Fathom’s Impact Activities

Fathom's Impact Activities

Fathom’s Impact Activities

A few weeks ago, I was fortunate enough to travel on Fathom‘s inaugural cruise to the Dominican Republic, and I am still inspired from the journey. Not only did I meet some incredible people on the boat, but through Fathom’s impact activities, I got a real feel for what the Dominican Republic is all about.

While you can book excursions similar to ones you’d find on your average cruise, what makes Fathom so special are its impact activities, three of which are included in your booking. There are a variety of impact activities to choose from, and to be honest, I had a hard time choosing my top three.

Reforestation and Nursery
Community English Conversation and Learning
Student English Conversation and Learning
Concrete Floors in Community Homes
Water Filtration Production
Recycled Paper and Crafts Entrepreneurship
Cacao and Women’s Chocolate Cooperative

To narrow it down, I tried to think of my strengths and weaknesses, as well as how I could be most effective during my time on the island. While I probably should have gravitated towards Student and Community English based on my eight years of teaching experience, I had this strong desire not to choose those two. For eight years, I taught middle school and when I volunteered in India, I also worked with kids, and I just needed a break. That was my life for so long, and part of quitting my job meant trying something new. With so many other options and only a short time volunteering, I choose to steer myself away from the obvious.

Fathom's Impact Activities

In retrospect, I do regret this a little bit, especially after seeing photos from the experiences and hearing the stories from the other passengers. It seemed like the perfect way to connect with the community and really get to know the people who lived in the Dominican Republic. If I make my way back with Fathom, these activities will be at the top of my list.

I also stood clear of anything that involved a lot of manual labor. Even though I consider myself the strongest I’ve ever been, thanks to yoga, I figured I’d be less help than they needed. So instead, I narrowed it down to areas I knew I would be helpful in: Recycled Paper and Crafts Entrepreneurship, Cacao and Women’s Chocolate Cooperative, and Reforestation and Nursery.

Recycled Paper and Crafts Entrepreneurship

Fathom's Impact Activities

My first impact activity was on the Tuesday afternoon when we arrived in Puerto Plata. I had no idea what to expect, and as the vans we were in pulled into the neighborhood where RePapel is located, families poured out of their homes to watch us. As I smiled at them from the van, I wondered what was going through their minds. I’ve found with travel that smiles can open up so many possibilities and break down many barriers, it’s that simple.  We unloaded from the van and as we walked toward RePapel, we could hear singing and clapping; it was clear we were welcome and our presence excited the women.

While here, we helped the women make candles, coasters, and jewelry, as well as paper. These women were some of my favorite from the week, as their energy and enthusiasm, especially to bring us into their lives, was electric. Even though I speak almost no Spanish, just the basics I learned in middle school, we managed to communicate, connect, and laugh together.

As much as I loved my time at RePapel, I questioned how much we were doing to really help the women, rather than interrupting their daily routines. While I do believe we helped as much as we could as they were making paper, and I loved having them show us how it was made, the craft activities were a different story. We only had about twenty minutes at each station, and to be honest, we weren’t all that great at jewelry making and some of the other crafts, though I think our intentions were in the right place. I also think there may have been too many of us there at once, especially with limited facilities for making the paper. Still, time will tell, as this is still a new venture, and I’m looking forward to seeing it grow.

Cacao and Women’s Chocolate Cooperative

Fathom's Impact Activities

This was a project that so many people were excited about, including myself, and not just because it was about chocolate, although that did help. We arrived at Chocal and were introduced to the women who worked there while drinking hot chocolate with bread; it was probably some of the best hot chocolate I’ve ever had. I couldn’t wait for the experience and after a quick tour, we started our rotations to different jobs. My group started with chocolate molding, then moved to packaging, and finally to sorting the cacao beans and then the roasted cacao nibs. While I didn’t think we were super helpful while molding, I do think that our packaging and sorting efforts were appreciated. It was hard to tell the difference between good beans and bad ones at first, but with a little guidance, I’d like to think we did a good job.

