Projects Abroad

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8.9 / 10 after 108 Reviews Based on overall, support & value average ratings

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.

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I decided to volunteer abroad as every now and then I like to do something that puts me out of my comfort zone, so I chose South Africa as I wanted to go somewhere that I had never been before and somewhere I didn't actually know much about, so I would be in a situation that was unfamiliar to me. I decided to go after leaving college as I believed the experience would help my confidence and independence for going to university – I figured that if I could go to a foreign country by myself and live with a family I had never met before, then moving out and studying for a degree shouldn't be a problem!

I decided to go with Projects Abroad because of the support that was given. Even before I had made my mind up at to exactly where I wanted to go and what I wanted to do, they were on hand to answer any questions that I could think of. I also liked the fact that the price covered everything for when you were out there, so once I got to South Africa I was just able to enjoy my time there,without having to worry about budgeting and therefore possibly missing out on certain opportunities, such as social events.

I was actually very surprised when I first came out the airport – people drove on the left hand side of the road and the road signs were familiar! Not too different from home. But the thing that really shocked me, which I think affects all visitors and volunteers, is the very distinct gap between the wealthy and the impoverished. Coming from the UK, this sort of obvious divide between the poor and rich does not exist. People are not living in houses which they have constructed out of whatever materials they could find. When I was driven past the oldest and second biggest township in Cape Town I realised that this was something I had never witnessed before.

I was part of the 2 week special placement, which I really enjoyed – even if it did go too quickly! My host family were some of the nicest people I have ever met. They made me feel so welcome and comfortable, and the food! Sometimes I do find myself wistfully thinking of the delicious meals that Faye used to cook – including homemade foccacia bread, which is probably my favourite food of all time now!

The first week I was there felt like a crash course in getting to know Cape Town and its history in Human Rights, as it included visits to places such as the Slave Lodge, the District Six museum and Robben Island.
I also got to visit several townships where I was able to talk to South African citizens. This included helping out at a soup kitchen, which many of the children attended. Those children displayed a tremendous amount of energy and love, attaching themselves to you at any opportunity! I definitely felt like a piece of my heart was left behind there.

At the weekend I had the opportunity to complete the famous “Garden Route” trip, which, although involving a 5am start, was definitely one of the best parts of my time in South Africa. The two days included a three hour safari, a walk with lions and the chance to ride elephants! My favourite part however was visiting the wildlife centre where I had the chance to interact with lemurs (and by interacting I mean having them clamber all over me!)

The second week was when I was really able to focus on the current Human Rights issues that South Africa is facing. I met people who are currently tackling these issues, such as those involved in the African Scholars Fund and Gun Free South Africa. These groups really made me aware of what exactly were the causes of children not being able to receive education and illegal gun ownership, and what was being done to resolve these problems. I finished the week by presenting to the other volunteers in the Human Rights Office on The Access to Sufficient Food in South Africa. I learnt a lot from researching it and I hope the other volunteers also learnt something new.

It was quite difficult to leave South Africa in the end. Even having been there for a short time, I had made friends who I know will be my lifelong pen pals and totally immersed myself in the new, exciting culture of Cape Town. A few days after I had returned I went to a local music festival which I have been going to for a few years. It felt rather strange to be standing in a muddy field in wellies, when a week before I had been seeing animals such as springbok and ostriches in the wild - which were on sale to eat at one of the food stalls!

I am already planning my next trip to South Africa with Projects Abroad, but it might be more wishful thinking seeing as I am about to become a student! But my advice to those thinking of volunteering is not to think about it too much, obviously planning for your trip is important but try not to get too caught up in what might or might not happen when you're there – just go for it, you won't regret it.

Program:
Location:
Posted: November 10, 2013
Overall:
8
Support:
10
Value:
10
Age:
19

After a fabulous and busy trip to Cape Town, I’d like to share my experience and encourage others to volunteer abroad!

Although many people on the teaching project teach English, as a music student I was thoroughly interested in being placed within a school that could use help in that area. I phoned the Projects Abroad head office and they found a placement completely suited to me.

