What to expect on a Fathom Cruise to the Dominican Republic
Impact Travel Activities
Fathom Travel’s main selling point is their “Impact” activities. There is a lot of debate over whether these activities, which as being labeled as volunteer opportunities where you can really make a difference, are actually as impactful as you are lead to believe.
After a week filled with mornings partaking in these impact activities, I’d say this cruise offers a unique cultural education more than anything else. You are in the Dominican Republic for three days, which gives you much more time on the ground than most cruise passengers. By participating in the Impact Activities, you are meeting the locals, seeing the work they are doing, but more importantly, you are getting to see what two local, nonprofits are building on the ground. Fathom Travel does not monetarily support these organizations (Entrena and Iddi), nor do they heavily promote how you can support both nonprofits when you are back home, but ask any of the staff from either nonprofit and they will be happy to tell you as much information as you would like.
Sample Impact Activities:
RePapel is a women’s recycling cooperative in a small community that was started by the nonprofit organization Iddi. Many of the women live in the neighborhood, but some have to travel over an hour by bus to go to work each day. These women are happy to show you how they are making paper to sell to stationary companies, let you practice your horrific Spanish with them (OK, maybe that was just me) and talk about their kids. The biggest impact you can have on these women, besides sharing your smiles with them, is to buy from their little shop. Most of their income comes from selling their paper to stationary companies, but they also make jewelry and handcraft goods. The money they make at their own little shop goes directly to them without a middleman to take his own cut.
CAMS (the Creative Arts, Music and Sports school program) is a summer program run by Entrena. During the few hours you spend with children at a local school, where Entrena has English language programs running throughout the year, you will play baseball, sing a few songs, and help a school child (grades 3-5) learn English words that go along with the curriculum they are working through. After chatting with a former Peace Corps worker who now helps with the Entrena project as a Fathom Travel employee (his girlfriend, another former Peace Corp volunteer, works for Iddi), I found out that the biggest impact we are making on these kids is helping them with their English pronunciation.
Many English language teachers are locals who were taught by another local at a local language school. There are few native English speakers to help with pronunciation. Learning English is important for anyone looking for a job in the hospitality industry, which makes up a large percentage of the jobs in the Dominican Republic. If an applicant has a good handle on the language and pronunciation, they are more likely to get the job. These children won’t be working at hotels anytime soon, but one day they might, so they lessons they learn now are crucial.