Africa

Institute for Field Research Expeditions - IFRE

I never could imagine before that I will have so exciting and interesting experience. I have learned ad lived so many interesting things in my 2 weeks in Africa working in an orphanage, and sharing my days with local people and also other volunteers.

The support and help form the organizaton (local coordinator) was more than excellent.

I am sure that I could not forget this experience in al my life.

Thx so much for the opportunity to have such great experience.

Program: Volunteer Abroad
Location: Africa
Posted: Sep 1, 2013
Overall:
10
Support:
10
Value:
10

Comments

Thank you for sharing your time in Africa Paloma, we are excited as well that you had an excellent experience. The lives you touched in the orphanage will not forget you either!

Original Volunteers

After many years of wanting to go to Africa, and complete a volunteering holiday, my 30th birthday seemed like the perfect time. I searched around on the Internet for programmes and destinations at a reasonable price and original volunteers came out on top , ticking all the boxes. I spent weeks planning and packing bits and pieces. The jabs, insurance and planning would all be worth it. I was going on my own, and whilst I had travelled abroad alone before, I was still a little nervous. I also didn't know whether there would be lots of volunteers around in the village or not. I was finally ready to go after repackaging my case several times!
I didn't sleep a wink on the flight as planned, I was too excited.
I landed and got through the visa queue in not too bad a time. I came through arrivals and eagerly glanced around for my name on a board. What I hadn't planned for, was 'Africa time' so after a little wander around, I again stood by the arrivals area. Shortly after, a tall gentleman in a red shúkà approached me, and introduced himself as Josphat. He explained I would be staying at his house, and he took my suitcases; one full of my things, and one full to the brim with school equipment. We got into the taxi which did look a bit worse for wear, but 'this is Africa' !
We made the journey through Nairobi, past 'piki piki' or motorbikes, piled high with goods and people and the occasional animal! Hoards of people walking to work and the billboards for big named brands, of which I'm sure the majority of people cannot afford. Out of the city and through muddy roads, past the occasional town and eventually out into the open. We stopped at the town for water and goodies, and I bought the family lots of ingredients for meals, I had some trinkets but the basics were just as important. Flour, sugar, fat and water. I bought my SIM card for the time I was out here and the chap in the kiosk set it all up for me. We were in Ngong which, if you've never been to anywhere like Africa, out in the real areas of a destination, with real people, it could be daunting at first. People shouting 'sopa' to me, which I had no idea what it meant, but is just a friendly hello ! Women with their incredible masaai jewellery and men busying about working and the swarms of piki pikis whizzing past!
We continued our drive over the hill and I was finally welcomed to 'Masaailand' the bumpiest dirt track you could imagine, bouncing around trying to catch a glimpse of wildlife around me. It was fairly flat around with the odd mountain in the background. I was shown where giraffes usually gather and eventually we turned towards the hills we had come over and began to climb up it. About half way up we saw some houses, a school, the community centre and it was just beautiful. Children wandered freely and goats were grazing. It was now about 930 in the morning and as we approached the last bit of the journey, we pulled up alongside a group of people. There were 5 volunteers and their masaai families off to work. They were all in through the windows of the taxi to shake hands and welcome me. I said I would come and find them in a bit after I had unpacked. We pulled up at a gate, it was the gate of the house. There was a large garden with animal houses all over, chickens and chicks running around and the family came out to greet me. I was overwhelmed. I soon realised it wasn't Swahili they spoke, it was Maa their own language although some of it was similar. It took a while to realise I wasn't going to get the hang of it quickly! But they didn't mind! They had been host to volunteers before, they knew I was grateful and understood the hellos and thank you's I was saying. I had bread and butter and chai (tea) before heading out to find the others. It was a 15 minute walk across the hills to work and it was incredibly hot. Remember the Africa time I mentioned? It means nothing happens when you expect it to, it's always takes longer than you expect, everything is further than you think and it doesn't matter what time it is! After seeing the hole the others had been digging, we went back for lunch. I was shattered having been up since the previous morning! Cabbage soup and pasta. Chappatis and chai for lunch. It looked plain but lots of it. How wrong I was, it was delicious and I ate more than I would at home. After insisting I had seconds, I was bursting! We had a party to go to at a nearby home (20 min walk) and about half way through I found myself swaying about falling asleep, so I went with another volunteer back to my house. I woke up to a house full of activity. They had waited to eat dinner until I had woken up. Every seat in the lounge was full, and a friendly Aussie guy who I'd spotted earlier was with us. He was in the room next door to me, and had been there about a week. We chatted as a family, played card games, drank chai and had so much fun. I was instantly part of the family. it was pitch black at night and the family only had one light. So they were pleased I had plenty. My first day was over and I felt fabulous! There was so much to learn and do, it already felt like 10 days wouldn't be enough for me!
Opening the door to such amazing views and incredible people around was sensational. I achieved some amazing work with the children, the community and I wouldn't hesitate about going back. Even with families. Children would be so safe in the village. Nairobi takes some getting used to and I spent a whole day travelling around on local transport which is quite an experience. I had a fantastic birthday and we had crisps and balloons and fizzy orange. This was he best birthday party I could have imagined. These amazing people have nothing. They don't want our lifestyle, they just need support to maintain their own way of living. Don't get me wrong, they are amazed by cameras, a few have cheap mobile phones and they love hand me down branded clothes and anything ou don't wish to take home, but they are true masaai used to their own way of doing things, and I have to say I thought many times while I was there how wonderful it was to not have he stress of rushing around in a car, going to work and paying bills! The grown what they need with the help from volunteers, they build community buildings with the help of volunteers. They are given a lot, but on the other hand, what they give us is priceless. Other things I did was to fund materials for a two cubicle toilet and I also took a trip to amboseli national park in my own safari van. I wanted to see Kilimanjaro as my father and grandfather had climbed it years ago so that was a must. A piki piki to ngong to top up on supplies isn't very much at all so easy to do.
I could go on with a day to day diary of what I got up to, but it's down to you to create your own adventure, as a new volunteer. Yes it's a bit costly to start with, but whilst you're there you hardly spend anything and just enjoy helping others and meeting new people. I have take away so many incredible memories and have friends for life. I was also given the name 'Namayiana' which means blessed one in masaai. And that is exactly how I feel. Blessed !
I still keep in contact with the village and volunteers I met there too. If I could, I would go back tomorrow!!
So sign up now for your own volunteer trip! Don't put it off for 'the right time' that time is now!
Good luck

