Fajardo, Puerto Rico

Caribbean Mar 2nd, 2018 to Mar 10th, 2018
Cost: $1,475.00 Partner Organization(s): Community Collaborations International (CCI) & Para la Naturaleza Service Type: Environmental Conservation & Human Services Language(s): Spanish (not required) Number of Participants: 10


Trip Logistics and Participant Requirements:

As a group, we will drive up to NOVA in 2 – 3 cars from UVA on the night of Friday, March 2nd. We will spend the night at Shiv’s house there and will be dropped off at Dulles airport the next morning.
While in Puerto Rico, we will be staying in Las Cabezas de San Juan Nature Reserve, a historic lighthouse ran by our partner organization in Fajardo. We will be staying in the lodging side of the lighthouse, which has two rooms with nine beds each, a kitchen, indoor bathrooms (with access to clean water), outdoor showers, a backyard, and an observatory area on the rooftop. The lighthouse also functions as a museum, featuring a few small exhibits for visitors to observe and learn about local species of fish and sea creatures.  Our partner organization will provide breakfast, lunch, and dinner at the lighthouse where we are staying.

Participants must be be willing to work hard and know how to have fun while doing it! While spanish is not a requirement, some experience is recommended to enhance participants’ interactions with the kids at the Boys and Girls club, a site we will be volunteering at towards the end of the week.  


Service Activities:

The goal of the trip is to fully explore the various environmental factors that affect the ecosystem and quality of living in Puerto Rico. The service projects will be revealed in detail upon arriving for the trip, but they will all focus mainly on preservation and restoration of critical ecosystems in the surrounding areas, and supporting human service organizations that are over-burdened; projects can range anywhere from planting trees to conducting a beach clean-up and will be determined by the organization upon arrival.  We will complete projects to improve the facility in the morning and work with the youth in the afternoon.  When volunteering for the Boys and Girls Club, we will help the children with homework, assist in recreational activities, and help them practice speaking english. We will also help conduct and environmental education activity.


Regional Background:

Puerto Rico is a beautiful archipelago in the northeastern part of the Caribbean, and whose status is heavily contested (when will it be a state? Who knows).  It is officially a territory of the United States, and was acquired in 1898 from Spain through the Treaty of Paris.  With a population of approximately 3.5 million people, Puerto Rico is populous for its size, with many additional people visiting yearly for tourism.  Spanish is the dominant language in all of Puerto Rico, with the primary ethnicity being Hispanic; understanding and speaking Spanish would thus be beneficial, but is not required!  Tourism is a dominant force in the Puerto Rico economy, due to the beautiful scenery and environments located in Puerto Rico.  Despite the dynamic economy, around 40% of the population lives in poverty, and the territory as a whole has had a bout with bankruptcy.  Regardless, the people of Puerto Rico remain friendly and hospitable, following a culture rooted in a rich history.  The friendly people, the beautiful, diverse environments, and a culture of music, dancing, and food mean Puerto Rico is quite the destination.


Community Background:

Fajardo is located on the northeast corner of Puerto Rico, with its surrounding waters being home to a wide variety of sea creatures, such as manatees, dolphins, and turtles. The climate is tropical, with beautiful weather averaging between 70-85 degrees year round. Fajardo was one of the locations used by the Americans to invade Puerto Rico. Interestingly enough, in the late 19th century, the USS Puritan was sailing by the coastline of the city when Rogers noticed the “Faro de Las Cabezas de San Juan” (the same lighthouse we are staying at) which was supposed to be the landing site for the US Army in Puerto Rico. Rodgers ordered some of his men ashore, which included Puerto Rican volunteers, with the mission of posting the American Flag atop the lighthouse. The lighthouse provides beautiful views of El Yunque National Rainforest, amazing coastlines, and even the virgin islands. Fajardo is home to many coral reefs and is a major center for boating and other water sports. The main industries include cigars, furniture, and metal.


Recreational Activities:

The main source of recreation will be the nearby beach, which will be accessible everyday on the trip and is a short walk away. The hike in El Yunque National Park will be considered a major fun activity and will also serve to be an educational activity, as we will learn about Puerto Rico’s ecosystems and conservation efforts.  We will also kayak on a lagoon, and learn more about the marine ecosystem of Puerto Rico. Additionally, we will take a catamaran trip where we’ll snorkel at a nearby island. On our last day, we will walk around the historical city of San Juan, visiting El Morro to learn more about Puerto Rico’s colonial history.


About the Site Leaders:

Gabby is a 2nd year nursing student. She loves exploring new cultures, meeting new people, and taking bomb Instagram pictures. She went with ASB to Guatemala last year and hopes she has the same eye-opening experiences in Puerto Rico. However, speaking Spanish is definitely not her strong suit so don’t feel bad if it’s not yours either!

Shiv is a 3rd year Biology major and Astronomy minor.  He is really into meeting new people, watching movies and TV, exploring new locations and cultures, hiking various environments, playing tennis, and drinking tea (not coffee).  His first experience with ASB was a trip to Costa Rica last year, and he anticipates Puerto Rico to be just as exciting.  He’s very excited to meet all the new people for this trip, and like Gabby, will take many bomb Instagram pictures there.