Mexico

Global Vision International (GVI)

I had an amazing experience with GVI, I really cannot praise them enough all the field staff were great and the training I received was really professional and allowed me to really help out on the project and make a difference. I learned to Dive, had a great time and made some cool friends, I just wish I was back there now!!

Program: Volunteer Abroad
Location: Mexico
Posted: Jan 11, 2010
Overall:
10
Support:
10
Value:
9

Original Volunteers

SUMMARY:
I have done projects in Ghana, Argentina, and Mexico (Puerto Vallarta) with Original Volunteers.
I would heartily recommend a trip to Ghana or Argentina with Original Volunteers. As for the Puerto Vallarta project, if you have a specific reason to go there (eg specifically want to go to Mexico or have an interest in physiotherapy) then you should be alright there, but otherwise I'd suggest not going to Puerto Vallarta with OV.
MORE DETAIL
GENERAL COMMENTS:
I would say that OV provide a "minimum-support" approach. They are useful at things like helping with the practicalities of getting to your location and negotiating any visa difficulties. There will be an established volunteering project and arranged accommodation. However if you're wanting proper training then you've come to the wrong place. That said, I found I was able to make my time productive nonetheless, but you do need to have a bit of get-up-and-go to make sure that you're being productive, and that your time is not wasted.
Some more detailed comments about the specific locations I've been to:
GHANA:
Very laid back environment. Obo is an absolutely wonderful and beautiful village, and doing volunteering here lets you see a phenomenally friendly place that you just wouldn't see in the big cities like Accra.
The volunteer coordinator (Fred) is a friendly laid back guy.
About the work: If you teach in the secondary school, you will see kids getting beaten. I personally thought that if someone was getting a gentle whack with a ruler, then it didn't bother me greatly. But I did also some truly brutal beatings. Not nice. However, the kids are very easy to control in the secondary school. If you teach in the Lisa Finlay primary school, you'll find that that takes a lot of energy. Because you get so little support, it really is a good idea to prepare teaching plans in advance. The only real support you get is from other volunteers. You really could find yourself standing in front of a class and being expected to teach them - if you haven't prepared anything this might be difficult! The information also referred to some sort of AIDS information project - this seemed to be pretty much dead by the time I got there.
Accommodation: The accommodation is quite a nice building, although we didn't have running water most of the time I was there. I actually didn't find it that much of a problem - there was a water tank for cleaning and drinkable water was cheap and readily available. You'll also find that the electricity is prone to going out if you're there at a time when storms happen.
Free time: There's not actually that much to do in Kwahu province. There are some nice walks and things. However, there will be other volunteers around, so we always got up to fun things. And you can travel to tourist attractions on the weekends. I always managed to have a good time in my time off.
Highlights for me: I'll never forget how incredibly friendly everyone was - it was a truly wonderful experience being there.
ARGENTINA:
My experience volunteering in Buenos Aires was a very positive one. I would recommend it to others.
I'll mention a few things to watch out for:
- the volunteer coordinator is quite a "strong" woman. She's a bit of a character. I didn't mind her usually, but some people did find that she wound them up the wrong way. I wouldn't worry about this too much though - she won't be there all the time while you're working, so it shouldn't be a problem.
- there is a quite a lot of theft in Buenos Aires; you'll have to be very careful. One volunteer I heard about was mugged a few days after she arrived. She was then mugged again a few days later. She found this was just too much for her and she had to go home. That said, I was fine myself, and I spoke to loads of other volunteers who were also fine.
The work: The teaching is good fun. The information you get probably tells you that you don't really need to know Spanish. I wouldn't really agree with this. I had some Spanish, and I was just about OK, but if you turned up with no Spanish whatsoever, I think you'd have had a hard time making yourself useful.
How the teaching works: A whole bunch of American and European volunteers bundle into a van and go to an arranged spot in a slum or a poor part of Buenos Aires. The journey may well take an hour, then there may be an hour or two of teaching (it was over a year ago when I did this, so I might be misremembering!) then another hour to get back. There would probably be one or two kids for every volunteer. So you wouldn't be standing in front of a big class, instead you would be doing one-to-one teaching.
Some of the kids were really sweet. Some of them did seem to have a certain brat-like quality to them (despite the fact that they lived in conditions of extreme poverty)
Accommodation: Most people stay with a host family. I stayed in the upstairs part of the office. This was fine for me - basic but adequate accommodation. The bathroom there was a bit mucky, but it didn't put me off. I spoke to other volunteers who were staying with a host family, and they seemed to be well treated.
Free time: Buenos Aires is a great place to go out. I wanted to learn to tango, and I went out almost every night. (I never really learned to tango though!) You do have to be careful about safety in Buenos Aires, but there are other volunteers and support staff around who know where the safe places are. There's also loads of great tourist sights in BA. It was also nice to work with loads of other volunteers, since they were really nice and they were good people to go out and do things with.
My summarised reflections: It was interesting for me to get this insight into Argentina from a perspective that wouldn't normally see as a tourist. OV provided me this at a low cost.
MEXICO:
All in all my trip to Mexico was still a positive experience. However lots of things went wrong. Enough that I would recommend that someone try somewhere else instead if possible.
Things that went wrong:
- my airport pickup did not arrive
- after waiting for a while and trying to phone from the payphone at the airport (which just kept swallowing my money) I took a taxi to the address provided by Original Volunteers. Turns out that the address provided by OV was many many months out of date, and it was only because the taxi driver was kind and phoned the volunteer coordinator for me that I found out where I was supposed to go.
- when I got to the correct destination, I found that the girl who was in the seat behind me in the plane had just arrived in the apartment. By chance, 2 people were arriving at the same time, and yet the airport pickup still failed to arrive!
- The volunteer coordinator made several appointments to meet with the new volunteers, but failed to turn up about 5 times in a row. This meant that if I had not getting information from the other volunteers myself, my first week would have been wasted.
- There were a number of thefts in the volunteer apartment while I was there. In a sense, it is perhaps unfair for me to bring this up here - after all this could happen anywhere. And the volunteer coordinator did take it seriously.
- The information provided by OV says that the volunteer administrator speaks English. This is only tenuously true. In fairness, you'll probably only be speaking to her while other volunteers are around, and one of them will probably be able to help translate.
- The information provided by OV says that the flat gets cleaned once a week. This is not true. I don't think of myself as a particularly clean person, but I found the state of the flat difficult to cope with. Ultimately, it just depends on the other volunteers.
Positives
That said, Puerto Vallarta is a beautiful place. The kids were lovely, and there were lots of nice tourist things to do, and nice volunteers to socialise with. The nightlife in PV is good. The accommodation is quite nice, apart from the fact that it can get messy and can be overcrowded (while I was there, there were between 6 and 8 people in a 2-bedroom flat)
My overall impressions: I've done a number of volunteering projects - both with OV and other agencies. I think this was the worst of them. That said, it was still a good experience, allowing me to get to know Mexico in a way that would not have been possible as a tourist, and still get to enjoy the touristy aspects of the area.

