USA

AFS

We are currently hosting for our third year. The first year we used different agency but found that it did not meet our needs. For example we traveled 2 hours to go to an orientation only to get there and find that the date changed and no one told us.

So after much research we choose to try AFS - WOW! We love it.

Each year we attend a mandatory Host Family Orientation. I would say that yes we feel that we went once - why do we have to do it each year. Then we think it is a great way for AFS to get to know us better and we can help those who are hosting for the first time and you never know you might hear something that will benefit you and your family.

AFS does require the students to attend a few mandatory meetings. No it is not always convenient, but we feel it is in the best interest of the students. It gives them time to talk with fellow students are experiencing the same things that they are.

There are certain Federal Regulations that agencies are suppose to adhere to, here is a link: http://www.csfes.org/NPR_Story.html

I admired AFS and their vast number of volunteers for helping students have the best experience possible. Is it perfect? Of course not, but it does seem that they have the best interest of the student in mind.

Some agencies get paid for each student they place and bonuses for the amount of time the student stays, etc. That was our last agency.

Our belief is that if they people our volunteers then they are doing it because they are wanting to help others and there is no financial motivation involved.

We have had 6 wonderful students from Scandinavian and European countries and consider all of them to be our children. We will go to visit all of them next year and look forward to being a part of their lives always.

It is my belief that all agencies have their flaws. AFS does have flaws, but I would and do recommend it to anyone who is interested in hosting.

There is a Committee for Safety of Foreign Exchange Students. This is one of the resources I used to choose the agency that was a good fit for my family.
http://www.csfes.org/home.html

Program: Study Abroad
Location: USA
Posted: Sep 1, 2014
Overall:
10
Support:
10
Value:
10

Visions Service Adventures

From the onset, we felt well-informed with expectations and tips well documented.

Leading up to the adventure, both my daughter and I received emails and more details than we could have hoped for. My daughter felt like she was able to really experience the culture, work hard, exert herself physically, and participate well with a group of kids and counselors.

She keeps pointing out new discoveries she made - everything from identifying the beets in the fridge as something she picked to the water pump in a museum as something she used for 30-40 minutes to get clean water. She connected with those she served with as well as those she met in the retirement home and on the "rez".

She was already a child mature beyond her years but she came home wiser, more aware of others, and ready to back next summer. So thankful for the Visions team and the stellar job they do for their communities and the youth that spend just a bit of their summers trying to make a difference.

And that the kids make life-long friendships in the program is just a bonus.

Program: Volunteer Abroad
Location: USA
Posted: Sep 1, 2014
Overall:
10
Support:
10
Value:
10

AFS

We have hosted three students from three different countries, via AFS. Our first student was amazing and our local volunteers in Colorado were also great. I had no issues and no worries. Our second student was also amazing, but our AFS local volunteers in Washington were not very helpful when it came time to transport the AFS students to required AFS activities. This is when I realized that AFS doesn't have any paid staff members to support the AFS students or the AFS host families. Our third AFS student was also great, but she arrived late in September, during a time when AFS pleads with you to host. (we had not planned on hosting this year) This is when I realized that AFS takes families' money from all of the world even through they DON'T have host families arranged. One email we received in September stated that they still had 80 students to place in our region. This makes me very sad for the traveling students and the students' families. AFS told us that if they don't find host families, the AFS students don't get to come to the U.S. and they don't get their deposit money back. This makes me very uncomfortable. Knowing how much money is paid by the sending family, I am wondering where all of that money goes. (I have not yet met an AFS person who is paid).

The one positive piece of AFS is that all three students we hosted were wonderful and we still keep in contact with them today.

We have decided to only host through YFU now, because 1) the YFU staff in my town are full time, local people and 2) there are no long-distance required events I am expected to transport to and 3) we receive a monthly stipend (it's small, but it's nice to receive some kind of thank-you reimbursement).

