By: Megan DeLaire

Sophia Bouris, event coordinator with the SAO, has been hard at work planning the trip for months.

A group of 21 Algonquin students will leave behind the comfort of their homes on Feb. 16 to embark on a weeklong volunteer trip called the Dominican Experience.

This alternative spring break is a collaborative effort between the Student Affairs and Orientation and Residence Life with help from non-profit organization Outreach 360. For seven days these students will lend their bodies and minds to a range of volunteer activities in the Monte Cristi Province of the Dominican Republic.

Entertaining Dominican children is on the roster and they may find themselves painting fences or harvesting sugar cane depending on the day.

Mostly though, they’ll be teaching English to elementary school students and helping to forge future lesson plans.

“We’re also building curriculum,” said Sophia Bouris, event coordinator with Student Affairs and Orientation. “So we’re helping the teachers down there in terms of the English language, how to teach our language, how to connect with the students.”

Far from a vacation at a four star resort, volunteers will sleep on bunk beds in a local community centre with bare concrete floors, bars in the window, no screens and no air conditioning. They will observe the traditions and social norms of the people there, from dressing modestly to respecting spiritual and religious beliefs.

“They’re really putting themselves in the environment,” said Bouris. “So, they’re living, they’re breathing the culture, really, and their surroundings. There’s nothing glamorous about this vacation.”

They’ve also been hard at work preparing for the trip since October, meeting each week to discuss the different sights and situations they will encounter in the Dominican Republic.

“These students have been working really, really hard every week,” said fellow organizer Danielle Puchnatyj. “They come together, they meet as a group and they lesson plan, they learn about the Dominican, about volunteering, about each other and about the college community.”