FAQs about our Service Trips
What is a BLUE Service Trip?
BLUE provides service trips to high school and college students (15 to 26 years old). During the service trip you will be taking part in the construction of a water or sanitation project in a rural community within the Dominican Republic. Our service trips take place during spring break and summer vacation.
How long is the trip?
A typical BLUE trip is 8 days long. Some custom trips are shorter.
What is a typical work day? (We won't be mentioning times, it's a surprise)
Wake up early, get dressed and meet at the breakfast table. Prior to eating breakfast, our leaders go through a morning meditation. After eating, cleaning up, and filling up all canteens and water bottles, the group heads out to work. Work consists of digging trenches, mixing cement, carrying pipe, gluing pipe, building a latrine house, working to construct the tank, etc. In the early afternoon we take a break for lunch and a siesta. After a quick snooze, we head out to work again for a short period in the afternoon. When the work day is done, we head back to our sleeping headquarters, shower, and get ready for dinner. Some nights we have reunions, we may do a house visit, or just gather around someone's front porch to play dominos and dance bachata.
Who will be leading the trip?
Every trip will have at least two BLUE Missions trained leaders. Our leaders consists of staff members, fellows or interns. All leaders go through a yearly Leader Training Program, which includes being first aid and CPR certified. Most of our leaders have been on more than 3 BLUE trips, some have led up to 35 trips with our organization. Prior to participating on the trip, you will receive an email introducing you to your leader. Feel free to reach out to them via email to ask any questions you may have.
Will my trip have a chaperone?
On all of our trips, there is a minimum of 2 BLUE Missions staff members in addition to the trip leaders.
Most of our high school trips, including custom trips for partner schools, do have chaperones. Chaperones range from local mentors to parents or teachers. A chaperone is not guaranteed.
If you are interested in being a chaperone, please apply here.
Where in the Dominican Republic will my trip be?
The majority of our communities are in the Cibao region. Your community will be anywhere from Dajabon to San Francisco de Macoris. You will receive the details and coordinates of your community a few weeks before your trip begins.
Who are you working with in Nicaragua?
We are very happy to announce that we will be partnering with Agua Para La Vida (APLV), an international organization that has been working in Nicaragua for the past 30 years constructing water and sanitation projects.
What are the living conditions like? Where do the groups sleep?
All volunteers will be sleeping together. The community provides a school, church, or houses for us to live in. We will be showering out of shower bags where you will have approximately 2.5 gallons to shower with (ladies, don’t worry that is plenty enough water to wash your hair). If it is a co-ed trip, males and females will sleep in separate living quarters.
Does the community have electricity?
Some of the communities we work in do not have electricity. Luckily, we don't need electricity to carry out our projects. You will quickly learn that you aren't attached to electricity as much as you think you are. The trip is a great opportunity to disconnect from life back at home and reconnect with yourself, the group, community, and the project.
Does the community have cell reception? Can I use my phone?
The majority of the communities we work in do not have cell reception. Our volunteers are not encouraged to have cell phones, if it is seen it may be taken away. Cell phones should not be used for taking pictures, calling/texting home, listening to music, or any social media. This rule is in place to protect all of our volunteers and keep their belongings safe. Our staff and leaders have cell phones that a volunteer can use at any time through out the trip.
Parents, you will be provided with phone numbers and emails to all of our trip leaders and staff on the ground. You can call these numbers at any time. You can also receive updates through out the trip on our Social Media accounts.
How many community service hours do I receive?
All of our volunteers will receive 200 hours of community service, given that they have followed all of the BLUE Missions rules and regulations. It is up to each individual high school whether or not they accept all of the hours that we give.
All participants and/or parents/guardians (if under 18 years of age) sign our Code of Conduct and acknowledge and understand that violation of any rules and regulations are grounds for immediate removal and return to the United States at the participants expense. Possible further actions, including but not limited to nullification of any community service hours and letters of recommendation.
You will receive your service hours at the end of the summer, in late August via email. If you need a special form signed from us, please email it to our Program Director Nicole Aguirre at email@example.com.
Where do BLUE Missions volunteers come from?
Most of our volunteers come from Florida. However, we have had students from all over the United States join us on service trips.
Do most people travel with a friend?