Program: Study Abroad
Location: USA
Posted: Aug 18, 2014
Overall:
3
Support:
2
Value:
2

Comments

The way we began hosting is that someone at work said her child worked for an agency and was looking to get a student out of a home. The student "P" was placed in a home on Monday and this was Thursday. The man of the house kept tell P that she was suppose to be blond. They would take the phone when they left. Anyway we applied at about 4 on Thursday and she came to live with us on Friday at 6 pm. Unfortunately she only stayed a week. Whatever happened in the home prior to us was too much for her and her family and the decision was made for her to return home. So the next year we decided that we would go through the entire process and choose a student. We did. We never had a host family orientation or meeting of any kind. There were no support meetings for the students. We drove 2 hours to attend a picnic - when we got there the date had been changed and no one bothered to tell us. The girls that we had were wonderful - but they asked us where there money went because they paid a lot of money. They asked if we were paid - no we were not paid. We decided to host again, but that we would research companies and go from there. We choose AFS two years ago and are so thankful to have found them. No we do not work for AFS, but yes we volunteer because we are host parents and we are not paid - making us volunteers. The reason we decided on AFS was because most of the people were volunteers and not paid. We feel that this take the monetary incentive out of the picture and that our hope is that this makes them have the best interest of the student in mind. We in no way think that AFS is perfect, it is not for everyone. That is why there are several organizations. The reason I replied is that I wanted to share a different view point on paid staff. We did look at YFU before we choose AFS, but it was to our disgust to find out they had shared information with others. I had students and people calling asking when we were getting an exchange student - we had not agreed to host with them and had asked them to keep it confidential. Do I think YFU is a bad organization? No, I think that person did the wrong thing, but since they would have been the one that we dealt with I knew it was not a good fit for us. I hope you have a wonderful hosting experience for years to come!

Institute for Field Research Expeditions - IFRE

After being here in Nepal, I'd recommend it to any one. The volunteer program staff was more than helpful for all of my concerns and questions. IFREs fee was very acceptable and the constant contact with an employ in Nepal made getting ready for the trip very easy. When I arrived in Nepal for my program which would be to help teach English near the mountain village of Lukla. There was already a person there to pick me up from the airport and take me to the hostel where the volunteers stayed. It made arriving that much easier. Kathmandu was a very interesting place with a ton of things to see. upon arriving, some of the volunteers and I went out to tour the city a bit. Everyone I met was very open and easy to talk to. When it came time to leave for Lukla, a driver was able to take me to the airport right on time. My time in mountains of Nepal was dear to me and I'm so glad I took the summer off to go help at the primary school. The kids were so fun and the teachers really appreciated the extra help. Along with teaching at the school I was able to hike in the mountains and experience some of the wondrous sights that would take your breath a way. All in all The trip was a success and the volunteering unforgettable. I can't wait to do it again.
Give me an email if you'd like to chat.
bbeckstead12@gmail.com

Program: Volunteer Abroad
Location: USA
Posted: Jul 23, 2014
Overall:
10
Support:
10
Value:
10

