I had a fantastic experience during my time in Mandeville, Jamaica. I volunteered on the Alternative Spring Break program this year for one week. Although it wasn't long, it was extremely useful and benefited the program. I was put on a building site to start building bathrooms for children at a primary school in rural Mandeville. Their current bathrooms have no running water and are infectious, so there's a 6 month project to build them bathrooms with running water that are much more sanitary. We also had an outreach day where we went to a man's house (one room, no electricity, no running water) and refurbished it. We put in new roof covers, painted the walls, and redid the floors. All of the volunteers also bought the man a brand new mattress. My host family was incredible and they introduced me to a lot of Jamaican culture and food which was amazing! We also had a bit of downtime and were able to see the beautiful scenery Jamaica has to offer. It was the best spring break I've ever been on and I would love to have the experience with Projects Abroad again, hopefully for longer than a week!
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Established in 1992, Projects Abroad is the world’s leading short-term international volunteer organization. Over 8,000 people a year join our programs in over 25 amazing countries around the world. All participants receive unparalleled in-country support from our full-time, professional staff to ensure that the experience is safe, worthwhile, and fun.
My summer spent with Projects Abroad in Southern Africa is one that I will never forget. I stumbled upon their website inquiry form late one night while researching internship opportunities in Cape Town and was blown away by how supportive and helpful their staff was right from the get go. Within hours of submitting my request for more information I was connected with a volunteer coordinator who was able to answer all of my questions and help me get the ball rolling. This support was only intensified once I arrived in country. The entire staff at the Journalism Project (and head office) in Cape Town was always willing to share advice about great local activities, day trips, and sometimes, just a friendly face when you were feeling a bit homesick. A trip with Projects immerses you in the local culture immediately upon arrival. By living with local host families you get to experience the country in a way that you simply wouldn't as a tourist. Not only was my host mom a blast to be around, but she took care of us when we got sick. was always interested in how our day went, and would give us the inside scoop on amazing local places to check out. I felt so welcomed by her that the overwhelming stress of being jet lagged in a foreign country was gone right after she gave me a tour of the house, joined me for lunch, and helped me get settled. The Journalism project was a great experience and our editor in chief made it a point to get us out of the office and away from our computers and into the city. We attended other projects, were able to sit in on local Press Club luncheons, and got to hit the pavement and explore all of the different stories Cape Town had to offer. She also was incredibly flexible and helpful when it came to my college credit requirements. Filling out a pile of paperwork and surveys for me without even batting an eye. Down time was spent exploring with the other volunteers who quickly formed a close knit community even though people were coming and going quite literally every single day. Overall this trip was enlightening, exciting, and fulfilling in more ways that I could have ever imagined. I would recommend Projects Abroad to anybody looking to have an authentic work experience abroad with a safe and reliable company (who still know how to have a good time!)
I went to the Galapagos Islands to teach English for a month though the program Projects Abroad. The staff was incredibly supportive, not only passionate about their work, but also personable and kind to every volunteer. Immediately I felt looked out for and like all my needs we're being met. For my teaching project, I worked at one of the local high schools. I was paired with an English teacher and helped him plan lessons, grade, and worked with him on his pronunciation. I lived with a well selected host family. Every volunteer had such a great experience with their families and the staff constantly checked in to make sure there were not issues. I had the opportunity to see so much on the galapagos, it was far and away better than I could have ever imagined. I met so many amazing people, locals and volunteers. There were always new volunteers each day from all over the world of all ages and purposes! Projects abroad really immerses you into the culture of the country and by the end you feel like a local, living with a family, working with locals, discovering the secrets to the country or area that tourists don't always know about. I always felt safe and loved every minute of my volunteer trip!
Getting to the island was so scary. I was put on a bus with no other English speakers and told my trip would be 3 hours long, 8 hours later with no food we got to a beach where I was told to get out and ushered onto a small wooden boat that looked like it would sink. Luckily I survived the trip to the island.
