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Good Practices for Health and Safety

The following statements have been developed to provide guidance to 4T faculty and staff, our sponsoring organizations, program participants and their families. They are issues that deserve all of our attention in educational, adventure and community service program design. They are intentionally general, and are not intended to account for all of the variations in the myriad of programs that 4T manages in the Dominican Republic.

Because the roles 4T plays in program development and management varies considerable from case to case, it is impossible to specify a division of efforts that would apply to all cases. For this reason, we have divided the following into three sections:

Responsibilities of 4T & Sponsoring Organizations

Responsibilities of Participants

Responsibilities of Parents & Families of Participants

We have also included a brief section on:

Smart Discussions for Participants and their Families

Much of the following information has been adapted from the Association of International Educators' publication entitled Guidelines for Responsible Study Abroad: Health and Safety and the Iowa State University's Study Abroad Center.

Responsibilities of 4T & Sponsoring Organizations

As stated above, it is not possible to specify a strict division of responsibilities that applies in all of our programs. This is particularly true regarding the relationship between 4T and the sponsoring organizations with which we design them. In the general sense, 4T's job is to assist other entities, specifically schools, universities, special interest groups, businesses and families, achieve their goals in the DR. We use the word "sponsoring organization" to represent all of these entities. In the following text, you will find that we frequently use the word "sponsors" in collective reference to sponsoring organizations and all other providers that together develop and manage educational, adventure and community service programs in the DR thorough 4T.

The following are established procedures for sponsors (the use of letter is for reference and does not imply priority):

A. Conduct periodic assessments of health and safety conditions for programs, and develop and maintain emergency preparedness processes and a crisis response plan.

B. Provide health and safety information for participants so that they and their parents/guardians/families can make informed decisions concerning preparation, participation and behavior while on the program.

C. Provide information concerning aspects of local services and conditions that cannot be replicated at overseas locations.

D. Provide orientation to participants on site, which includes information on safety, health, legal, environmental, political, cultural, and religious conditions. In addition to dealing with health and safety issues, the orientation should address potential health and safety risks, and appropriate emergency response measures.

E. Consider health and safety issues in evaluating the appropriateness of an individual's participation in a program through the Medical Information & Assumption of Risk Form.

F. Determining criteria for an individual's removal from a program taking into account participant behavior, health, and safety factors.

G. Require that participants be insured. 4T provides health and travel accident (emergency evacuation, repatriation) insurance to participants available at www.4tdomrep.com/health.html.

H. Conduct inquiries regarding the potential health, safety and security risks of the local environments of the program, including program-sponsored accommodations, events, excursions and other activities, prior to the program. Monitor possible changes in country conditions. Provide information about changes and advise participants as needed.

I. Hire contractors and guides that have provided reputable services in the country.

J. Conduct appropriate inquiry regarding available medical and professional services. Provide information about these services for participants, and help participants obtain the services they may need.

K. Develop and provide health and safety training for programs for staff and guides.

L. Develop codes of conduct for programs; communicate codes of conduct and the consequences of noncompliance to participants. Take appropriate action when aware that participants are in violation.

M. In cases of serious health problems, injury, or other significant health and safety circumstances, maintain good communication among all program sponsors and others who need to know.

N. Provide information for participants regarding when and where the sponsor's responsibility ends and the range of aspects of participants' overseas experiences that are beyond the sponsor's control.

In particular, program sponsors generally:

A. Cannot guarantee or assure the safety and/or security of participants or eliminate all risks from the program environments.

B. Cannot monitor or control all of the daily personal decisions, choices, and activities of participants.

C. Cannot prevent participants from engaging in illegal, dangerous or unwise activities.

D. Cannot assure that US standards of due process apply in overseas legal proceedings or provide or pay for legal representation for participants.

E. Cannot assume responsibility for actions or for events that are not part of the program, nor for those that are beyond the control of the sponsor and its subcontractors, or for situations that may arise due to the failure of a participant to disclose pertinent information.

F. Cannot assure that home-country cultural values and norms will apply in the host country.

Responsibilities of Participants

In our programs, as in other settings, participants have a major impact on their own experience, health and safety through the decisions they make before and during their program and by their day-to-day choices and behaviors. We maintain a "choose your own adventure" policy in which participants are empowered to decide their own level of involvement within the boundaries of group activities.

Participants should:

A. Assume responsibility for all the elements necessary for their personal preparation for the program and participate fully in orientations.

B. Read and carefully consider all materials issued by the sponsor that relate to safety, health, legal, environmental, political, cultural, and religious conditions in the DR.

