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Institute for Field Research Expeditions - IFRE

I am Johnny from China now studying in Australia. Michael is a very nice man and I have a great time living his home for one week in Sri Lanka. He always offers me reasonable advice and gives me immediate help. I hope to live in his home again next time.

Program: Volunteer Abroad
Location: Sri Lanka
Posted: Feb 19, 2017
Overall:
10
Support:
10
Value:
10

Projects Abroad

At the end of 2015 I was given the amazing opportunity to travel to Natalau Village in Fiji, and stay with a local host family as part of the care and community high school project. As soon as I arrived at the airport, one of the Projects Abroad staff from my project met me and took me to Natalau village where I was introduced to my host family. My host family where incredibly welcoming and made sure I had everything I needed. This, combined with the constant support provided by the Projects Abroad staff helped me settle into my new environment extremely quickly.
Throughout my placement I was able to participate in amazing activities including running a holiday school for the local children, painting houses in the village, visiting the mud pools, and taking multiple group trips to Nadi. Even with all of the incredible things I was able to do, my favourite part of my placement has to be the time spent with my host family and the village children. Throughout the whole project I was able to immerse myself in the local culture. The Fijian staff employed by Projects Abroad know a lot about the area and people, and knew exactly how to best show us Fiji's amazing culture.
Overall, this trip has provided me with the best experience of my life. The staff at Projects Abroad truly cared about me and made sure I was enjoying myself throughout my two week placement. They made sure we were involved in the local community, but also gave us plenty of time to rest and unwind at the end of each day. I would definitely recommend this project to anyone willing to leave their comfort zone and give back to those in need.

Program: Volunteer Abroad
Location: Fiji
Posted: Feb 17, 2017
Overall:
10
Support:
10
Value:
10

Institute for Field Research Expeditions - IFRE

My 10 Year old son and I wanted to volunteer as part of our 4 week visit to Sri Lanka. I googled and came across IFRE which seemed to offer good program options and good support. As I had a son, I contacted IFRE via email to determine the best options. I was presented a great opportunity (elephants and community based volunteering) and based upon this, we immediately applied, putting forward the application fee. There was one concern I had with the application form - it asked for our arrival and departure dates from Sri Lanka. As we only wanted our volunteering to be a part of our trip, I sent them a separate email stating the dates we wished to volunteer.

There were some time delays and we were becoming concerned as there was less than a week until our departure. At this point we were put in direct email contact with Michael in Sri Lanka - a local who was very good at replying to emails. Eventually, days before we were due to leave we were informed that there was a minimum of 2 weeks to volunteer with elephants, please choose something else. We then offered to work in the orphanage. Unfortunately, we were having a communication issue and I could not make them understand that we did not wish to arrive and start volunteering the next day - that we were prepared to make our way to the appropriate place for an agreed commencement date. With only hours until our departure, I finally gave in and agreed to start immediately. All I knew was that I was to be picked up at the airport, provided a place to rest as we had a midnight arrival and then we would be contacted the next day.
The airport pick up was smooth despite our delayed flight and we were driven to an overnight home stay US$22 each - basic but comfortable with breakfast, air-conditioning and wifi. We were informed that we would be picked up at 12 the next day and driven to where we were to be volunteering - we still did not know where. The pick-up arrived on time and we were driven to a home stay in a suburb of Galle. We were met by Michael, our on ground support. He sat us down and told us about the program and that we would be starting the next day.
The family we stayed with were lovely - Michael's daughter, husband a child and grandmother and within reasonable distance from the orphanage. The home was basic (and still under construction) but fine for the circumstance. I was glad that I had good insurance as there was no railing on the stairs (i.e. open to a considerable drop) and no railing on the 2nd storey verandah. The bathroom was good with a good toilet and cold water shower (which was fine). While there was wifi at the house, it was not for our use and we could use the washing machine for a fair price. Bernie and Manoj provided us 3 meals a day - mostly vegetarian and catered for us with reduced chilli. They were very welcoming. In both of these home stays, we were glad we had our own towels and a top sheet. We wished we had our own pillows!! (1st world problem)
Michael took us to the orphanage the first morning, gave us a tour, showed us where to sign in and then left us to it. We were to work with the 3-4 year olds due to my son's age. We were under the impression that we would be working 8.30 - 5.30 each day, but in actual fact the orphanage did not want us there from midday. (I think the children were sleeping in the afternoon). We met a few other volunteers there on longer stays. . Michael arranged a tuk tuk driver for us who we used for our whole stay who we really felt gave us good value and we never discussed the price. The first afternoon, Michael took us to a phone card place and a money changer - both good deals. He also outlined all the tours he could arrange for us. (I was a little surprised by this, but I guess that longer volunteers needed something to do on weekends and this may suit.) These options did not suit us. They did seem good value, but then again, we had had no time to determine what good value was. I did wonder if this was why we had been whisked from arrival point - at this point quite green.
The family suggested some good places for us to see and were helpful at all times. Michael came on our last evening to see how our tour had gone, and to ensure we had completed this review. He again offered us a tour which we originally accepted and then declined as it really did not suit our plans.

