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Manuel Del Villar's Employee Profile

Dominican Republic Program Manager

Manuel Del Villar

What does a typical day look like for a Rustic Pathways program participant in the Dominican Republic?

Early mornings with healthy breakfasts, followed by a drive through the mountains to meet a community. Sharing a “cafesito” (small cup of coffee) or other treat with the community and spending the morning working side by side with community leaders in sustainable projects aimed at improving the quality of life of community members.

After service and lunch at the base house or hotel heading into town and grabbing some fresh fruit smoothies then heading to a waterfall for an afternoon swim. Back at the base, finish the afternoon with a Dominican culture presentation by one of the local staff followed by a dance class to the sound of most renowned local tunes. In the evening, have a discussion about the impact and importance of community service and the projects that students are an essential part of.

What is the first thing program participants do when they arrive in the Dominican Republic?

Drive to their base house or hotel and have a warm typical Dominican lunch. They then learn everything about the place they’re staying, the activities they’ll be participating in throughout the program and the project that they’ll be working on. They also learn about other Rustic initiatives in the area.

What is the most important thing participants bring home with them?

A sense of shared humanity, knowing that people from different cultures have the same goals and aspirations as them.

What is some of your best advice for incoming participants?

Come with an open mind, appreciate everything you see and experience rather than compare it to life back home.

What is the most unique aspect of Rustic Pathways’ programs in the Dominican Republic?

The warmth and kindness felt in every interaction with the locals, being treated like family in a place so different from back home.

Part of the “ethos” of Rustic Pathways is to start meaningful dialogues and create real interactions with the local communities. How do you ensure your programs abroad include these immersive aspects?

We ensure students have the opportunity to have open dialogues with community members during and after community service, in these dialogues community members have the chance of sharing their stories and experiences. We use discussions in the evening to tie these conversations in with the impact of the service they’re participating in. Students share meals with community members and other locals. By the end of the community service portion of the program, we organize a farewell ceremony that gives students the opportunity of saying goodbye to the people they’ve been working with and sharing a few last meaningful moments.