The accommodation and bathrooms were so unhygienic I got sick almost immediately. There's no septic system so you have to put all of your used toilet paper in a opened bin beside the toilet which is in the same room as the shower facilities. There's nowhere to wash your hands and to flush the toilet your pour water down the bowl.
I also have a pre-existing medical condition that I was told I would be able to manage over there until I arrived and found the medical facilities on the island were very basic and almost non existent. I was apparently not the first person worried about this as diving is a dangerous activity and can require medical attention. I was also worried when I found out not one staff member knew first aid.
The staff are very friendly at first then become immediately standoffish on the second day. The only time they lighten up is when they are drinking which is most nights.
I'm a young person and enjoy a drink or few but not every night. I also felt very out of place because some of the people in charge were younger than I was and were almost only interested in sleeping with the volunteers. Even though most of the volunteers were already sleeping together or had done in the past.
There are posters all over the accommodation that state no drugs on the program. This couldn't be further from the truth. Almost every volunteer was smoking marijuana and taking pills every day and would come back to the house out of their brains. Not to mention certain staff felt it okay to supply the volunteers with drugs and were happy to do it with them.
There was also very little conservation work happening at all. Volunteers could work on their "own projects" which mostly consisted of us watching movies or reading each other's books. Only a few volunteers had actually collected any relevant data while most of them had not even researched anything, we just tagged along on the dives.
I also didn't even see a seahorse in my time on the island. I was told they'd seen 4 seahorses but I find that hard to believe.
The food was very mediocre to poor quality. If you don't like rice, don't go. That's what I survived on and occasionally ate fish. The chicken was disgusting and pork often still had skin and hair attached as well as parts of bones. There were so many times when no one even knew what the meat was. There are so restaurants on the island that do amazing food though so I recommend those.
There is no interaction with the community other than the children saying hello every time you walk by. I was advertised that we would be teaching and interacting with children as well as teaching them about conservation only to find this was never a part of the program.
When I left not one person from projects abroad contacted me or even saw me to the airport. I was simply put in a taxi and dropped off.
Two weeks after I returned home the project manager emailed me and asked how I was as they hadn't heard from me, they weren't even aware that I had returned home.
For the amount of money you pay it's definitely not worth it. Apparently a girl left before I got there, she changed her flights home. I wish I was fortunate enough to do that because I would have gotten out of there in the first week.
On the plus side:
I made some amazing friends who were equally as disgusted as I was at the organisation and overall let down of the program.
I also enjoyed the experience of seeing another country and culture.
I would not however recommend this to anyone unless they are into 'cheap drugs and alcohol' and watching movies every day and going for the occasional dive.
A spur of the moment decision to volunteer led me to find Projects Abroad and a nutrition project in Fiji. I spent a few days researching different organizations. Many were appealing, however, Projects Abroad seemed to be a very reputable organization that had nearly everything that I was looking for.
From my initial submission of the application I was receiving emails and assistance on how to efficiently finish the other requirements. With the guidance of a volunteer advisor I was assisted on the application process, all of the required documentation, flights and itinerary, visa questions, travel insurance as well as, general advise for travel.
I spent 4 weeks on the nutrition project. I took part in the early stages of the project and was given the opportunity to experiment and implement programs. Although I was unable to make any major contributions to the project in terms of new ideas, I played a role in the existing program. Much of my time was spent going into the public schools around Nadi and providing free health checks to the teachers. This included taking and recording their name, height, weight, waist and him measurements, blood pressure, and blood sugar readings. From there we would consult with them on their lifestyle and health and introduce to them the ‘kana vinaka/healthy eating challenge” and exercise programs.
My experience volunteering was so much more than just the project itself. These 4 weeks would not have been the same without the influence of my host family, the other volunteers, and the PA staff. I was so welcomed by my host family and was grateful for the experience and opportunity to learn about their culture. I was also so glad to have met the other volunteers. We were able to spend a lot of time together in the evenings and on the weekends and I can now say that I have many new friends (from all over the world!). Vinaka vakalevu to the Projects Abroad organization and more importantly to the wonderful PA staff of Nadi, Fiji.
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