I took part in the gvi Island Conservation programme in Seychelles in August 2015. I loved living on the uninhabited island, Curieuse with the gvi staff and my group of volunteers. Seychelles has to be one of the most beautiful and unspoilt places on earth and the wildlife is unique. I loved the deserted beaches! I loved working with the giant tortoises and the green turtle hatchlings. I flew to Bird for part of my programme to spent 4 days exploring this wild and remote private island. Standing on the edge of the sooty tern colony on the North Point, listening to 800,000 pairs nesting was incredible! The remoteness and beauty of Bird is a recommended experience. Snorkelling with a green turtle on Praslin was unforgettable. I had a lot of fun making new friends and having new experiences out in the field. It was physically challenging at times, due to the heat and humidity so I would make sure you have increased your fitnness levels before you go! The camp is well equipped you don't need to take half of what you would expect. The gvi staff were really firiendly - very professional and loads of fun. I would recommend this conservation project with gvi - it may be expensive but it is definitely worth it.
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Global Vision International (GVI)
I spent one month volunteering in Fiji this year on the 'Community development expedition' I made some great friends and experienced the real Fiji whilst living there, but it wasn't all so great. For a start, the staff were rude, unfriendly and never had anything nice to say, they talked rudely about other volunteers to me and some things I heard actually shocked me. I had a staff member say about another volunteer "oh it's him, he never does anything, he is just a spoilt brat", I wouldn't expect to hear that from really anyone let alone a fully grown person. The staff are very separate from the volunteers and there isn't really a sense of community on base at all, after project the evenings were long and boring, with no organised activities most of the time. Staff didn't really interact with volunteers at all, unless it was to say something bad at the debriefing over dinner, or to moan about something someone has done wrong, which instead of talking to them quietly about they named and shamed. Really, I found all the staff unpleasant, and most of the time they acted like they had been burdened with their jobs when the reality is they had chosen to live there.
Next up was the support I received beforehand, which was next to nothing. I paid my full amount and then heard nothing, I didn't receive any emails until the week before I arrived in Fiji, even though I had emailed the country manager countless times asking for information. The information I did receive happened to be out of date and almost entirely wrong. I received the wrong starter pack, telling me that I was to be placed in a school and receive teacher training, I didn't receive anything about the work I would actually be doing (which involved working in the local villages, and some construction and almost no teaching at all). I had a long list of items I had to somehow purchase one week before being in Fiji even though I was already travelling which wasn't ideal, on top of this half the things on the list were unneeded which I realised when I arrived at base, if I had known before I could have saved myself the 100 odd dollars that I had wasted. There were forms that I hadn't filled in, and forms that I had filled in that weren't needed at all, another waste of time, overall the whole before process was disorganised and most of it was a massive waste of my time.
Now for conditions on base, which were absolutely disgusting. The first bure I slept in had a pair of bunks completely infested with bed bugs, so badly that you could actually see them in the nets. Unfortunately for my two friends that had arrived there the same day as I, that was the bunk that they chose. After a few days sleeping in it they had been bitten all over, from their feet to their faces, the staff provided no help what so ever for at least a week after this started. One member of staff told me this had happened to the person sleeping in that bed before them, then when that quote was brought up the story suddenly changed and he never said that. Staff passed the bites off as other things, insect bites, a rash... When the staff finally decided to listen they didn't really do much, they changed the mattresses and got them new bedding which didn't work, the bed bugs got so bad that they ended up in my two friends backpacks and in their other clothes. By the time they finally listened my friends had been completely attacked by bed bugs, had an infested rucksack and were completely paranoid about every bed on base. They had the gruelling process of having to try kill the bed bugs by boiling all of their clothes, this isn't easy to do when the only source of boiling water is a small kettle and there are no chemical products, they boiled their clothes and backpack about 2 times, then moved into their new room. The staff didn't provide any new bedding for them and offered no help in a problem that could have been avoided, the only thing the staff did do was tell one off for not having her shoulders covered, even though every item of clothing she owned was soaking wet on a washing line. The actual state of the beds and bures wasn't great either, the mattresses and pillows provided were disgusting, I have travelled for 6 months and these are easily the worst beds I came across in all my different forms of accommodation, which was funny considering this was the place I had paid to stay and work the longest. The mattresses were old and thin, I could feel the planks of wood through them and woke up with pins and needles and a dead body every morning from sleeping on them, and the pillows were a different level, they absolutely stunk, until I got into town I slept without one as it felt more hygienic, what annoyed me more is that I could have brought these items with me and spent money on them instead of all the money I wasted on pointless equipment. When working in the kitchen it never really felt hygienic, I used to wash all the cutlery and plates before using it, just to make sure. I saw rats in the cupboards that we ate from and the table surfaces that we worked in, there were also cockroaches and all other sorts of creepy crawlies, I know that this can't be avoided but it just felt unhygienic finding them in the cupboards and tubs that they shouldn't be able to access.
