Our Volunteer Guide to the
Outreach360 has been serving the community of Monte Cristi, the Dominican Republic for 25 years. In that time, we've learned what it takes to be a sustainable, high-impact, and well-received organization. In Monte Cristi, our volunteers are viewed as professional teachers, regardless of experience. That is an incredible honor we don't take lightly. One very important factor contributing to our positive reputation in our community is how seriously we take our role and the ways in which we present ourselves. That is why we ask that all volunteers respect and abide by our dress code.
Female professionals in the Dominican Republic dress very modestly. We request that female volunteers wear pants, capris, and/or skirts that fall below the knee when standing while teaching in the local schools, Outreach360's Learning Centers, and at our educational camps. When participating in a sports camp, knee-length basketball shorts, Bermuda shorts, and baseball/softball pants are all acceptable. Closed-toe shoes are required while teaching. During free time, knee-length shorts, capris, pants, and skirts that fall below the knees are all acceptable. Please never wear shorts that hit above the knees, spandex pants, leggings, jeans with holes, tank tops, or sleeveless dresses at any time (including if you decide to exercise or run while you are with us).
We encourage you to wear a one-piece swimsuit or a two-piece with a tank top or tee-shirt as a cover-up while at the beach. Monte Cristi, being a rural town in the Dominican Republic, is relatively modest and North American women will draw a lot of attention, especially if wearing a bikini. It has even caused some uncomfortable situations for our volunteers in the past. Historically, a one-piece bathing suit has been a requirement at Outreach360. Effective May 1, 2018, we decided to leave it up to our volunteers to choose for themselves. We just ask that you keep in mind the principle, You Are Outreach360. Everything you do and wear while in the Dominican Republic is a representation of our organization and what we are working to achieve in the communities we serve.
If you plan to go to church, bring a long dress or long skirt and blouse. Bring a pair of closed toed shoes. We also recommend that you bring a pair of pants in case you have the opportunity to go to the Dajabon market on culture day.
At all times, other than church, we ask that you wear your Outreach360 shirts. Outreach360 shirts will be made available to you in the Dominican Republic.
It is very uncommon to see a male professional in the Dominican Republic wearing shorts. That's why we ask that you bring long pants for when you are working in the schools, Outreach360's Learning Centers, or educational camps. Closed-toe shoes are required while teaching. During free time, while walking around town or hanging out in Outreach360's volunteer facilities, you may wear shorts so long as they are at the knee.
While at the beach, you may wear swim trunks or shorts, but wearing speedos is not allowed.
If you plan to go to church, bring long pants and a nice polo or dress shirt. Bring a pair of closed toed shoes. An Outreach360 shirt would also be appropriate to wear while attending church. At all other times, we ask that you wear your Outreach360 shirt. Outreach360 shirts will be made available to you in the Dominican Republic. At no point, other than while at the beach, is it appropriate for you to be shirtless, including if you choose to exercise or run while you are with us.
TATTOOS, JEWELRY & HEADWEAR
We request that all tattoos be covered when working with children. We request that all volunteers cover up or remove any piercings while teaching. Females (and males with long hair) should wear their hair up when at school or Outreach360's Learning Centers. We ask that volunteers refrain from using bandanas. Regular headbands are ok. Please remove hats and sunglasses upon entering schools or Learning Centers. We thank you for going out of your way to respect the local culture in which we are working
MORE ON OUR DRESS CODE
Outreach360 has a seemingly strict and inflexible dress code. It seems contradictory to the fun alternative break environment we live in. Why then do we have it? There are several cultural reasons that have influenced the Outreach360 dress code:
We are committed to our volunteers being respected and viewed in the same way a local teacher or Peace Corps Volunteer would in the communities that we serve.
How people dress is very important in the Dominican Republic, not too dissimilar from how it was in the U.S. and Canada in the ’50s and '60s, when men regularly wore a suit and tie and women dressed up just to go to the supermarket. Professionals dress very modestly and proper; you'll usually see them wearing long pants, long sleeve shirts, collars, long skirts, etc. If they go to the bank, they dress up. If they go to a party, they dress up. Children will often attend our summer camps dressed in their Sunday best. In contrast, Americans and Canadians are seen as being much more relaxed in their dress. We wear shorts, leggings, tee-shirts, tank tops, flip flops, etc. That is partially due to our culture and partially because most people visiting from the United States and Canada are in the Dominican Republic on vacation. Regardless, compared to the high standard shown by the Dominicans, we appear sloppily dressed. We haven’t attempted to address the casualness of our dress; it's just not realistic to ask our volunteers to wear collared shirts, shined shoes, etc. But we do expect our volunteers to dress more modestly, meaning no shorts, no tank tops, etc. That simple step goes a long way in having Dominicans view our volunteers not as tourists, but as professionals here to teach and make a difference.
We are committed that our female volunteers, in particular, are respected.
Female volunteers have a few additional challenges in the countries where we work that our male volunteers do not:
The Dominican Republic is a male-dominated society. Professional women are more of a rarity here than they are in the United States and Canada. They have to work hard to earn and keep the respect of others; the same is true of U.S. and Canadian women working in the country. A modest dress is one way of keeping that respect.
A woman’s thigh, in particular, is considered a highly sensual area in the Dominican Republic; much more so than the states or provinces. That's why we ask our female volunteers to only wear shorts that fall to the knee.
For much of the world, their view of women in the U.S. is based on what they see on TV and in the movies, which often portray American women as promiscuous or in a sexual context. Dressing more modestly helps to fight this Hollywood stereotype.
COMMON QUESTIONS & ANSWERS
Why is Outreach360 so concerned about being respected in the community?
Because of the strong reputation, Outreach360 has developed in the areas where we work, opportunities are made available to us that are quite unique: being able to teach in local schools, hosting students for a summer camp, taking students on field trips outside of Monte Cristi, etc.. This wouldn’t be possible without maintaining a high level of respect in the community. And without the respect of the community, an individual volunteer would not be effective in the classroom.
Why the Recommendation on women using a one-piece swimsuit?
U.S. and Canadian women already draw a lot of attention at the beach, but especially when wearing a bikini. To the point that it has caused some uncomfortable situations for our volunteers in the past.
Do I have to wear shorts at the beach over my swimsuit?
Only when we take the kids to the beach, for modesty reasons. When it’s volunteers only at the beach, you do not need to wear shorts over your swimsuit.
Thank you for your patience with our dress code. Remember that we have volunteers working with us for months and even years at a time; they live with this dress code continuously. We hope that adapting to it for a shorter period of time will not be that challenging. We believe it will improve your volunteer experience significantly and most importantly will allow us to continue to serve this community responsibly and effectively.