International Volunteer HQ (IVHQ)

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9.3 / 10 after 219 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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One of IVHQ Ghana's logos is something along the lines of "the life you change might just be yours..." and it couldn't be anymore true. Although I stayed a very short time, it was honestly a point in my life that was filled with the most love, education, life lessons, and care in my life! As I look through my pictures, I see how genuinely happy I was - I didn't have to fake a smile for pictures because I naturally always had one on. The kids will forever have a place in my heart and I know I will one day go back. As it is a different country with a very different culture, it was no wonder that I would run into some situations where I felt a bit confused but never unsafe or uncomfortable.

I felt very safe under the provisions of IVHQ from start to end. We were picked up from the airport by welcoming staff members who genuinely seemed concerned about us. As an American, we love to be informed about every detail and every aspect of a situation, which you'll find is not the case in Ghanian culture, but the staff members consider our cultural differences and patiently answer all our questions. They try their best to keep us updated throughout the whole time. I stayed at the Scarlet Program located near Somanya. While staying there, I received a call once or twice a week from Benedict (program coordinator) asking if everything is ok along with a weekly visit. Of course there were some issues here and there that the volunteers and I were concerned about but they eventually did all they could to address it. For example, the fan in our room had been broken for while and although it took longer than expected to get it fixed - it was still fixed! To me, it seemed that a lot of frustrations were merely caused by cultural differences but that is obviously expected. It was nice to be somewhere where time wasn't a physical thing like it is here. So with that being said, if you're from a Western culture everything may seem to take longer than what you're used to. The volunteers and I called it "Ghana time". Just keep on reminding them and they'll surely get to it!

Overall, I had a great experience and would like to go back again. I may go in 2015 through IVHQ. It is very affordable, accommodating and provides a safety net while you're there. There are various people you can call if you need since the program provides so many contacts. I would definitely recommend it!

Program:
Location:
Posted: February 19, 2014
Overall:
10
Support:
10
Value:
10
Age:
20

Comments

Thanks for sharing your feedback for future IVHQers, Chloe. We're pleased to hear you felt so happy and safe in Ghana and we hope to have you join us again one day!

Volunteering is not an endeavour for the faint hearted or for those who are high maintenance. Flexibility, patience and rolling with the punches are attributes that go a long way and you should expect that your expectations will be both exceeded and lowered at the same time.

Two months ago I returned from my IVHQ trip where I spent a month on the Scarlet program in Ghana at an orphanage called Blessed Bright Future and I have thought about it every single day since. It is important to be aware and accept before you go, the fact that the people and the country and the experience will change you, much more than you will be able to make change.
Regardless of the hardships you may face and the many cultural differences and difficulties (like the heat, the smells, the pollution the bathing and the bathrooms) if you're experience is anything like mine, it will be perhaps the greatest in your lifetime.

When I think of the highlights of my experience, the root of my joy and my happiness and my love was the people I met and grew with. Many of the specifics (and there are so many they never seem to end) I find too personal and close to my heart to share here. Waking up and falling asleep to the sound of their voices and their laughter and their language and goats; so many goats, is something I miss so very much. Nights spent staying up far too late hearing stories that make you laugh and cry bittersweet tears of both joy and sadness, learning their faces and names and their hopes and dreams, and holding each other until both of you fall asleep with intermingled limbs, hearts beating together as one. Watching how they live and love together as a whole but also as separate individuals is something quite phenomenal. Their incredible intelligence and endurance and the way they taught me that love can happen in an instant and that family is much more than blood and body.
Waking them up and putting them to bed, making them laugh and holding them while they cry, walking them to school and playing water-bag football, constantly having your hands and body held.

A big highlight was Christmas day. Watching them open their gifts with such joy. If you ever think that going away over Christmas means you'll miss out on the fun back home, don't. Because it is the people back home who are missing out.

PS: If you have read through this far and are still going I am impressed and I thank you so much. It means the world.

Something I do also want to say is that weekends spent relaxing and touring, while a must do and see experience to have, I found to be bittersweet. I loved the running shower and the flushing toilet and the close to home food, but I hated it as well. Things that reminded me of home made me sad, not because I missed being at home but because it made me think of things like privilege and circumstance and it made me question what it means to have rights. These were things that I found challenging. Going on a 3 day holiday and being amazed and relaxed and having fun but at the same time feeling irrevocable guilt and anger at the fact that you can do this and they cannot.

These are just some of the highlights and challenges that I experienced. I hope this has given you a small taste of what volunteering with IVHQ can be like and I hope you say yes to an experience of a lifetime.

Although my experience in Ghana was so incredible and so undeniably life and soul changing to the point that it took me almost two months to bring myself to write a review about it, there is always room for improvement.

I did find in my short stay in Ghana that certain organisation skills were lacking. When I planned my Ghana volunteer experience I wanted to do 4 weeks in total, two weeks doing teaching and two weeks doing orphanage care. Although I was told that this would be fine and definitely do-able it didn't work out that way. I ended up doing my full 4 weeks on orphanage care.

