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Frontier

I did 4 weeks on the Thailand elephant conservation program. Overall I had a great time. Singburi's a beautiful part of Thailand - a lot more laid back than Bangkok but still with lots to do in your spare time. The project was fun and rewarding - there were a lot of other volunteers there during my time, mainly from the UK and Australia. I was working with the elephants on weekdays, helping with feeding, bathing and relocation. I'd say bathing the elephants was the best part - they really enjoy it and it's a great way to cool down yourself when it gets too hot, which is most of the time!
All in all thoroughly recommended.

Program: Gap Year
Location: Thailand
Posted: Sep 3, 2014
Overall:
10
Support:
10
Value:
10

Sankalp Volunteer Society India

I've read about many volunteer programs featured in my university newsletters and they all sounded amazing. However, after spending quite a bit of time researching I decided that Sankalp Volunteer suited me best in terms of my budget, program dates and location. I was a little bit nervous travelling to India on my own so the Summer Program sounded perfect! I did the street kids teaching program and I would highly recommend it if you're great with kids. If I had stayed for longer I think I would have asked to try the women's empowerment program, as we were told by previous volunteers that it was a very rewarding experience. If you like to keep busy, we were told you can choose commit to two programs if you don't mind spending your time volunteering twice a day. Again, that is something I would have liked to experience had I stayed in there for longer. For those of us who did the street kids program, we were done by midday which gave us the freedom to explore the many beautiful places in Jaipur. After merely two weeks there, I was in love with the city and all the people watching. Even simple things like catching the local bus into town or riding in the back compartment of the rickshaw, watching life go by in this magical place. Amber Fort is a wonderful to get lost in and the basecamp for trekking pushed us out of our comfort zones and into this amazing zen-like place - I really don't think my words could do that place justice. Just going to wrap it up here - it was a wonderful experience and we had a very informative briefing session upon our arrival. I would definitely recommend Sankalp Volunteer for the comforts, the location, the work itself and most importantly, the selfless people behind it all - Pranay and Amita, thank you for an incredible three weeks. I will never forget my first trip to India.

Program: Volunteer Abroad
Location: Australia
Posted: Sep 3, 2014
Overall:
9
Support:
9
Value:
9

A Broader View Volunteers Corp

I was surprised at the way I was included and accepted by the locals- not only my host family, but also villagers I passed who didn't speak English or know exactly who I was. On the way up the mountain from a festival in town, we passed a group of women playing drums outside the temple. They invited me to dance to their chant. I never expected I would be the first one to dance in a group of strangers at a festival, but how could I say no? It was my honor to be accepted and valued.
I'm glad that I found ABV. This organization will make you a part of the family and make you feel truly valued. I knew when I went to Nepal that I would have the adventure of my life, but I didn't anticipate feeling so at home. I always felt taken care of, and I had the chance to contribute, too. ABV put me in a home where I could experience Nepal in the most authentic way. By the time I left, my new friends were telling me I seemed Nepali. I'm so happy I could contribute to this organization that does real work to improve the living conditions of many Nepalis.

Program: Volunteer Abroad
Location: Nepal
Posted: Sep 3, 2014
Overall:
10
Support:
10
Value:
10

A Broader View Volunteers Corp

I have paraglide, trekked, canoed, ridden elephants, explored ancient temples, traipsed through jungles, had tea on a mountain top above the clouds, and watched a Himalayan sunrise. But as I wrapped up my time in Nepal, there is no doubt about what has been my greatest adventure of all: third world medicine. The doctors I was lucky enough to learn from work seven days a week and never go on vacation. They pay out of pocket for those who are too poor to pay for treatment. They fundraise relentlessly for basic equipment and can only afford to dream about CT scanners and MRI machines. They fight every day to treat health problems that would be little more than a passing concern in the United States. This experience has been life changing and opened my eyes to the incredibly blessed life that I lead. And although it is difficult for just one volunteer to make a difference, I feel truly honored and humbled to have been able to touch even a few lives. 


Program: Volunteer Abroad
Location: Nepal
Posted: Sep 3, 2014
Overall:
10
Support:
10
Value:
10

Frontier

I recently paid a lot of money to volunteer with Frontier for three weeks in Costa Rica as part of their ‘Big Cats, Primates and Turtles’ project. Unfortunately, the experience could not have gone any worse due to several issues which arose in the short time we were on the project.

Firstly, despite the 'Big Cats' advertised in the main heading (along with images and description on their website) this aspect of the project was unavailable due to lack of adequate equipment. According to project staff members London HQ have refused to replace the previous ones which were stolen six months prior. We made several enquirers about this issue, including several conversations with the manager at their London HQ- who often refused to even discuss the situation; instead insisting that we complete and sign a legally binding document (presumably to tie us up and waive our right to any refund or compensation).

Any opportunity of completing “ground-breaking research” (as advertised on the website) was limited due to the number of staff with relevant scientific background/qualifications- one of whom we have had little contact with as she has been forced to station herself at the overflow camp, again due to high numbers. Also, in general there was very limited opportunity to take part in any surveys, due to the number of volunteers; most volunteers averaged no more than three a week.

