Brazil

Cross-Cultural Solutions

Being a volunteer with Cross Cultural Solutions is one of the best things I have ever done with my life. I spent ten weeks in Salvador, Brazil from October through December 2011. During my time in Brazil, I was able to assist in a day care for a few weeks and work with underprivileged children. I also taught English at two different schools to people who only spoke Portuguese. Considering that my Portuguese was not that great, it was challenging at times. However, it was also a lot of fun. The people that CCS works with in Brazil are great. They know that all of the CCS folks are there to volunteer their time and talents to help make their lives a little better.

In addition to keeping busy as a volunteer in Brazil, I had the pleasure of getting to know and love the CCS staff in Brazil. Vini, Grace, Vivi, Maria, Lulu, and everyone else do their best to make you feel welcome and comfortable. CCS also plans great activities for volunteers such as planned field trips to see more of Salvador, Capoeira lessons, Portuguese lessons, and lessons on the culture and history of Brazil. There is always something to do and the people that CCS bring in to assist with these activities are all wonderful.

Even though volunteering and planned activities take much of your time, there is still plenty of free time to explore Salvador on your own. The people in Salvador are great and I made many friends while I was there. No matter where I wandered in the city, I always seemed to find someone willing to talk or help out. I wish the United States would adopt a bit of the Brazilians ability to be warm, caring, and affectionate with everyone they meet. You never feel like you are a stranger in a different country.

Even though I am home in the U.S., I still wish I was in Brazil. Life there is somehow simpler and much more meaningful. The beach, the people, volunteering, and CCS...it is a great combination and a very rewarding experience. I would encourage anyone who is considering a volunteer abroad experience to strongly consider CCS and volunteering in Brazil!

Brian H.

Program: Volunteer Abroad
Location: Brazil
Posted: Jul 27, 2012
Overall:
10
Support:
10
Value:
10

Cross-Cultural Solutions

I joined cross cultural solutions because a girlfriend of mine was going to Brazil through them. I knew going into it I just wanted to give back to the community and I had no expectations. Initially I signed up for 8 weeks, but soon I changed it to 12 weeks because of the great culture and hospitality CCS staff provided for me. The staff at CCS are incredibly warm, attentive, and make you feel like family. I found this to be very important because as we go to our placements its quite difficult and heart breaking, and it was nice to come back to home base and have the support and care from the staff. Any feeling of anxiousness, sadness, happiness, humorous, the staff at CCS was always present and they always had great advice to support the way you were feeling at the time. Also the staff was helpful for outside activities, whether it was a show, concert, festival, touring Bahia, they always had great recommendations.
As for accommodation, the house and rooms were kept very clean. The house is in great and safe neighborhood, and across the street best ice cream in the world.
Also, the food was delicious, I love food, so that was a great plus to have on the program. The cook was amazing because she would literally make everything from scratch, even the dough for the breads and pastries. There was fresh juices available, and snacks. But the most memorable part for me was the staff sitting with us at breakfast and lunch, and sharing laughs and stories around the table.

The program surpassed every expectation I could possibly imagine. Words cannot describe how magical my journey was in Brazil. Thank you CCS Brazil.

Program: Volunteer Abroad
Location: Brazil
Posted: Jul 26, 2012
Overall:
10
Support:
10
Value:
10

Cross-Cultural Solutions

I first heard about CCS through my brother who had done a program in 2007. At the time he did it I wasn't really in a position to do one, but when I finished my undergrad degree in 2009 I decided that now is my time.

So in January 2009 before I graduated I signed up to do a four week program in a place I had always dreamed about visiting, Brazil! Luckily for me they have a great program in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil. I worked as a caregiver at Madre Teresa and the kids were amazing and so welcoming to people coming in to share their time with them.

CCS' program I felt was very well organized and the program included a lot of great excursions and language lessons to name a few things. I also met a lot of other volunteers who would turn into great friends that I keep in contact with to this day.