While I don't at all regret spending all my time on the Scarlet program (once I arrived, two weeks anywhere just was not enough time) I was not expecting to have to re-evaluate the trip I had planned while I was on placement. Two girls I had arrived with, who were both doing 3/4 weeks of teaching were placed on a different program to myself and the other girls I was with. Their program was one where they ended up doing both orphanage work and teaching while I was placed on a program that was just for orphanage.
This meant that if I wanted to do my two weeks of the teaching program, I would have to leave the kids and people I had bonded with, and move do a different placement altogether. It didn't make sense to any of us that while I was the only one who wanted to do both, I wasn't put on a program that allowed for me to do this without moving around.

As well as this it was organised that I would do my orphanage placement first instead of teaching. This too did not make sense considering that by the time I had completed my two weeks of orphanage, school would be finished for break time and I would have hardly anyone to teach. So even if I had decided I wanted to pack up and change to the teaching program as planned it would have been quite a pointless move.

The way they had set this up seemed to create problems that didn't need to be created. It seemed odd that there was a simple and preventative decision that seemed to be overlooked in the first place.

Upon arriving at the volunteer house on the first day there was also not much communication about how my switching would take place. It was a bit of a 'we will cross that bridge when we come to it' approach. I was initially fine with that, and I was happy to be flexible and go with the flow, until I became aware of the predicament I was in with having to completely relocate and leave the kids I had fell so in love with.

I also didn't really agree with having to make our own way back to Accra airport at the end of our placement. This was something that caused a fair bit of anxiety and worry for me as I wasn't leaving at the same time as anyone else and I had all my luggage with me moving from one vehicle to another. Ultimately it worked out fine in the end, and the people in Ghana as a whole are friendly, lovely and helpful people.

The last thing that I found about my placement was that a lot of the time I felt like I was not doing anything and that my time and presence were not being utilized. I didn't really feel like I did many helpful or practical things to help the kids at the orphanage. Don't get me wrong I understand that a huge, if not the biggest help and gift was my love and attention and time, but I feel like there was this enormous chunk of time while the kids were at school, where I had nothing to do. I felt very insignificant and useless at times and I didn't really know where to begin to change that myself. I didn't know where my skills could be best of use and there wasn't really any guidance or suggestions for a long time.

The time the kids were at school was a bit of a free for all. Other volunteers would have down time, or sleep, or write in their journal, but I felt that was not why I came to Ghana to volunteer. I felt I could have down time at home or on a holiday which this to me was not supposed to be like. Once I got home and had a good hard think about the most practical things I could do and organize myself during that big gap of the day, for next time I go, I felt like I could make some helpful contributions. It seemed like the two other girls on a different program were constantly doing things and their services were so needed, whereas I felt quite the opposite at times.

Overall my experience was wonderful and I am so grateful to all the people at IVHQ for making it possible and so affordable. I wouldn't trade the bonds I made with those kids for anything.

I would definitely recommend IVHQ to everyone and anyone (and I have been doing so with friends and family) however I do think these challenges and issues were ones that could be prevented and addressed for future volunteers to make their experience even more unforgettable.

Program:
Location:
Posted: February 16, 2014
Overall:
8
Support:
7
Value:
9
Age:
19

Comments

Hi Rebecca, I'm so pleased to read this! I'm going to this same project in May and I've been worried about how remote the orphanage seemed to be, but glad to see that you enjoyed it so much.

It was the most incredible humbling important experience of my entire life. I volunteered with IVHQ as one person and returned a completely different person because of the opportunity I had with the program. Volunteering alone was something that will forever hold high value in my heart but those that cared for me while I was in Ghana are especially responsible for my incredible experience. I was in a country full of strangers but IVHQ as well as the people of Ghana made me feel like I was home. I was actually treated a lot better in Ghana than I am at home, eating 3 meals a day prepared by the "house mother" that cared for me and the other volunteers. They accommodated each of us, making sure none of the food had anything we may be allergic to all the way down to daily cleaning of bathing areas as well as where we laid our heads each night. I worked at a children's home during my stay, and even the children were especially considerate of each volunteer, making sure they had an amazing experience. I always felt comfortable and safe despite the staff of IVHQ suggesting we not travel at night during the orientation. I broke that rule one night, and everyone was extremely friendly and made sure to it that I made it to my volunteer house safely. After returning home after my 2 weeks in Ghana I find myself constantly missing the country, the children, the people of Ghana, and the staff of the program. I know without doubt I will return to Ghana, and volunteer through IVHQ again before the year is over. Except this time, I will bring along my family and friends so they can experience the incredible joy I felt. I highly recommend IVHQ for first time international volunteers especially because I'm an East Coast girl born and raised in America and traveling to Ghana was my first time off the east coast ever and it was the greatest safest adventure I could have hoped for; from arriving at the airport and having a program staff member waiting for me, to the end of my trip-- being dropped off at the airport by an IVHQ staff member.

