Global Vision International (GVI)

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9.1 / 10 after 189 Reviews Based on overall, support & value average ratings
Program website: http://www.gviusa.com/

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Thailand, how do even begin to describe this adventure of a lifetime? I can sum up Thailand in 4 words, "the land of smiles". I can safely say i have never felt so welcomed in any country before. It was a very pleasant surprise to see these little kids sitting outside their houses waving and shouting hello to us.
They would do this whilst you walk down the street to the local shops and restaurants. Overall GVI was very well respected within the community which made for me feeling at home faster than i anticipated.
Initially I was worried about making friends but the people at the GVI base introduce themselves, give you tips and they ask you about yourself. Those GVI volunteers and staff become your family away from home and i can safely say i don't know what i would of done without them.

Onto the programme, I was lucky enough to embark on a 6 week Marine Coastal Expedition where we did everything from clean turtles to teach adults English. I had an extremely varied trip and i was even lucky enough to visit the local orphange and take part in the community centre's weekly sports day!
I would trek into the rainforest and see all manner of beauty in the flora and fauna. So many species so be admired and observed, as well as respect. Taking part in the leadership course also meant i had a days experience being a project leader which was an eye opener to say the least.

Overall i had a trip of a lifetime where i experienced homesickness, actual sickness, pure laughter and some brilliant weekends away. I saw the beauty of local villages and the tourist areas like Krabi each with their own distinct feel and impact.

Five Stars!!

Program:
Location:
Posted: September 18, 2014
Overall:
10
Support:
10
Value:
10
By: gentlel04
Age:
21

