a shared room with other students. Tuition for this 10-day program is $2,299 – learn more and sign up here!

Dominican Republic: Sports Service Adventure

In addition to the beachside adventure, Global Leadership Adventures also offers a Sports Service Adventure where you can combine your love of sports and passion for creating a better life for those living in the Dominican Republic.

This 14-day adventure gives you the opportunity to experience Dominican culture through volunteering, learning, and cultural immersion. For the service component of your trip, you will work on a variety of activities to improve sports facilities for at-risk children – such as refurbishing a local ballpark or basketball court. When you’re not working in construction, you’ll play pickup games with the kids and serve as a positive influence when they’re not in school. Outside of volunteering, you can try kiteboarding or surfing in Cabarete, learn about the intersection of sports with health in developing countries, zipline or cliff dive into a natural lagoon, and go on a waterfall hike.

As with the Beachside Service Adventure, you will stay at the GLA Home Base along with other students and have time to explore and enjoy this beautiful country. Tuition for this program is $3,499, and you’ll earn 30 hours of community service as part of your trip – learn more and sign up here!

Frontier

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For more than 25 years, Frontier has combined community development, capacity building, ecosystem protection, economic growth, and the development of civil society through collaboration between communities, researchers, and volunteers. From their first program in Tanzania – a marine park developed in partnership with the World Wildlife Fund – Frontier has expanded to include more than 400 projects in 72 different countries. This nonprofit scientific research organization is wonderful for travelers who want to embark on internships, volunteer programs, gap years, and teach abroad / TEFL programs.

Caribbean Beach Conservation

Right now, Frontier is offering a Caribbean Beach Conservation project where you can travel to the beautiful country of Belize to protect the country’s biodiversity. As a volunteer, you’ll work alongside a local team to collect data that will help to design and implement management plans for future environmental protection. A few of your tasks can include taking snorkel surveys, setting up underwater line and belt transects, and completing mangrove point, opportunistic mammal, and socio-economic surveys.

By the end of your adventure, you not only will be able to identify a vast array of reef organisms, but you also will become an experienced and competent diver. And the longer you volunteer with this program, the more experience you’ll gain – though if you stay shorter than four weeks, you also will be able to make a wonderful contribution while exploring a beautiful tropical paradise.

Outside of volunteering, you will have plenty of time to swim, snorkel, and play football and beach volleyball. You can also relax during Saturday camp nights and play backgammon, chess, poker, or join in quiz night. During your stay in Belize, you’ll live at the beach camp with fellow volunteers – this program starts from one week at $1,354 and you’re invited to stay up to 20 weeks to gain the most from your experience. Learn more and register here!

Dominican Republic: Hospitality and Tourism Internship

Another wonderful Caribbean trip to check out with Frontier brings you to the Dominican Republic for a hospitality and tourism internship. On this program, you will gain firsthand experience working in a hotel, where you’ll learn about catering, procurement, human resources, sales and marketing, reception, maintenance, and more. You also may have the chance to work with a local tourism operator, where you’ll shadow the director and assist with general administration work and client information.

During your stay, you’ll live in the volunteer guest house in the center of town, and only a few minutes’ walking distance to the beachfront. In addition to your internship, you’ll receive six free Spanish language lessons each week – you also will have the opportunity to go whale watching, hiking in the rainforest, horseback riding, and much more. This internship starts from four weeks at $2,095 – learn more and apply here!

Global Nomadic

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If you’re looking for a unique way to get a head-start on your career, check out Global Nomadic, which offers affordable, impactful volunteer programs and intern abroad placements worldwide. With Global Nomadic, you’ll work in partnership with local NGOs on projects directly related to your degree or career. Global Nomadic also tries to keep placement costs as affordable as possible for student travelers and those on a budget, covering your support before, during, and after your program.

Veterinary Internship in Trinidad and Tobago

Based in the beautiful Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, Global Nomadic’s veterinary internship is ideal for professional veterinarians and for students currently studying veterinary medicine. This program starts from one week and gives you the chance to pursue hands-on learning while developing your career and enhancing your skillsets.

While Tobago is an absolutely beautiful Caribbean island, it does have poverty-stricken areas that have left many animals neglected and abused. With few organizations designated to rescue these animals, volunteers like you are needed to support veterinary work and support for animals in need of good treatment, attention, and love. You will mainly be working with dogs and cats, by depending on the need as well as your background and skills, you may have the opportunity to work with a few exotic animals as well.

The group you will be working with not only provides aid and care to animals that have been abused, but also helps to educate locals on the proper way to care for their pets. You can take on a few different roles, including Animal Care Assistant, Volunteer Veterinary Surgeon, or Volunteer Veterinary Nurse. Your tasks can include:

  1. Animal Care Assistant: Basic training, educational outreach programs, daily feeding and exercising of animals, assisting in animal rescue operations, basic health checks
  2. Volunteer Veterinary Surgeon: Extensive animal health checks, various medical procedures and veterinary treatments, animal rescue operations, being an active part in promoting animal welfare in the community
  3. Volunteer Veterinary Nurse: Assisting the Veterinary Surgeon in medical procedures and treatments, animal health checks, basic veterinary treatments and procedures, taking part in animal rescue operations

To sign up, you must be at least 18 years old, have a relevant academic background, and basic English skills. This internship starts from one week at $1,050 – learn more and apply here!

Equine Therapy Internship in Trinidad and Tobago

Another excellent Caribbean internship opportunity you can check out with Global Nomadic focuses on equine therapy in Trinidad and Tobago. Through this internship, you will utilize horses to help locals navigate difficult periods in their lives as you learn more about equine therapy and its many benefits.

As an intern, you will be working with horses who have been trained to help aid in the recovery of children and adolescents who have suffered trauma or who are disabled. While the instructors work personally with the children in their riding and in caring for the horses, you will be assisting with the children’s activities as well as planning and preparing recreational activities. Equine therapy helps to develop skills such as posture and muscle control – and instill trust and confidence – in order to help overcome traumatic experiences and manage anxiety and depression.

This four-week program costs $2,065, and to sign up, you must be at least 18 or older, know basic English, and complete a criminal background check. Learn more and apply here!

Ready to travel?

Volunteering in the Caribbean is an incredible experience that will let you enjoy some of the world’s most beautiful beaches and exotic adventures while also making a lasting, positive impact on the people you meet.

With each adventure, you will be left with a full heart and a lifetime of memories (and enviable photos). You will make friends with your fellow volunteers and everyone you’ll meet along the way, and fall in love with Caribbean culture. If you have the opportunity to change even one life while exploring the beautiful islands of the Caribbean, take it – you definitely won’t regret it.