The in country staff was very helpful to me and provided an amazing experience for me and other volunteers. I would recommend CCS to anyone I meet as it is a wonderful opportunity to do something meaningful for people in need of help. Whether your program is for 1, 2, 3, 4 weeks or more it's worth it and I hope you can experience it for yourself.

Program: Volunteer Abroad
Location: Brazil
Posted: Jul 25, 2012
Overall:
10
Support:
10
Value:
10

Cross-Cultural Solutions

I signed up for a 7-week program with Cross-Cultural Solutions, but left after 2 weeks of working with them. Much of what I didn't like about the program is exactly what others praise it for. There was too much hand-holding, too many structured activities, and too much "volunteer-tourism" for what I was looking for. (I think the review of Costa Rica below mine captures the vibe of the program well.) But one thing completely ruined my experience with CCS, and that was the irresponsiblility and complete lack of support that I found defined the Salvador, Brazil program.

I left first and foremost because I was unhappy with how the program was run, and very disillusioned with the staff running the Salvador program. The staff had no respect for the concerns, opinions, and even safety of the volunteers. From the beginning, I felt pressure to become CCS's new English teacher, first on the part of Megan, the US pre-departure staff, and then on the part of the in-country staff. I was open to the idea, even though I am skeptical about foreigners teaching English in the third world in the first place. Naturally, I started to ask questions about my class: the class demographics, where the last teacher left off, what I was to be teaching, what the level of the class was, where the class took place, etc. But whenever I brought questions to Grace, the in-country program director, she got defensive. The consistent feeling I got from Grace, and the rest of the staff for that matter, was, "What? You don't want to teach English?" Rarely did I feel like my questions were answered. The program was suspended for two weeks during Carnaval, and afterwards I was supposed to start the class. I left for the break before Carnaval feeling as though I really had no idea what I was supposed to be doing in the English class.

The week before I arrived at CCS Home Base, a man climbed the wall into the home, and climbed through a window into a girls' room (where a group of volunteers were sleeping), and stole some things. Obviously, I wasn't there. But I was there in the aftermath and saw the way the staff handled (or mishandled) the situation. The week after the break-in, the staff installed barbed wire around the wall. Great, I understand that was to help reinforce the safety of the house. But I also saw that the nightguards slept every night. The guard was apparently asleep when the man broke into the house. And EVERY guard hired continued to sleep on the job in the weeks after the robbery. The girls who had been in the house when the break-in occurred said in two different feedback meetings, on their forms, and in casual feedback with the program staff, that they would feel much safer if the guards stayed awake throughout the night (after all, that is what they are paid to do.) The guards still slept on the job. I don't think that Grace or any other staff member even addressed what we all had talked about with the night guards. To me, this shows a blatant disrespect for the opinions, feedback, and-- most importantly-- the safety of the volunteers. For a program that "prides itself" on and advertises itself as developed on and appreciative of the feedback given by volunteers, it was clear to me that something was going wrong. My overall experience with the staff made me feel as though if something were to happen to me that was of real concern, I would have nobody to turn to. I didn't trust the CCS staff to help me out. To me, this shows a flaw in the non-profit. If these are the people the organization is paying to run its programs on the ground, something is wrong with the organization as a whole. I didn't agree with the way CCS was run, and I couldn't stay on with CCS.

When I left for Carnaval (and was still planning on coming back for 5 weeks,) the program site manager, Vinni, told me I could leave anything at base. So I left some clothing, toiletries, books, class materials, and medications neatly in a closet at the home. When I came back to the house, Vinni was very rude to me. He was cold when he spoke to me and shot daggers at me whenever I was in site. It was completely unprofessional, and I felt uncomfortable even being in the house long enough to pack.

