Impact Activities with Fathom’s #TravelDeep Cruise to Dominican Republic

Impact Activities – Fathom’s Cruise to the Dominican Republic

 

(You can see other posts about my Fathom experience here:

15 observations after 24 hours onboard Fathom

Why I’m OK with Fathom’s volunteer cruise model

The definitive guide to Fathom: 36 questions answered)

Last Import - 3 of 4 (2)

I took part in three impact activities while onboard Fathom’s Adonia during their impact cruise to the Dominican Republic.

  1. Reforestation and nursery
  2. Recycling and crafts entrepreneurship
  3. Teaching/tutoring English to school-children

 

What About Cuba?

It’s important for people to note that Fathom alternates sailings to Cuba and to the Dominican Republic. There are no impact activities (volunteering) on the Cuba cruise; due to visa regulations for the people-to-people cultural exchange requirements, Cuba cruises are chockfull of excursions and walking tours, and passengers report being thrilled about the location but it’s definitely not a “beach vacation” as you are kept very busy.   The cruises to the Dominican Republic, on the other hand, have both opportunities for beach visiting and participating in several “impact activities”.

 

The basic facts:

  • Almost all impact activities are free and included in your cruise fare.
    • There are some fees ($20) for building cement floors and constructing water filters, due to the cost of materials.
  • You can do more than one activity per day, as most impact activities return to the meeting spot just before the 2nd activities depart.   Some activities do run much longer (I believe water filters and cement floors are considered “all day” activities) so you have be careful what you sign up for – or be a little flexible in your choices if you need to make changes once on board.   Some passengers chose to do one a day, others did two a day, others took a “rest day” in the middle, and so forth. There isn’t any pressure to do any more or any less than what you wish to sign up for.
  • Definitely sign up for activities ahead of time on the Fathom website (once you have a booking number, go to “Your Journey Planner”. Once you get onboard, many will be sold out ; and besides, do you really want to spend your time on a cruise standing in line at the customer service desk?   Sign up for the ones you think you’ll be interested in, and you can always cancel later.
  • Impact activities run from Tuesday afternoon (when you dock in the DR) to Friday noon (when you leave the DR).   So you have plenty of opportunities to participate – or to relax, if you wish.
  • The morning activities typically met for departure between 7:15am – 7:30am, and returned to port between noon and 1pm.   The afternoon departures typically met between 1:30pm and 1:45pm and returned to port around 6pm.
  • I did an activity from 2-6pm on Tuesday; 2-6pm on Wednesday; and 8am-1pm on Thursday. It was nice to do it in the morning on Thursday as I then had a wonderful afternoon free (we took a taxi to a nearby beach and had wonderful freshly prepared fish), whereas if you do the impact activities in the afternoon you don’t have that many daylight hours left once you get back. However, I was glad I did two impact activities in the afternoon as it left my morning more relaxed. So the time you choose for your impact activity is totally up to you and your personal preferences.
  • All impact activities have water and bug spray on the bus and at the destination, so don’t worry about carrying around a lot of supplies. In fact most of the time I just took my phone (for photos) and my room key in my pocket. If you do want to bring a small bag, you can also leave it on the bus during the activities, as it’s secure.
  • My only regret is that Fathom didn’t tell us when there were gift shops available – there was an opportunity to purchase items at the recycling project, for instance, that we were unaware of, and most of us hadn’t brought any cash with us. I would have loved to have purchased some of those artisanal souvenirs.   Most places don’t (you’re not going to buy anything at the school or the reforestation project, for instance), but maybe ask someone ahead of time, or just slip $10 in your pocket for these special cases.
  • Impact activities are run by two amazing local organizations, IDDI and Entrena, that Fathom selected to work with after extensive vetting. These organizations are outstanding and I will profile them in another blog post as well. Once you get on the buses to start your activity, the “facilitators,” as they call themselves, are there to help you with anything you need, to answer questions, to liaise between you and the recipients of the impact activity, to talk to you proudly about their country, and to be generally a wonderful help! They all are bilingual as well and are so happy to be helping you engage in activities they’ve been working on for years. So don’t worry – you’re not just showing up at a volunteer activity with no help. What’s great is that all the facilitators are local Dominicans – another indicator that this is not just Fathom coming in and picking volunteer projects – the impact activities are actual projects that the communities themselves have requested help with. It’s also another great opportunity for you to engage with the local population and ask any questions you’d like to know.
  • Pack a pair of jeans/pants and closed toed shoes – even if it’s warm, you’ll be glad during some of the more physical activities such as reforestation and cement floors. (Flipflops would not be appropriate for these types of activities.)   I wore nice sandals for the other activities, recycling and teaching English, and this was fine too. Note that for teaching English, it’s in a professional setting ( a school) and the Dominican Republic government requested that you not expose your shoulders or wear shorts that are above the knee. (I wore light linen pants and was very comfortable.)

 

To be continued  – day-by-day descriptions:

  1. Reforestation and nursery
  2. Recycling and crafts entrepreneurship
  3. Teaching/tutoring English to school-children

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