Program: Volunteer Abroad
Location: Africa
Posted: Aug 27, 2013
Overall:
10
Support:
10
Value:
10

Frontier

I went to Madagascar with frontier for four weeks of teaching - one of the most memorable four weeks of my life.
The best things about the trip were: the classes and the people I met out there.

It was the summer holidays for the Madagascan children, but luckily that still meant plenty of teaching! During the week, every morning we had a short sunny walk through Hell-Ville to the school. Here we would teach, mostly in pairs, girls and boys with ages from about 8 to 16. Often a little shy at first, they were always incredibly keen to learn and it was brilliant seeing them improve! (I only have basic GCSE french which I can hardly remember but I still managed - Marzia the teaching co-ordinator was always around to help translate and explain if ever we needed some). Then three afternoons a week we would also teach the adult class. These were very different as many of the adults were very capable in English conversation and writing, and incredibly enthusiastic to become even better!! As you will find the malagasy are incredibly friendly - once after class they took us to find the best street food in Hell-Ville. And most memorable was our final night teaching, where one student performed a rap he had written, another pair performed (a slightly out of tune) cover of 'call me maybe', ending with everyone to singing and dancing along.

The teaching house is basic, but as long as everyone made the effort to look after it was a great place to stay - in the centre of town with access to the roof with a beautiful view day and night, not far from the market, the schools or the local bar Nandipo's where we could get wifi and the occasional cheeky pizza! We enjoyed making use of the local food to cook all our meals. Spending all day everyday together and sharing such an experience, everyone in the teaching house becomes close very quickly .. a bit like a family! I miss everyone there and I wish I could do the whole experience all over again!!

Program: TEFL
Location: Africa
Posted: Aug 26, 2013
Overall:
10
Support:
10
Value:
10

Comments

Thanks for your review of the Madagascar Teaching project.

