International Student Volunteers (ISV)

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In January this year I visited Thailand with the volunteer group ISV.
I completed a conservation project and an adventure tour.
Travelling with ISV was one of the best decision I ever made. I got to spend two weeks working with monkeys, elephants and bears, feeding and bathing them. cleaning out their cages and building new cages and just experiencing a once in a lifetime moment with these animals.
I then spent two weeks doing an ultimate adventure tour where i did everything you could ever imagine. I zip lined through the jungle, spent 2 days kayaking around islands. Spent new years with a local hill tribe family, spent a night in a treehouse where my shower was a waterfall.
I not only had the best time of my life, but i also met some of the best people who I will stay friends with forever. Thank you ISV for giving me the perfect volunteering experience! It was definitely the holiday of a lifetime.

Program:
Location:
Posted: June 21, 2013
Overall:
10
Support:
10
Value:
10
Age:
20

Comments

I'm looking for more information on the Thailand trip from someone that has experienced it with ISV. If you have contact information from others on the trip I would like to ask them these questions as well. Any safety concerns you had while on the trip? Were the leaders of the trip knowledgeable of the area and activities? What was the leader to student ratio? What was your travel experience like within the country? What were your overnight accommodations like? Thank you very much for your time!

On January 19 2013, I travelled with International Student Volunteers to South Africa for what was undoubtedly the most amazing, rewarding month of my life!

I chose to undertake a conservation project - I worked with 19 other students, 2 amazing ISV leaders and 3 incredible members of the host organisation WEI (Wildlife Ecological Investments) at Masebe Nature Reserve.

Here, we stayed at the local 'Telekishi' community in traditional huts. During the morning, we would wake up nice and early to do bird counts out in the field (by the end of the two weeks we were all expert bird spotters, and could even mimic some of the native bird calls!). After the bird counts, we conducted transects - we essentially measured the vegetation to help WEI identify if the land is suitable for use as a game park. Driving to each site we saw an array of animals including kudu, impala and giraffes! We went for hikes up the nearby cliffs for spectacular views of the area whilst learning about the history of the area by a member of the Telekishi community.

Additionally, we visited the local school – this was so much fun, and incredibly rewarding! We taught the children about the water cycle, and the importance of keeping our waterways clean and unpolluted! Also, we were involved in meetings with adult community members that taught them the importance of caring for the environment.
After two weeks of volunteering, we had to say goodbye to Teleskishi :( - and hello to the adventure tour!

We started off in Jeffrey’s Bay, Port Elizabeth - here, we stayed in awesome beachfront accommodation! This place had a really cool vibe about it; here we had surfing lessons and explored the surf shops.

Then we headed to Tsitsikamma National park, where we went ziplining, hiked along the coast to a brilliant open waterfall, and those of us who were keen bungy jumped off Bloukrans Bridge (216m high - the worlds highest bungy jump – this was amazing!). 


Then we headed along the spectacular garden route to Cape Town. Here, we spent 5 days doing activities such as going up table mountain, visiting Langa township, visiting the local markets, going to a 25m long buffet with African entertainment and face-painting, visiting seal and penguin colonies, and on our free day some of us went shark cage diving!

We then flew up to Johannesburg and drove to Blyde River Canyon; just after we unpacked, we walked outside our accommodation to find kudu walking around, and then sat and watched monkeys playing as the sun went down! Here we went canyoning in the worlds largest green canyon, went river tubing, and relaxed in the pool in our free time.

Our last stop was the amazing Kruger National Park – we went on a night drive and a full day game drive – on both occasions we saw animals such as giraffes, elephants, buffalo, jackals, lions and zebra, among others!

The worst part of the trip was coming home. Volunteering with ISV was an incredible experience - it was very organised, there was a lot of support, we felt very safe, and had the time of our lives! It was such an eye-opening experience, and really made us appreciate everything we have. We all came back with a refreshed perspective on the world, and endeavour carry on ISV's message of 'Impact Your World' back at home.

I’ll definitely be visiting South Africa again!

Program:
Location:
Posted: May 19, 2013
Overall:
10
Support:
10
Value:
10
By: josh93
Age:
19

ISV really opened up my eyes to the world outside of my own. In January 2012 I headed off to Africa with ISV. I got to really experience not only the culture of Africa but also really understand the hardship that the people there go through. It was so rewarding to give back to such an amazing community and see how appreciative the people were of our hard work. I now appreciate my home country and everything I have so much more.

Another positive that came out of ISV was that I was always too scared to travel to Africa by myself and none of my friends wanted to come with me. When I heard of ISV, I thought it would be an easy and safe way to travel. Turns out, I was 100% correct. In fact, so correct, that I extended my trip another 4 weeks and continued to travel around Africa by myself. If it weren't for ISV, I probably never would have ended up going to Africa. The ISV staff really looked after us and made me feel safe the whole time. There was not one moment in the 4 week ISV program that I felt unsafe or in trouble.