Then, when I went upstairs to collect my things, they were gone. They had been scattered around the house. Most of my books were in the materials/ donation room, and I salvaged some of my clothes from a bag in the office. But other than that, my personal belongings had been thrown away. This included some books, my medications and birth control. I'm a little confounded that my personal belongings, especially ones relating to my health, would be thrown-out, especially since I was assured by the staff that my things would be perfectly safe left at the house.

I hope this gives you a good look at my perspective on CCS. I personally would not recommend CCS to anyone I know, or to anyone on this website. Your money is better spent in a non-profit that is run well, run for the people it claims to serve, and run by responsible staff.

Program: Volunteer Abroad
Location: Brazil
Posted: Apr 12, 2012
Overall:
1
Support:
1
Value:
1

Comments

That sounds horrible. I am so sorry for your experience. Thank you for posting about it for all of us. I have now put this company on my black list! I hope it hasn't turned you off volunteering again! I personally had a great experience with RCPD with a few hiccups but I would recommend them for you next time. :)
WOW, I am so thankful for this review and comment. I receive regular emails from CCS and was really interested in actually volunteering this year....UM ..NOT NOW, I will go somewhere else and donate my time to another non profit organization that is more respectful and professional to individuals that are over 3000 miles away form home.. and tell all my community service friends about alternatives to CSS.
I have volunteered with CCS 3 times and I do agree with your assessment. One thing I find of interest is that my last trip to Tanzania - a man climbed our wall and cut his way into a room and stole things. We had a high perimiter wall, razor wire and guards. In addition, we had a man make his way through the front gate and try to get in the house. Our guard tried to stop him but the man was determined to get in, so the guard had to physically protect us from this man. A large angry mob formed and the police came. Our guard and the man were arrested and in the end CCS negotiated with this man to not press charges against our guard who was protecting us! The in country program manager didn't show up for about 5 days and then told us that in an effort to make things right, they were going to let this man be our go-to taxi driver. We were absolutely flabbergasted. The whole situation was handled so poorly that I will never use CCS again. I am now researching going to Ghana, and CCS is not even in the running.
Kristen, Were you in Bagamoyo or Kili? I am starting a program there in a few weeks and I am so concerned about things I have read, primarily what seems like few hours working and a minimal if any impact on the local community and a lack of investment in the local areas. My fault as I should have done more research in advance. (Also learning that the ED is on the board which is a no-no and makes over $400k also seems to indicate where the money goes.) I would appreciate any further insights you can offer. Thanks.
I'm so sorry for your experience, and I'm sorry that I didn't write my review of them when it happened nearly 10 years ago, on every website I could get my hands on, just so that you might have read it and might not have had to go through almost exactly what I went through at the hands of these exact same people. It's appalling that they're still acting this way and that it's gone on for so long.

Projects Abroad

I volunteered in a Care placement with Projects Abroad for 3 months. I lived in Niteroi, a city of about 400,000 in the state of Rio de Janiero. I lived with a local family. My home was in a great location - it was a block from the beach and the bus stop. I worked every weekday at a creche - or care center. The creche is free, so most of the kids there came from relatively poor families. There were about 75 children ranging from 2 to 6 years old, and there were 14 staff members. At work, I played with the kids, fed them and bathed them. It was definitely a challenge and the experience often times pushed me out of my comfort zone. But the experience gave me invaluable perspective. Though the playground equipment is not as impressive as that of schools and care centers in the US (where I live), the kids for the most part act the same way. Kids are kids no matter where they live or what kind of background they have.
During the weekend, volunteers were free to explore the marvelous city of Rio. I visited Cristo, Sugarloaf Mountain, the Lagoa, the Botanical Gardens, the Sambodrome, Flamengo Park, Arches of Lapa, Niteroi's Contemporary Art Museum, a favela, a samba club, some of Brazil's forts, and so much more. I watched a soccer game - the Fla-Flu game. It was between Flamengo and Fluminense, Rio's crosstown rivals. I enjoyed many of Brazil's beaches - from Ipanema Beach in Rio and Itacoatiara Beach in Niteroi. Along with sightseeing in Rio, I took side trips to Sao Paulo, Cabo Frio, Iguazu Falls, and the Amazon, where I held a crocodile and fished for piranhas.
The volunteers mostly hung out together. The volunteers I worked with came from the US, UK, Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, Japan, and Portugal. Some people were taking gap years like me and some were taking time off from university or work. None of us knew each other before coming to Brazil, but we immediately had to trust and rely on one another.
Brazil was incredibly eye-opening. I learned how to get around Brazil and immersed myself in the culture as much as I could. I became more alert and aware of my surroundings. I learned a lot from the way Brazilians treat others and approach life. They are never in a hurry and never seem stressed. Living in Brazil - where bus drivers wait for the man running to catch the bus from 2 blocks away and taxi drivers pull over to give money to beggars - moved me and humbled me. Brazilians amazed me with their warmth, openness, and carefree attitude towards life. The months I spent in Brazil were some of the most rewarding in my life.
Projects Abroad's best feature is its flexibility. The staff does a good job placing you where you want, when you want, and how long you want, which is something I don't think any other gap year program offered.