Frontier

My first encounter of Madagascar was at Antananarivo airport and being rushed by the Malagasy men trying to help you with your luggage. All of them were wearing jumpers and scarves so straight away I was thinking I had packed for the wrong weather. How wrong was I?! Once all of the frontier crew had gathered into the small minivans at Nosy Be airport, with our luggage strapped to the top, I was loving the heat! For the first two weeks while I was out here, I was doing my Padi Open Water and Advanced Open Water. The staff were great and teaching us how to dive and making sure we were breathing through our regulators rather than trying to breathe through our noses. Victor, our Malagasy boat handler, was great at helping us with our gear and we got to dive all around the place, even to Tanakely where we got to do some deep diving at around 24metres. Turtles were of course a main feature of our dives as we were always looking out for them. We even saw some dolphins while we were in the boat but weren’t close enough to see them under water. Camp life is simple but very comfortable, with three huts for all the volunteers. It is always interesting hearing your friends talking (or in our case shouting) in their sleep and always makes for good stories in the mornings! For chilling during the day there is always the beach or the hammocks and we even have some homemade sofas, with the covers hand sewn. Food on camp is rice and beans. It is actually surprising the different ways you can cook those but you get use to it and there is always warm white bread to buy in the morning for about 20p so it is definitely worth it. And you can always go to Philippe’s, the local French guy’s house, and buy some spaghetti or chips. The science table is where we do most of our learning of the fishes, invertebrates and corals and the staff are great at developing fun ways to learn all the names of the species. I’ve done one survey so far and I was assigned to take the readings for Benthic (coral). I was nervous at first but Margo was very supportive if I was unsure of what type of coral I could see on the line. Finally, just being around people with your common interests is so much fun and we spend lots of time either playing cards or just chatting at the dinner table. We even had a round of “Take me out” last week were all the men had to show us there skills and the girls had their torches as their lights.

Program: Volunteer Abroad
Location: Africa
Posted: Aug 21, 2013
Overall:
10
Support:
10
Value:
10

Frontier

My first impressions of the project were very good, camp life is basic but the dive hut was professional and organised, with the state of the art equipment available to borrow kept clean, and serviced regularly. I was taken on multiple point out dives which involves no data collection, simply to speed my learning and ensure I was confident identifying fish before participating in surveys. The staff were consistently willing to talk me through the target fish and invertebrate species using books, slide shows and other visual aids such as flash cards. This helped me to pass the relevant fish and invertebrate tests thus enabling me to become involved in the science, achieving my goal for participating in the project.

Africa can seam like a daunting country to visit alone but having spent two weeks in the country I soon felt confident enough to stay a night in the closest town Hell Ville on the weekends, and even sample the bars and the favorite club Discotec. I adored the culture, from the delicious street food, especially sambos (similar to a samosa) to the music and dancing provided by the locals. Camp is situated on a beautiful sand beach with coral, no more than a 10 minute swim, right on our doorstep. Although basic camp has its charms and the rice and beans really do grow on you

The staff were excellent, I could not fault them and they have been a huge contributing factor leading to my thorough enjoyment there. They are all exceedingly intelligent, with varied degrees and among them offer a huge amount of information for anyone keen to learn. They offered support with education, advice for dealing with camp life and even emotional support when missing home for a brief moment or two. Frontier were extremely supportive, sending multiple email’s staying in touch and asking about my welfare. The briefing weekend prior to the beginning of my project was very useful and I felt fully prepared.

Program: Gap Year
Location: Africa
Posted: Aug 15, 2013
Overall:
10
Support:
10
Value:
10

Comments

Thanks loads for your review of our Madagascar Marine Conservation and Diving project.

African Impact

I spent 3 months on the medical project in St Lucia and I would definitely recommend it! I absolutely loved it! The staff are so friendly and welcoming and are always there if you need help or you're not sure about something. The projects themselves are so fulfilling, whether its reading a book with a child or providing them with nutritional Epap, you can see the differences you are making. The people out in the communities are so loving and welcoming, they take you into their homes where they have nothing and still they want to offer you food for helping them out. The volunteer house is very nice and is situated in a nice town, you do have to share rooms but you get used to it very quickly. The food is very nice and is on a three week rotational menu, you only eat Zulu cuisine once a week and its actually quite tasty. If you're thinking about volunteering you should definitely do it, this organisation is amazing and the links they hold within they community make everything worthwhile. The experiences I had with African Impact I will never forget, the patients I made very strong bonds with, the children I fell in love with and the staff who became my family. It will always hold a very strong place in my heart.

Program:
Location: Africa
Posted: Jul 22, 2013
Overall:
10
Support:
10
Value:
10

African Impact

I spent two weeks volunteering on the Community Project in St Lucia and found it to be an incredible experience! The staff were all amazing, informative and supportive and all clearly had experience and expertise as to the projects and the communities that they worked in. The volunteer house was brilliant: comfy beds, good showers, spacious community areas and amazing food cooked by one of the Zulu ladies. I thoroughly enjoyed every project that I was placed on and feel that the staff were very good at ensuring that everyone participated in activities that they wanted to be involved in. It is obvious that African Impact makes a huge difference to the communities that they work in and that they are really appreciated and respected by the locals. The staff should be congratulated on the professional manner in which they dealt with any issues that arose within the volunteer house- ensuring that the safety and wellbeing of all volunteers was honoured at all times. The projects were very well run and coordinated. I feel that I did make a difference whilst out in St Lucia and saw visible benefits of the volunteers' hard work. I would 100% recommend African Impact to anyone looking to volunteer! Thank you for a great time!

