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Global Vision International (GVI)

I am currently a university student studying Environmental Science (hence the relevance to my amazing summer). I went to Thailand, Phang Nga base for a total of 6 weeks and did the short term internship, earning myself a leadership qualification out there. This was my first summer solo travelling, having not taken a gap year and it was everything I had dreamed of and more! I went on this trip alone and it was the best thing I could have done, it benefitted me in ways I didn’t even imagine – cringe but ‘I found myself’. I gained more self-confidence and developed my people skills; communication to people of all ages – from teaching school children to making friends with the older volunteers.
GVI and the programme itself was amazing, they were so accommodating and made me feel at home for my summer, the base felt like home and the staff were friends. It’s not like being at school as you are all on the same level and treated equally, if you have a suggestion whether it be for around base or an activity you would like to do they will always try to accommodate it. GVI Phang Nga hub has 2 other programmes being run from the same hub so there will always be a group of people there, this is great for your weekend travels. While on programme every other weekend is a long weekend (free from Thursday evening to Sunday), this means there is plenty of time to explore southern Thailand and perhaps even further with your new friends; I visited Khoa Lak, Khoa Sok, Phi Phi islands, Phang Nga Bay, Phuket town and even Patong!

The marine conversation programme has such a variety of activities meaning every week is different, even after being there 6 weeks I was still doing new activities. Every week you visit the turtle conservation centre twice – cleaning tanks, treating their wounds and collecting data for a wider database. Along with the turtle project you do; beach cleans, butterfly surveys, bird walks, working in national parks, teaching conservation/English lessons at local schools in the community, mangrove surveys on canoes, once a month there is a week-long trip off base to stay on 2 islands doing camera trap work and whole hub Friday projects including: village cleans and teaching at English camps. Even in your down time at base there’s still optional extras to do such as cooking classes, weekly Wednesday night quizzes, early morning sun rises and movie nights. Before getting to Thailand I had my doubts and worries about the teaching aspect of the program as this is usually something I would shy away from however it was one of my favourite projects, along with the turtles of course, but the children are so keen and happy to learn and have so much respect for you. You are not forced to do anything you don’t feel comfortable doing while on project however there is plenty of opportunity to push yourself out of your comfort zone, if you’re not already out of it in Thailand!

Food is great, people are fab and the experience was one of a kind. There is something for everyone.

Program: Volunteer Abroad
Location: Thailand
Posted: Feb 7, 2020
Overall:
10
Support:
8
Value:
9

International Volunteer HQ (IVHQ)

I have recently volunteered with IVHQ for 2 weeks in Vietnam (teaching project).
I have never collaborated with IVHQ before and this was kind of a trial for me: I wanted to "test" how IVHQ worked, prior to engaging with this organization for a longer volunteering experience, which I am going to undertake later this year.

I can honestly say I am impressed with their work. First of all, the support prior to departure was always timely, organized, and helpful (follow-up of coordinators on my questions, support when changing details of my application, easy-to-understand explanations, support for booking flight etc.).

Once I arrived, I was then communicating with local staff, who were super nice and and friendly too! It is important especially when you arrive in a different country after a long flight, and during the very first days of your stay, and before making any friends, to have someone who makes you feel at home and not alone.

IMPORTANT: I would like to warmly recommend all future volunteers to take "culture week" options during volunteering for sure! I am glad I did, because it provides you with a better understanding of the country you are visiting and moreover, you make better bonds with other volunteers.

As for program itself: it was well organized, I was working together with several other volunteers and a project coordinator Tracy, who was supporting us during the lessons. The teaching project was very rewarding and fun! The coordinator was giving us support, and at the same time we had a flexibility of acting during classes, as per our creativity and lesson-planning.

By the way, one more thing about positiveness of program staff: at one point I got sick and had a sore throat and a high temperature, and the local coordinators were so caring and nice to me: instead of just giving me pharmacy medications, they in addition prepared a homemade drink for my treatment, and used to bring me every few hours to my room together with soup and meals, while I was in bed.

During my time in Vietnam, I have also met many young volunteers who were engaged in various projects (most of them traveling and volunteering solo). In case you are very young and inexperienced, maybe even scared to volunteer alone in an unknown country - don't be discouraged! and be sure that IVHQ staff will support you, because I really felt it on myself and other volunteers too.

Program: Volunteer Abroad
Location: Vietnam
Posted: Feb 4, 2020
Overall:
10
Support:
10
Value:
10

AFS

Where do I begin?

As so many have written, I believe that the structure that AFS is currently running on is the core issue of the whole entire program.

Firstly, come two weeks before the students were to arrive we got a frantic email asking for host families for 4 students who didn't have families and also didn't have visa. (That should have been my first clue). We signed up, due to a family member of ours going on exchange when they were in high school, and went through the process.

There was delay after delay with our host student, mostly due to AFS's inadequate planning and back-boning their whole entire operation on volunteers. Three weeks delayed our host student arrived.

We had no support with how to navigate putting our students into classes, we had no support with how book lists and school supplies worked. I ended up having to shell out the over 800.00 to buy everything -- luckily we got that paid back. I also had to question and demand that AFS pay for school fees as they started to 'pick and choose' which required fees they were going to pay.

