Los Toros Azua, Dominican Republic - St. Joseph Grafton, Wisconsin USA
Travel to the Dominican Republic
A Mission Experience
Our trips always have the primary objective to build "solidarity" and "understanding" between our communities. Another objective is to build friendships that allow the people of Los Toros to share their lives with us and to learn about our lives. Our relationships with the people of Los Toros are very important and remain our main focus. 

 Those who wish to join us on our trips are asked to attend Trip Planning Meetings and Orientation sessions. To enter into a third world experience is a serious task and is a "give and take" experience as well as a learning opportunity. Your participation affects two cultures, the current culture that you live in and the Dominican culture which is a daily experience for the residents of Los Toros.

Our respect for their culture demonstrates an acceptance and willingness to work together with mutual understanding and respect. 

Costs for the trip are the responsibility of participants; we make every effort to keep them at a minimum with the main expense being air travel. Please contact us for specific details on the cost. 
If you are interested in joining us on a trip please contact us at least eight weeks before the trip.
Dominican Culture - Some Thoughts & Reflections on The Dominican Republic

The Dominican Republic is on an island called Hispanola, at the West end of the island is Haiti. The island has a beautiful coast (mostly east); mountains and desert like areas. Los Toros is in the South and West area of the country. 
Most Dominicans are Black and of African - Spanish decent. This may vary with some Dominicans appearing to be completely Spanish. All natives to the island died after Columbus came to their island. 

Dominicans speak Spanish, in rural areas there are phrases and pronunciations that vary from the big cities, however, it is mostly consistent. Some Dominicans may be limited in their reading and writing skills. Many Dominicans can speak at least a little English. 

Dominicans are very friendly and hospitable, especially in rural areas. They will shake hands and hug freely. In some rural areas men will walk hand in hand as a sign of their solidarity. The people love to sing and dance and have their special music called Merengue and Bachata. They are also very generous and kind; if you visit their home they will always give you a chair and ask you to sit; it is very appropriate to sit for a few minutes and accept their kindness. Sometimes they will offer coffee; this means they will brew fresh coffee especially for you; if one has time it is appropriate to accept this hospitality. 

Meals in the Dominican Republic are not usually family affairs; sometimes there is not enough food for the whole family and they will take turns at skipping meals. It will appear that there is a lot of food on the table and they may be generous in serving you; it is important to note that sometimes they will share their plate with another person after the meal so it is not improper to leave some food on your plate if they have served you too much. Also, they will try to please you as much as they can, on occasion, if a guest asks for something they will go beyond their means in an effort to provide. Dominicans will only serve safe food and drink so it is safe to accept almost everything. Local water can never be used without purification. 

Every afternoon just about every person in the country finds some water to take a bath and then put on clean clothes. Sometimes they will bathe in a river; mostly they will take a bucket of water and bathe with that. In the cities there are flush toilets and showers, in the country there are outhouses and Dominican Bathrooms - trees and bushes - usually people are very discrete. 

Families are usually very large and extended; often three generations can be found in a house. Most Dominicans can not afford a church or civil wedding so they just get married. Older people are respected; younger children are loved, but if they misbehave they are corrected. You will notice a definite structure and distinct roles in families; wives care for the home, men work in the fields and control most matters; though recently women have started to take leadership roles in the community. Older children help with younger children, infants are deeply loved by all. 

Cultural Shock: 
This happens when a person enters and leaves another culture that is radically different then their current culture. It is especially prevalent if there is severe poverty or other drastic conditions. Usually it is instantaneous though sometimes it is not realized until after person returns home from the visit. There are different stages and experiences of this culture shock and it is important to recognize it and address your feelings. Consequently it is important to share your thoughts and experiences with others. It is often good to regroup after a visit to share a little and work together at finding ways to address your feelings. Sometimes these experiences help people to understand not only the new "culture" they have visited, but also the benefits and inadequacies of their own culture. Perhaps one might do a little preventive medicine by preparing oneself for the experience with some reading, thought and prayer. Also, it is good to enter in solidarity with the people of the new culture by forming a relationship with a specific person and establishing a common friendship. Writing letters is a every good way of doing this. It is also important to keep a notebook - journal - of experiences, people and places, to bring about understanding as well as solidarity. Taking photos and sending a copy back to new friends is an excellent way of building understanding and solidarity. Above all it is important to keep an open mind and observe all elements of a culture and not just concentrate on conditions of poverty and depravity.
What do you need to Travel?
1. Please take along in a “carry-on” the clothes and all medical necessities that you will need. We suggest to take a water bottle; it will be hot there and we will need to drink liquids. You can buy juice, soda and beer in the village. Host homes will have purified water available. It is very important to drink fluids - you can easily get sick from dehydration.  
2. Hand wipes or hand cleaner sanitizer is needed, clean water may not always be available. 

