Institute for Field Research Expeditions - IFRE

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9.2 / 10 after 298 Reviews Based on overall, support & value average ratings

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Michael and his family were very helpful and inviting from the moment I arrived at their home. Before arriving in Galle, Sri Lanka he answered all my questions about what to expect and any other info I needed very promptly via email. I have thoroughly enjoyed my stay here and my experience at the orphanage. There have been a few other foreigners volunteering during my 5 week stay as well which has been nice. Michael's home where I stayed is a great location too, right across from the beach and only a 10 minute walk into Galle Fort area. His family have made me feel very welcome in their home and his wife has looked after me well with all her cooking.

I would very much recommend coming to Sri Lanka and experiencing this beautiful country and people whilst doing a bit of volunteering

Thanks

Program:
Location:
Posted: February 24, 2017
Overall:
10
Support:
10
Value:
10
By: sjbuttery
Age:
34

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:
Location:
Posted: February 19, 2017
Overall:
10
Support:
10
Value:
10
By: Xu
Age:
21

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:
Location:
Posted: February 17, 2017
Overall:
7
Support:
10
Value:
8
By: LisaG
Age:
49

My volunteering work at an orphanage in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala through Institute for Field Research Expeditions was an enriching, smooth and amazing experience. The demeanor of the personnel at IFRE from the first point of contact to the completion of the program was very professional and good.

I was working at an orphanage that had around 27 babies and kids and was accountable for taking care of the kids by organizing games, teaching them songs, playing with them, etc. IFRE gave utmost care to my comfort in settling into a new responsibility and made sure that their personnel (Carla, in my case) was there with me all the time to help out in my interactions and work. The place was very safe and a brief orientation given at the beginning of the program went a long way in acquainting myself with the culture and practices of the country.

Special accolades to Oscar Gomez, the IFRE counterpart in Guatemala. He is a thorough gentleman who meticulously planned my pick-up, accommodation, placement and subsequent follow-ups. There was an instance where the banks in Quetzaltenango would not exchange USDs for Quetzals. Oscar went out of his way to help me out in the dire situation.

I will highly recommend the IFRE volunteering program not only to US citizens but to everybody across the globe.

Program:
Location:
Posted: January 4, 2017
Overall:
10
Support:
10
Value:
10
Age:
25

I signed up in September and actually began my volunteering experience in November 2016 through December 2016. I flew from Boston, MA to Nairobi, Kenya and was picked up by the In-Country Coordinator, Barnabas and his friend, Jackson. The two brought me to Barnabas' house to meet his family and welcome me to Kenya. I spent the next few days with Barnabas and Jackson visiting an orphanage and school that Barnabas oversees and then going on a 3-day safari in the Masai Mara that Barnabas arranged. The safari was terrific, staying with locals and seeing some amazing wildlife. When that ended I spent another evening at Barnabas' home and was then driven to a bus station where I took a bus to Voi and was picked up by by the Park Rangers from Lumo Community Wildlife Sanctuary where I was to stay fro the next month, helping rangers with their duties monitoring the game preserve. Over the next month I became close with all of the rangers, each who lived in the sanctuary with their families and children. I spend days learning the local culture, working with the rangers to remove poaching traps and herding private cattle off the preserve. I ate what they ate, slept where they slept and generally assimilated into their daily routine. Each ranger was unique and welcoming and all were supportive and helpful. I was pleased to find that during my time in Kenya, everywhere I went I had quality cell phone coverage. I brought my T-Mobile service with me and I was connected to both voice and data almost 24/7. I never once found myself concerned about security or safety and I never experienced any illnesses or discomfort from food that I ate or water that I bathed in or drank. When my program ended I was picked up in Voi by Barnabas and Jackson who then drove me back to Nairobi where I stayed again at Barnabas' home for a few nights until I returned to the U.S. Overall, without any doubt, all the people involved in this program were exceptional, kind, helpful and honest. I can't recommend enough IFRE, Barnabas, Lumo Community Wildlife Sanctuary and Kenya in general. I'd be happy to provide advice and references to anyone interested in going.

- Chris Macheras

Program:
Location:
Posted: January 3, 2017
Overall:
10
Support:
10
Value:
10
Age:
34

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