Beyond that, the year was a complete joke. They had absolutely no travel policy that was clear, transparent and in my opinion safe for the students. They want to know everywhere that the students are going to be staying 4 weeks in advance, but have no online system for booking travel and no outline chain of command. In our intake packet, which again needs to be greatly overhauled, I had absolutely, no idea to contact for what. In fact, when I spoke to someone at the corporate office, they said that the volunteers were the ones to approve travel first. So, parents are paying upwards of 20k aud to send their kids overseas and volunteers are approving of and managing the travel of minors under AFS care. Does not seem safe. I voiced my concerns, and honestly nothing changed.

This was on top of students then having to pay an additional 2250.00 for a 10 day Aussie outback trip which was planned during the last 4 weeks of term before exams. Now most students don't need marks for their schooling, but some do. They almost couldn't run it this year, because they couldn't get the numbers.

The two camps that were provided by AFS were so lack-luster. They actually did nothing, have no cultural excursions (beyond going to the zoo), did not incorporate anything Indigenous in their camps and left our student in such a filthy camp in November that none of the students showered for two days. I again fed back places that AFS could spend money on to take students on Australian and/or cultural exchanges. Again, these camps are run by volunteers and not overseen by corporate for the most part.

At the end of the program, I asked about 'returning home' support that they give to students, as nothing had been sent to me and/or my student and/or her natural family. I actually got something from corporate -- but I wouldn't have had I not asked. I was told that they covered stuff at the November camp (2 months before my student left) but it wasn't true. In the email, the volunteer leader admitted that although they had a PowerPoint created they didn't actually follow it on the weekend. The information they did follow had nothing to do with 're-entry'.

As a provider of educational study abroad programs, I would NOT recommend them at all. Luckily we did not have any issues with our student -- but I know so many students who had ongoing issues with their host families. There was no ongoing support for the students except random phone calls from AFS volunteers that the students didn't really know. I also got 1 phone call from someone who I had never met before. It's so horribly ran.

Beyond all of this, it cost us a fortune. We knew that this was the case, but had we not done the things that we did with our student she would have had a long and boring 10 months as AFS pretty much does nothing with the students excpet two camps in 10 months.

My biggest concern for AFS is the legal loopholes and gaps that they are opening themselves up to. It won't be long until something tragic happens and/or they can't find host families anymore.

Program: Study Abroad
Location: Australia
Posted: Feb 3, 2020
Overall:
1
Support:
1
Value:
1

Involvement Volunteers International

Highlights of the trip:
One of the highlights of this trip was that I got to immerse myself in a cultural-rich environment, Tacloban City. During the time, I have been given opportunities to interact and connect with the local families and children, which in turn, brought me immeasurable amount of love and joy. I was assigned to a community-feeing project at Cangumbang; and this experience was incredible from the beginning till the end — from planning, forecasting ingredients, buying extra things out of my own expense, cooking to serving there weren’t moments I didn’t enjoy. I really looked forward to each day visiting the community there and feeding the sponsored children of up to 35. After feeding, I have enjoyed the playing and chilling times with the children because they are all welcoming, amiable and simple! In addition, this trip has made me cherish all that I have, such as access to clean drinkable water and advanced public health facilities such as paced pedestrian roads.
Comments on the team, food and accommodation:
The team was welcoming and warm-hearted. I could definitely tell that my vision with the organisation, is alike. Because that the Philippines is predominantly a Christian (Roman Catholic) country, I felt much more spiritually connected to the land and the people. The food provided by my homestay was simple yet delicious! I had no issue with the local food there at all because the filipino cuisine is very much like my home dishes, which I have found soul-comforting. Except that I had experience epsiodes of diarrhoea at the same time with my accompanying brother when we had our first contact with the restaurant foods in an adjacent mall.
My homestay was neat and simple; just needed to overcome the fears of insects (cockroaches, lizards, mice etc.) and bear with the challenge of bucket shower and no flush toilet. My homestay nanay was nice and friendly and has always treated me like a family. I just needed to report an incident of break-in into my homestay house. My homestay was alert of this thereafter and has changed the lock of the back door and the team was aware of this issue. So I believe this security issue would be improved in a later term.
Any improvements to help us be better:
With the nutrition project, I think the future volunteers could accomplish more aside from feeding the community children. Outreach activities related to optimal nutrition could be planned out and developed, so that more and more young children and families will have a fair chance to learn from qualified health professionals and tackle the issue of malnutrition city-wide. Outside of placement times (mine was between 1pm to 5pm), I think we could have some site visits so we can understand what other sites are currently doing but again understand that the staff were busy with their own workloads.

Program:
Location:
Posted: Feb 3, 2020
Overall:
10
Support:
10
Value:
10

Green Life Volunteers

My boyfriend and I took part in the reforestation project of Green Life Volunteering last November for about 10 days and it was an amazing experience!! We ended up in Rancho Quemado, a small village in the Corcobado National Park, where we helped a biologist and some local volunteers of the Monitoreo Biologico Comunitario association in their every day duties.It was interesting to see the many activities that are going on and we were happy to help out for whatever it was necessary to do at that moment: working at the tree nursery and planting trees, bird/mammals/tree monitoring in the forest, organizing a festival for the wild boar protection program and many others... Despite the fact that it was less reforestation then we expected, it was a really nice experience. The people were welcoming and we had the chance to see up close the amazing nature of Costa Rica (flora and fauna).
Janina, the coordinator of Green Life Volunteering, was really helpful for organizing everything about our stay, and patient to answer to our questions! :)

Program: Volunteer Abroad
Location: Costa Rica
Posted: Jan 31, 2020
Overall:
10
Support:
7
Value:
9

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