Program: Gap Year
Location: Brazil
Posted: Feb 24, 2012
Overall:
9
Support:
8
Value:
8

Cross-Cultural Solutions

Hello, my name is Liza, and i have volunteered with CCS for 4 weeks in Salvador, Brazil.
My overall impression is amazing, i loved the programme, the way it was organized and my placement in particular.
Sometimes we need to take a break from our busy lives, open our eyes and see how the rest of the world works.
I have chosen CCS cause of the high quality of programme information, pre-departure support and materials provided on the relevant web-resource.
I was very much satisfied with New York office staff, who advised me during the whole trip preparation period.
Brazil is certainly a country you must visit, and Salavdor is definitely an amazing city to be.
Home-Base is located in a safe area of Graca district, the meal was provided to us three times per day, plus such things as water, fruits and cookies are available on the kitchen during the whole day.
I did really enjoy the activities arranged by CCS local director and manager: we used to have very professional lessons of portugese, dynamic capoeira classes, all-around outdoor tours and very interesting lectures with the professor from one of the local universities.
I will be always greatful to the help and support of local Home-Base staff. Although, i would like to point out that i felt a lack of communication and interaction with the programme director, who never attended our feed-back meetings and various discussions. The schedule was arranged by the programme manager, who was always there to reply all necessary questions and help out.
I will never ever forget the wonderful people who are working for the Home-Base: Maria (chef), Ivan (driver), Lulu (house-keeper), Fernando (security-guy), for me they are THOSE who made my stay at Home-Base safe, interesting and comfortable.
Unfortunately, very little information (well, NO information at all to be honest) was provided by local administrative staff about extra volunteer hours. But i was so much happy with my placement - LAR DA CRIANCA orphanage. It was a bit tough at the first days, but later on the ice with the placement staff was broken and i loved the job i was doing.
CCS local staff didn't make any detailed introduction about the placements and how should we behave there, but at the same time at Home-Base you can easily find lots of albums, books, photos, evaluation forms from fellow volunteers about the place you are gonna volunteer at.
I loved the small library they had there, full of books in ENG and portugese, and of course it was so great to meet other voluneers from all over the world and share with them thoughts and ideas. We did lots of travelling together outside Salvador on the week-ends.
I have shared a room with 3 more girls, which was not a big a problem, although only one bathroom is available for 8 people (if the room is full).
My experience was great, i was safe, i was free and i believe i became a better person.
Would definitely volunteer again. Probably, with CCS...It depends on programme fee :)) Cause CCS fees are a bit higher on the market, BUT when you get to the place you understand that the money spent was worthy. Food was excellent, Home-Base is very safe, they drive you to the placement and back, plus you can use a free-drive option every friday after lunch time.
What i liked is that the Director gave me a permission to invite my portugese teacher to Home-Base for extra private classes, which saved my time a lot.
I suggest you to choose Brazil as your next trip destination, to choose Salvador, to full your heart with love, to smile widely and volunteer with CCS!

