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Original Volunteers

Program:
Location: Thailand
Posted: Jun 6, 2017
Overall:
8
Support:
8
Value:
8

Adelante Abroad

I was a candidate in Adelante's Chile program for three months in early 2017. At the risk of sounding hacknied, the experience was utterly transformative, thanks in large part to Adelante.

After a friendly chat with the feller sent to pick me up from the airport, I arrived to the candidate apartment. Strangely, it was way nicer than it looked in the pictures. Classes at the International Center (Adelante's in-country fixer organization, which also maintains the apartment and a network of homestay families) started a few days later. They were daily group lessons taught by the wonderful Marcela, who took us on excursions in Viña and Valpo as part of the lessons, and advised us extensively on where to buy meat, how to navigate the streets and slang, etc. The International Center crew was not only extremely communicative (and able to speak English, in large part), they took us out and were generally good buddies. I was traveling alone, so that gracious friendliness kept a certain amount of loneliness at bay.

In my second month I moved to a family homestay. There was some confusion here in regard to communication between the International Center and Adelante, but I still ended up in the right place. The host family was extremely accomodating, but a bit controlling. I decided that I wanted to try a different host family a month later, and the Adelante/IC folks had me in a new house the next day. Despite small problems with the host families themselves, Adelante/IC was adament about holding them accountable, and urged me to report any issue that came up.

My internship assignment was spot on. Marcela made sure I knew how to get there and who to talk to (although the beautiful madness of Chilean Spanish made it difficult to chat at first). I was allowed to work at my own pace and take as many tourism days off as I needed. The staff was endlessly cool... if you end up in the area, I recommend you tune in to Radio Valentín Letelier for a (really) broad mix of alternative music.

There are countless wonderful details about the experience that I don't have time to impart, but I gotta mention the excursions to a local vineyard (the first included as part of lessons, the second offered for free when my parents came to visit me) and Charlie (a sweet street dog often accompanied by "the yellow dog," both of whom followed me into supermarkets, churches, and anywhere else). Generally, the atmosphere of the Adelante/IC was one of helpful kindness, and that made good things happen.

I'm omitting a lot of difficult experiences, which were equally essential to the emotional and lingual growth I achieved down there, but none of those were Adelante's fault. In retrospect, I'm awfully grateful for those negative experiences, but pleased to say that they didn't stem from the organization to which I paid $4000.

Adelante is trustworthy and Chile is indescribably worthwhile. Buen viaje, folks. Pick up a slang dictionary on your way.

Program:
Location: Chile
Posted: Jun 6, 2017
Overall:
10
Support:
10
Value:
10

AFS

As a freshman in high school, our daughter befriended a very distraught young lady in her health class from Spain. As their friendship progressed, the exchange student confided in our daughter the unpleasant relationship with her host family. This young lady spoke of neglect and psychological abuse by the younger host sibling. Our daughter confided in my husband and i, we acted quickly and had the student removed from her original host family into ours. This happened within a week. We were able to complete the application process, background check and home visits due to the fact that our "students" liason and regional director were aware of her predicament.
She arrived without incident. However, I must admit we had no ideas as a host family what we had just signed up for. She arrived November 2, 2013. The dynamics of my family changed, as expected, instantly. Raising 3 teenagers is quite a task. She came to us Ill prepared to manage daily tasks The year passed quickly. We had very little support from our liaison or regional director. They did not do their in home visits as we were lead to believe were required. However, the mandatory meetings we as host's were required to make we're not negotiable even when they placed an undue burden on the family. One meeting was 3 hours away. The meeting was to start at 9;00. We left our home at 5:30 am only to discover the leaders just trickling in at 9:30. Meeting did not start til 10:30 once everyone arrived and got things set up. Needless to say, we were not happy. But this simply sums up AFS.... They do not keep there end of the deal. Once the original family couphs up the cash, AFS disappears. However the host family is left to figure it out.
Our exchange daughter returned to Spain in the spring of 2014. Happily, our family went to visit her family the following summer. We were thrilled to meet our exchange daughter's family. The visit cleared up a lot of the cultural differences. We toured all over Spain and became close to the family.
Needless to say, when the family asked if we would host their son 2016-2017, we obliged. Our exchange son arrived Aug. 2016. AFS was helpful until arrival. Then they switched to the AFS of old.... Obsolete. We were placed with a liaison who wer never saw. She contacted me 1-2 times, scheduled a visit and cancelled 30 minutes prior to arrival. I had rescheduled my work to accommodate her schedule and arrival time. We never heard another time from AFS until April 2017. A regional volunteer called after she realized we had not had a liaison visit since our students arrival In Aug. She stated that AFS was under the gun to get a liaison to our home asap because if the State Department were to review his records, AFS would be in violation and AFS could potentially lose their visa program. Suddenly, we were a priority! Next thing we know, a gentleman from our community who's daughter was an exchange student in the 1980's arrived on our door step with paperwork in hand, ready for us to sign he documents. He visited our "son" a second time prior to his return to Spain. Our student departed for home this past week early due to family obligations. AFS acknowledged his departure and informed us that their insurance would not cover his return trip. However, they have contacted us 2 times since his departure wanting to know if he would be in attendance at the final departure meeting! Lastly, they have asked for my daughters background check since she turned 18 today. The left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing.
THINGS TO KNOW BEFORE AGREEING TO HOST OR USING AFS::
You and your family will not have any support what so ever from AFS.
Your exchange student will not have any support
AFS is run by volunteers, need I say more
This is an extremely expensive ordeal. You better be prepared to open up your wallet
Good or bad, your family dynamics will change
It's a good idea to vet your student and their family. It's a great idea to have an open dialogue with the original family.
Don't put the responsibility of the exchange students on your biological children. It will cause hard feelings.
About the time your student acclimates to the new culture,language and forms strong friendships, the program ends.
Lastly, please remember you will not have any support from AFS.

