Global Volunteer Network (GVN)

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8.4 / 10 after 80 Reviews Based on overall, support & value average ratings

The Global Volunteer Network (GVN) offers volunteer service opportunities in community projects around the world.  At GVN we align with the idea of 'local solutions to local problems', so we work with local community organizations in each country.  We provide a wealth of experience, resources and dedication to both our volunteers and partners.

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I signed up to volunteer abroad with GVN to learn how to serve. GVN exists to help support people step out of their comfort zone and follow their dreams of making a very real and positive difference in the lives of others. That is just what GVN did for me. Their transparent nature and helpful support staff empowered me to take the first step in realising my dream to serve others. Both before I set off to Guatemala and now, as I am still here, their support has been both necessary and empowering. Throughout my volunteering experience I have felt that any concerns or queries I voiced to GVN were dealt with professionally, and that GVN wanted nothing more than to support me on my journey to learn how to work for the people they work so tirelessly with. As GVN works with local charities, when placed with one of their projects, it is possible to learn about the culture of the country you are in which is so important as you learn to work in a culturally sensitive way, helping to make any changes or ideas you may have sustainable and comprehensive to the people you are working with in-country. I feel as though GVN understands that the work they do could not continue without volunteers. Volunteers are their front line staff. We are their eyes and ears across the world. As volunteers are of the utmost importance to GVN, they do their best to make your volunteer experience safe, supported and life changing. I was too scared to take the leap into the unknown myself but with the support of GVN I am now in Guatemala, working for a wonderful charity for children through GVN's partner organisation Maximo Nivel and I can say with a smile on my face that I feel as though I am making positive difference to the lives of the children I work with everyday. This journey has changed my life and it has helped me achieve my goal of learning how to serve. Not only have I learned a new language, but I have learned about NGO operations, social change, cultural sensitivity and sustainable development. All these new skills and experiences I will take away and I use in my future as I am motivated to continue to work to make a real and positive difference in the lives of others. If you have been unsure whether or not to sign up with GVN, I hope from reading this you will be encouraged to take the leap into the unknown and have GVN as your safety net! You will not regret it!

Program:
Location:
Posted: March 12, 2014
Overall:
9
Support:
10
Value:
8
Age:
22

The Global Volunteer Network has given me no reason to post any positive feedback regarding their program on this forum.

I would like to state that I was a great volunteer, I worked very hard at making sure my experience was documented and lived to its fullest. It was, but it was all due to the partnering agency, Maximo Nivel and due to my own attitude. I was not going to allow the GVN to make my experience a bad one. Unfortunately for them, this review is going to detail what they did to me, and how they have done nothing to resolve it, how they have not provided me with requested documentation, and showed nearly no appreciation for their volunteers.

I want to be very clear - my volunteer mission was the most rewarding and eye-opening experience I have ever had. I would not take it back for any amount of money. However, I would have used a less expensive and more volunteer friendly organization. Like a previous reviewer said "You know those glowing reviews on the GVN site? Will you see a review from me? No. The organization doesn't want to hear 'bad news'. Give a bad review and you are obviously a disgruntled volunteer."

That is precisely how I feel I was treated. My blogs were not rainbows and butterflies while handing cookies to orphans. I saw criminal child neglect, drug abuse, and abhorred sanitary conditions. So? They censored my blogs. I was a patient volunteer until my questions or concerns went unanswered or avoided. So? I am now a disgruntled volunteer. I want them to know that I'm not disgruntled. My experience was priceless. The GVN had nothing to do with me except collecting my money, and making themselves look good.

My blogs were edited (which they deny, but they cannot get their stories together) for 'foul language.' Well, that's fine. It is a blog and all, so I agreed that if there was language they deemed 'unfit' they could edit it. They deleted one whole entire day of my blog. Whether it was accidental or intentional, THEY DID IT. My blogs were real, emotional, and factual. Many of my friends were following it. I took it down after they called me "culturally superior" and "offensive." Obviously, they don't want anyone investing any time or heart into their experience.