I would definitely do another trip with ISV and recommend ISV to everyone as you get to have the best adventures, make some awesome new friends from all over the world and also make a difference in the world, even if it may only be a small contribution - every little bit of help counts. ISV is the best thing I've ever done out of all of my travels.

Program:
Location:
Posted: May 13, 2013
Overall:
10
Support:
10
Value:
10
Age:
22

International Student Volunteers offers the opportunity to volunteer on a range of different projects focused on grassroots community development and conservation initiatives around the world. I have always wanted to volunteer abroad and when I was given the opportunity to participate in a unique volunteer program half-way across the world with ISV I knew that I was in for the ultimate once in a life-time experience. Comparatively, I have been fortunate enough to live a reasonable lifestyle, joining ISV to volunteer in Costa Rica seemed like the perfect opportunity to not only give back. I was in Costa Rica for a total of two months and worked on two different volunteer projects - Proyecto Carey (conservation) and Caza Al Revez (community) and this is my story.

During our first week in Costa Rica, we were housed within local host families and attended school where we were to learn some basic Spanish before being released into the volunteer communities. During my first week in Heredia I found myself immersed in the Costa Rican culture, I ate like a local, explored like a local and tried to speak like one with the little spanish I had learnt from friends and hearing Dora in the background around home. Our initial week was packed with lots of fun activities that included samba and cooking lessons, excursions around the capital and of course local 'tico' lessons from guides in the area. The wider ISV group consisted of around 30 - 40 volunteers and the volunteer subgroups had approximately 10 people per project.

The volunteer groups I was part of were very outgoing and like-minded people having come from different countries attitudes, backgrounds, cultures and beliefs, despite that it was clear from the outset that we had all come together for a common cause: wanting to impact the world we live in. After our first week we had all become very close and were prepared to set off on our new journey to the volunteer projects in the selected communities.

My first project led me to the doorstep of Casa Al Revez in the small rural town of Copey De Dota 1600 metres above sea-level amongst the mountains and forest. When we arrived we were introduced to our new host family, the project, had an orientation and quickly settled in before exploring the surrounding areas. We were all very excited about the project and keen to get straight in. During the project we worked alongside community leaders and local organisations which focus on creating sustainable initiatives to improve education, income and community living standards. Our main tasks involved working with children trying to develop sustainable ways of living in rural communities using a variety of art programs that are fun, creative and educational. We were able to combine theatre, art and environmental conservation concerns to create workshops, performances and expositions using mostly recycled or reusable materials. Through the use of human expression in almost any art form as a tool for social function we worked towards improving the quality of life, experiences, and freedom of expression for those children whom we had contact with. The biggest challenge we had was communicating with the children but we quickly learnt that through enthusiasm, a positive attitude and high energy it could easily be achieved.

The project allowed me to invest in assisting communities in need while gaining a broader awareness of environmental concerns and other cultures while furthering my leadership skills. I was also able to learn about how creative approaches can be used to solve common problems presented in small communities, such as those that were present in Copey that included environmental degradation, human development and loss of family values. Promoting interactions between people from different countries allowed everyone to see that art is more than entertainment and that it has the ability to bring people together to raise awareness on important topics, like rural sustainable tourism, human development and environment.

While on project as a group we were able to achieve the following:
- paint murals at Rio Blanco school
- present plays at the local schools
- set up a eco-rally
- paint informative signs for the community
- raise environmental awareness to children in fun interact ways
- build a bio-garden
- organise a 4-day kids camp on sustainability
- foster sustainable tourism opportunities as a source of income
- Total hours worked 560

As the project came to an end I found I had developed strong connections with my host family, the community and especially the children we worked with. We achieved a lot in the small amount of time that we were in Copey and we all felt part of the community the hardest thing for us was definitely having to leave the project and our new family behind.

The second project I participated in was based south west of Costa Rica on the beachside of Las Caletas on the Osa Peninsula. This project focused on research and monitoring of ecological processes involving various native animals and tree species over a long-term. Our task was to assist in locating, monitoring and recording feeding behaviours of frugivores such as toucans, monkeys, macaws and other species. Other tasks included constructing and monitoring seed traps, mapping and sampling two species of nutmeg tree seedling in old growth rainforest, and data entry.

We lived in a very small community that consisted of six houses all owned by members of the one family that lived there. The host families were amazing they made us feel like we were part of the family, we shared christmas, new years and birthdays together, memories I will cherish for the rest of my life. The area where they lived was absolute paradise, the lifestyle they lived was carefree and inspiring as family and the environment is what matters. Our work would usually start at 6am and end around 1pm and consisted of hikes, setting canopy traps, collecting seeds, data entry and group discussions. Afternoon activities included beach sweeps, planting trees, discussions and free-time at the beach.