AFS

We had our first AFS exchange student come to our family about a year ago, and last month we dropped off our daughter, for her return to Europe. Not to confuse the narrative, but the AFS exchange student we welcomed last year, and our daughter we sent off are the same person. We chose AFS because of a family experience with the AFS program many years ago in New York. We were initially a family of three that included a teenage son, and we thought it would be a good time to look into having an exchange student. We talked about maybe hosting a one semester student because it was our first time so I left my email address on the AFS website. A day later we got a call and were told our local high school was a few weeks away from closing their deadline to take new students for the coming school year. As a family, we double checked our commitment to having someone come live with us for a year, and we jumped in. AFS gave us some basic information on students not already assigned to host families. All the kids looked great on paper, so we really didn't know how to choose someone. We have a dog, so the cat lovers were eliminated. In the end, we just went with some random comment on an application that caught our eye and we took a leap of faith and chose Michelle. I guess Michelle saw our application with AFS as well and chose us as well. Or maybe she didn't have a choice? I'm not sure about that. AFS came to our home and interviewed the family and took a look at the room we had for the student. We passed, Michelle came in August, and after that was the best roller coaster, jungle safari, campfire cookout, and book read, all rolled into one. Sorry for what may be detached references, but it is very hard to describe what took place in the last year without using too much cliche. It was a great adventure and all those words used in "exchange student PR" did apply to us. Life changing, broaden your view on life, a new family member, etc.....that all happened. If the reader wants to know more about that, you just have to do it. I can't recreate the experience in words. As far as AFS, they helped us manage the school registration process, they answered all our questions pre-arrival. We were able to contact an AFS volunteer when we had questions throughout the year. Michelle had to go to urgent care during her stay and AFS handled the insurance claim. We didn't pay anything out of pocket. We were able to contact Michelle's parents during the stay via Skype. During Michelle's stay, we took a long trip and were able to ask Michelle's parents for permission and also to pay for her airfare for the vacation. We had a monthly meeting with an AFS volunteer that was not a big deal because we soon became friends with the AFS people and so it would just be a lunch or a coffee and some chat. AFS would come take Michelle out for lunch or an event from time to time. AFS seems to have a lot of experience in dealing with the issues that came up for us during the year. They were a calming and reassuring voice at times, and we all appreciated that. At some point, Michelle became so much a part of our family, that we were on auto pilot, and AFS seemed almost intrusive, but they also seem to know when they can leave you alone as well. AFS told us that we were responsible for room, board and transportation to school. They told us in the beginning that the student is legally considered a "guest" in our house and that we are not considered their "guardian" and would not be responsible for anything that they do, as far as getting into trouble. That was good to know at the start, but after awhile, we treated Michelle as our daughter, and the technicalities of the organizational relationship didn't really matter too much. We were on auto pilot and we were a family in every sense of the word. I have to end with some caveats. There is a financial aspect of taking in another family member. I think anyone considering hosting really needs to figure out if they can manage the costs without anyone feeling extra pressure from the expenses. AFS does NOT pay a stipend to the host family. They tell you this upfront. Lastly, this year was the best year we had as a family. Michelle will always be our daughter and sister. We know we will see her again soon and couldn't be happier for the life enhancing experience we have now. That said, when she left, it was pretty hard for all of us. We expected to miss her but then the reality hits you. You became a family over the year, you draw closer, and just like that, it's time to go. Then the strange part is that we are sad for her leaving and she was too, but then you realize, she's happy to be home with her family and friends. That was on big ball of undifferentiated emotion for the first few days after we said goodbye, but I don't think that's something AFS, or any other organization can prepare you for. So almost a month later, things gat back to normal. It's a new normal though. We miss our daughter, but we are happy for the year we had, and happy to know she will always be a part of our family. FYI we are taking at least one year off from hosting, My wife and son are planning to backpack through Europe next summer and they just might stumble into a little town to visit Michelle.

Program: Study Abroad
Location: USA
Posted: Jul 21, 2014
Overall:
9
Support:
9
Value:
9

uVolunteer

I was excited when I came across uVolunteer during my online research, as it offered affordable volunteer programs, and more specifically Midwifery placements. The uVolunteer website was thorough and informative, offering an easy step-by-step enrollment process. It was extremely helpful to have correspondence with the organization via email to answer my questions regarding my trip to Ghana, such as Visa requirements etc.
With the inevitable nerves of excitement and apprehension of embarking on my adventure to Ghana, it was such a relief and comfort to be welcomed at the airport by Nathaniel and Annette.
I had prepared myself to approach my experience of midwifery in Ghana with an open mind. I wanted to contribute in any way possible, and gain (although over a short period of 5 weeks) some insight into midwifery in this part of the world.
My experience in the pre-natal ward, labour ward, and post-natal (lying in ward) in Koforidua Regional Hospital has been challenging to say the least. It is a busy place! With restricted /limited space and equipment, the experiences and choices of labouring and birthing women is greatly impacted and hence incomparable to back home.
It has been an experience I will never forget. It has given me great respect for the strength and resilience of child bearing women in this country! And reinforced the confronting and often humbling reality of just how much we take for granted.
If you are a healthcare professional and choosing a Health Care placement, make sure you arrange your verification of registration early; allowing enough time for your registration to arrive and be processed in Ghana!
Embrace the power cuts and moments of no running water as part of your adventure in Ghana!
Come to Ghana with an open mind
Ellen