Most of our volunteers do not know anyone in the group before they arrive. Some volunteers do sign up with a friend or family member. In our experience, volunteers who do not know anyone prior to the trip have an incredible experience and leave home with new friendships and bonds that last a lifetime.
How can a group of volunteers build an entire water or sanitation project?
The group doesn't do it alone. Our Dominican staff members (made up of engineers, project managers, handy men, and water works) lead the construction of the projects. The community and it's members do the majority of the work as it is a community-led project. That's not to say that our volunteers do not work. You will do everything from mixing concrete and carrying and gluing pipes to hammering together the house of a latrine or digging a trench. Our volunteers will work in every aspect of the project so that they will understand it better.
What is the difference between a water and sanitation project?
On a water project, our volunteers see how a community goes from zero access to clean water to having a faucet a few steps away from the front door. Volunteers are involved in every step of the process from building the dam at the fresh water source, to connecting PVC pipes, constructing the water holding tank, mixing cement by hand, tying rebar, etc.
On a sanitation project, our volunteers work with our staff and individual families to build ventilated improved pit latrines. Within the 8 day period, volunteers will build 15-18 latrines in a community. Work involves mixing cement by hand, throwing the concrete floor, hammering together the house structure, installing the bathroom door and roof, and installing the porcelain toilet.
How did you find your staff members?
BLUE Missions has a second headquarter in Santiago, Dominican Republic. We currently employ 15 individuals (engineers, construction workers, project managers, plumbers, chauffeurs, etc.) through out the year to help us execute our projects. More than half of our staff comes directly from communities that we have worked in. They are driven to continue to bring clean water and sanitation to more and more communities through out the Dominican Republic.
In Nicaragua we do not have an entity. We will be partnering with a well experience organization on the ground, Agua Para La Vida.
We recommend you ask your pediatrician or doctor if you need any specific vaccinations or boosters. You can also check online with the CDC guidelines for the Dominican Republic. If you have further questions, you may contact our partner, Dr. Kunjana Mavunda at International Travel Clinic.
Is the chikungunya or Zika virus still prevalent?
The CDC has reported the virus as a Level 1. It is not as common any more as it was during the outbreak, yet a small amount of cases do get reported. Pack plenty of mosquito repellent and apply at least twice a day. We had over 100 volunteers last summer and did not have any one in our group contract the virus. If we find that mosquitoes are prevalent in a community, we will fumigate the areas we will be staying and spending the majority of our time in.
We are taking extra precautions against mosquito transmitted viruses. All of our communities will be fumigated prior to the groups arrival. We recommend all of our participants bring mosquito repellent with Deet or Picaridin, mosquito nets for above their beds, and long sleeve clothing.
What if there is a medical emergency?
For every trip, we have outlined an emergency plan where our employees and trip leaders know exactly where the closest 24 hour clinic is, as well as the nearest state of the art hospital with specialty doctors.
Every participant receives international travel insurance that will cover any medical expenses while on their trip.
Our employees, leaders, chaperones, and interns have all taken and are certified in First Aid and CPR. They have been trained to treat any participant for the common cold, flu, cut, injury, etc. We also have a doctor on-call in Miami who they will contact for medical advice.
Is there a dress code?
We ask that you dress modestly, especially females. Please no short shorts. Pants are recommended, especially to help with the mosquitos.
There is a mandatory work dress code on all of our trips. Participants must wear long pants (no leggings) and boots/sneakers to work. There are no exceptions to this rule. Make sure to pack accordingly.
What if I get homesick or want to leave?
If you no longer wish to continue the trip, you do have the option of leaving but you will have to pay for the flight back home. We have had a few students get homesick at the beginning of the trip, decided to stay, and said it was the best decision they ever made.
- What do I need to complete my application?
- You will need a passport, credit card, and parent/guardian if under the age of 18 years old.
- If you do not have a passport, you can still fill out the application. Just write 123456 as your passport number. Please remember to renew or get a passport before your trip. You will not be allowed to fly internationally without one.
- You will need a passport, credit card, and parent/guardian if under the age of 18 years old.
- Is there a trip deposit?
- Yes, there is a $250 non-refundable deposit to secure your spot on the trip. In order for your application to be submitted, you must pay the $250 deposit. Once this payment is submitted, you are guaranteed a spot on the service trip.
