Communicate Love. Communicate Change.

Love is a universal language that is expressed through actions and service. Traveling to another country where you are unfamiliar with the language can create some anxiety; however, Outreach360 has built a foundation on which volunteers can build long-lasting relationships by Communicating Love to our students.

Why does this matter? Because a transformed world matters. 

Service is about overcoming barriers to create positive change in local and international communities. Volunteering with Outreach360 in the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua is a unique service-learning experience in which one must communicate beyond language limitations.

Outreach360 students speak Spanish as a first language, and they are enrolled in the Outreach360 Learning Center programs to improve their English language skills each day. Furthermore, our volunteers serve to Communicate Love to our students while speaking English. This exchange opens doors to communication through action.

“Communicate Love means using love as a form of communication. When you have a language barrier between you and the person, you can use love, expression, interest, and care instead of words for them to be able to understand you. Bringing positive energy into the classroom with a smile can go a long way,” Jackson Ranheim, an Outreach360 OLÉ volunteer, says.

You do not need to know the native language to make an impact abroad. This misconception oftentimes prevents individuals from taking the leap to serve abroad in Latin America. Remembering to Communicate Love relieves this anxiety. We know that a simple high-five or thumbs-up can communicate more to Outreach360 students than words can. Expression through actions will create understanding transcendent of language barriers.

Outreach360 has witnessed this exchange in the classroom. The positive energy that volunteers bring to their lessons empowers students’ grasp of the English language. A smile at the end of the day goes a long way for our students. Your actions will inspire a transformed world in which all students may live a life of choice.

Caleb Acosta, an Outreach360 Adelante Volunteer and an Outreach360 English education program graduate, explains, “For me, Communicate Love is a stronger language that connects all the people around the world. I do this by smiling every day and doing what I need to do with my heart. I remember when I was a student with Outreach360 that I didn’t know how to say something in English and I didn’t understand what the teacher was saying. The teacher showed me a beautiful smile and she taught me one more time, and I just learned because of this smile. I learned from the love of her actions.”

For more information about Outreach360, visit our website: www.outreach360.org.

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How Volunteering Abroad Changed Me

Outreach360 Volunteer Guest Writer: Alyssa Gehman

When I was a freshman in college, I was lost. I didn’t know where I fit in on a campus four hours away from home. So I started applying to anything and everything. I still don’t remember what made me decide to go on a trip to a place where I didn’t speak the language when I’d never been out of the country before, and with 20 strangers for that matter, but it was the best decision I could have ever made volunteering abroad with Outreach360

In the seven days, I was in Nicaragua, those 20 strangers turned into 20 new best friends. Some of them, people who will probably be in my wedding one day, are people who I would have never met otherwise.

After my first trip, I couldn’t stay away. At this point, I’ve volunteered with Outreach360 five times and have had several unique experiences. I’ve volunteered as a team member, a team leader, and an individual long-term volunteer and hold every experience so close to my heart.

Over the past four years, I’ve gotten to work with several different groups of students and have gotten to see the kids in the learning center grow. It’s so incredible to see how the organization has evolved over time and how smart the students are.

Not only does Outreach360 give its students amazing opportunities, but they also think of everything for volunteers. As a volunteer, your primary responsibility is to be the best teacher for the kids and the only other thing you have to worry about is living in the moment. I feel so fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with such an amazing organization.

The time I’ve spent with Outreach360 continues to change my life. I’ve completely fallen in love with traveling, Latin American culture, and servin
g others through my experiences in Nicaragua. I continuously learn new things about people, the world and most importantly, myself. Each time I return to Nicaragua, my life is put into perspective. My goals are clearer; life seems simpler.

I’ve grown so passionate about non-profit work and education through volunteering abroad with Outreach360 and hope to eventually have a career within the non-profit sector. My dream job would be to organize service trips for a college campus similar to the work that I did as a team leader. I’d love to give students the opportunities that I’ve had in the past. Looking back, I don’t know if I would have gone in this direction had I not made a choice to do something different.

I think volunteering abroad is so important not only for the world but for the soul and I encourage everyone to participate in some way. For me, getting to see how other people live completely changed my life and made me see life from a different perspective. I’ve learned that changing your life starts with just taking that first step out of your comfort zone, and I’m so thankful that I decided to get involved with Outreach360!

Register to volunteer with Outreach360 in Nicaragua here: https://outreach360.org/nicaragua/

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Celebrate the New Year with Year-End Giving

Celebrate the New Year by supporting students’ education in the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua. The 2017 Outreach360 Holi-Yay Fund Days campaign is a year-end fundraiser. Your donation will ensure the continuation of our English educations programs abroad. The Holi-Yay Fund Days fundraiser supports the Outreach360 mission of providing opportunities for underserved children in Latin America to live a life of choice.

