Latest Program Reviews

Over 300 Programs and more than 3,000 Reviews

Global Vision International (GVI)

Traveling halfway across the world to work with elephants is a dream I never had until I became curious about elephants and research about them. I got more out of this experience that I ever could have imagined. Opening your eyes to the world and problems within it can be one of the most painful things you ever do, but it is more than worth it. I witnessed first-hand some of the troubles Asian Elephants face today, and at the same time I witnessed the behavior and bliss of a select few who got their lives back and were reintroduced into their natural forests. I lived in a Koren Hill Tribe village known as Huay Pakoot with a population around 400 people and 60 homes. The villagers came to Thailand to avoid conflict that was abundant in Burma about 512 years ago. Except for very few Christian families everyone in the village is Animist, Buddhist, or Animist Buddhists. The native language is Pakinyaw and elephants play a huge role in their culture. Elephants are passed down within generations of families and only change families in certain circumstances. Each elephant falls under the same protection act as all other livestock. Each elephant also has a Mahout which is a person who works with and tends to their elephant. There are 6 elephants on GVI contract and 3 with the community conservation that are currently in the forest and not in camps. That is 9 out of the 70 elephants in the village. For the Mahouts whose elephants live in the forest, they live in the village and receive income from a GVI contract. The other elephants and their Mahouts are spread all around northern Thailand in elephant camps and some even on the street. The Mahouts with elephants in the camps get paid from the camps for “renting” their elephants out and they do not live in their native village; they live wherever they can get paid with their elephant. But for Mahouts in the village life is a little different.
GVI has a 10 year stay in the village to help the community conservation group stand on their own and be able to support the elephants and themselves. Being with GV,I I was a part of many things which include teaching English in the school which goes up to 6th grade, helping out in nursery, participating in litter pickups all around, bio diversity studies, and perhaps the most exciting work of all was with the elephants. There are three herds of elephants consisting of 9 individuals. There are typically 3-4 hikes a week where the elephants are observed off their chains. Proximity data is collected and recorded every 5 minutes as well as any touch data; and twice a week health checks are done on each elephant. Newest to the data collection is vocalization. The data collection time spans over 2 hours which can vary from the observation time, often after data collection we would opt to stay and continue watching them. Each of the elephants are truly amazing and watching them in the forest where they should be; eating a healthy natural diet, doing as they please, and witnessing the bonds they each have with their Mahout, was all truly amazing. I am lucky to have found this volunteer opportunity.
Upon my arrival I expanded my vocalization project from health checks only to each of the elephant hikes. The data collected is really interesting and does show some behavioral patterns. I hope in the future to be able to take the ecology and mind of the elephants into context to interpret the cause and meaning of each vocalization. (Note that only audible vocalizations were recorded) Because there are three separate herds I personally could never have collected all the data alone. I really learned to work with others and partially rely on them. Thanks to staff members and other volunteers we were able to collect vocalization data for each elephant hike. Analyzing all the data has been really fun as well. I am learning a lot and have been inspired to do so much more, not just in terms of research but in terms of helping around the world.
My homestay family along with the elephants was a huge part of my experience. I stayed with a woman named Areerat and she was genuinely amazing. She had two daughters, one age 12 living and going to school in a neighboring village, and one named Waneeda age 10 living at home. They do not speak English, so it was great when the three of us and sometimes others all sat down and worked on learning each other’s languages. My family taught me so much and through them I developed such respect and appreciation for them and their culture. Every day of the week they were working in the field, even Waneeda would be working in the field on days when there was no class. The homes in the village were really neat and beautiful. The simplicity of life as well as each aspect of their lives is inspiring. There were no chairs anywhere except at the school, if you wanted to sit you sat, even meals were eaten on the ground. Laundry was washed by hand and hung to dry, most all food was grown in the village, and meat was mainly pork, rarely chicken, and never beef or buffalo. Fresh fruit was also very rare.
All of the villagers are nice, and always try to communicate. They all seem to be so happy and there is no doubt that they all work hard. The children of the village are always out and about! They go to school, help their families, pick flowers for Buddha, and are always playing games. One Saturday we arranged a “kids” day and had a variety of games planed. I have never seen kids so joyful and excited. I have not worked with kids at home so this was really new for me and very rewarding. We taught English in the school twice a week to two classes. We also had nursery for the older kids once or twice a week and for those who wanted to come. We would play games and also teach English. They are tested on English on some of their Country testing. One of the best times is when we go to the nursery for the very young children and give their caretakers a break. These kids are so fun and spontaneous, but also can be very shy. Often when roaming the village I would see a small bunch of kids high up in trees getting mangos or just hanging out. The kids were so great!
As far as animals go, I learned that the euthanasia of animals in Thailand is very illegal. There were a few elephants in the country used in illegal logging on the Burma border that stepped on land mines and were hurt extremely bad…some are doing well now and actually have prosthetic limbs; but even when on their death bed no animal can be euthanized. This is because of the Buddhist beliefs of the people. The belief is that if they kill something or someone they will not be able to be reincarnated.
All of this is just a briefing of the things that I learned while volunteering on this conservation project. Everything that I have learned I hope to be able to share, for the elephants’ sake. I did not go into detail about all the issues they face, but I plan to educate people on the issues involving Asian Elephants. I am happy to share my experience but more than anything with my presentations I would like in some way to help the elephants. I believe I can do this because some of the situations they are in are strictly driven by tourists from all around the world. So by being in the States, I plan to be a voice for Asian Elephants, they deserve all the voices they can get.