Health & Safety was also a complete disaster: despite being informed on the phone a few weeks prior to departure date that there will be 25 people on the project, there were approximately 36 volunteers on camp. This concern was compounded by the lack of staff members, several of whom are merely volunteers who have been given responsibilities to compensate for the lack of staff.

This was exposed on our first outing, when i turned around to find one of the volunteers suffering had an asthma attack Fortunately, I turned around soon enough to witness this and was able to rush back and assist her as there were no other staff around. Thankfully, she recovered. Although the staff member(s) were eventually alerted about this situation there were further problems a few hours later on the return walk when three volunteers went missing in the middle of the dense and potentially rainforest. Thankfully they found their way back to the camp; albeit very distressed.

Aside, from these specific incidents, there is a general health & safety concerns with having such an overcrowded campsite in that location.
However, it appeared over-crowdedness wasn’t an issue exclusive to this Frontier project: The one day a member of staff had to remove a tent from the camp to put in the garden of a nearby Frontier teaching volunteer house for the new volunteer(s) to sleep in due to lack of space in the actual house!

Due to the above experience we raised our concerns with project staff and subsequently contacted Frontier in London, and informed them we wanted the issues resolved before returning to camp. They (London office staff) refused to discuss the any specific issues insisting we put our complaint in writing; which we did. We were then requested to meet with the project manager at a nearby town who agreed and apologised for the number of Health & Safety mishaps which had taken place and agreed it was largely due to lack of staff- something which was out of her control. However, Frontier HQ would not be able to send the relevant equipment in order for volunteers to carry out the Big Cats aspect of the project. I then spoke to the manager at London HQ and informed i wasn't prepared to return to the camp until the issues had been resolved. However, in response to the issue about the lack of equipment; the HQ manager highlighted that although that particular survey isn't going on at present there were many examples of great ‘big cats’ research work which had been done in the five years when the project previously had the equipment! Needless to say this was no consolation for me and despite a number of serious issues and legitimate complaints Frontier’s (London HQ) handling of the matter was utterly disgraceful. They appeared to be more concerned to get me to complete the aforementioned legally binding document which was a series of ‘yes/no’ questions such as “Have you read our terms and conditions?” and other largely irrelevant questions, than they were of the Health & Safety of the volunteers and staff.
Strangely the manager at the London office we spoke to also refused to confirm whether Frontier was a non-profit based organisation (they claim they are) or a profitable company, as when you scratch below the surface of their online presence it becomes unclear.

Despite being stranded in a nearby town- unable to go back to camp, the manager refused to even agree to deal with the complaint sooner any sooner than the 'up to 14 days for a response' that their standard complaints procedure dictates. As a result I was forced to spend money i didn't expect to spend and depend on family members to transfer me more funds for food, accommodation etc.

I am completely shocked at what I thought was such an reputable "non-profit organisation" with ethical principles, can be so unprofessional and mislead customers in such a way. Of course, with the benefit of hindsight and more extensive research about frontier it is a lot less surprising. We are currently in dispute with the "non-profit organisation" and are awaiting responses to several correspondence which we have sent to them. However, we have been informed that many of the above issues continue to exist so i would strongly advise anyone to steer clear of this awful company.

P.S. the four stars for 'support' are solely for the project manager and other staff members in Costa Rica, who despite the shortcomings of the project, were supportive of our concerns.

Program:
Location: Costa Rica
Posted: Sep 2, 2014
Overall:
1
Support:
4
Value:
1

Comments

Dear Owen, We welcome all feedback, and appreciate the time which volunteers spend to provide us with this. This feedback is of course invaluable in helping us to improve all levels of our operations and we fully encourage constructive comments to be brought to our attention. We have numerous channels in place for volunteers to provide feedback, and a form has been sent to you in order to express these concerns further. The Frontier Team
Dear Owen, Sorry to hear of these issues. Regarding the overcrowding issue, indeed when you arrived there were indeed many volunteers on project however the camp was actually under capacity at that point. There were 4 members of science staff on project at the time with the Principal Investigator away at a satellite camp only for 3 days. In reference to the lack of Big Cats equipment, the camera traps were unfortunately stolen before your arrival so instead of buying more for them to be stolen again we are working with our project partner on track searches, stake outs and with their camera trap work. The Asthma attack was unfortunately unavoidable however the staff member involved had her inhaler and was well afterwards. Regards, Harriette (Costa Rica field project manager)
This is spot on. I have also been on this project and it was a far cry from what was sold to me! Unfortunately i too, fell for Frontiers deceptive advertising strategy, that promises you what they are claiming to be a 'once in a life time experience'. This couldn't be further from the truth. As someone who has travelled previously and already has a clear idea of the benefits that can be gained from it, i can assure anyone thinking of doing a project with frontier, that what they offer, is little more than an opportunity for you to hand over your hard earned cash to them. Certainly NOT the once in a lifetime experience i was expecting. I honestly couldn't give one example of conservation that i observed whilst on this project. I experienced a lot of the same issues written above and would also credit the the field staff for coping as well as they did under the circumstances that they have been forced to deal with in this rainforest camp. Another thing, don't fall for the cleverly worded description of the Corcovado National Park, YOU WILL NOT BE GOING THERE, unless of course you decide to leave camp and pay to go with what little is left of your savings after paying for the project!

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