The exchange process can be very rewarding, but please know what your getting yourself into'
Penny Crain

Program: Study Abroad
Location: USA
Posted: Jun 4, 2017
Overall:
1
Support:
1
Value:
1

Institute for Field Research Expeditions - IFRE

*I was with global crossroads for this project, although I did more than one project with GC so i could not submit a second review for it.* I spent three weeks with with the wildlife program. I was with Lumo Wildlife Sanctuary. This was truly an amazing experience. I am a Zoology student at The Ohio State University and I could not of learned the things I did here through any class offered there. I took a bus from Nairobi, where I was staying with my coordinator, down to Voi, which is where the bus stop was. It took about seven hours. From there I had the manager waiting for me to take me to Tsavo, where Lumo was located. That is where Lumo was located. I saw so many animals; cheetahs, lions, leopards, elephants, giraffes, cape buffalo, and so many more.I worked closely with the rangers and the two students that were there. Every day I went on patrol checking on the animals, so I practically was on a safari all day. All the rangers were so knowledgeable of the animals and you could see how important these animals were to them and how concerned they were about conserving them. I stayed in my own room at the rangers site. The site was surrounded by electrical fence, so it was safe for both us and the animals. Everybody there was excited to teach me about what they did. Everyone was so welcoming and made sure that I had a comfortable stay. I learned about how the sanctuary helped the community that was by there, also where most of the rangers were from. On my last day, i was transported from Lumo to Voi, where the manager waited with me until my bus came. I made so many connections at Lumo, which is great for what I want to do with my degree, and was welcomed back to visit and research there when I was finished with my degree. I would recommend this to anybody who wants a once in a lifetime experience.

Program:
Location:
Posted: Jun 3, 2017
Overall:
10
Support:
10
Value:
10

Cross-Cultural Solutions

I volunteered with CCS in Morocco in November, and I would recommend this experience to anyone!!! The CCS team go way above and beyond what they need to in order to make your experience the best it can be. I was with the program for four weeks.
The preparation for the program was excellent- CCS is responsive to all questions/concerns, and I really got the impression that everyone I dealt with truly cared about my experience. They are also very safety conscious, which went a long way in making me comfortable enough to finally commit and enroll in the program... And I am so, so glad that I did.
From the minute I arrived in Rabat and saw Mohamed and Abdou waiting for me with the ccs van, I knew I was in safe hands. The home base is in a beautiful neighborhood of Rabat, with flowers and vines blooming even in November! There are coffee shops, convenience stores, shops, restaurants all nearby. I think the location of the house is perfect, since I was able to take morning or afternoon walks and choose what I wanted to see- either quiet residential streets or bustling main avenues. The house itself came to feel like a home-away-from-home, and the other volunteers and I spent plenty of our time chatting or just reading/writing on the downstairs couches. Meals are eaten all together, which really brings you close to everyone. And the food is AMAZING!
The in country staff are all so kind, and like I said before, they go way, way past what they need to. Khadija and Mohamed are two of the best people I've ever met, and their lectures (on Women in Morocco and Islam, for example) are super informative. The placements themselves are all important and a lot of fun. I was lucky enough to experience all of the placements- the hospital, orphanage, and women's center. Each is really great in its own way, although I think teaching english at the women's center was my personal favorite. I had never done any teaching before, so I was a bit worried that I might not be any good at it, but the students are all really kind- and forgiving!
Another thing I was slightly concerned about was safety- or just feeling comfortable in Morocco, especially as a young woman. When I was researching Morocco, I read A LOT of articles about women traveling there and potential harassment- and that made me pretty apprehensive. So I wasn't sure what to expect, but I feel its worth commenting on my experience, since it was totally different from what I (or those many articles) predicted. I didn't feel unsafe at any time there. In terms of harassment, there was a bit- but honestly not even close to what me and a friend got in Italy when we backpacked there. So, obviously be safe and take basic precautions (and respect local sensibilities with dress, ect), but don't be frightened off. Morocco is a really amazing place with a ton of amazing people in it- and I think that's worth experiencing, especially at a time when it seems like our world is in need of a bit more cultural understanding. I ended up staying in the country for two weeks after my time with ccs ended, traveling around-alone- and having the time of my life. And none of that would have been possible if it weren't for CCS. So, my advice if you're on the fence: Go for it. You won't regret it!!

Program: Volunteer Abroad
Location: Morocco
Posted: Jun 1, 2017
Overall:
10
Support:
10
Value:
10

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