- Are there any payment plans?
- This year, we are offering four payment plans! Your credit card will be charged automatically based on the payment plan you select. Please refer to the application for more information.
- I submitted the $250 deposit, why does my account say its at 89-91% completed?
- You will not get to 100% completed until the entire trip cost is paid for. You do not need to make extra payments ahead of time. Your credit card will be billed automatically based on the payment plan you selected.
- I need to change the credit card I have on file, what do I do?
- Login to your application and update the credit card. If you forgot the password, simply click "forgot password" and you will receive an email shortly to update your password. You can also call our office and we can update your credit card over the phone. However, in order to update the credit card over the phone we will need to charge you a past due or future installment.
- What is the community contribution fee? Is it mandatory? How do I pay for it?
- The community contribution fee (CCF) is another way that our volunteers make a difference in the communities they will be working in. 100% of the CCF will go directly towards the project the volunteer will be working on. The CCF is a mandatory fee.
- If you are participating on a water project service trip, your fee is $500.
- If you are participating on a sanitation project service trip, your fee is $250.
- You can create a fundraising page on our website here. The money that you raise on this page will not go towards trip cost. 100% of the funds will go directly to project costs. If you fundraise more than the $250/$500 it can't be transferred to your trip cost.
- If you attend a school that we offer custom trips for, you are not allowed to sign up for our open high school trips. You must apply for the service trip through your school. Contact us if you have any questions regarding this.
- I am a senior in high school, what trip do I sign up for?
- You will be signing up for one of our Open University Trips.
How much does it cost to participate on a BLUE service trip?
The trip cost depends on the trip you are applying for. Read the application for more information.
What does the trip cost cover?
The cost of your trip is essentially all-inclusive, meaning it covers the cost of your flight from Miami, FL to the Dominican Republic, food & clean water while in the community, housing, activities, in country transportation, travel insurance, BLUE staff, and other program related expenses. However, there may be some unexpected costs on the volunteer if he/she breaks any rules and has to be sent home.
How much money should I take on my trip?
You should not need more than $80-100 while on your service trip. When you arrive at the airport in the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua, you will need to pay $10 cash for your tourist visa. You are also responsible for covering the cost of any checked baggage fee by the airline ($25-30 each way with American Airlines). We encourage volunteers to pack lunch on the first day of their trip, if they do not they may have the opportunity to purchase food at the airport ($5-10). Participants may also have the option to purchase lunch on the way back from their country of service at the airport ($5-10).
What is the trip cancellation policy?
All payments made to BLUE Missions are non-refundable and non-transferable. If you cancel your service trip after the purchasing of flights, you will not be refunded the full payment. Due to new American Airlines policies and implementation of Basic Economy vs. Main Cabin flights, BLUE Missions will no longer be able to issue flight vouchers for any participant who cancels after flights have been purchased.
If for whatever reason you need to cancel your trip. Please notify us immediately. We apologize in advance for any inconveniences.
If you cancel your trip, BLUE Missions will not rollover a percentage of the trip cost for the following year.
Is my trip payment tax-deductible?
Unfortunately, full trip payments are not tax-deductible. As per the IRS website:
"If you receive a benefit because of your contribution such as merchandise, or other goods and services, then you can deduct only the amount that exceeds the fair market value of the benefit received."
If you would like a receipt for tax purposes, please email us today at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What is Women's Day?
On Women's Day, all of the women and young ladies of the community gather together to take part in a motivational and empowerment workshop led by one of our Dominican staff members. During this workshop we focus on 5 Core Topics: I am Woman, I am Campesina, I have Value, I am Important, and I can Learn. At the end of the workshop, during "I can Learn" we teach the women all about WASH education and we also teach them a trade (such as making bracelets).
What is Kid's Day?
On Kid's Day, everyone in the community gathers together for an afternoon full of fun. Our volunteers put on a magic show, they also sing and dance. Coloring books get passed out to everyone in the community. Our volunteers spend this time coloring with anyone from 2 years old to 92 years old. At the end of the afternoon, candy is distributed to everyone in attendance.
Is there a beach day?
Beginning in 2018, there will be no beach days on our service trips.
Do we have free time?
You will have free time on certain afternoons or nights. If you wish to go exploring you can’t leave without a trip leader.