Jovani, a Nicaragua Outreach360 Learning Center student, says, “Donate because it will do good for our future. It will help a lot of people in need.  Outreach360 is important to me because it will help me a lot with my future. I will be able to help my family with my future job. I think that is important to my family because they will be proud of me. Please donate to Outreach360.”

Students, like Jovani, rely on our education programs. Donating will provide opportunities for Outreach360 students to achieve their dreams.  Jovani hopes to become a translator in the future. His progress in the Learning Center Program in Nicaragua would not be possible without generous donations from our volunteers and donors. One day, it is our hope that Jovani can accomplish everything he aspires to do in life, and the Holi-Yay Fund Days campaign aims to empower our students, including Jovani, on their journey through English language education.

English education provides opportunities for Outreach360 students to live a life of choice. It is our belief that education is the most sustainable form of service in the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua. English education, specifically, will open doors to new careers for underserved children. Donating to the Holi-Yay Fund Days campaign is a click-easy way to motivate students from your own home to continue their academic growth.

Our year-end fundraiser ends on New Year’s Eve. Invite your family and friends to celebrate the 2017 Outreach360 Holi-Yay Fund Days campaign, and donate yourself. Do not miss out on this opportunity to give back to underserved children in Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic. Together, we can continue to make a difference on a global scale.

Click here to donate to the 2017 Outreach360 Holi-Yay Fund Days campaign: https://donate.outreach360.org/give/153037/#!/donation/checkout

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What You Will Gain as a Caminos Intern

Outreach360 Caminos Volunteer Intern Guest Writer: Sarah Allen

When I first traveled to the Dominican Republic as an English teacher for underserved students with Outreach360 in 2012, I learned a principle by which the organization lives: Serve; Don’t Help. Volunteers often go to developing countries with the mindset of helping the helpless. But since that first trip, I have returned four more times to the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua, and I now realize that development work is not one-sided. Empowering societies through cooperation, support, and mutual exchange is crucial to lasting development. Service is a two-way relationship that involves mutual communication, respect, and learning.

As a Caminos Intern with Outreach360, for everything that you give to the students and the community, you will gain even more. Personally, I owe the entire path of my life to that first week I volunteered at Outreach360: my interest in Latin American culture, my commitment to teaching and learning languages, my devotion to education, my passion for service, and my decision to pursue a career in international humanitarian work. If you are even half as lucky as me, you will gain so much from your time as a Caminos Intern with Outreach360: you will learn from like-minded peers, gain critical leadership skills, form meaningful relationships with students, soak up a new culture, open doors for your future, and even pick up some Spanish along the way.

Every returned Outreach360 volunteer will probably tell you that working with the students was the highlight of their experience. For me, it was no different. But working with the students was also by far the most challenging aspect of volunteering for me. During my first trip to the Dominican Republic, I spent every single day of the week teaching color words to a group of about eight kindergarten-aged students who had had very minimal exposure to English. Each day, it seemed like the students had completely lost all of the progress they had made the day before. Because of the total immersion approach that Outreach360 takes to teaching English, I felt like it was difficult to communicate and connect with such basic level students.

As the end of the week approached, I worried that our team had not accomplished the main goal that we had set for ourselves: facilitating mastery of eight basic color words. Feeling hopeless on the last day, our team gave the students coloring pages and crayons in a half-hearted attempt to do an activity that was relevant to the theme but still simple enough that we couldn’t fail.

To our surprise, as the students colored, we began to hear them ask each other for the crayons that they wanted. “Blue, please,” I heard from one student as he looked towards another student’s pile of crayons. “Red,” another student called as she gestured towards a crayon just out of reach in the center of the table. For the rest of the day, we encouraged students to ask their peers and teachers for the crayons they wanted for their coloring pages to practice their color words. Unlike we had thought all along, the students were making incremental progress all week, poco a poco. Despite my initial frustration of slow progress, I know that each successive week that Outreach360’s dedicated teachers have worked with those students, they have built upon what I taught that week.

At the end of the last day, every single one of my students ran up and gave me a huge hug, and that is what has kept me and hundreds of other volunteers returning year after year to continue to see them grow. Despite the language barrier I perceived, I was able to form a real connection with my students that I strengthen with each visit.

