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Askari WCP

My stay at Askari was wonderful, I enjoyed everything in the bush, the sessions of work, the animals, the tour trips and the house. Askari is a real serious programme that really aims at working on the conservation of a reserve in Africa. I felt so happy and proud to have been part of such an amazing project. Each people I met were nice, helpful and available when we needed it. Katie is doing an amazing job as the manager of Askari and she is really passionate about it. It is such a pleasure to share this passion with her. Same for Donald, he is also passionate and involved in his mission here. The house of volunteers is also really nice and the food really good. To conclude, I spent an amazing time at Askari, I will never forget it and I am actually wondering when I am going to come back! Thank you for everything and congratulations for the great job you are doing, keep it up and never change!!

Program: Volunteer Abroad
Location: Africa
Posted: Apr 13, 2022
Overall:
10
Support:
10
Value:
10

Voluntary Projects Overseas

I had the best time of my life on this trip. Meeting new people, visiting a new country and spending time with nature all while doing work to help sustain the natural environment. Staying on a private Island in the middle if the Caribbean Sea, hunting lion fish and learning about their anatomy, playing volleyball (it gets very competitive) and then also being able to learn about the environment through the presentations that we have daily, some of which I got to present. I highly recommend this program and don't worry about going alone, because I did this alone and I felt comfortable from the first day, I've made some lifelong friends and experiences from this trip and you will to.

Program: Volunteer Abroad
Location: Belize
Posted: Apr 6, 2022
Overall:
10
Support:
10
Value:
10

AFS

Full disclosure, I have been a volunteer for AFS on and off for over 30 years. I was an exchange student myself with the program in the 1980's and I had a wonderful experience. I was in contact with my host family until they passed a few years ago. Until this year, I would have highly recommended the program. I can't any longer.

Three years ago, I hosted a wonderful German girl when I lived in Florida. We are still in touch today. I consider her my bonus "daughter." The next year, I was a liaison for another German student and her host family. That also went well.

However, I moved out of Florida to a different state and have had the worst experience with this AFS chapter in my new location. I've never seen so much incompetence and inability to help myself, or the student.

My student's liaison is a wonderful man, but his hands have been tied by others in the chapter. Many volunteers are elderly and have been involved with AFS for 40+ years, which on paper should be good, but their inability to move with the times has hurt the organization.

I was very excited to host again and picked a student from a Scandinavian country. She and I spoke frequently via social media prior to her coming. I set down expectations and rules and she agreed to them. I remodeled her room, bought new furniture all with her approval as I wanted her to feel welcome. There was a snafu with her visa, so she arrived a little late. After arriving, we went on a family vacation, which had been pre-planned. She was ungrateful the entire time, speaking to her boyfriend on social media nearly 24/7 and refusing to engage with anyone. I contacted her liaison and we spoke to her. I figured getting him involved early on would help with the adjustment. It did not. She made the minimum effort to follow his advice, and my house rules.

While she did well at school, made some friends, her attitude in the home was not good. She was put on a behavioral contract a MONTH after her arrival. I had hoped this would help. For like a month it seemed to work and she broke up with the boyfriend, then the non-compliance began again. (Eating in her room, staying out after curfew, bad attitude, not helping with chores, etc.) Typical teenage stuff. Her liaison and I seemingly spoke on a weekly basis. He had hosted a student from that country and it had not gone well either. So, I felt he was on my side and listening to me. However, AFS support staff were not.

Unknown to me, my student had asked to be moved after she manipulated a field trip to another city with other AFSers. Her main complaint was my town was "too small" and everyone in it was a basically a "hick." She wanted to be in a bigger city around other exchange students. (Even though there was a German girl in her high school from another exchange program). She knew she was coming to a small Mid-Western town, but she couldn't adjust. Her constant usage of social media did not help as she felt jealous of other students in bigger cities who got to hang out with each other. She was obsessed with being online, even during eating dinner, she'd be on her phone.

During this trip, she spoke to the president and vice-president of the chapter, but I was never given an update on the situation and how they were dealing with her obvious unhappiness. I felt left out of the loop. This had NEVER happened to me in Florida as that state's president is very transparent.

Then, my student got Covid and refused to comply with standard quarantine stuff in the home, exposing us to catching it. (We didn't, but that's because we were vigilant, not her). Despite multiple talks about why this was important, she did not listen. After much consideration, we decided she was not a good fit for our family and also asked she be moved. Perhaps another family would be better? Normally in those situations, the student is moved to a temporary family while a new family is found.

After she was moved out, we found out she had been lying about us on social media for months. Stating that we never fed her, complaining about us not leaving the house to go anywhere. I guess those trips out-of-state slipped her mind? And generally being an ungrateful "drama queen" about everything.

Normally, I would have chalked this up to a privileged, spoiled child and moved on. However, it was AFS's response that has now put us off ever hosting again. They thought it was no big deal if she said we "starved" her. Or if we got investigated by CPS. Finally, support staff was able to get her to admit she had lied about that and she wrote an apology letter. But this was only after we threatened legal action.

Later, we found out our student had an eating disorder. It was in her medical file but not shown to us until AFTER she arrived. There were also mental health issues but again, we were never told. I had never seen such a lack of vetting by AFS in all my years of volunteering. This was a student who never should have been approved to come in the first place.

My family and I are deeply saddened that we will probably never host again. We love our German girl, I loved my host family and because of my years of volunteering I could have said this was just a bad fit. But now knowing that this student had serious mental health issues and AFS allowed her to come anyway...I cannot recommend them any longer.

Be very careful using this organization. Ask for all pertinent information regarding your student is you decide to host. If I as a LONG-TERM volunteer wasn't told everything, expect you will not be either.

Program: Study Abroad
Location: USA
Posted: Jan 2, 2022
Overall:
3
Support:
2
Value:
3

International Volunteer HQ (IVHQ)

After our original marine conservation program in Madagascar was cancelled due to the pandemic, IVHQ continued their excellent program management and helped us transfer our fees to a new program in Belize. Our contact with our IVHQ Program Manager Molly was infrequent but when we needed her, she was a short email away. IVHQ's partner in Belize - ReefCI - provided an awesome experience. We learned about lionfish - an invasive fish species around the Caribbean Barrier Reef - and we spend most of our dives hunting and spearing them. What a great experience, and they're tasty too! We also performed beach cleanup and were informed and educated about other relevant environmental topics in the region, specifically plastic pollution in the ocean. Thanks to IVHQ and ReefCI for running first rate operations.

Program: Volunteer Abroad
Location: Belize
Posted: Dec 8, 2021
Overall:
10
Support:
10
Value:
10

Askari WCP

The weeks that I spent at Askari were amazing. The place and the entire staff are incredible, thank you to Katie and Ed for always being willing to teach us so much about the bush and about conservation. Being able to help out at such an amazing place with such great people is just a super nice experience. I recommend Askari to anyone who is interested in wilderness conservation without a doubt.

Program: Volunteer Abroad
Location: South Africa
Posted: Nov 18, 2021
Overall:
10
Support:
10
Value:
10

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