Program: Volunteer Abroad
Location: Brazil
Posted: Feb 23, 2012
Overall:
9
Support:
10
Value:
10

Cross-Cultural Solutions

I volunteered with CCS for 8 weeks in the summer of 2007. I loved my experience. I read a lot of negative reviews so I had to add my experience. The “Home Base” all the volunteers stayed in was in a nicer neighborhood. I volunteered with my wife and we lucked out and go our own room with our own attached bathroom. Other volunteers had to stay in larger rooms with bunk beds. The house had wireless internet, lockers, hot water (in the mornings), 2 housekeepers to clean the common areas, a cook, 24 hour security, etc. We had no curfew and the staff was very flexible and accommodating.
We volunteered in the mornings and came home in the afternoon for lunch and then had optional language classes, culture classes, trips and free time. I know Portuguese so I skipped the language classes. The food was local. So some volunteers weren’t always crazy about it but I liked it and thought it added to the cultural experience. I did however teach the cook to make American style pancakes.
We also had weekends free so we got to go on weekend trips to tropical islands and amazing waterfalls. I went rock climbing, cave exploring, hiking, swimming, to lots of beaches, and even a cigar factory during my weekends free.
My placement was teaching English at a community school for underprivileged children called CEIFAR (There is a Wikipedia page about it that I wrote). I taught classes twice a week, helped in their regular classes twice a week and it was closed on Fridays. On Fridays, I visited other placements like a center for kids with HIV/AIDS, other English schools, some daycares etc. Since I spoke Portuguese, the staff liked to have me visit lots of different placements on Fridays where I could help.
I thought the mornings we not enough so I got permission to volunteer in the afternoons at an orphanage. It was down the street from CEIFAR. There I just mostly played with kids and talked to them. The got little attention from adults as they were very short staffed. The kids loved it and I had fun too.
My wife (a med student at the time) volunteered at the center for kids with HIV/AIDS. Upon her request, the staff worked out a once a week placement with a local community doctor so she could observe and do some things to help out.
We thought the staff in Brazil was fantastic. I still keep in contact with the house manager through Facebook. He went above and beyond by helping me fix our crashed laptop, and helping us change our plane tickets so we could stay a little longer.
I checked me receipt and I paid $4119 for 8 weeks. That includes food, transportation, the house to stay in, language and culture classes, day trip outings, the staff, insurance and I’m sure maybe even more than that. I talked to the house manager and he said the most expensive part of the whole thing was the insurance.
The other volunteers were wonderful and I made so many lasting friendships as a result. So many of the volunteers tried to extend their stays because the loved it so much. One volunteer I met had already volunteered with CCS in Brazil for 3 consecutive years.
I loved my experience so much that I looked at jobs at CCS when I got back. After seeing what they pay, I quickly changed my mind. The position I was looking at paid $30K a year to work in NYC. I make twice that on the west coast.
I highly recommend CCS.

Program: Volunteer Abroad
Location: Brazil
Posted: Sep 28, 2011
Overall:
10
Support:
10
Value:
8

Frontier

I have been with frontier and I can simply say, they are very professional indeed - at scamming innocent students from money that is!! Especially for first time volunteers, traveling abroad to developing countries is always scary. And thats where frontier come in - they target the innocence of young travelers by make it seem \'safe\' to travel with them. But in actual fact, they make no difference and just take money from you!! They are like the \'middle men\' linking you to grass root organisations - whether your trip is good or bad, depends on what organisation they send you to - which frontier don\'t tell you much (real) things about them until the very end - which isn\'t much anyway! They call themselves \'non-profit\' but this is far from the truth! Check this out:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/money/article-1205226/Not-profit-gap-year-fir...