I have loved learning from Outreach360’s joyful and loving students, but the opportunity to forge lifelong friendships with fellow volunteers and staff has also been a hallmark of my experience as a volunteer. Outreach360 attracts all of the coolest world travelers, adventurers, and do-gooders. Through interactions with like-minded people from near and far, you will not only bond over your similarities, but you will gain new perspectives and a multicultural outlook from your differences.

Throughout your time in Nicaragua or the Dominican Republic, you will certainly encounter cultural differences you are unaccustomed to. But Outreach360 will be there to support you every step of the way and help you conquer any challenges you may face. By the time you return home, you will miss the gallo pinto you ate every day, the daily rounds of La Prensas loudspeaker, and even the bunk beds and mosquito nets.

All that you gain from your time as a Caminos Intern with Outreach360 will be invaluable within the context of any career or life path you may choose to pursue. I know I will carry the knowledge and experiences I have acquired in Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic with me through the rest of my life.

Not only that, but you will also open doors for your students that will allow them to contribute to the healing of their communities. Like I said, the “Serve; Don’t Help” principle has stuck with me and served me as a guiding principle since my first trip to Latin America. I hope that you choose to spend a few months of your time as a Caminos Intern because I guarantee that your time with Outreach360 will stick with you too.

For more information about the Outreach360 Caminos Volunteer Internships, visit this website: https://outreach360.org/volunteer/individuals-long-term-internships/

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This Is It. This Is Outreach360.

Carpe diem. We’ve all heard the saying; however, our multi-tasking nature oftentimes prevents us from seizing life’s moments.  Outreach360 works to create experiences that empower volunteers to embrace service, without distraction. Volunteering abroad is a unique opportunity to truly live in the present. This Is It.

“Joining Outreach360 is such a refreshing experience and allows you to step out of your everyday schedule and see life in the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua first hand, the impact you have on the students, community, and also the people you work with. This opportunity to serve others definitely allows you to live in the moment just as we learned Dominicans and Nicaraguans do every day,” Alexia Lucas, a former Outreach360 volunteer from the University of North Carolina, explained.

The Outreach360 principle, This Is It, is about transforming your experience by enjoying the present moment. Service is about embracing the opportunity, not only for yourself but for those around you as well. Immersing yourself in the experience will fuel your involvement creating memories that will last a lifetime.

Sammy Schultz, a former volunteer from the University of Missouri, says, “Outreach360 gave me the chance to communicate love to children while transforming the world. This organization has given me a whole new meaning to the concept of living in the moment and giving all I’ve got when it comes to impacting children.”

This Is It transcends to the experience of the students you are educating in the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua. When you allow yourself to embrace each moment while volunteering, Outreach360 students benefit more from your engagement. Your impact abroad will fuel the futures of Outreach360 students, empowering them to live a life of their choice.

We think Bridgett Kieffer, a former volunteer from the University of Missouri, said it best: “Life is too short to just live it for yourself. Get out, give back. This is it: your time to impact others for the rest of your life.”

For more information about Outreach360, visit this website: www.outreach360.org.

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Your Health and Safety is Our First Priority

Traveling abroad can make even the most accomplished volunteer explorer nervous; however, with Outreach360, you will not have to be. Outreach360 offers volunteer programs for individuals of all ages and strives to provide a safe and health conscientious environment supported by staff and local community members.

Why does this matter? Because your health and safety matters to us.

Since 1994, Outreach360 has hosted over 22,000 volunteers who have enjoyed a healthy and safe volunteer experience in both the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua. There are several factors that make our organization safe, including our highly trained staff, our well-accommodated facilities, and our developed community relationships. Outreach360 aims to anticipate the health needs of our volunteers before their arrival in-country, and our staff is knowledgeable of local clinics and pharmacies.

Safe Travels Are Happy Travels

Outreach360 has perfected safety practices that have maintained our volunteers’ well-being for over twenty years. We owe a lot of these practices to our full-time staff members. Outreach360 team leaders are hired from the local communities our organization is housed in.

Coco Barrett, the Outreach360 Nicaragua Country Director, explains, “I am proud that Outreach360 makes health and safety a top priority. We have a professional leadership team made up primarily of local and international staff who live in the communities where we serve and who have been trained in emergency preparedness.  We take the time to educate our volunteers about our guidelines on how to avoid accidents and for staying healthy, safe and being respectful while serving in country.  We have connections with and are respected by the Jinotega community.”

We intentionally hire local staff because we recognize that working with people who live in the country is key to ensuring your safety – they know the country, the community, and the neighborhood where you will be volunteering. Furthermore, volunteers are instructed by our staff on how to be safe while exploring a new city. We educate our volunteers on safe conduct in-country, to avoid unexpected consequences. Our staff’s insight keeps our volunteers safe in the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua.

