Institute for Field Research Expeditions - IFRE

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9.2 / 10 after 311 Reviews Based on overall, support & value average ratings

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Our group had an excellent time staying with Michael and his family while in Sri Lanka. Five members of our group stayed at Michael's house while five others stayed with his daughter. We stayed two weeks all together learning about the language and culture of Sri Lanka and volunteering.

Michael is very knowledgeable and was able to share with us a great deal of history on Sri Lanka and help us speak useful phrases.

At all times, whenever our group needed anything, Michael was always quick to respond. He helped us make changes in our volunteer schedule as needed, move students around in the two houses, and was very attuned to our needs. I want to thank Michael for all of the work that he and his family did to help us feel welcome in his home and in Sri Lanka.

I wish our experience with the IFRE office was as great as it was on the ground with Michael. I understand that they are a large organization in many countries, but we had significant issues dealing with them. In the week leading up to the program, our main office contact went on medical leave. As the new person took over communication, they made changes to the total cost we agreed on, then the payment was demanded upfront (before we had agreed to pre-pay half and then pay half at the end). After months of planning, we were told that the program would be canceled unless we met these stipulations.

We were worried about how the experience would be when we began because of our experience with their office, but as soon as we met Michael, his willingness to work with us gave us confidence that it would be a good trip.

I don't believe that IFRE is a bad organization, and perhaps our experience with the office was unique. I recommend being very clear early on about payments especially if volunteering with a large group.

Program:
Location:
Posted: November 27, 2016
Overall:
10
Support:
10
Value:
10
By: Tomgray
Age:
30

I went to Nepal for two weeks to work in a hospital in Kathmandu. I went through the Global Crossroads program, which appears to stem from the same base as this one. Overall I had a great experience. Arriving was a little sketchy, as we were picked up late at night at the airport by a man who was a stranger to us. Quickly our luggage was taken by another man and set into the car for us, and he then asked for payment, which I wasn't happy about. I learned then that he wasn't a part of the program, I'm just advising you to be wary of that. We went to a very nice hostel near the center of Kathmandu, just a short walk away from the hospital we worked at. The hostel held around 10 volunteers, but it was never completely full during our stay. It was also where the organization takes place, so if I had any questions or concerns, I could just walk to their area of the house and ask. The hostel had kids and families in it, two sisters were in charge of all the food, and were very accepting and accommodating of my diet restrictions.

I'm not sure of the official title, but let's call her our coordinator. Pratima was essential in helping us figure out a new culture, and she gave us a crash course into what to expect, and how to react in different situations, which was very helpful.
We had several kinks along the way, such as loosing our luggage, and injuries as well, and Pratima was accommodating to all of it, calling the airport everyday to locate the luggage. When we needed to find a place she told us where to go, and acted as a translator when needed. Also, the organization created a little 'tour' type thing for us and a few others staying in the hostel to see some of the well-known temples and such. We were also given a little tour of all the places we might need to go while we were in the area, like the ATM, the store, our work place, etc. so that we didn't go in blind.

The reason this has 9 stars out of 10 was because there was a little hassle with the money which was a little suspicious to me, but understandable because I think they work from both the US and Nepal, it was just unclear who I had to pay and how much.

Overall I had a great experience through this program, and would recommend it. Just be aware of working out the payments very clear. Everyone was helpful and accommodating, I plan on returning there later in life!

Program:
Location:
Posted: November 22, 2016
Overall:
8
Support:
10
Value:
6
Age:
18

There were two reasons why I wanted to volunteer abroad: 1. Gain valuable clinical experience 2. Practice my spanish. Both of these were fulfilled to an amazing extent. My clinical site was San Juan De Dios with the Physical Therapy department. The staff was welcoming and willing to teach me. Working with disabled children was an unbelievably rewarding experience. Practicing spanish was easy and Peru, specifically Cusco, is a wonderful place. The host family, like everyone else here, were wonderful. There wasn't a day where I felt like this wasn't home.

Program:
Location:
Posted: June 7, 2016
Overall:
10
Support:
10
Value:
10
Age:
20

I really enjoyed the program and the director of the program Lauren was really nice. She took me around the country and really made sure I felt comfortable in her home which was also the volunteer home. She was very interested in any improvements we wanted or any ideas we had for around the house . she wanted to hear everything we were doing and helped anyway she could and really went out and took care of whatever was needed. The orphanage was really really well kept and ran so well. The children had a routine that they showed the volunteers and helped us get to know what to do. It was really amazing. I really think ur level of Spanish should be at a level for basic conversation and basic child commands to be able to keep the children safe. Also bring a debit card to atm out money don't come with cash because you will need to exchange it. My only regret was I didn't stay longer because it does take time to get use to the Costa Rican coulture and day to day routine and you do want to travel on the weekend so I would really recommended staying as long as you could to truly get the experience you want.