Or simply search for more \'frontier volunteer reviews\' <-- I guess they use the name \'frontier\' because it makes it harder for us to search for reviews since its such a common name for other companies!

I\'d recommend you try to find direct contact with grass root organisations instead of going through any \'safe\' \'middle-men\' - that way, your money goes direct to what your wanting to volunteer, you talk directly to people you will be staying with, and you won\'t need to be scammed!

Try: http://www.truetravellers.org/ for example - the site has links to direct grass root organisations - and don\'t charge you any fees to talk to them - you pay the organisations directly! Although always check with reviews from other websites too.

Summary - NEVER go with \'Frontier\' - they\'re trading them is: \'Society for Environmental Exploration\' bet you didn\'t know that!

Program: Volunteer Abroad
Location: Brazil
Posted: May 31, 2011
Overall:
0
Support:
0
Value:
0

Comments

Hi HTC - I'm a journalist (and former Frontier volunteer myself!) and very interested in your views... Are you based in the UK? Might you have a minute to email me on pjacks@ttgdigital.com to help me with a piece I'm working on? I work for a travel trade magazine (ttgdigital.com)

Global Volunteers

Global Volunteers is a terribly organization, but let me start by stating that I volunteered in March 2008 and things could have definitely changed since then....

I felt very misled by the organization. There were only two other volunteers during the week I was there...they both were informed that it was such a small group. But not me. The in country coordinator met the other two participants at the airport. I was met by the hired cab driver who spoke literally not one word of English and she was not at the hotel when I arrived. I felt so lost and confused, it was my first time abroad.

The volunteer programs were disorganized, but I could tell that the Brazilian people truly appreciated our presence, so that didn't bother me too much.

The in country coordinator made me so afraid to be in Salvador. Yes, we weren't at home in a familiar American city and extra precautions needed to be taken, but she made me afraid to be in Brazil at all. I felt like if I stepped out of the hotel I would be mugged and attacked within seconds. After our service I would come back to the hotel and sit there until I was tired enough to go to bed. I called my parents crying the first night because I was so afraid to be in the city. I understand there are different dangers for foreigners, especially Americans, but she took it to the next level.

The programs for Global Volunteers sounds amazing, but this was a terrible experience. It was also way way way too pricey.

Program: Volunteer Abroad
Location: Brazil
Posted: Apr 1, 2011
Overall:
1
Support:
1
Value:
1

Comments

http://www.charitynavigator.org/index.cfm?bay=search.summary&orgid=5263 Highly recommend checking with charitynavigator.org anytime you are donating or paying to volunteer. I too have worked w/Global Volunteers & thought the fees were high considering the rating received for management of those fees. A rating of only 43%; & audited financials not disclosed. CharityNavigator is a not for profit site run by a prominent couple in NYC who as philanthropists wanted Accountability. They do a marvelous job with this site on their own time & dime.

Habitat for Humanity

This build was an amazing experience with awesome people and awesome team leaders. Everything was well-organized and as my first Habitat Global Village experience it set the bar really high for future trips. The build partners were excellent to work with and the community really made us feel welcome. I wasn't the only one on the team who cried on our last day. The work was satisfying and our team really bonded. We had so many amazing experiences, from impromptu jam sessions when the locals came over one evening to play music with us to the night we played soccer barefoot when the families challenged us to a game. Our team was so close we felt like family and affectionately called our team leaders "Mom" and "Dad" even though some of the members were older than they were. We also had an awesome R&R, this was when they actually had a mini-vacation built in and not strictly cultural activities. We spent a weekend at the most amazing beach town. I would recommend Habitat for Humanity's Global Village program to anyone. They are a reputable organization that provides a rewarding experience for all. It is well worth the money and you will make memories that last a lifetime.

Program: Volunteer Abroad
Location: Brazil
Posted: Aug 9, 2009
Overall:
9
Support:
10
Value:
10

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