During the project I learnt about the meaning and value of sustainability within the context of economy, society and environment. I also learnt a lot about biodiversity, indicators of ecosystem health, and ecology and population dynamics of forest wildlife and conservation efforts. I was trained on tree productive ecology and seed dispersal by various animal species, data collection techniques for conducting research on ecology, behaviour and interactions with plants, and how to link that knowledge to address human disturbance in forest ecosystems, including management and conservation efforts. The project is something that hasn't been studied before and once completed it will ultimately be presented to many different governing bodies to promote the preservation of rain forests and has the potential to inform environmental policies around the world.

While on project as a group we were able to achieve the following:
- Hikes = 27kms, 54 hours
- Cachimbos (fruit seed collection) = 244 plots, 81 hours, 1362 fruit
- Canopy traps = 22 traps, 54 hours
- Beach bottle collection = 30kgs, 14 hours
- Ecobricks = 10 bricks, 10 hours, 20kg plastic
- Filled bags of soil = 258bags
- Seed collection = 417, 28 hours
- Data Entry = 592 lines, 6 hours
- Total hours worked 322

Endangered animals we saw:
- Grison (callictis Uttata)
- Macaw (Ara Macao)
- Spider Monkey (Ateles geottroyi)
- Tinamou (Tinamor Major)
- Crested Guan (Penelope Pupuracea)
- Pavon Curasow (Crax Rubra)

After the volunteer projects we ventured off on an all inclusive adventure tour which topped all the hard work off. We spent two weeks discovering the wonders of Costa Rica which proved to be amazing, we really uncovered all the riches the country had to offer. In just a fortnight we were able to cover the whole country and enjoy fun-filled activities that was suited for anyone from extreme adrenaline junkies to bubbled kids.

Throughout the whole program we stayed with the most generous host families. Whilst these people didn't have much, they welcomed us into their homes and their families and the generosity and care that they showed us is something that I will never forget. The connections, relationships, friends and families I have made during this journey are lifelong, not only did we work together and support each other to achieve more than we could have ever expected but together we shared laughs, tears and an experience that could never be forgotten.

Of course there were times that were hard. The language barrier was at times frustrating, the different lifestyle, funding the trip, food and culture all pushed our comfort zones, but the support received throughout the whole process made it that much more manageable. The ISV projects have definitely changed the way I see the world and my attitudes and beliefs about living in a sustainable manner, I now think about the impacts we as individuals have on the environment and try to minimise my foot print. For me it doesn't end here, I must take what I have learnt and share it with others, whether it be through Facebook, blogs, chatting to friends and family, presenting at forums or even lobby government, for me theres lots that can be done.

Program:
Location:
Posted: March 29, 2013
Overall:
10
Support:
10
Value:
7
Age:
23

IMPACT YOUR WORLD.

ISV’s motto is ‘Impact you world’ and they offer students the chance to make difference in developing countries. The truth is though, if one participates in any of the ISV programs then chances are the culture that you immerse yourself in will have a greater impact on your personality than you could ever imagine. I participated in their 2013 summer season on a 4 week program in South Africa focusing on projects based on community development and it was genuinely a life changing experience.

A group of 14 volunteers worked in the township of Dunoon, approximately half an hour out of Cape Town, where our goal was to build a shade roof outside the community centre. The community centre runs a creche for the young children as well as a communal gathering area and so the shade cloth was to give them a place to shelter whenever the sun if it got too hot.

Priscilla, a local woman took it upon herself to run her own creche about 10 minutes away from the town centre and here we worked putting up a new fence to keep the kids safe instead of the patchwork of rotting wood palings, torn tarpaulin that was being held together by a countless amount of bent, rusty nails. The work was grueling at times but we encouraged each other to keep at it and whenever you put the tools down there would always be kids that would throw themselves at you to be carried, take photos with or just to kick a ball around. By the end of our 2 weeks we had achieved all we set out to do and had a little party with the kids. Seeing their joy and knowing this was the last time you’d rub thumbs and say ‘sharp! Sharp!’ was bittersweet to appreciate the simple joys of life was one of the greatest lessons that the people of Dunoon could have taught me.

The next 2 weeks consisted of a tour of South Africa which saw us travel from Port Elizabeth, Cape Town and finishing in Kruger national Park. It was a whirlwind tour that saw friendships develop whilst doing a variety of activities such as kloofing (canyoning), abseiling, learning how to surf in Jeffrey’s Bay and encouraging others to face their fear of heights at Bloukrans Bridge Bungy; the world’s Highest bridge bungy.

Now to truly make this a South African tour we were taken on safari drives one in the evening and a full day drive in Kruger National park where we saw zebras, lions, rhinos and elephants however the leopard stayed true to its character and remained elusive as ever, which really isn’t a bad thing as it gives me more incentive to go back to such a wonderfully diverse country.
From the leaders they have on project and tour to the way they shape the program what ISV ultimately does is reward students who participate with irreplaceable memories and new friendships and return home with a greater perspective on life and their impact on their world.

For more information check out the website http://www.isvolunteers.org/

Program:
Location:
Posted: February 26, 2013
Overall:
Support:
Value:
By: ken
Age:
22

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