Program: Volunteer Abroad
Location: USA
Posted: Jul 17, 2014
Overall:
9
Support:
9
Value:
9

Cross-Cultural Solutions

My experience in Tanzania directly affected my decision to partake in my biggest, and most life changing adventure yet: The Peace Corps. I am currently 7 months into my service in The Gambia, West Africa as a rural health volunteer living and learning in a small village. While Peace Corps is the most intense, challenging, rewarding and inspiring experience I have had to date, I have to say that I don't think I would have been prepared or even courageous enough to go had it not been for my experience in Tanzania. The structure of training here was reminiscent of my time in Tanzania and I spent the first 2 months here so comfortable because I knew, just like my time in Tanzania, it would be wonderful.
CCS is a wonderful way for people to give back to the world, and to learn their potential as well as the potential of those around them. I absolutely believe in Cross cultural solutions, and I am forever grateful for my experience and the future it has given me.

Program: Volunteer Abroad
Location: USA
Posted: Jun 24, 2014
Overall:
10
Support:
10
Value:
10

Cross-Cultural Solutions

I LOVED my experience with CCS Peru. The in-country staff was fantastic - supportive, informative, and they became my family in Lima. I can't imagine anyone better than Kique, the Country Director, leading this program -- he was energetic, knowledgeable, and an incredible personality to introduce me to Peru.

I volunteered in a center for the elderly, which ended up being such an incredible experience. There was so much to do every day -- I can't even describe how meaningful my experiences were in working with the older men, women, and staff there. I will never forget the moments we created together, and I was able to see first-hand the support we gave to these individuals. I helped out in the kitchen, led daily exercises, helped with a makeshift barber shop, and of course spent a lot of one-on-one time playing cards, talking, and so much more. Every day was full, and went by so quickly!

The rest of the program was equally fabulous. The activities were engaging and in-depth. My favorite was actually a presentation on the political systems of Peru, but there were so many excursions and lessons that I really felt immersed in Peruvian culture in just a few weeks.

Of course, I need to say something about the amazing food in Peru. I loved that the CCS cooks really provided an abundance of incredible dishes for every meal! When I wanted to learn to make something to take home, the cook was always helpful in giving me an inpromptu lesson - just another benefit of the staff in Lima!

Overall, Peru was fantastic. A memory I'll keep with me forever. I'd definitely encourage anyone considering international volunteering to go to Peru for an incredible time - and of course with CCS!

Program: Volunteer Abroad
Location: USA
Posted: Jun 20, 2014
Overall:
10
Support:
10
Value:
10

Council on International Educational Exchange

I had a really bad experience with Ciee:s high school program. It is such a terrible scam on young students and their families. Ciee gives a really bad name for the whole exchange industry. Ciee does not take any responsibility for their own mistakes. They put my teen in danger many times. From the first day there were undocumented people in the host family. The second host family's father had anger controll issues and when he got mad he yelled and told our teen to [redacted]. Then the host family left our teen to a shopping center and left him there. This host family (Arnell Sison) also stopped communicating and did not offer any meals and left him alone for days, for example over christmas holidays!!!!!! Ciee's local coordinator (Peter Porciuncula) told me that he thinks my son is telling me a string of lies. Ciee's support director [redacted] issues him a warning letter for "not adjusting". [redacted] also "organized" totally unnecessary vaccinations for my son, because she just so incompetent. All my son's vaccinations had been checked before he started the first school.
Host family #3 would have kept our teen to the end of the contract, but support director [redacted] kept harassing him with threats to be sent home if " this family is not satisfied. Since there was no problem with the family, Ciee said he is not doing well enough in school and organized him to be dissmissed and sent [redacted] from Portland(Maine) to take him out of the family to a local hotel, and the next day our teen was threatened to be taken to jail if he did not go to the airport with [redacted]. That was all done without my agreement and I think the hotel night was strange. [redacted] had thanked our son for being dismissed, because that's why [redacted] got to travel to California!!!!!!! Taking a minor to a hotel leaves also too good opportunity for all kinds of unwanted manipulation and good knows what else.
I want to warn and inform all students and parents not to give this business a change to misstreat your children. They just think they can take your money and break their own rules and blame it all on the student and then send the student home.
This all is continuing, because the State Department is not supervising these exchange student companies well enough. That gives , in my opinion, disturbed and psycopathic individuals like Support director [redacted] and director of participant services [redacted] Stone an opportunity to behave in extremely unfair and inhumane way. In my opinion Ciee is a travesty of an exchange organization and should not be allowed to operate with young students! Check the backgrounds of the directors of Ciee also! It is quite interesting.