Am I wrong here, or am I volunteering? Did you just insult your volunteer who was not being either of those things, but just writing what they honestly saw? They did. Apparently, the staff was 'followed up with' and that is all I have heard.

I asked for an official monetary breakdown of what my funds went to. I was given this (yes, copied and pasted from the CEO's official e-mail):

**Mark Amero - online fundraiser (Peru)

Total Raised $2,704 (Gross) = 2,599.53 Net
USD
2,599.53

Peru Program Fee
-2,097

AHI Insurance (35 days)
-272

Flights (Star Peru)
-194.22

Remaining funds - donation to GVN Charitable Trust
36.31 (tagged to 'greatest need')

You will find a breakdown of your Program Fee in your Peru Program Guide: http://guides.globalvolunteernetwork.org/vloe7dug5/program/program-fee

Program Fee Breakdown

This graph represents a program fee breakdown for 1 month in the Peru volunteer program.**

This is not a proper breakdown of financials.

Maximo Nivel, my contracted volunteer placement provided me with a financial breakdown, and it doesn't add up. There is quite a bit of money that doesn't fit into the pie chart.

I want an official response from the GVN on company letterhead stating what fees I fund-raised, what they paid their contracted agency Maximo Nivel, and where the rest of my funds were placed.

I know that there will be a quick response from the GVN because that is their typical behavior when anything negative reaches these forums.

It's too bad that I had to take this approach to get answers from them.

My advice, go through IVHQ. They are less expensive, more volunteer friendly, and transparent.

Program:
Location:
Posted: March 11, 2014
Overall:
7
Support:
4
Value:
2
Age:
38

Comments

GVN is always open to receiving feedback (both the good and the bad), and we continually seek ways to improve our services to our volunteers, partner organizations, and the communities we work with. Yes, there are times when we’ve got it wrong, when we could have done things better - we are quick to own up to that. In correspondence with GVN, this volunteer has raised some good points on things we could improve on, and as in our messages to him, we intend to do so. We would like to address this posters comments regarding censorship: We removed one swear word from one of the volunteer’s posts (as per our Terms of Use for our journal site). A different post that the volunteer had written was no longer showing on their page – the timing of this led the volunteer to believe that we had intentionally removed it. This belief may have been formed due to the ‘raw and honest’ nature of the posts written by the volunteer. The staff member this volunteer accused of deleting the posting doesn’t actually have administrative authority via the online system to delete posts. While there is a fine balance between freedom of speech and protecting the rights and advocating on behalf of the communities where volunteers are placed, we do not delete posts unless they are well outside of our Terms of Use, and in fact, we’ve never had need to do this.

I originally volunteered in Nepal for 5 months in 2008, but have been lucky enough to make 2 more volunteer trips back over the past few years. It's hard to put into words what an amazing experience I have had working with Global Volunteer Network and VSN (the local organization in Nepal)! I highly recommend this program!

I volunteered at Shining Stars Children's Home (SSCH) and have had the great joy of watching these children blossom in the care of VSN! Not long before my first volunteer trip to Nepal, VSN rescued these children from homes where they were severely mistreated and malnourished. I don't want to imagine what would have become of these kids had VSN not stepped in and taken custody of them. Now, thanks to VSN providing them with good nutrition, safe housing, schooling, and, of course, lots of love, these kids are thriving! I'm so honored to have been able to witness a small part of their transformation!

VSN also does a great job at keeping the kids in touch with their cultural roots. I've celebrated several holidays in Nepal and have enjoyed how the folks at VSN make sure the kids experience those holidays in traditional Nepali style, while still giving the kids plenty of treats to make holidays truly special.

I also have to mention the warm hospitality of the host families I have stayed with. While recognizing that the Nepali culture may be very different from mine (American), they have always been so great at making me feel like part of their families.

Overall the experience I've had working with GVN and VSN has been phenomenal! From my first trip, when I had never been to Nepal before, to my subsequent visits, they've always made the process so easy! I highly recommend this program to anyone looking to volunteer with a bunch of smart, funny, energetic, and loving kids! And the organization responsible for making them that way!

