I volunteered with Projects Abroad in Morocco for spring break as a college student. It was an incredible trip, and i regard it as one of the most important in my life. All the volunteers on our trip got along really well. Our program coordinators were absolutely amazing and I am so thankful for that. Going abroad to Morocco was something that my parents were worried about because of safety, but I did not feel unsafe there. Staying with a host family was a really memorable experience because I got to practice a language I am learning. I would completely recommend Projects Abroad because they are organized and effective in addition to engaging and adventurous. The price was a factor, but I think that you are paying for a lot of the things that ensure your organized, easy and safe trip. Well worth it.
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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.
After graduating college with a degree in communications, I was still unsure of the direction I wanted to head in with my career. After talking with a friend of mine who volunteered with Projects Abroad, I just knew I had to take some time off and volunteer abroad. I contacted Projects Abroad, still unsure of what my future would hold, and they helped me sort through the details seamlessly. I was able to decide where and when I wanted to volunteer with complete flexibility, and they supported me in my choices 100% (unlike some other companies that require rigid time periods/destinations). I decided that I would volunteer in Costa Rica for one month. They soon provided me with all of my host family information and location prior to leaving, as well as dates for orientation and information booklets on the country I was going to live in.
Once I got to my new home in Costa Rica, the staff supported me from day one. On top of transporting me to my host family, introducing me to my fellow volunteers, and giving me an orientation of the program, they also took me around the city and showed me helpful locations (banks, restaurants, bus stations, etc). Also, they came to my placement with me the first day of volunteering to make sure everything was okay. Knowing that you have an organization behind you full of support and information makes the entire transition much more comfortable and enjoyable.
My host family was great and welcomed me with open arms, including me in their family traditions and get-togethers. Since I was also living with another volunteer, the two of us would spend time with our host family but also explore Costa Rica on our own. I had as much independence from the company as I wanted, knowing that I could reach out if I had questions or concerns, but also explore the country, have fun, and experience things on my own. I was able to travel the country and also create new projects at my placement (repainting chairs, etc.) I loved my experience with Projects Abroad so much, that it actually led to me teaching English and living abroad for another year and a half in other countries. I am now back home getting my Master’s in Social Work, but I owe all of my experiences and future goals to that first step I took with Projects Abroad! It really changed my life!
I could not have asked for a better experience volunteering in Argentina with Projects Abroad. I have traveled internationally before doing volunteer work and this was by far the most organized company/organization I have ever been with. Everyone at the office is so helpful and will personally assist you with any issues or concerns you may have. For example, I had trouble finding an ATM that would allow me to withdraw money and one of the coordinators walked me from bank to bank to help me solve the problem.
The Law & Human Rights project is awesome! The coordinator, Vicky, is amazing! I spent 3 months working with this office and found my work diversified and challenging. I was able to work with young children and teens who were living in government institutions, along with the homeless, incarcerated youth, and victims of all sorts of human rights abuses. The office staff is great at getting you plugged in, but you also have to be willing to dive in head first! I worked long days, at least 8 hours but the staff is so understanding and easy to communicate with about work and personal issues.
My host mom was great! I must admit I had some concerns regarding a host family but it turned out better than I could have hoped. I was assigned a roommate and I am so grateful! I made friends with other volunteers and was able to see some of their homes as well, and I can say that all of the host homes I saw were very clean and the families were so friendly! The office is great about planning social events so that you can meet other volunteers - one week they do a social and the other they do a community day where volunteers get together and...volunteer! This is an awesome way to meet volunteers from other projects outside of Law & Human Rights.
Projects Abroad was exactly the organization I was looking for when I was designing my gap year before college. It is a competent organization that is available during the most stressful parts of traveling: international flights and orientation to a foreign country. Then when you are comfortable with your new home, they give you the freedom to explore on your own volition.
My time in South Africa is a perfect depiction of that. I was in a challenging but rewarding volunteer project working at a human rights/law office that provides free services, where I grew to the responsibility handed to me. It was an incredible experience, especially my visits to two women’s shelters. Talking with them on their constitutional rights and how they can use the law in their favor was enlightening for all of us; learning what was common knowledge and what was not interested me a lot, since it aligned with what I wanted to do with my life.
But what I also remember about my time in South Africa is the incredible array of experiences I had outside of the project. From shark cage diving with Great White sharks to cuddling with a blanket and some friends at an outdoor theater in Cape Town, and the added thrill bungee jumping off a bridge after a wildlife safari, I had many opportunities to explore the Cape Town area. The perfect balance between being involved and helping the community you are in while also enjoying everything the community has to offer is what makes Projects Abroad such a good choice.
I spent 6 weeks on the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador working on preserving and restoring its delicate ecosystem. That project lasted 4 weeks, and the last two weeks I spent helping teach English at a local high school.
The family I stayed with was completely wonderful. They provided three meals a day (always filling and delicious) and even had a housekeeper! I was given my own private room and bathroom that had a separate entrance from the house itself. While I did not get as close to my host family as other volunteers did, I always enjoyed talking to them and their large extended family. My house was in a fairly central location and I could easily walk anywhere in the city in no more than 20 minutes!
In regards to my volunteer experience, it was the opportunity of a lifetime. During the environmental portion, I was able to see and do things all over the island that tourists are unable to do. I fed tortoises over 100 years old, walked through and restored parts of the island that no tourist has been to before, etc. We ended each day by 1 o'clock, so I had the rest of the day to explore or just hang out on the beach with other volunteers!
The teaching experience was OK. It was very easy (but slightly boring). I helped grade homework and tests, as well as helped the teacher with punctuation and grammar rules.
The staff was extremely helpful in answering all questions I had and even helped me and my friends plan a weekend getaway to another island nearby.
I would definitely recommend the environment program to anyone interested!!
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