Program: Study Abroad
Location: USA
Posted: May 27, 2014
Overall:
1
Support:
1
Value:
1

GCN - Global Citizens Network

My trip to La Push this last April was the first immersion experience I was embarking on with GCN. I believed so much in the veracity of their assertion that they were providing unique immersion experiences to local communities worldwide and that's partly why I came to work for the organization. But belief and experience are two different things! This was not my first immersion experience given that I was born in a small village in the hinterlands of Cameroon, where vehicles hardly went, and we had neither running water nor electricity! So yes, coming to this country 2006 was the biggest immersion of my life. It was important to me to go on a trip and witness the experience from the eyes of a volunteer because as someone who had a very frugal upbringing in a village that is not even listed on the map of my country, I was sick and tired of organizations that portrayed our people as sad, terribly unhappy people with lives full of misery.

We arrived La Push and life slowed down to an unquestionable rhythm that seemed to mimic the Pacific waves that rolled unto the beautiful beaches and the sounds of the winds in the lush forest that surrounded this village. On our very first day we could not but marvel at the beautiful setting sun that hung suspended over the Pacific Ocean as we watched the eagles flying and disappearing into the gleaming light.

The entire week, everywhere we went, we were welcome with open arms and presents. From the tribal craftsman, whom I visited together with the elder of elders, Roger to the visits with James Jamie my friend and warm hospitality of Marie (the smell of indian tacos as we arrived their home......yum!). Mr Wilson, Roger and I talked about the origins of the Quileute, and Roger then sang his family song that could not be recorded or performed by even the other tribes members without the permission of his family. He prayed for the craftsman, his friend and tribal brother and I was invited to sing a song from my own tribe the Nso of the North West Province of Cameroon. In that little circle of friendship and kindred spirit, Mr Wilson, the craftsman, stated that it felt as if we had always known each other; as if there was no beginning to that moment and no end. I felt a peace of self I hadn't felt in a long time. A knowledge that I was back home in my little village Ndzeru, but yet miles away in La Push.

How can I begin to describe the music we made with Roger, who welcomed the entire GCN team to his home and in the true hospitality of the Quileute, gave us tribal musical instruments to practice a song on and then performed both Nso and Quileute Songs with us. What about the opportunity to sing and drum at the sacred circle that holds on Wednesday evenings and Roger performing for the GCN team on his Harmonica - a feat that even some old tribal members had never seen! What about the presents of necklaces, and a symbolic walking stick and medicine bag from the tribe's leading spiritual healer and craftswoman!

The GCN's team learned to listen to the voice within us that bid us to express our experience through art, guided by the tribal craftsman - a process and education in the myths and legends of the Quileute that I'll never forget. The cleaning projects, the trip to the rain forest and the overwhelming feeling of acceptance by the tribes' members are memories that are unforgettable.

I went on a trip that turned into a journey home. When I put on the gifts of fur (an addition to my Nso traditional regalia), necklace, and hold the walking stick decked with cowries and a feather, my countrymen nod their heads in understanding - a statement of our commonality and a clear indication that humanity is one.

Thank you GCN.

Program: Volunteer Abroad
Location: USA
Posted: May 19, 2014
Overall:
10
Support:
10
Value:
10

Pages

Subscribe to RSS - USA