But wait, there’s a lot more.

Outreach360 works in two of the safest developing countries in the Western Hemisphere. We have chosen these countries with our volunteers in mind. We have worked tirelessly to build strong community relationships in the cities we work in. Having worked in Monte Cristi in the Dominican Republic since 1994, many members, businesses, and organizations in the local community have benefited from Outreach360’s efforts and are aware of our work.  The community knows us well, and we know the community.

Fun fact: Outreach360’s Executive Director, Tom Eklund, was recognized by the mayor of Monte Cristi as an honorary son of the city.

We have worked to develop strong community relationships in Nicaragua as well. Although our work in Nicaragua is more recent, Outreach360 has already made a positive impact on the local community, where the residents of Jinotega know we are making a lasting investment.  Alma Fletes, a professional Nicaraguan social worker who grew up in Jinotega, is a full-time leader with us in Nicaragua and makes sure operations run smoothly with our local relationships. Outreach360’s strong, long-term relationships in the communities where we serve are important contributing factors to the high level of safety our programs maintain.

In addition, Outreach360 intentionally houses volunteers in our facilities, where we are able to maintain safe and secure accommodations during your time volunteering.  The neighborhoods in which our volunteers stay are safe and welcoming. When necessary to accommodate busier weeks with multiple volunteer teams, Outreach360 occasionally houses volunteers in well-respected local hotels that are always a short walk away from the Outreach360 volunteer houses.

But what will you do in case of an emergency? We’ll tell you: let Outreach360 take care of you.

Our trained leaders always carry cell phones and are in communication with in-country staff and our U.S. office.  Outreach360 also takes further emergency precautions, including having a satellite phone in each country.  In the event that local cell networks are down or temporarily cut off, Outreach360 in-country staff maintains communication with our U.S. headquarters via our satellite phones. We know that safety means safe-guarding communication, and we have taken measures to ensure that assistance is just one phone call away.

Outreach360 Wants You To Be Healthy

In the decades that Outreach360 has been established, it is rare for a volunteer to become sick or injured during their volunteer experience. Regardless, Outreach360 has taken every precaution to ensure your health and wellness because you matter to us.

Our local staff is trained to address health concerns. Being with people who live in the country you are serving is key to ensuring your personal health. Our leaders keep our volunteers aware of ways to stay healthy, to drink sufficient amounts of water, and being aware of when and where to wear mosquito and bug repellent. We provide guidelines on how to avoid accidents in the area, appropriate precautions when eating in local restaurants, and general common sense guidelines to keep everyone healthy.

“One of the things I like best about this trip is that it is a great introduction to service for a lot of our kids in technically a third world environment that is still safe. We feel comfortable with them experiencing some different conditions than they are used to but in terms of how the food is prepared and the safety precautions taken we don’t feel as though we are putting them at risk and yet exposing them to an opportunity to see a completely different part of the world,” Amy Vachris, a St. Mark’s High School teacher, said.

The Outreach360 Kitchen Staff are professionally trained cooks that prepare meals for volunteers daily at the volunteer housing facilities. Our cooks are trained to cook only with purified water. Dietary needs will be accommodated during your stay in the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua. Staff members encourage volunteers to sample local cuisine at restaurants and shops. If you do have an opportunity to eat at a local restaurant, it will be a location approved by Outreach360 staff, meaning that location has high sanitary standards. Bottled water is available 24/7 for our volunteers to help keep everyone well hydrated as well.

What about the mosquitos? Don’t believe the buzz. Outreach360 has got you covered.

We encourage our volunteers to use mosquito repellent, especially in the morning and evening. Mosquito nets or screened rooms are provided for all volunteers. Vaccinations are up to volunteer discretion. There are no required vaccinations in either the Dominican Republic or Nicaragua. A more extensive discussion of medical preparation, including links to the CDC website, is available in the Outreach360 Country Volunteer Guide. With over 22,000 volunteers joining us since 1994, we are not aware of a confirmed case of a volunteer contracting a mosquito-borne illness.

Although very uncommon, if a volunteer gets sick to the point of needing medical attention, or receives an injury, there are equipped private medical clinics near our facilities in both the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua.  Staff members will point out the closest pharmacies and clinics for volunteer access during the city tour on the first day of your arrival. In case of a medical emergency, you will not go to the clinic alone. Outreach360 leaders facilitate the clinic process and assure appropriate translation for receiving treatment.

More information about Outreach360 can be found on this website: www.outreach360.org.

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