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Frontier

I recently paid a lot of money to volunteer with Frontier for three weeks in Costa Rica as part of their ‘Big Cats, Primates and Turtles’ project. Unfortunately, the experience could not have gone any worse due to several issues which arose in the short time we were on the project.

Firstly, despite the 'Big Cats' advertised in the main heading (along with images and description on their website) this aspect of the project was unavailable due to lack of adequate equipment. According to project staff members London HQ have refused to replace the previous ones which were stolen six months prior. We made several enquirers about this issue, including several conversations with the manager at their London HQ- who often refused to even discuss the situation; instead insisting that we complete and sign a legally binding document (presumably to tie us up and waive our right to any refund or compensation).

Any opportunity of completing “ground-breaking research” (as advertised on the website) was limited due to the number of staff with relevant scientific background/qualifications- one of whom we have had little contact with as she has been forced to station herself at the overflow camp, again due to high numbers. Also, in general there was very limited opportunity to take part in any surveys, due to the number of volunteers; most volunteers averaged no more than three a week.

Health & Safety was also a complete disaster: despite being informed on the phone a few weeks prior to departure date that there will be 25 people on the project, there were approximately 36 volunteers on camp. This concern was compounded by the lack of staff members, several of whom are merely volunteers who have been given responsibilities to compensate for the lack of staff.

This was exposed on our first outing, when i turned around to find one of the volunteers suffering had an asthma attack Fortunately, I turned around soon enough to witness this and was able to rush back and assist her as there were no other staff around. Thankfully, she recovered. Although the staff member(s) were eventually alerted about this situation there were further problems a few hours later on the return walk when three volunteers went missing in the middle of the dense and potentially rainforest. Thankfully they found their way back to the camp; albeit very distressed.

Aside, from these specific incidents, there is a general health & safety concerns with having such an overcrowded campsite in that location.
However, it appeared over-crowdedness wasn’t an issue exclusive to this Frontier project: The one day a member of staff had to remove a tent from the camp to put in the garden of a nearby Frontier teaching volunteer house for the new volunteer(s) to sleep in due to lack of space in the actual house!

Due to the above experience we raised our concerns with project staff and subsequently contacted Frontier in London, and informed them we wanted the issues resolved before returning to camp. They (London office staff) refused to discuss the any specific issues insisting we put our complaint in writing; which we did. We were then requested to meet with the project manager at a nearby town who agreed and apologised for the number of Health & Safety mishaps which had taken place and agreed it was largely due to lack of staff- something which was out of her control. However, Frontier HQ would not be able to send the relevant equipment in order for volunteers to carry out the Big Cats aspect of the project. I then spoke to the manager at London HQ and informed i wasn't prepared to return to the camp until the issues had been resolved. However, in response to the issue about the lack of equipment; the HQ manager highlighted that although that particular survey isn't going on at present there were many examples of great ‘big cats’ research work which had been done in the five years when the project previously had the equipment! Needless to say this was no consolation for me and despite a number of serious issues and legitimate complaints Frontier’s (London HQ) handling of the matter was utterly disgraceful. They appeared to be more concerned to get me to complete the aforementioned legally binding document which was a series of ‘yes/no’ questions such as “Have you read our terms and conditions?” and other largely irrelevant questions, than they were of the Health & Safety of the volunteers and staff.
Strangely the manager at the London office we spoke to also refused to confirm whether Frontier was a non-profit based organisation (they claim they are) or a profitable company, as when you scratch below the surface of their online presence it becomes unclear.

Despite being stranded in a nearby town- unable to go back to camp, the manager refused to even agree to deal with the complaint sooner any sooner than the 'up to 14 days for a response' that their standard complaints procedure dictates. As a result I was forced to spend money i didn't expect to spend and depend on family members to transfer me more funds for food, accommodation etc.

I am completely shocked at what I thought was such an reputable "non-profit organisation" with ethical principles, can be so unprofessional and mislead customers in such a way. Of course, with the benefit of hindsight and more extensive research about frontier it is a lot less surprising. We are currently in dispute with the "non-profit organisation" and are awaiting responses to several correspondence which we have sent to them. However, we have been informed that many of the above issues continue to exist so i would strongly advise anyone to steer clear of this awful company.

P.S. the four stars for 'support' are solely for the project manager and other staff members in Costa Rica, who despite the shortcomings of the project, were supportive of our concerns.