3. Clothes - it will be very warm - you do not need a jacket or sweater, but may take one if you like. We will need to protect ourselves from the sun - hats are a must, sunglasses and lotion is also important. You do not need a lot of clothes, Dominicans are usually casual, but neat, however, one set of dressy casuals would be good for special events like church or going to dinner. Jeans are very acceptable and it is OK to wear shorts but most people don't; bring good walking shoes, do not bring hiking boots or sandals; athletic shoes are popular. It is a good idea to have all of your clothes in your carry-on. We will be taking some supplies and check them as baggage. Part of your responsibility to the mission is to help carry supplies. The limit is one checked bags (50 lbs) and one carry-on and a purse or briefcase. But please bring as few personal things as you can and it will be easier to travel around the DR. 

4. Personal Items – bring a small notebook - journal and a pen, camera, small mirror (for shaving, etc.), small soap, small shampoo and a towel. Also bring a small flashlight, handkerchiefs, Kleenex or TP, Wash n'Wipes (anti bacteria) and a small umbrella. Mosquito repellent will be handy to have. Please note that current regulations do not allow you to carry all of these in your carry on bag. 
5. Gift - for your host family, a small item that is easy to carry, perhaps something for their home.

Please refer to the below link for more Pack Smart Information:

Important Health Information
Medical: Please check this website and read all of the information carefully:

Consult with this website for current health concerns updates.   

Current Health Conditions
Zika Virus and Dengue Fever 
Zika Virus information:

The best treatment for Zika or Dengue Fever is to avoid it.  It is important to be careful, use your repellent and mosquito netting and dress appropriately. Also see below about treating your clothes with a mosquito repellent. 

Information regarding Chikungunya: 

There are no current cases of the virus disease Chikungunya; this is only transmitted by a mosquito. Most cases in Los Toros have been somewhat mild and recovery can be as short as a few days. If a person is in good health there is nothing to worry about. But it is important to protect yourself from mosquitoes.
Before you leave the USA you can treat your clothes, especially your sleeping clothes, socks, pants and a shirt with Permethrin:

  1. Use Mosquito Repellant! Mosquitoes
  2. Wear long pants and long sleeve shirts - especially in the early morning and evening.
  3. Use a Mosquito Net or fan on your bed at night- when appropriate.
  4. Help to cover containers of open water at night. 
  5. Avoid contact with mosquitoes in the early morning and in the late afternoon.
  6. Use enclosed shoes that cover your feet.
About the Water
Please follow the instructions below: 
  1. Only drink water that has been purified. 
  2. Use chlorinated water for bathing and for cleaning cooking and eating utensils.
  3. Do not bath in the river, wash your hands frequently. Do not touch animals!
  4. Never use water from the tap (in any location in the DR) for brushing your teeth.
The Dominican Republic is a safe place, but precautions always are the best protection. In every land and country, tourists are always targets for pickpockets, etc.; consequently we always travel together as a group and have a guide with us at all times.

We are registered as a traveling group with the US Consulate and receive travel advisories from them. It is important to listen carefully to our safety comments during the orientation sessions and on the trip. We want you to have a safe, rewarding and enjoyable experience in the Dominican Republic and will do everything we can to achieve that!
We publish an agenda for each trip. 
  1. To indicate how we use our resources of time and materials.
  2. To facilitate planning and help committees to prepare.
  3. To work effectively at our mission of serving the people of Los Toros.
  4. To communicate "when and where" in case we need to be contacted.
Other Details
You may need shots or special medication for your trip; you should also check with your doctor for personal advice. For your information you can get protection for Hepatitis A and B at the Ozaukee County Medical Office for a fee: 

You need to start this about two - three months before the trip. For more information about Hepatitis- please go here: 

Persons with serious medical concerns should consult carefully with their doctor before traveling to Los Toros. 
 We will ask you to sign a standard "wavier" form and list an emergency contact in the USA. 
If you are in good physical condition you need not be alarmed! With the proper precautions there is no need to worry. Hosts in Los Toros understand what precautions are necessary and watch over guests very carefully to protect them - so there is no need to worry - but, please follow our advice during the trip. 
There is a good reliable private clinic/hospital available in Santo Domingo, check if your health insurance covers international travel and bring your insurance card. If your medical insurance does not cover foreign travel you may want to consider getting a travel health insurance policy.
  1. Emergency numbers: You will receive a list of contacts.  
  2. Transportation: as an act of solidarity we use public transportation - bus, taxi, etc. and we will furnish a guide to be with you. Transportation in Los Toros is usually a small motor cycle. It is important to take safety precautions. 
  3. Where will we stay: 
    Santo Domingo: We will stay in a small hotel 
    Los Toros: We will stay with a family. 
  4. Spanish is the native language
    If you do not have Spanish skills we suggest you set a goal to learn three new words a day, in a month you can have a vocabulary of about 100 words.