International Volunteer HQ (IVHQ)

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9.3 / 10 after 228 Reviews Based on overall, support & value average ratings

International Volunteer HQ (IVHQ) is the trusted volunteer organization, providing safe, quality and extremely affordable volunteering placements in developing countries all over the world. Each year they place over 5000 volunteers abroad and have a wide range of volunteering opportunities in Kenya, Kenya - Maasai, Ghana, Uganda, South Africa, Nepal, India, Vietnam, Cambodia, China, Costa Rica, Mexico, Guatemala, Colombia, Brazil, Peru - Lima, Peru - Cusco, Morocco, Ecuador, Tanzania, Sri Lanka, Bali and Thailand.

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When I volunteered with IVHQ, it was my second time volunteering in Ghana. I volunteered in 2010 with a different organization. I chose IVHQ because of the low cost and the positive reviews. The 12 weeks I spent at the Scarlet Program was one of the best experiences of my life. IVHQ and the placement were far superior to the organization I previously volunteered with and IVHQ was one-tenth the cost. With the other organization, I spent about four hours a day with the children at the orphanage and then returned to the gated home and participated in structured activities.
With IVHQ, we lived in the same building as the children and we did not need planned activities, as we were much more immersed in the community and the culture. The experience I had with IVHQ was authentic and I truly feel as though I made a difference.The experience was not sugar coated and we were placed at an orphanage that was facing several problems. By working with the IVHQ staff, the orphanage staff and the children, we were able to accomplish a great deal during my three-month stay. We were in constant contact with IVHQ Ghana staff and they were available to us via phone, facebook and e-mail at all hours.
Many people are hesitant about paying to volunteer. However, we were provided with three meals a day, staff support and a place to sleep for our fees. The cost would have been much greater if I had stayed somewhere on my own and paid for my meals.
There were as few as four and as many as ten volunteers staying at the Scarlet program during my stay. My room was fully occupied during my entire stay, with two other volunteers. We shared a dorm room sized area and it was essential to communicate with one another and be laid back. There was one shower room and one bathroom and when there were ten of us, it required a little patience and planning. The meals were fantastic and our cook was a lovely woman.
Communication was essential. Having daily communication with the orphanage staff and constant communication with the other volunteers was extremely important. It was essential to make sure everyone was on the same page and that problems were addressed as quickly as possible.
Volunteering with IVHQ was an incredible, immersive experience. I learned more about Ghana and the Ghanaian culture in the first few weeks at Scarlet than I did in the entire time I was with the other program. The staff, children and other volunteers were all amazing and I will always cherish my experience with IVHQ.

Program:
Location:
Posted: June 17, 2014
Overall:
10
Support:
10
Value:
10
By: kk0327
Age:
27

Comments

Hi Kathryn, Thank you for sharing your feedback about volunteering in Ghana. We are happy to be able to provide volunteers with the lowest program fees possible. It’s great to know that you had such an enjoyable experience. Thank you for volunteering with IVHQ. We hope to have you volunteer with us again in the future.

I initially chose IVHQ to volunteer with as they were the cheapest company around for the length of the programme. I also liked that half of my programme fees would be going directly to the African charity I would be working for and not into IVHQ admin. All my emails to the company were responded to with 24 hours and they even put me in touch with other volunteers going out at the same time.
In 2008 I spent 3 months in Kenya working in an orphanage; this was the best time of my life, the charity in Nairobi NVS, I would be working under were so welcoming, caring and friendly. They checked in on us every day and we were made very welcome in their offices and their own homes. They took us to a lot of local areas and introduced us to local cultures and life. Any extra activity we wanted to go on such as safari/ Mombasa trip/giraffe safari/Kenyan zoo, they helped arrange all the activities and for a very reasonable price. They put all the volunteers’ in touch with one another and made plenty of opportunities to meet up and socialise. NVS staff were available 24/7 and never seemed to have a day off. If there was anything you wanted to do whilst in the country they would make sure it happened for you. IF you wanted to change your programme schedule mid trip they would make sure that this would happen, so in effect you can get more than 1 experience for very little if any extra costs. They took us out to their Masaii programme and arranged regular trips out there for volunteers who wanted to experience living in the ‘outback’.
Whilst out in Africa, I came across a group of street boys that we helped put into an orphanage and the charity helped me to set up a sponsorship programme for these boys to get them through school, this programme is running and the boys are doing really well. This could not have been achieved without the hard work of this company, they went above and beyond to help us volunteers out and we cannot fault them.
I can’t fault NVS or IVHQ, the staff were absolutely lovely. Dan Radcliffe, the head of IVHQ also came out to Kenya whilst I was there and he met up with all his volunteers and all the programmes to check everything was running all ok.
If I could relive those 3 months over and over I would! Absolutely brilliant experience and one I would strongly recommend.
5* Experience all around!!