Program:
Location: Thailand
Posted: Oct 13, 2014
Overall:
10
Support:
10
Value:
10

Global Crossroad

I was a volunteer at the monastery Pema Ts'al in Pokhara. Global Crossroad was good, it was my first time in Asia and in Nepal so it was good to be with an organization. When I arrived in the airport I had to wait 40 minutes to the person that was going to pick me up. My first week here I went to rafting, Chitwan and I ended in Pokhara. It was really worth it, there was always someone waiting for me (even if the person was late, they will come for you!!) and in the hostels everybody was nice. Global Crossroad was also good by answering my emails and all my questions (I had many). It's a little bit expensive all the programs that they have when you arrive here and see all the prices but for a first time volunteering and in Asia it was fine. I don't recommend to book your trekking with the organization because it's really expensive, but the weeks that they offer to you, the language and culture and the one that you travel around for one week it's really nice, because you can get used to Nepal before starting your project.
I was supposed to say volunteering at the monastery only for 4 weeks but I didn't want to leave that place so I stayed 3 more weeks. It was the best experience of my life, the monastery is another world, another reality. I thought I was going to teach English to monks but when I arrived there they told me I had to teach them Health and Physical Education. It was ok to teach them this subject, I didn't really mind because even teaching them H&PE they were also learning English. After 3 weeks there the principal changed one class and I started to teach to only one class English. Most part of the volunteers there weren't teaching English but sciences, math,... The monks are amazing and they're happy and smiling all the time, I really recommend this project with this organization. I'm sad I'm leaving!!

Program: Volunteer Abroad
Location: Nepal
Posted: Oct 13, 2014
Overall:
9
Support:
9
Value:
9

Forum Nexus

Traveling with a group of strangers, who soon became family, in unfamiliar countries, helped open my eyes to a completely different world. Forum Nexus ties in all the right components to a study abroad program. The entire program is very well put together and very organized. The program met all my expectations and more. I can honestly say I had an overall amazing time. I was exposed to real world experiences in my field while being able to travel and enjoy each cities landmarks and night life. I'm pretty sure I'm joining them again next year to do it all over again!

Program: Study Abroad
Location: Europe
Posted: Oct 13, 2014
Overall:
10
Support:
10
Value:
10

Cross-Cultural Solutions

I spent one week in Hohoe, Ghana with Cross Cultural Solutions. This was one of the most amazing and memorable experiences of my life. I was picked up by the in country director and was able to talk to him the whole way to the home base. He shared with my information about Ghana and the Volta Region, which is where I was stationed. Upon arriving at the home base I was greeted with a hot meal and a bedroom ready for me and my belongings. While in Hohoe, I felt so welcomed by the staff and within the first day felt like part of the family. My placement was at a local private school and I chose to work with Junior High School students. The experience and relationship that I made with the students was something I will never forget. The staff at the school was so welcoming and enjoyed my being there. The town of Hohoe itself is such a great place. I never felt unsafe walking around and everyone was extremely friendly. While most people speak English, they would say various phrases to me in Ewe to help me learn and were happy to correct me if I stumbled with my wording. The children were also excited when I tried to speak Ewe to them and would laugh and correct me when I messed up. The cultural excursions were very fun and memorable. Atsu, the house manager, spent most of the time with us while on excursions and knew very much about each location and was able to answer any questions and also give his input. Leaving my class on the last day was a very emotional day for me and also leaving Ghana altogether was very hard. I plan to make another trip to Hohoe in the next few months to be re-united with my Ghanian family!

Program: Volunteer Abroad
Location: Ghana
Posted: Oct 11, 2014
Overall:
10
Support:
10
Value:
10

Alliance for African Women Initiative (AFAWI)

My four week experience volunteering at AFAWI was short but sweet. I gained a surprisingly large amount of experience and knowledge despite only being there for a month, and I believe my ability to do so is reflective of the quality and efficiency of AFAWI, and how it works with its volunteers.

Despite never having officially worked in microfinance before, I was immediately given a lot of trust and responsibility upon arriving at AFAWI. Volunteers who were already there showed me a lot of support and my ability to quickly become acquainted with the work that was being carried out, definitely enhanced my overall experience. Furthermore, I was able to work directly with local people and coordinate, exactly where money and resources were directed. This, I believe, was one of the huge benefits of working within a grassroots NGO, and a fantastic way for anyone interested in the field of development to gain a strong insight into what the field involves.

Although the work itself was extremely challenging at times, the support I got from fellow volunteers and Philip, was excellent, and helped me to achieve my goals with my fellow team members.

Not only did the work I was involved in greatly enhance my experience at AFAWI, but the friendly, family-like atmosphere made my time there unforgettable. I was cooked traditional Ghanaian meals every day, and working and living with Ghanaians gave me a strong insight into the culture, which I do not believe I could have gained at any other NGO. As a foreigner, I was granted the chance to become a part of this unique lifestyle, and the ability to always feel accepted and appreciated made my summer an unforgettable experience.

Overall, I would strongly recommend anyone interested in development, to look into volunteering with AFAWI. Their volunteering times are flexible and span all year round, and there is a wide range of projects to get involved in. The great thing about AFAWI is that you do not have to be an 'expert' in the field to feel like you can make a difference. You just need to be enthusiastic, open minded and ready to learn. From this, as I did, you can have an amazing experience.

Program: Volunteer Abroad
Location: Ghana
Posted: Oct 11, 2014
Overall:
10
Support:
8
Value:
8

Pages