Since the internet is full of (often unsubstantiated) claims, hearsay and rumours on volunteering I would like to add some facts from my eight-weeks experience with Global Vision International (GVI) at Luang Prabang, Laos, from middle of April to middle of June 2014. During that time I taught English at Xayadeth college (http://www.xayadethcollege.com/) for 6 weeks and at Mekong English Center (MEC, http://www.mec-laos.org/) for two weeks, as well as some mathematics to interested Buddhist novices for 3  weeks, organized by GVI during the summer vacation. Just to explain my background: I got retired at age 65 from life as a research physicist in elementary particle physics (you know, protons, neutrons, pions, quarks etc.). After travelling through South America for half a year in 2011/12 I wanted to revisit Asia. So I decided to spend 4 months in Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos and in order to make it a bit more meaningful I thought I would do some English teaching. I signed up with GVI at Luang Prabang, Laos for 8 weeks - on recommendation from a friend who had done the same in 2011. Now, research physics is not exactly highschool English teaching but it also get's you into contact with education problems - on a different
level of course. And after retirement I had actually participated in the Swiss highschool system by helping weaker
students in math classes (on a similar level as the math course I did for Buddhist novices at Luang Prabang). So I do have some idea of teaching and of education standards in the 'west'. 
Reading the following you should be aware that what I describe are my specific experiences, it is about my interaction with colleagues, students and fellow travellers and as such may not reflect the general picture, but only my personal 'snapshot' of life as a GVI volunteer at Luang Prabang. 
Of course the day of a volunteer teacher is mostly governed by teaching/educational issues, even if I only had 4 h per day (2 classes, but the same level) and at most one hour for preparation.
Teaching is really a fascinating and fun experience, once one has accepted the fundamental facts that (a) the level of knowledge is quite low, compared to 'western' schools, that (b) students have not learned how to go about 'learning' and that (c) the quality of the different schools and local teachers ranges from bad to good. Also, the general level of knowledge and education in Lao society as a whole is lower, mostly because there had not been much of an education system before 1975, nor any other substitute institutions. Once you can accommodate with these boundary conditions teaching in Laos will be great fun.
The introduction about teaching that we received from GVI was good, there was sufficient teaching material and always somebody from GVI staff to discuss with. At Xayadeth I was teaching students who were on average about 23 years old, had passed the normal Lao secondary highschool (including several years of English) and were now working at hotels, restaurants, as accountants etc. or studying law or chemistry aside from 'our' two hours of English per day. There was one Buddhist monk among the 25 students. They were in the third and last year of the three-year English course at Xayadeth (9 h weekly), which is a private college and charges them about 200 USD per year - while the two GVI teachers per class work for free. This immediatedly raises the question of where the money goes to, since for all six classes (two classes per year) there were at least 6 volunteers but only two or three Lao teachers (who would earn something like 200 USD a month). Teaching was done by two GVI teachers per class, none of whom spoke any Lao and the GVI teachers change every 4 weeks on average. In my experience this teaching model is very inefficient and produces students who understand the rough meaning of what you say, but not the details and specifics. Obviously, it is easy to convey the general meaning of 'wonderful' - but how to differentiate between all existing synonyms without knowing the exact wording in Lao? Or how to explain the meaning of 'exciting' without reverting to a dictionary? At the end of the third term we volunteers personally devised, conducted and graded the final exam, the level of which was probably corresponding to the level of 15-year highschool students in the west. Even so, the outcome was very disappointing, the results ranging between 10% and 90% of the full score, with an average around 50%. Nevertheless, each and every student received his diploma (to be fair, this is not a specific Xayadeth problem, but happens in many schools in third-world countries, e.g. in South America). Since the latter is well-known, it also explains the lack of motivation and discipline of many students: only about half of all arrive and that normally 15 minutes late, go out for phone calls, there is no homework and everybody is promoted from one class to the next, irrespective of their performance. One of the main problems is that people don't have role models to see what it really means to study a language or math: that it's not enough to get exposed to new English words or quadratic equations, but one has to exercise and practise until you 'know them in your sleep' - which is hard work and needs investing 'sweat and tears'. But there is very few education role models in traditionally 'carefree' Laos. And - like we all recall from our own experience - even if we are highly motivated for learning something, there is always times when we tend to be a bit lazy. This is where some mild disciplinary structure can assist the student: attendance check at the beginning of class, no phones, homework and promotion criteria. Selected promotion into next class is one of the key factors: I had third year students ranging from those who could not compose one longer sentence to those who could actually express themselves rather well - the reason being that the weak students normally are also those who do not attend class. It is all too human that you do not like to work too hard if the diploma at the end is for free. You see, I really got quite intriqued by the general question of how one acquires knowledge and education in general, what are the necessary requirements to do so and I had many interesting discussions on that topic right at Luang Prabang.
You might expect that the director of this college - who lives on the premises - would publicly address his teachers, give you some background information about the school and the whole education system or even express some appreciation for your volunteering. But nothing like that, which I found rather disappointing. 
Now, the great news is, that there is other schools - like MEC (a two-year private school with students of about 17 to 18 years of age who attend normal secondary school), which are modelled much closer to western examples: attendance checks at the beginning of class, no phones, homework and periodic assessments, which are used as  the base for granting scholarships and for being promoted to next class. The results are very encouraging and teaching is definitely more fun and gratifying for you as a teacher. And I did it after six weeks at Xayadeth college and the frustrating experience of the exam! Also, the MEC teaching model is much more efficient: there is a 'normal' Lao English teacher who ensures the continuity over the whole year and volunteers who assist and support the Lao teacher. MEC have produced their own course-book (which uses Lao examples and not American or English), which is even computerized and actually used with a projector in every classroom. Fees are about the same as at Xayadeth college (one has to realize that nothing, not even primary school in Laos is free). There were about 5 girls and 5 Buddhist novices in the class of 20 students.
Students - at any school - are lovely, friendly and good fun (once you understand the above) and we were invited to their football matches and petanque drinking bouts. Same with the GVI colleagues with whom I had an excellent time.

Financial issues:
My financial input to GVI amounted to 40 USD per day - if you stay less than 8 weeks it's even more. Out of this 10 USD are used for accomodation, 6 USD you get handed out as a 'food allowance' to buy your own food (which is definitely quite below subsistence level since the cheapest meal in a cheap restaurant is 1.9 USD, a beer 1.2 USD and a fruit shake 1 USD), about 10 USD go into scholarships, local charity contributions, contributions to transport costs for students etc. and the rest of about 14 USD never arrives in Laos. Accomodation was at 'Coldriver' guesthouse for all GVI volunteers in single rooms with attached bathroom and fan. It should be stated, that you could get a room with aircon and free coffee/tea/bananas for the same money somewhere else in Luang Prabang.