For me, one of the worst things I saw in all my time on base was the way that the animals were treated. I know that stray dogs are common in Fiji and can be considered a pest by locals, but when I see this extended to the western staff that work there it really bothered me. I saw staff full on kick dogs, to hurt them, and the worst part of all is that they encouraged others to do it, if you were seen so much as smiling at a dog you would be publicly named and shamed and told not to. Yes, you can't encourage the stray dogs, there are a lot of them and they are pests, but no way should you be kicking and encouraging cruelty on these animals when really all they are doing is hanging around waiting for some food. Almost everyone volunteering on base had pet dogs back home or had a liking towards dogs, for most of us our natural reaction was to "aww" at these dogs, especially when we saw the tiny puppies, and to show them a bit of affection, and to be told off and publicly shunned for doing so is wrong.There are ways to deter the dogs without using violence, for most dogs just a shoo and clapping hands scared them off, one tiny little dog that was known around base was the one that aggravated volunteers most, I saw her get kicked so hard at one point she actually rolled over and cried. There were rumours on base that GVI actually had local children to drown the new pups, which probably is common in the local communities and arguably kinder, but not at all something that GVI, AS A CHARITY ORGANISATION WHICH HELPS ANIMALS, should be encouraging. They also have base chickens, but the cage and conditions they were kept in was despicable. There were days that they didn't get fed or watered and they were hardly ever cleaned, the cage that they lived in was absolutely tiny, even though all the other chickens were free roaming. They also kept pigs, the pigs were in a tiny box container, not big enough for one let alone four, with a floor made entirely of concrete, with no mud for them to dig around or roll in. The way I saw animals, mainly the dogs, in my short four weeks there angered me the most about the whole project, I can deal with crappy beds and crappy food, but not with people abusing animals right in front of my eyes, and then encouraging other volunteers and local children to do so.
My overall experience with GVI, well the volunteering perspective, was good, I made some friends that will last a lifetime, experienced the real Fiji, saw some absolutely amazing sites and had my own Fijian family whom I loved spending time with, the work I done in the day was rewarding and I am happy I got to do that. However, after my experience on base and with the rather horrid staff I can say I would never volunteer with GVI again and next time will try a different company. I would 100% recommend volunteering, it's super fun and the most rewarding thing that I have ever done, especially in Fiji, but would not recommend this particular project on this base, unless the entire staff team was changed. I can't help thinking that my experience could have been so much better if there was a friendlier team of staff and a better atmosphere on base.
Going abroad to LPB in Laos was a great experience and I really enjoyed being able to get to know the people and the culture of southeast Asia.
I would recommend going for at at least a month to get the full experience, and in order to give the people you are interacting with a better chance at getting to know you. Also, I would plan to allot more money than you think you need initially since you will want to travel while there. Also, it is nice to be in Laos not during the heavy tourist season.
Overall it was a fantastic experience and I recommend it to anyone who is interested in learning about the way of life over there. However it is a bit of a culture shock so going into it I would say that you should keep an open mind and be patient. Definitely a worth while experience. Also the program that I did had to do with teaching English and the teaching is very legitimate and important, so if you don't think you would like actually teaching a class I would pick a different program.
I couldn't have been more impressed with GVI. A change in life circumstance saw me doing a google search on making a difference and volunteering overseas. Less than 2 months later I was in Kochi in Kerela, India. The two weeks were so incredible rewarding. I've lived and worked overseas and loved integrating into society not just sitting on the sidelines. For me, this program ticked all the boxes and we really integrated. I was teaching and we prepared for and celebrated Xmas with the teacher and the kids in the slum. I was particularly impressed with how well the programs were run and that they create real sustainable change.
The GVI Marine Conservation in Thailand was a great experience that has changed the way I view volunteering abroad. GVI was well-structured and exciting, as there wasn't a 'typical day'.
There were a range of different activities we were involved in, including traveling to the Similan Islands where we got to swim in the clear waters and see turtles, fish, eels and even an octopus in their natural environment.
A great experience - would definitely recommend to anyone who'd looking to volunteer abroad.
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