During our break, I crossed the street to take a photo of the cocoa pods hanging on the trees near Chocal. While there, the driver of our bus told me and the two other people I was with to follow him to where there were more pods. We wandered around a bit admiring the different color pods hanging off the tree and the owner of them came over and cut open one for us to see. We tried the sweet fruit surrounding the cacao beans before rejoining our groups to head over to the nursery. After a quick stroll down the block, we got to see the beans drying in the sun, as well as the seedlings for the trees.

I really enjoyed my time at Chocal, not just because we got to be surrounded by my favorite food group all morning. The women who work there have the opportunity to support their families, and they can do so while staying close to home, rather than going off to bigger cities to find employment. While I wish we had more time to get to know the women more, I am grateful I got to experience working by their sides that morning.

Reforestation and Nursery

Fathom's Impact Activities

While the Reforestation Project was my final impact project, it just so happened to be my personal favorite. That’s because I felt as if I was giving back in a way I hadn’t previously done before. I know that deforestation is a huge issue all around the world, and to be able to give back by replanting trees felt like a simple way to make a difference. Each reforestation day is different, and on ours we headed to the mountains. After a short hike, we found ourselves in a gorgeous location with seedlings ready for us to plant. What I didn’t realize is that we’d be climbing up the mountain as we were planting.

It was hard labor, especially as the sun beat down, but it was also a great way to work together and make new friends from the ship. We were broken up into small groups, I was lucky to have Craig and Lauren in my group with me, as well as a few new friends, and together, we measured the distance between our plants, dug holes, and planted the seedlings.

After about an hour and a half, we were still ready to plant more, but we were told it was time to go to the nursery and also to have lunch. I wish that we had had more time because we were really making progress and getting the hang of the process. That morning, we planted over 200 trees, and although we were all ready to plant a few hundred more, we did feel quite accomplished. One of my favorite parts of the day, however, was sitting and eating lunch with the people who worked at the reforestation project and hearing them talk about their country and the excitement they had for what we were doing. It was such a small moment, but it made me realize how important it was that we were there.


While these were the only activities I participated in, I heard amazing stories from people on the boat who had participated in the other impact activities, and it had me wishing I had had more time to experience those as well, especially Community English Conversation and Learning and Concrete Floors in Community Homes. But, maybe one day, I’ll make it back to the Dominican Republic with Fathom to experience the activities I missed.

Since impact activities are offered both in the morning and afternoon, my advice would be to do two on one day and one on the other: maybe something less physical in the morning and a more physical activity in the afternoon. This will then allow you to have a day free on the island to explore a bit. That’s one thing I didn’t get to do, and I wish I had.

I really enjoyed Fathom’s impact activities and thought that all of it was really well-organized. There are probably more programs to come and that these are likely to change and develop the longer Fathom is around, and I am truly excited to watch Fathom grow. Their heart is in the right place, and even if things aren’t perfect, I know that they are doing the best they can and will adjust as needed over time. I am just grateful I was able to be one of the first to experience such a new form of travel.

Interested in taking a cruise with Fathom? Click here for a discount on their upcoming sailings.

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Fathom's Impact Activities

I was a guest on the inaugural Fathom voyage to the Dominican Republic. As always all opinions and thoughts are my own.

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Comments (2)

  1. craig zabransky (@StayAdventurous)

    Love that you can still have fun and photo-bomb when planting trees…. and more importantly, agreed – the impact activities certainly left an impact on the DR and also on me… Happy to read your summary of your excursions… i enjoyed the one we did together and happy to learn about a few others I didn’t select….plenty to do in this world… just need to keep on traveling deep.

    Stay Making an Impact, Craig

  2. Morgan

    Wow, this sounds like an amazing opportunity! The Dominican Republic is a beautiful place with so many things to offer every visitor. I’m so glad to see that you all took time to leave a positive mark on this place while you were there. It’s so important to positively touch every place you visit! It looks like you really enjoyed yourself and made the very most of your time there! Very nice! Thanks so much for sharing your adventure with us!

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