Program: Volunteer Abroad
Location: Mexico
Posted: Dec 26, 2009
Overall:
8
Support:
4
Value:
10

Comments

my son is going to ghana in a few weeks. i am a bit worried..any advice. dennis.king4@btopenworld.com
Hiya, me and a friend are looking to volunteer abroad for the first time, we've read loads of bad reviews and wondered what company was the best to go with?

Projects Abroad

We signed up our son for a placement in Guadalajara Mexico. He is young and inexperienced, so we were very concerned about the type of placement. We were assured he would be in a supportive environment, with 20-40 other volunteers. When it came time to pay the balance, we were told his placement would be in a small town, 2 hours by bus from Guadalajara, and that there would be only 3 other volunteers. This was not what we agreed to. Despite repeated requests, PA has refused to return our deposit.

Program: Volunteer Abroad
Location: Mexico
Posted: Sep 29, 2009
Overall:
1
Support:
1
Value:
1

Comments

I have had a similar experience with my 17 yr old daughter. She went to Costa Rica to volunteer in the rain forest conservation program. We also thought there would be plenty of other volunteers there. We were wrong. There were only 3. My daughter paid for a 2 month stay. After 6 weeks all the other volunteers had left and she was going to be all alone in a cabin in the jungle-2 hrs away from any city!. Needless to say I was NOT at all comfortable with that & called to see what could be done. They suggested she go stay w/ a host family in a nearby town called Liberia. I did not want her in someone elses home but agreed as I thought this was better than her being all alone. She called & said she just weanted to come home as this was not what she had signed on for initially. So, I changed her flight, paid the substantial change fee so she could come early. Project Abroad is unwilling to credit us back any money & simply stated that they can not guarantee that there will be other volunteeers at an assignment. Interesting that this is not clearly mentioned on the website or in any of the materials. I am a single mom who could hardly afford this trip for my daughter. This trip was her reward for working hard & graduating high school a year early. Some reward it turned out to be! On another note....they feed her rice & beans all three meals every day. Sometimes she had plantains & maybe an egg, salads were avail. & dinners would have some sort of meat which she said was unedible. (and she is no princess!) She bought her own fresh fruit & other food on the weekends when she was able to leave the rain forest. All in all we are very dissapointed in the experience & will not reccommend Project Abroad!

Amigos de las Americas

This program is unparallelled among international volunteer opportunities. It is a complete immersion in Spanish language and Latin American culture, and offers an incredible amount of independance and responsibility. Volunteers live with host families in Latin American towns, where they teach health or environmental classes in local schools. Volunteers also independantly lead a community development initiative which they help to design in collaboration with the host community. Support staff is very helpful, but visits only once a week. You will spend all your time with locals: your host family, local professionals or NGO coordinators, etc. You will become a part of your community. Your social life will be fantastic, and it will revolve around local teenagers who usually speak no english. In short, you will be completely absorbed, and assume a leadership role in your community. I did this program two consecutive years in Mexico and Nicaragua. You must have a basic level of spanish proficiency, but you will improve quickly. Don't miss out on this.

Program: Volunteer Abroad
Location: Mexico, Nicaragua
Posted: May 26, 2009
Overall:
10
Support:
10
Value:
10

Comments

I completely agree with everything they had to say. Having just finished up my first summer with Amigos, I have found it to be an enriching, life changing experience. The people you meet in community are the warmest, most welcoming people that you will ever meet. I found project staff to be extremely organized and approachable. Each staff member has been an Amigos volunteer so they have the experience and understanding to help and support you. I strongly recommend Amigos to everyone.

Global Learning Semesters

I loved the home stay. A couple of things went wrong, but overall it was an experience of a lifetime. It was also the cheapest trip like it that I found. The people were UNFORGETABLE. I loved this trip and I might just do it again in the future!

Program: Study Abroad
Location: Mexico
Posted: Oct 11, 2008
Overall:
9
Support:
7
Value:
10

Comments

Hi can you let me know more about your program, location, coordinator, and any other information, thanks redcode71@gmail.com

Global Learning Semesters

It seemed that GLS students paid a lot more for the same services that other travel abroad students got for a cheaper price. Also, the trip was generally unorganized--no one knew where we needed to be, or at what time.
We got to see a lot of historical Mexican sites, but overall I wouldn't recommend this trip to anyone who isn't already familiar with the Guadalajara area, or who doesn't have money to burn.

Program: Study Abroad
Location: Mexico
Posted: Oct 7, 2008
Overall:
6
Support:
6
Value:
4

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