C. Conduct their own research on the country regions they plan to visit with particular emphasis on health and safety concerns, as well as the social, cultural, and political situations.

D. Consider their physical and mental health, and other personal circumstances when applying for a place in a program, and make available to the sponsor accurate and complete physical and mental health information and any other personal data that is necessary in planning for a safe and healthy experience.

E. Obtain and maintain appropriate insurance coverage and abide by any conditions imposed by the carriers. 4T offers health and travel accident (emergency evacuation, repatriation) insurance to participants available at www.4tdomrep.com/health.html.

F. Inform parents/guardians/families and any others who may need to know about their participation in the program, provide them with emergency contact information, and keep them informed of their itinerary.

G. Understand and comply with the terms of participation, codes of conduct, and emergency procedures of the program.

H. Be aware of local conditions and customs that may present health or safety risks when making daily choices and decisions. Promptly express any health or safety concerns to the program staff or other appropriate individuals before and/or during the program.

I. Accept responsibility for their own decisions and actions.

J. Obey host-country laws.

K. Behave in a manner that is respectful of the rights and well being of others, and encourage others to behave in a similar manner.

L. Avoid illegal drugs and excessive or irresponsible consumption of alcohol.

M. Follow the program policies for keeping program staff and guides informed of their whereabouts and well being.

N. Become familiar with the procedures for obtaining emergency health and legal system services in the regions where programs are taking place.

Responsibilities of Parents & Families of Participants

As in other settings, parents and families play an important role in the health and safety of participants by helping them make smart decisions while they are away.

Parents and families should:

A. Be informed about and involved in the decision of the participant to enroll in a particular program.

B. Obtain and carefully evaluate participant program materials, as well as related health, safety and security information.

C. Discuss with the participant any of his/her travel plans and activities that may be independent of the organized program.

D. Engage the participant in a thorough discussion of safety and behavior issues, insurance needs, and emergency procedures related to living abroad.

E. Be aware that the participant rather than the sponsors may most appropriately provide information in some circumstances.

Smart Discussions for Participants and their Families

Participants in 4T programs vary extremely in age. In fact we have no age limitations in regards to the programs we design and manage. Independent university students and adults may find the following information irrelevant. If so, read no further and enjoy some of the pictures in our photo gallery instead!

We recommend that participants and their families have a brief discussion regarding the following topics:

  • Communication. If you plan on making contact with one and another, please be aware that participants are frequently not able to make phone calls or email within the first few days of arrival due to the pace and location of most programs. It is a great idea to establish a phone tree through your sponsoring organization so that one phone call may confirm that the group has arrived safe and sound. Emergency messages can always be relayed through 4T staff. Contact information is located at www.4tdomrep.com/contact.html. Due to the remote nature of some programs, it can take up to three days to confirm communication with a program.
  • Finances. Decide ahead of time how additional funds would be transferred to the participant should the need arise, as well as the source and potential use (money to replace lost luggage as opposed to gifts for friends).
  • Safety. Orientation sessions are par for the course on all programs and participation is mandatory. 4T always provides an on-site orientation session on the first night of arrival. All activities, be them educational, adventure or community service, are preceded by an informational and safety briefing. Despite all precautions, total safety can not be guaranteed in the DR any more than it can in your home country. We suggest discussing concerns and plans for avoiding risk while traveling with participants.
  • Culture Shock. Cultural shock results from a loss of what is familiar. All individuals experience culture shock in some unique way. At first, participants experience a "honeymoon period" in which everything is like paradise. Rejection frequently follows this stage, and participants will often be found complaining about their new environment to anyone who will listen. In the regression phase, participants remember everything as "the best" in their home environment and can even be hostile towards the new environment. In adjustment, travelers begin to joke about the troubles they might be having with cultural difference and the idiosyncrasies of their home country which now seem a little odd. Finally, acceptance occurs and participants realize that their new environment is simply another way of living. All participants experience culture shock on different timelines and at varying strengths. The important thing is that participants are aware of why they may be feeling the way they do and that they have caring people who try to understand them.
  • Other Considerations. Alcohol, local perceptions of foreigners, race relations, gender roles, etc...

Please let us know if we can be of further assistance in any of these areas.

Tours Trips Treks & Travel
Customized Educatioanl, Adventure & Service Programs
Tel. (809)867-8884
Fax. (206)600-1700
Tours Trips Treks & Travel operates under the license
Aguatours Dominicana S.A. in the DR.

Tours Trips Treks & Travel copyright © 2016
Most photos credited to "Open Shirt' Mike Gussak at unkmonk@hotmail.com