Program:
Location:
Posted: June 5, 2016
Overall:
7
Support:
7
Value:
6
Age:
29

There were aspects of this program (IFRE Medical Project in Atenas, Costa Rica) that I enjoyed and aspects that I felt were unprofessional and not what I expected. Let's start with some of the good things. The overall price for the trip was very reasonable. I didn't feel like I was spending more money than the program deserved when it came to housing and accommodation and project placement. I also really enjoyed my host family -- they could not have been a better fit for me and they made this trip a great experience. My Spanish has improved dramatically and I feel like I have a deeper understanding for Costa Rica as a country due to my excellent host family. All my meals were delicious, I had my own private room, we have a clean shower and dependable wifi, and overall my host mom and sister were just very kind, accommodating, encouraging, and fun. I rate my home-stay experience 10/10. I also enjoyed the excursions very much. The Island Day Tour was absolutely beautiful and was organized so well -- someone picked me up, took me to the tour, I was taken care of the entire tour, and then someone brought me back to my host family. I felt very safe and comfortable. I really appreciate the opportunity to see different parts of the country and how smoothly those things worked. I also appreciated my country coordinator, Lauren. Lauren was great about being in touch with me and helping me through various issues and checking in with me to make sure the program was going smoothly. I felt like I had adequate support in this program and was grateful for that.

The biggest downfall with this program was, unfortunately, the medical program itself. I was extremely disappointed with my experience. I was volunteering in a clinic but it is 100% NOT a teaching environment, and I felt like I hardly learned anything. I was hoping that the doctor would explain things to me, involve me in making the diagnoses and assigning treatment, and allow me to do more of the history and physical. But it wasn't a matter of "You should jump right in and ask to be involved!" it was definitely a matter of "These people are here to do their job and will not go out of their way to make you a priority, even if you try." As a medical student, I felt like my skills were wasted on this trip. We had such few patients in the clinic -- which is beyond our control, this I completely understand -- and even when we did see patients, I was in a scramble to take their vitals and fill out the beginning of their chart before the doctor came in to start the H&P -- which she often did before I had finished. I would roll with this and try to be respectful of her time with the patient, but then I would get pressure from the paramedic to take the patient's blood pressure -- the whole thing felt disorganized and made me feel like I was in the way. In general I felt unvalued and in the way at my project. I didn't receive clear instructions and I felt like the knowledge and skills I had gained in my first year of medical school were completely wasted in three weeks of volunteering at my clinic. While I wouldn't recommend this experience to a medical student -- their skills are far beyond what they will be able to engage in in this program's medical project -- I also wouldn't recommend it to a high school or college student. If they don't know how to take blood pressure, I highly doubt anyone at the clinic will teach them, and it will be a waste for them. I think that, in order to make the medical project more successful, there needs to be an educational mentality that is established in the clinic. Linea Vital sees, on average, about 8 patients in an entire day. That is not much at all for an 8:30 - 4:30 clinic. I see no reason why (if we have so much time) the doctor doesn't make more of an effort to educate and involve the volunteers/students. Until that is remedied, I would not recommend this program to someone.

A few other things to note. When I arrived in Atenas for the start of my three weeks of volunteering, I found that there was a mixup in scheduling and I wouldn't be able to start volunteering until the following week. I spent my entire first week in Atenas doing nothing. This was extremely disappointing for me and I felt it was very unprofessional. I understand that confusion happens, but when I'm spending an entire week away from my school where I'm doing research and away from my loved ones, I expect to be participating in the project I signed up for. Another aspect that I found unprofessional was the attitude that the doctor I was working with had. At times she was friendly, but most of the time, I found the clinic environment to be unfriendly and unwelcoming. She had an attitude with me at times (and other times just ignored me), and I found that the doctor and the paramedic would often just gesture for me to do something without giving me clear instructions and then act annoyed when I asked for clarification. Again, this is NOT a kind of environment that fosters learning -- which is exactly what volunteers come here to do. I was hoping to work with a physician who wanted to encourage volunteers and help them learn and contribute rather than ignoring them or seeming annoyed by their presence.

Overall, I think IFRE is a great organization with great employees, and I loved my time in Costa Rica and with my host family. The problem is that the medical project needs some serious modifications in order to be successful. However, I believe this is possible, and I hope you will take my feedback to help make the program better.

Program:
Location:
Posted: May 31, 2016
Overall:
6
Support:
8
Value:
7
By: ctthrive
Age:

Comments

UPDATE. IFRE has decided they will no longer be using the clinic I volunteered at, Linea Vital, as a site for the medical project. They have been very receptive to my feedback and have explained that the other clinics in Costa Rica better embody the vision IFRE has for the medical project. Other volunteers in the past at these clinics have had very good experiences. I'm very grateful that they listened to my feedback and strive to make the program better! Please feel free to contact with questions.

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