Safety/health issues:
Is high on the GVI priority list and taken very serious, probably for a good reason, since the majority of volunteers is around 20 years old. There is no swimming in rivers, no motorbiking and no fraternizing with Lao citizens.

And Luang Prabang is a wonderful place to spend 8 weeks, where you meet all kinds of people - I would not like to miss that time. And wherever you explore in town, in the monasteries, in the public library, in coffee shops or in 'Big brother mouse' you will often be addressed by young people, mostly Buddhist novices eager to learn English. English teaching really is in high demand and appreciation, you just have to find/choose your way of doing it. There is quite a lot of volunteer organisations, on the web and outside and it pays off to look around before you get hooked by some exciting-looking poster advertising teaching for Buddhist monks and novices.

Program:
Location:
Posted: August 9, 2014
Overall:
3
Support:
3
Value:
3
By: Odwin
Age:
68

If you want a life changing experience I recommend you to volunteer in a GVI program. That’s what I did. I really needed a change in my routine, so I apply for the national scholarship and fortunately I got the job. I have to say, those 3 month I spend living in Pez Maya (Mexico, Quintana Roo) were incredible. I got the opportunity to experience amazing adventures like when I swim with a group of 12 dolphins for hours or the time I encounter a bull shark or the incredible dives in the cenotes.

The activities we did in the volunteer program like cleaning the beaches of Sian Kaan, going to Punta Allen town to give English classes to kids and adults, helping with the turtle project looking for eggs and the study of the coral reef were really rewording.

If you love adventures or want to make something different for a change I really recommend these types of programs. You will get the opportunity of living in a paradisiacal beach and you will make a difference for the environment and the community. This will change your way of seeing life in a good way.

Program:
Location:
Posted: July 31, 2014
Overall:
10
Support:
10
Value:
10
By: AndyEz
Age:
27

In winter of 2014 I went on GVI's Volunteer and Adventure Experience. This trip consists of two weeks trekking to Everest Base Camp and four weeks volunteering with children in Pokhara. I loved every minute of it! Trekking to Everest Base Camp was a once in a lifetime opportunity and hands down one of the best things I have ever done. There are no words to describe the beauty of the Himalayas. I can't even describe in words the happiness I felt during those two weeks up in the mountains. Although I can't say the trek was easy (I did it in Jan/Feb - it gets cold!), I can say it was was incredible. Volunteering in Pokhara for a month was also a wonderful, life changing experience and I will never forget the children that I spent a month working with. Pokhara is also such a wonderful place to live (it has a really laid back vibe).
For anyone that is considering this trip I would say GO -- don't underestimate your self (you are capable of doing the base camp trek :) ). You won't regret it!

Program:
Location:
Posted: May 8, 2014
Overall:
8
Support:
8
Value:
10
Age:
23

Looking for a challenge, I decided that I would like to try volunteering. Not knowing where to start, I searched the internet, out of the all of the different Charity and volunteer organization I chose Global Vision International.

Right from the start I was put in touch with a country contact whom helped me discover what the program was about and what I would be doing during my stay.

I was in Costa Rica for three months, and during this time learnt so much about the culture, lifestyle and works of GVI.

A normal day . . .

Up at 5.45am to either cook breakfast, eat breakfast or assist with the general tidy up, it's all hands on deck right from the morning!

Then it was off to project for a big day or learning, educating, playing and sometime conflict resolution . . .

Spanish lessons were great and extremely helpful, a great additional to the program. And nicely our teachers's children also went to the school where we assisted so there was also a real sense of community between the volunteers, students and teachers.

Afternoons were entirely up to you, as long as your chores were done . . . Ah chores . . . Everyone body pitches which makes for a happy living environment.

It was such a wonderful experience and one I will always remember, still keeping in contact with friends from my time in Costa Rica we will be friends always.

Program:
Location:
Posted: May 5, 2014
Overall:
8
Support:
9
Value:
8
Age:
31

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