Program:
Location:
Posted: May 7, 2014
Overall:
10
Support:
10
Value:
10
Age:
26

Comments

Hi Holly, Thank you for taking the time to share your feedback about your experience volunteering in Kenya. It is great to hear that you felt well cared for by our partner organisation in Kenya. Thank you of choosing to volunteer abroad with IVHQ and we hope to be able to have you volunteer with us again in the future.

My experience in Kenya, Orphanage Program, and associated Outreach Programs, was amazing. I travelled to Kenya, alone, and stayed through Nov, Dec 2011. I cannot speak more highly, nor recommend this program more generously than I do. The locals, the children you share your time with, and other volunteers make this experience one that will always be in your heart. The people, the land, the memories will be with you 24/7.

Program:
Location:
Posted: May 6, 2014
Overall:
9
Support:
9
Value:
10
Age:
57

Comments

Hi Janelle, Thank you for sharing your positive feedback about our Kenya program. We hope that you will volunteer with us again in the future. Thank you for volunteering with IVHQ.

I went to Kenya in December 2013 and had the time of my life. The staff with their partner organization, NVS, were professional and helpful throughout our time volunteering. My husband and I felt safe the entire trip and truly enjoyed the activities that were available. While we were stationed with an orphanage that we loved, we still had the opportunity to engage others in other activities such as outreach weekend, the Maasai walkabout, and even a safari through NVS partners. The staff were terrific at responding to any questions or needs and became like family away from home. Their level of professionalism was excellent and we give them so much credit considering they manage so many people from so many different countries, including some who have never traveled before and have the first time travel concerns. The projects and placements are very well organized! Some things are beyond their control such as the congested traffic downtown (which some try to blame them for) but everything was terrific! We look forward to returning to this particular country with IVHQ and NVS as their partner. The work and experience has been the most meaningful to us, as well as the new family we have! THANK YOU NVS for all you do your community and the volunteers! We love you!

Program:
Location:
Posted: May 5, 2014
Overall:
10
Support:
10
Value:
10
Age:
34

Comments

Hi Jennifer, Thank you for sharing your experience volunteering on our Kenya program at the end of last year. We are glad to hear that you and your husband felt safe and supported by choosing to volunteer through IVHQ and our partner organisation in Kenya. It is also great to hear that while in Kenya you took advantage of the extra travel opportunities. Thank you for volunteering with IVHQ and we hope to have you both volunteer with us again in the future.

IN SUMMARY, MY ADVICE: Don’t go with an organization like IVHQ or Maximo Nivel that operates for profit! You are being taking advantage of as a volunteer and lining someone else’s pockets in the process. Do more research (including asking other volunteers where they were placed) and go directly to the not-for-profit organization! And enjoy your meaningful volunteer experience!

THE SCHPIEL: I can sort of understand why IVHQ has such high ratings... It’s because they really don’t do anything! As explained below, it’s up to the in-country organization to determine the volunteer program – IVHQ is nothing more than a volunteer recruitment company. And that’s why they get 9.4/10 for passing volunteers names to the in-country ‘partners’. Great job! And for recommending traveller’s insurance that includes an awesome general cop out clause: “We won't pay for costs arising in any way from failure to take reasonable care to act as a reasonable, prudent person would in similar circumstances.“

So who tends to use IVHQ? Many, if not the majority of volunteers were either just out of high school, or in some stage of university. That is, 18-22 years old. How were they funding their volunteer experience? Mommy and daddy were footing the bill. For most of them, it was more about socializing, drinking and hooking up while out of their parents’ gaze as opposed to the volunteer experience.

Organizations like IVHQ and their in-country 'partner' bug me... Why? Because they've taken volunteering and made it into a profitable tourist-like industry. [Even to the point of placing volunteers in private schools that don’t really need the help just so that they’re not losing revenue by turning away volunteers because they haven’t found more meaningful volunteer work.] Essentially, all these organizations do is act as a middleman between you, the volunteer, and the ultimate non-profit organization you get placed in (if you’re lucky). And they make a killing doing so. So essentially both you and the non-profit organization you end up working in are getting ripped off.
And in IVHQ’s case, they act more like a middleman to the middleman and in the process, charge a US$250 administration fee as well as a nice 5% cut of program fees (supposedly to cover paypal costs, but really, that much?). The fact that they wouldn’t accept any other form of payment speaks to the real motive. OK, they’re cheaper than others but only because they really don’t do anything.