Program:
Location: Africa
Posted: Jul 22, 2013
Overall:
10
Support:
10
Value:
10

Frontier

Initial impressions of the project were excellent. The staff were willing to take me out on multiple point out dives, which involves no data collection, to aid my learning, along side multiple fish lectures on camp with the coral reef fishes book, equipping me with the relevant knowledge concerning fish and invertebrate species required to participate in data collection.

Africa can seem like a daunting place but having spent weekends in the closest town Hell Ville I would not hesitate to walk around alone during the day to the fruit market or our favourite bar Nandipos. The culture is like nothing I have experienced, street food is delicious and on the locals are very welcoming, especially in the village surrounding camp.

As I became more involved on the project and was participating in at least 2 dives a day, BSP's or active searches, 5 days a week. I began to write up my data independently and took on more responsibility, such as organising equipment for the dives including the SMB and reel for BSP's and the dive slates used to record data. To further my understanding of my personal contribution to the project I helped an ARO with data input for the end of phase report, keeping me motivated and giving intrinsic value.

The staff were a huge aspect of my overall experience; their excitement and motivation spread to me and I wanted to see and learn more, hungry to understand the things they see in the water. It is easy to become distracted and focus on recreational diving but the science must be the initiative to become involved in the project. I used every resource given to me and if you have the willing to learn, the staff are a key learning resource.

This place is what you make it, you get out of it what you put in. I was highly motivated and always chasing more responsibility and more insight into the project and was rewarded with the satisfaction that I am making a difference.

Program: Gap Year
Location: Africa
Posted: Jul 18, 2013
Overall:
7
Support:
10
Value:
7

Comments

Thanks, it's great to hear about your experiences on the project.

African Impact

I wish that I had better things to say about African Impact. I did not have a good experience with them, in many ways. First of all, the volunteer house itself is in need of repair. The showers were very unreliable and many people ended up finishing their showers in the sink. The food was low in nutritional value overall (rice and frozen veg was the regular meal) and generally very spicy. On the medical program, there was simply not enough for the volunteers to do, so we would be sent out in 4's to check on one person. The idea was to get quality time with the patient, but really it was just the Zulu social worker doing all of the communication, so the volunteers were left just to sit and stare at the person. Not exactly what I had in mind when I signed up for this experience. This leads me to believe that they are more interested in getting the money from the volunteers more than creating significant change or a valuable experience, at least for the medical part of the program. I began to disagree with management after they changed my assignment without my input. I specialize in teaching Human Sexuality and they gave the HIV class to people who had no training or knowledge of HIV, and no special desire to do the class. They were just randomly assigned the task. I didn't take this well and started to get depressed and sullen. The worst part came when, after 3 weeks of working with them, I was roused out of bed and told I had been terminated from the program. The initial reason was due to a stupid, generalized joke I posted on Facebook about smothering people, but then stated the official reason was that I had revealed, in an email to the lead coordinator, that I had an anxiety disorder (citing that as why I had trouble discussing with them that I was so unhappy with the recent change). I was told that I had not listed that on my application, so that was grounds for immediate termination. This was after a night of program sponsored drinking, so I was not in the place to take this well either. I left, even though they gave me the option of staying, in separate quarters--like a criminal. They put me in a very dangerous position, drunk, alone, having a full-blown panic attack on the darkened streets of St. Lucia . They did try to offer suggestions of hostels, but if you've ever had a panic attack, you know that it's unbelievably difficult to focus on anything besides the anxiety. I was rescued by a local woman and after a few days, I took responsibility for my actions and sent an email to them apologizing for my part in things and asked to come back. If you are interested in volunteering abroad, you want to do the work. That's why you're there and that's what I wanted to do. I wanted to finish the work that I started. I was denied that chance with no explanation of why. The majority of the coordinators are incredibly young and inexperienced. If you are over the age of 25 and have any actual skills that you want to employ, this is not the program for you. This rash decision, coupled with my own ill conceived behavior, has costs me almost $1,000, since I had to find my own lodging, food, and way back to Durban, 3 hours away. I am a school teacher and do not have that kind of extra cash, especially after paying $5,000 for the experience in the first place. I'm afraid this has killed any motivation for me to volunteer abroad or to encourage others to do so. That's probably the saddest outcome of all. I do want to note that this is not my first review of this organization. I was contacted by the lead coordinator and pressured to take down my initial feedback on another site. This tells me that they are not interested in receiving honest feedback or others knowing their serious flaws.