Program:
Location:
Posted: March 10, 2014
Overall:
10
Support:
10
Value:
10
By: Skye
Age:
40

October/November 2014 I had a two months stint in Nepal at one of the children's homes. The experience turned out to be rewarding thanks to the Nepali people especially the children. And I felt I was able to enrich their lives at least a tiny bit. My experiences are documented on my travel blog [redacted] TRAVEL DIARIES if you are interested in knowing some of the activities I undertook with the kids and what Nepal was like for me.

However, sad to say, I (a mother, grandmother, social worker and health care administrator) and another volunteer (a fourth year medical student) uncovered problems with the health of the children related to their receiving inadequate nutrition. These are kids who have been under the charities auspice for more than five years. The top administrators in Nepal are western women, rumored to be in charge of 'volunteer support', 'fund raising' and 'budgeting'. They visited the homes once a month and did their own version of 'case management' for the children. They both went into a tirade one day and advised me and another volunteer who'd had the nerve to suggest a change to their webpage, that volunteers were too much trouble. The only reason they entertained volunteers was because they brought in money!

Where did the money from our huge program fees go to? Not to the kids, nor to the 'host families'. I am back three months now and have been in dialogue with GVN. I've enlisted the help of a nurse/academic and a pediatrician (both with extensive experience in third world countries attending to the needs of children) , and a dietitian. They have analyzed the data on the children's height and weights (we photographed records) and have verified that some of the children show evidence of failure to thrive and the calories currently provided are not sufficient, especially for the older boys (15-18 years). You know those glowing reviews on the GVN site? Will you see a review from me? No. The organization doesn't want to hear 'bad news'. Give a bad review and you are obviously a disgruntled volunteer. Even with this kind of evidence their tack is to start a dialogue with the Nepali partners (the western women) to give them a chance to tell their side of the story ( the story of why the kids are underweight.) Evidently there is a good reason for this. I can't imagine any valid reason for not buying enough lentils to provide sufficient calories. Budgeting? The tens of thousands of money brought in through program fees is not used to support the children's homes! For support for the homes, extra donations are solicited. Who from? Well everyone. -- especially the hapless volunteer who sees the needs of the children up close -- the little scrap of soap shared between six girls. The tights so worn they're like cobwebs in places. . I was hoping that GVN would step up to the plate when made aware of this level of concern. I feel so sad tonight having received another email from GVN where I'm informed the Nepal administrators will be reporting back to GVN and in 'due course' I will hear 'their side of the story' (again). And GVN has no concerns about how the Nepal based administrators allocate funding. The pediatrician, nurse and dietitian have donated hours of time analyzing the data, and they have done additional research and presented this data to GVN. Not a word of thanks. I really fear this will be swept under the carpet. I feel so sorry for these children now approaching adulthood and with very little in the way planning done to help them adjust to life outside the home. I will not discourage anyone from volunteering with GVN. The children do benefit from good volunteers. Remember a good volunteer carries a note book, pencil and camera. If we see something offensive and don't report it we are as culpable as the persons who have caused the offence.