Program:
Location: Costa Rica
Posted: Sep 2, 2014
Overall:
1
Support:
4
Value:
1

Frontier

I was fortunate enough to spend almost 11 months living at the Frontier camp in Nosy Be working as the Principal Investigator for the Marine Conservation project. I have worked in remote parts of the world before on similar projects where we had no fresh water other than rain water to cook with, there was not sufficient for us to shower with so we had to wash using sea water and take a bucket and a cut in half bottle to chuck it over your head and where our food and other resources resupplies happened only twice every three months. I was stunned when I arrived in Ambalahonko to see what an incredible set up there was compared with other organisations. Not only were we blessed to have fresh, clean running water, we had an option of three showers delivering water at high pressure and we were able to shower as many times a day as we wanted! I was really pleased with the camp food as well, I know many people struggle to adapt to life away from a western diet but we always had fresh vegetables and a really good source of protein from the beans - absolute necessities when living in such an environment. Other projects I have worked on we received fresh vegetables only twice in three months and the only 'staple' veg we had was tinned sweetcorn, as for protein we were rationed to it only on 'meat days' which required sieving through corned beef to remove bits of artery twice a week! The Frontier Madagascar camp really is exceptional, where else in the world can you shower watching Critically Endangered Fish Eagles fly above the forest and see Sportive Lemurs on a trip to the loo?! The Madagascar's project staff are carefully selected based on their experiences in countries like Madagascar, we all have backgrounds of living and working in developing parts of the world and create a diverse science team. Our science backgrounds make conversations interesting and we love to share our knowledge and first hand experiences of working with marine and terrestrial wildlife. Throughout my time at with Frontier one of the most rewarding feelings was to see how RA's progressed, many of which completed BTEC's or CoPE qualifications. Others even considered changes in their future studies and careers moving towards conservation and biological sciences! For those trying to pursue conservation careers this project provides a wonderful opportunity to gain first hand experience of field research and surveying and the chance to take interest in new parts of conservation.

Program:
Location: Madagascar
Posted: Sep 2, 2014
Overall:
10
Support:
10
Value:
10

Global Crossroad

I went to Cusco, Peru this summer to volunteer in a boys orphanage. I had an amazing time getting to know the kids and playing with them. Considering their situations, they are all very kind, loving children who appreciate each volunteer taking the time to come to the orphanage. I also got to see some other projects such as the girls orphanage and an after-school program for kids whose parents work at a brick making site. Through Global Crossroads, I was able to find my love for volunteer work and helping out. With the help of the coordinators, Angelika and Wildon, I was able to adjust very well, considering this was my first time out of the country alone. I met wonderful volunteers in Peru and had an amazing time sight-seeing while also fulfilling my main goal, helping out at the orphanage. I highly recommend this program for anyone interested in volunteer work in different countries.

Program: Volunteer Abroad
Location: Peru
Posted: Sep 2, 2014
Overall:
10
Support:
10
Value:
10

Institute for Field Research Expeditions - IFRE

My friend and i decided we wanted to volunteer abroad in Africa at an orphanage, so we started doing some research and happened upon IFRE. It gave us tons of different options in terms of places and different types of programs, so we chose to volunteer at Msamaria Center for Street Children in Moshi, Tanzania. I can honestly say it was one of the best choices i have ever made. We were welcomed the moment we stepped off our plane. They helped us figure out everything from the tours and safaris we wanted to do to finding paint for the orphanage. It was really an incredible and wholesome organization. The director Deogratius Peter is super helpful and approachable for any question, issue, or need that a volunteer may have. The volunteer house we stayed in was really spacious and accommodating and immediately felt like home. I would recommend this program to anyone who is thinking about doing any type of volunteering abroad, my trip greatly exceeded all of my highest expectations.

Program: Volunteer Abroad
Location: Tanzania
Posted: Sep 2, 2014
Overall:
10
Support:
10
Value:
10

Institute for Field Research Expeditions - IFRE

I have recently got home from a three week trip in Moshi, Tanzania, where I volunteered at a center for street children through the IFRE organization. I can honestly say it was a life changing experience. The trip had a perfect balance between meaningful volunteering, incredible excursions, and a full immersion into an amazing culture.
Throughout my volunteering I always felt useful which I think is an important thing to look for in a volunteer organization. The children were all wonderful, always ready to play a game and never failing to put a smile on your face. The bonds you make with the kids are so strong and leaving was very difficult. I miss them all already! During my trip I also was given the opportunity to go on many day and weekend trips. I was able to go on an amazing three day safari and saw all of the big 5! I also got to hike through the jungle, go on a coffee tour, swim in a hot spring and lots more. Tanzania is beautiful and having the chance to get out of the city to see the wonderful Tanzanian environment was great. On top of both of these wonderful aspects of the trip, it was really fantastic being able to have the free time to explore the city and meet local Tanzanian people. Throughout my trip I was able to go visit neighboring cities, eat lots of traditional food, make many wonderful friends, and really get a taste of what life in Tanzania is like. Throughout my trip I never once felt unsafe, which as a young girl traveling alone for the first time was a definite concern of mine and my parents. The IFRE support system set up is great. The director in Tanzania is fantastic and hilarious and is always there to help with any issues, and the other volunteers I met while in Tanzania were all amazing people aswell! I could not have asked for a better experience. All of my expectations were exceeded! I would fully recommend this program!

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

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