Program: Volunteer Abroad
Location: Africa
Posted: Jul 13, 2013
Overall:
1
Support:
1
Value:
3

Comments

African Impact would like to comment that we are aware of this unfortunate event in which we were required to make some difficult decisions that we do not take lightly. All feedback we receive is important to us and reviewed seriously so that we can agree on appropriate steps to improve. We are committed to our responsibility to volunteers who join us in Africa to help us achieve the objectives we agree with local communities on the projects we run. At the centre of our focus is our responsibility to facilitate projects with meaningful outcomes for all of our volunteers, and we make it a priority for volunteers in turn to experience, learn and enjoy their time with us, and feel safe in all aspects of their stay. We have in place a Code of Conduct which on rare occasions we use to make sure all other volunteers are safe and their experience is not affected negatively by others. When we use the Code of Conduct we ensure the person involved is offered support and is safe. Our St Lucia Project hosts over a hundred volunteers a year and the testimonials speak for themselves – this is one of our top rated projects and has received rave reviews from previous volunteers. We invite any potential volunteers to read subsequent reviews of this program for more accurate project feedback. - Andrew Procter, Operations Director - African Impact
First of all, the showers were fixed within two weeks and even if they weren't the best, you are volunteering to help people that have barely anything so you shouldn't be complaining about repairing a shower, especially because you did not pay to go to a 5 star hotel, you payed to help people that really need it. Also, the food was not generally very spicy and it definitely wasn't low in nutritional value. We did have meatless monday but apart from that we had chicken or ham or eggs or meat as protein apart from having bread, rice, pasta, veggies... You are forgetting about the day of pasta with bolognese sauce, where you had seconds too... Its definitely not low in nutrition! The medical program doesn't need to change, it will improve as more money is raised, and of course they are interested in the volunteers money, its a charity organization!!! Also, get over the HIV ed... After doing it for the first two weeks you should realize that anyone can teach them about HIV because they only need to know the general idea of it, not the specifics, so even if you teach it in college you cant just own the project for your four weeks and let no one else do it. You are being selfish. About you being kicked out? You asked for it. Why would you ever write so many Facebook posts being disrespectful to everyone in African Impact and insulting the volunteers calling them unskilled children... Guess what? We had a nurse as a volunteer and she is 23... I guess the description of younger than 25 and unskilled doesn't fit anymore does it? And people don't come here to use their skills even if they had really good ones, people come here to help whether is by using their skill or not. The nurse volunteering isn't even in the medical project, shes in community and she still loves the project. Also that last post of smothering people, you forgot to say that the post said you needed to get drunk to forget the fact that you wanted to smother people in their sleep... Its not a joke when you say it like that and you definitely cant say that when you live with 15 other volunteers in a house. Your review is NOT honest feedback since everyone except you thinks completely the opposite way... If only you criticize the organization, don't you think you are the one thats wrong, not the other hundreds of volunteers that loved the experience and the program? Just get over the fact that you made mistakes by making so many insulting and disrespectful Facebook posts that are public and therefore can be seen by everyone, especially when you were friends with the volunteers and also the fact that you forgot to say you had PTSD... I think thats information about you that should have definitely being reported when making the booking... Sorry if you had a bad experience but you put yourself in it by acting like a five year old wearing headphones all the time, not talking to anyone and being pissed the 24 hours of the day and creating a negative atmosphere in the house. You should apologize and move on.

Global Crossroad

I volunteered with an organization called Kiwakkuki, a NGO based in Moshi that works to support women affected by HIV/AIDS and vulnerable children. The program structure was relaxed, but each volunteer day gave me tremendous insight into the life of Tanzanians affected by HIV/AIDs, their daily life, their struggles within the community, family and general community acknowledgement/education concerning the disease. You may choose your own level of involvement with the organization and plan your days with the coordinator accordingly; you are in charge of the impact you make. This is definitely not a program in which you are spoon-fed a fixed schedule, but this also means that you are in control of how much support you can give, and how much you may get out of it. As a volunteering experience there was a lot of free "room" to plan your extra time, and weekends are spent enjoying the town or planning your own excursions - a safari trip, or maybe a nearby hike. Food was great, the people are inspiring and kind, and overall a great, great learning experience. I won't forget.

Program: Volunteer Abroad
Location: Africa
Posted: Jul 7, 2013
Overall:
7
Support:
10
Value:
8

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