Program:
Location:
Posted: March 6, 2014
Overall:
1
Support:
1
Value:
1
Age:
67

Comments

We're saddened to see this review appear while we are still in discussions with you and while we are following due processes in regards to your concerns. We hoped you understood why it's important to be diligent in our follow up to ensure that all concerns are valid and what this might mean moving forward - this means working with our partner organization in Nepal, as well as yourself. We acknowledge the time that this process has taken, but given the gravity of the concerns you raised, we need to make a full investigation - and also to allow time for you and your health-related contacts to compile the information you wished to present. We're also sad that you are disinterested in reading the information presented by our partner organization as part of our formal report - this information clarifies a lot of misunderstandings that were outlined in your review and our email correspondence. From private correspondence, we have come to realise that there is some confusion between three legally separate entities - GVN (registered charity in NZ that specialises in volunteer placements), GVN Foundation (tax exempt 501(c)(3) in the US which specialises solely in fundraising and grant distribution and does not involve the volunteering/program fee side of things) and our partner organization in Nepal. If you'd like further clarification as to what entity is responsible for what aspects, how they work together and how each is funded, please feel free to email us for this information or take a look at the "About Us" style pages on each of the respective websites, as it's a lot to break down in this post. Program fee breakdowns are provided to all volunteers after they are accepted and prior to making any obligation or commitment to the program - this is done in the interest of transparency, and I can confirm that this information was included in your Program Guide upon acceptance into the Nepal Program. Please see this information for more detail. We have no concerns about how the Nepal administrators use funds as these have been independently audited by the Nepali authorities that oversee locally registered non-profits, and they have passed with "flying colours" every time. This is a regular, rigid, and state-mandated review, and covers all the aspects of fiscal and organization management that we deem important for transparency and accountability. Our own reviews across the years of financial information has never raised any issues or causes for concern either. Just to add to this, GVN and GVN Foundation are also both independently audited by the relevant authorities and have also been found to meet necessary requirements for non-profits in each respective country, and in confirming that our work and funds spent meet our mission statements. In regards to your concerns about child nutrition, we have come to understand that the data you have based your information on is height/weight charts found at the Children's Home. This is not the most up to date information - this is stored at the partner organization office for privacy reasons, the same as at most doctor's offices. Taking into account the children's medical history is also really important - these children had a rough start in life and the nutrition they received during their formative years was definitely sub-par (ie. prior to coming to the care of SSCH). As per the World Bank's reports on child nutrition, poor nutrition during the first 8 years of life significantly impacts, and can even stunt, a child's growth for the rest of its' life. Part of the information that our partner is providing for us in response is the most recent medical information from registered health professionals in Nepal who have worked with these kids for a significant portion of their life since coming to Shining Stars. There is also medical records provided from the three health professionals who have most recently worked with the kids directly, as well as information from a past volunteer (registered nurse) who knew and worked with the children before their time in SSCH and since - it provides a very insightful understanding to how these children have grown and developed since living at SSCH, and we're disappointed to hear you're not interested in hearing this 'side of the story'. The children are fed a Nepali diet (although, 2 meals + 2 kajja a day is above what an average Nepali might have). The meals that they are given are the standard fare of Nepal - large amounts of rice, daal and vegetable curry - what all bar the wealthiest families eat twice a day, every day. On top of this, monthly funding is available for meat, eggs, fruit and milk - items deemed luxuries in Nepal and usually only consumed by your average Nepali on festival days or at weddings. Your review states "even with this kind of evidence, their tack is to start a dialogue with the Nepali partners to give them a chance to tell their side of the story". In the same way that you would not expect an organization to believe information presented by our partners at face value, we need to allow the same right to our partners as well in light of your (potentially very damaging) concerns. Without this open dialogue with our partners, we would not have the information above in regards to nutrition prior to SSCH, health records, etc. We're happy to continue discussions with you (our most recent email correspondence was less than 24 hours ago) and work on this progress together, but we are concerned that prematurely posting this information, without all the facts, may have an impact on our ability to continue supporting these children. At the heart of what you, GVN, and our partner organization in Nepal want, is the welfare and future of these children. - Fiona GVN

I went with GVN to Kenya in 2012 and I have just been back for a second time (2014). I was picked up from the airport when I arrived and spent a couple of nights with a homestay during the induction. I spent a month volunteering at Shelter Children's Home. It was the most amazing month of my life, hence why I have just been back to the same orphanage a second time. GVN were amazing support while I was there and it really made for a smooth first trip to Kenya. There was always someone we could call or txt if we needed anything or wanted information. We also got taken on small outings during a few weekends and got to visit animal orphanages. I made some amazing friends from the trip and we met up socially during weekends while we were there. I was so pleased to have been placed in the amazing Shelter Children's Home and it now it my African home. I will go back as often as possible. GVN were amazing and supportive, before, during and after my trip. I highly recommend GVN to anyone wanting to volunteer.

Program:
Location:
Posted: January 20, 2014
Overall:
10
Support:
10
Value:
10
By: TracyNZ
Age:
25

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