As to the real middleman (Maximo Nivel), from what I learned, host families and non-profit organizations you are placed in receive less than 50% of the program fees that volunteers pay. Again, taking advantage of voluntourism.

So why use an organization like IVHQ or Maximo Nivel? Finding a non-profit organization in a developing country from your home country can be hard. And with an organization like IVHQ, you have a little bit more flexibility - if you don’t like your placement, you may be able to change. You have more choice of projects, but you are not guaranteed placement in a certain project. And there’s a bit more security because they organize your accommodation and food, but you’ll find that some of the non-profits do this as well.

It doesn’t take much to imagine IVHQ won’t like this review, so here’s to their reply! ... it’s all about the bottom line!

Program:
Location:
Posted: May 1, 2014
Overall:
4
Support:
4
Value:
3
Age:
31

Comments

Hi Kyle, Thanks for sharing your comments. Have you volunteered with IVHQ? We wanted to contact you via email, however we could not find any Costa Rica volunteers in our database that match your details. If you could email us and let us know who you are, we would be happy to contact you directly to discuss your concerns. You're correct, IVHQ is a volunteer travel company. We provide our volunteers with high quality, responsible and affordable volunteer travel opportunities around the world, with the support of our in-country partner organizations. IVHQ is responsible for providing comprehensive pre-departure support to our volunteers, and our local partner organizations are responsible for hosting our volunteers in country and placing them within local volunteer projects in need of volunteer assistance. This model is effective for a number of reasons - local organizations are in the best position to see where volunteers are genuinely needed. The staff in our partner organizations are locals and are in the best position to provide guidance, safe supervision and support to volunteers. Partnering with local organizations also reduces the costs associated with hosting volunteers, making program more affordable for volunteers. As IVHQ is able to provide our partner organizations with a high number of volunteers annually, IVHQ is provided with discounted fees for our volunteers. This makes volunteer more accessible, resulting in more volunteers, which means more is achieved. All IVHQ volunteers are connected with a dedicated IVHQ Program Coordinator to provide them with all the information and support they need to prepare for their trip abroad. This includes providing volunteers with a comprehensive program information booklet, on-going pre-departure guidance, and facilitating communication between volunteers and our local partner organizations. Our fee structure was designed to keep the quality of our volunteer programs high, while also keeping the cost of volunteering abroad low. We operate on a system of economies of scale, so we are able to provide IVHQ volunteers with low program fees, due to the large number of volunteers we are able to send our partner organizations annually. 100% of the program fee volunteers pay to volunteer with IVHQ goes directly to our in-country partner organizations to cover expenses, including airport pickup, accommodation, program orientation, food and 24/7 in-country staff support. This leaves the IVHQ registration fee to cover expenses outside of hosting volunteers in-country, including pre-departure administration, staff salaries, program visits and quality control, and marketing (to ensure we can sustain a consistent number of volunteers). The 5% surcharge covers PayPal fees of 2.3%, while the remaining 2.7% is used to cover currency conversion costs. IVHQ receives payments in US Dollars and we are a New Zealand-based company, while our partners are located throughout the world. There are a number of Foreign Exchange transactions involved through which IVHQ must pay bank commissions to transfer volunteer program fees to our partner organizations around the world. If you'd like to learn more about IVHQ's approach to volunteer travel, please visit: www.volunteerhq.org/ivhq-approach
Well, while you can share your thoughts and experiences just as the rest of us, I find it interesting that you know for fact that its not about the volunteer experience for the volunteer but only about the socializaing. I did not receive a survey from you on this nor did anybody so where are you getting this data from? My guess is that you got it from a potential experience you, yourself, had while volunteering. Sure, there are young folks engaging in the experience, but I think its great for them. The work we did and the placement we had was absolutely terrific and they certainly did need volunteers. There were other placements we visited where friends were placed and it certainly looked like they could use even more help and we could only wish there were more folks out there to sign up and go. What I can say is that volunteering in third world places is not for everyone, but for those who venture out come home changed in some way, some encounter bigger changes than others. So cheers to your bottom line and the non existant survey..... I hope you can find meaningful work and experiences somewhere around the globe. Kenya is a terrific opportunity!

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