What will we be eating?
BLUE provides a light breakfast (crackers & jelly, milk, and coffee) and a hearty lunch and dinner. We ask that you bring what you normally eat for breakfast – cereal, bars, etc. Lunch and dinner is typically rice, beans, plantains, yuca, vegetables and fruits from the country.
Our meals are for the most part, vegetarian and gluten free.
If you have any dietary restrictions or allergies, please notify our Program Director or your trip leader at the Trip Preparation meetings. We can remove nuts from our menu, however, we can't guarantee that participants will not bring products with nuts.
If you have severe dietary restrictions, you may be required to supplement all of your meals. Please contact us to see a sample of our menu if you have any questions.
What water do we drink?
You will only drink the water that we provide for you. We provide 5-gallon jugs of water for our group to consume. You can drink as much water as you’d like. You may bring powdered drinks to mix into the water we provide.
Can we eat anything that is offered to us?
The community members will offer you a variety of fruits and vegetables. You may take them and eat them if you are sure you are not allergic to it. If you have any doubts, do not eat it. We always recommend not eating or drinking anything that is offered to you. They will also offer you beverages, do not consume the drink if it has ice in it or was made from their water as it could cause you to have stomach problems.
What are Trip Preparation Meetings?
BLUE holds mandatory Trip Preparation Meetings prior to the start of the trip. These meetings will be held sometime from February to May. You will be notified of these dates.
If you are not located in the South Florida area, you will be invited to watch an online webinars or video presentation. You can also schedule a Skype video session to meet our employees and trip leaders face to face.
What mosquito net do you recommend?
We recommend purchasing the rectangular mosquito nets that can be hung up on four corners. You do not need to worry about purchasing the string, our staff will assist with hanging the mosquito nets for all volunteers. The mosquito net that our staff purchases and recommends is this one.
Sans bug update - some volunteers purchase the Sans bug mosquito net. Please be advised that American Airline does not let you carry it on. You must check it in. If it does not fit in your duffle bag, you are responsible to pay for a 2nd check in bag.
How heavy can my duffle bag be?
- American Airlines has changed their baggage policy when flying to the Dominican Republic. When checking in a bag, you will have to pay $25-30 out of pocket each way. BLUE Missions will not cover this fee. The checked bag must be under 50 lbs. Every participant is responsible for paying the extra fee if their bag is overweight.
- You are allowed to bring one personal item (book bag) that fits under the seat.
- Allowed items in personal baggage:
- Batteries (AAA, AA, C & D)
- You are allowed to bring a quart-sized bag of liquids, aerosols, gels, creams and pastes in your carry-on bag and through the checkpoint. These are limited to travel-sized containers that are 3.4 ounces (100 milliliters) or less per item. Placing these items in the small bag and separating from your carry-on baggage facilitates the screening process. Pack items that are in containers larger than 3.4 ounces or 100 milliliters in checked baggage.
- Insect Repellent - must not be in an aerosol can & meets liquid restrictions.
- Allowed items in personal baggage:
- Try wearing your heaviest clothing (boots, workpants) to the airport.
How many bags can I bring?
In accordance with new American Airlines policies, only one personal item that fits under your seat comes with the purchase of a flight. You are responsible for paying for a checked in bag. The cost for checking in a bag is $25-30 each way.
Do I need to buy a cot?
You do not need to buy a cot. BLUE Missions will provide one for you.
What do I wear to the airport?
You will be receiving a BLUE shirt on the last Trip Preparation Meeting prior to your trip. You will wear the shirt to the airport. Please wear the BLUE shirt as it allows our trip leaders to recognize that you are apart of the group. If you are an out of town participant, you will receive your shirt at the airport.
What work pants do you recommend?
e recommend wearing khaki pants, similar to school pants. Some participants prefer to wear medical scrub pants. If you have a few pairs of old school uniform pants, that works! You can also visit your local GoodWill to purchase some pants. You can wear jeans, however, they are very heavy to work in.
What snacks should I pack?
If you are a big snacker at home, you will want to snack while you are on your trip. Pack snacks that you normally eat - protein bars, goldfish, pretzels, granola, etc. If you aren't big on snacks, we definitely recommend bringing something in case you get hungry in between meals.