Program:
Location:
Posted: February 4, 2014
Overall:
10
Support:
10
Value:
10
Age:
23

Comments

Thanks for sharing your experience with the IVHQ program in Ghana. We are so happy that you felt safe and cared for during your stay. We welcome you and your family to join us in Ghana again soon.

I just returned yesterday from spending 1 week in Guatemala volunteering at the Eco Agriculture program.

Simply put this program was fantastic. Everything about this program made this one of the best times of my life.

Pre-Program-

Chelsea was beyond amazing in answering ANY and ALL questions I had, and believe me I had a lot of questions. Her responses were always professional and timely. I could not have asked for a better coordinator.

Arrival/Orientation-
Maximo Novel could not have been a better in country program, they eased all stresses and worries I had, because believe me I received so many emails and comments from friends and co-workers when they realized I was going to Guatemala alone. To the point I wonder if I should backed out.

I am so happy I did not BACK OUT.

Country-

I read up on Guatemala and I learned about the country and culture prior to arrival so this was helpful, the information booklet was highly informative and gives great recommendations on what to read prior to arriving. Antigua is very easy to walk, and the buses were not as bad as I thought. (I was practically paranoid, to get on that bus). It is a very beautiful country and you will not regret going.

Program-

As Green as it gets. I can't say enough about this program. I was not in nearly as great as shape as I thought I was, and came down with a cold, so my help was not as wonderful as it I hoped it to be, and as so many people have commented I received a lot more, that I felt I could give. I was only there for a week, so I tried to do everything I could to help make their lives easier. I can't say enough about the program. This was an excellent and very EDUCATIONAL experience. You have NO idea how much work goes into a single cup of coffee, and it made me that much more appreciative.

Home stay-

My home stay was one of the best things about this program. I can't begin to even tell you how much I am going to miss my house mother, she was one of the best humans I have ever met in my life, and I will do my best to get back and visit. She was fantastic.

Recommendations:

Learn as much Spanish as you can. Not much English is spoken and the locals are very appreciative of any Spanish you can speak.

If you do this program, understand it is HARD work, you will do a lot of hiking sometimes up to a hour to pick the coffee. It is very hard but also VERY rewarding work.

Come with no expectations, and try to not worry about all the "bad" you hear about in Guatemala. Believe me I was practically panicking over it (I shouldn't have been!!!) The people are warm and inviting and truly some of the friendliest people I have met in my life.

This program is fantastic. I can't wait to go on my next trip!

Program:
Location:
Posted: January 27, 2014
Overall:
10
Support:
10
Value:
10
By: TexasGirl
Age:
31

Comments

Thanks so much for sharing your experience volunteering in Guatemala. We're so glad that our team were able to make your journey stress free and rewarding. We look forward to having you volunteer with us again soon!

Helene Comitis and Lisa Paterson
Age 19
South Africa
Ghana orphanage (blue programme)
November 2013- 2 weeks
We were in Ghana for two weeks and participated in the blue orphanage programme at Grace Masak (which we cannot say enough good things about). From the moment we arrived we always felt secure and reassured that we would be well looked after by IVHQ. Any doubts that we had about Ghana as a country were quickly subsided, as the locals were so friendly and helpful. There were many volunteers participating in various IVHQ programmes arriving at the same time as us and four of us were placed in the same programme. We were also fortunate enough to have volunteers from other organisations staying with us who were able to orientate us around Kosoa. We lived at a local vocational school where we slept in bunk beds, had running water and never went hungry thanks to madam Kate (lovely lady who looked after us). We always ate local dishes, were integrated into the local community, and took tro-tros to the orphanage. Grace Masak is such a special orphanage and without sounding biased has the most amazing children. There were 36 children ranging from 2 years-18 years old who were looked after by an incredible woman who they call “grandma”. Our duties included laundry, washing dishes, bathing and other jobs that sound like daily to chores to us, but are so important and helpful to them and grandma! We had lots of time to play with the kids during break times and after school and helped serving meals. Volunteers have the opportunity to help in the classrooms, which was always appreciated. Our simple jobs helped with the daily functioning of the orphanage and Grace Masak is so dependent on the help of the volunteers to carry out these basic tasks. In our free time on weekends, we were able to meet up with other IVHQ volunteers and experience the tourist-side of Ghana, go to local church or visit the kids. Every new experience comes with challenges, but with the right attitude, they can be overcome. There is so much that the volunteers can contribute to the orphanage, which we discovered in just two weeks. There is always something for you to do but it is up to you to take the initiative where needed.

Program:
Location:
Posted: January 22, 2014
Overall:
9
Support:
8
Value:
10
Age:
19

Comments

Is there many bugs in ghana? And also were the beds clean or would u recomend bringing your own bed sheets?

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