All in all, it was an interesting experience. The orphanage was in great need of help, but the way it was managed was very different to an Australian culture. When the teacher was not there, it was TOTAL chaos with 26 3-4 year olds in a 21sqm room. The children did not listen to the volunteers (or the workers unless I suspect threatened). Toys were destroyed as respect for property and each other did not seem to be taught. These children were incredibly resilient and tough. We tried to teach some simple games but the children would not follow instructions from volunteers such as sit down. The workers did not attempt to help - just watched on. If you are considering support by providing toys, they need to be SUPER strong and light weight (as they will be thrown at other children or used to hit others). I'm not sure where the toys came from but they would need a good supply. Out door play was better, although the limited and extremely sloping area for play made games difficult - playing on a hill. There was a beautiful, huge flat grassed area that would have been perfect - but used as a car park for the odd car that happened to come in.
I was intrigued at the fees for the program. When I first googled, it seemed as though it would be around US$150. There were further considerable administration fees which I understand covered Michael's salary. We also had to pay around US$100 each to Michael (i gather he would pay this to the family). All up, It was the most expensive week for us in Sri Lanka for food and bed, but we hoped that the fees to IFRE would also find some of their way to the orphanage.
It was a never to be forgotten experience for us and if you are tough enough, I would recommend it - and the orphanage could really do with the help.

A last comment, Michael did say that it would have been possible for us to do the original 1 week with the elephants and community service. So there are some communication issues somewhere!

Lisa Gannon and Colby Gannon (age 10)

Program: Volunteer Abroad
Location: Sri Lanka
Posted: Feb 17, 2017
Overall:
7
Support:
10
Value:
8

AbroadCo

Cuba has been on my bucket list for several years. After searching the internet for programs, I settled on Discover Corp. From the time I made my first contact with them they were completely supportive, answering many questions and being extremely helpful with all my many concerns. My trip began Jan. 28, 2017 and lasted 8 days. From the moment we called our trip guide to let them know we were arriving in the country 3 hours early until the day we left we were in the best of care one could ask for. The group was small making it easy to get to know one another and giving us the ability to make, off the itinerary stops for ice cream or some of the best chocolate ever. Because it rained the first day of our tour, our guide was able to change our itinerary to accommodate the weather. I would highly recommend Discover Corp if you are at all interested in traveling overseas. They have my full support and confidence.

Program:
Location: Cuba
Posted: Feb 14, 2017
Overall:
8
Support:
10
Value:
10

Discover Corps

I went over Christmas time and had a wonderful. My first night there I was the only one that had arrived. My host and his family showed me around Cusco to the different plazas and churches that had Nativity scenes and lights. The next day I had asked about wanting to see how the people there shopped, so I had the opportunity to go with the host's brother and wife as they shopped for the food to take to the homebase. There ended up being only two of us on this trip, which I think was good. Our host was very accommodating to our needs and since I was having trouble with the altitude I think we took things at a much slower pace. Because of circumstances there were times our schedule was rearranged, which our host was very patient todo. We had a chance to attend the baptism of some of the girls he works with, followed by being invited to their home for a meal. Which was a pleasant experience. He had children come to the homebase to meet and work with us. There were times that the children came with us as we visited various locations. I was very impressed by the friendliness of the staff and their families. I do plan to go back and visit the families that I have met.
I do recommend this trip to anyone who is interested in seeing a place in Peru and do some volunteering on their vacations.

Program: Volunteer Abroad
Location: Peru
Posted: Feb 11, 2017
Overall:
9
Support:
9
Value:
9

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