My host family lived just down the road from my placement and 6 other volunteers stayed at the same house (3 of those were placed in the same school as me so we walked together every day). I could not have asked for a better host family to look out for me. They treated me like family from the minute I arrived; giving me advice on where to visit, how to travel around, cooking me fantastic Capetonian meals every night, and of course my 5-year-old host sister keeping me company throughout my stay!

My placement mostly involved taking choir and band rehearsals, as academic music was not taught in most schools due to budget cuts. I therefore made the most of it, arranging a song by Jason Mraz to teach the main school choir. By the end of the month, the choir had learnt the song by heart and performed it to Projects Abroad staff, causing me to well up with pride. (If you would like to have a listen to the end result click, on this link: https://soundcloud.com/jessicanorton14/i-wont-give-up-hyde-park)
Even during break and lunchtimes, myself and other volunteers at the school found that we were never left alone by the kids! They would always be asking us questions about our life back home, how long we were staying, and occasionally I found myself being asked whether I would eventually marry one of the other volunteers.... (it didn’t help that Brian, the other volunteer involved in this rumor, would agree with them and start describing the ceremony...!)

As our placement finished at about 3:30pm each day, myself and the other volunteers in my house would explore Cape Town every afternoon, taking a minibus taxi to the train station. The forms of transport out there were so familiar to us in such a short time, and on our induction we were told an easy way to tell which minibus taxis we should use. They usually came by our road every 10 minutes. Although we didn’t hit the town hard every night, we did go out just before each volunteer left to give them a proper send off, and for this our host family suggested a private taxi driver that they had used for years, so no matter where I went, or when, I always felt safe.

Throughout the planning and the trip itself, Projects Abroad staff really were fantastic. The personal webpage was invaluable, giving me all the information I needed including who I would be living with and a bit about my placement. I was called by a staff member in South Africa the day before I left to make sure I didn’t have any last-minute worries or queries, and at the airport I was greeted by a member of staff to take me straight to my host family.

If you are thinking of traveling abroad, I would thoroughly recommend Projects Abroad; they care about each and every one of their volunteers and will make sure you have the best time on your placement. Not only that but you meet people from all corners of the globe in the same situation as you. You make friends for life on these trips, and will have experiences that will stay with you for the rest of your life. I will always have a place in my heart for the people and places I experienced whilst volunteering, and I hope you grab the opportunity to do the same!

Program:
Location:
Posted: November 8, 2013
Overall:
10
Support:
10
Value:
10
Age:
22

When I first decided to take a gap year and travel abroad to India I felt excitement, tinged with a hint of apprehension: I had never travelled alone before and even the thought of organising my project seemed an adventure in itself. For someone who had just finished their A-levels I had to make a transition from the theoretical to the practical, moving from Sixth-Form studies to organising my trip, sending off for a visa, booking flights, arranging the details of my plans, and raising funds. I shouldn’t have been so concerned; choosing, planning and organising my trip was straightforward with the help and support from Projects Abroad.

Through the website at http://www.projects-abroad.co.uk/, and the Projects Abroad brochure, I was easily able to search into the destination and project I was interested in, finding out about information specific to India and the projects on location. With the ‘request a call back’ and online information sessions I could ask any questions I had: the feedback I received was helpful and I always received a prompt.

After submitting my application for a three-month journalism project in India, Projects Abroad sent me information which helped me to prepare and organise my trip. I was given a comprehensive information pack, a log-in for http://www.myprojectsabroad.org/, and the details of my host family.

By the time January arrived, the New Year bringing my departure, I was full of excitement and anticipation for the adventure ahead. Although it may seem daunting at first, don’t let the thought of travelling alone stop you from doing something different and seizing the opportunity to take the trip of a lifetime. It is liberating to have a new-found independence and the only ties you have are to your all-too-heavy suitcase!

Upon my arrival in Madurai I was met by Victor, a member of the staff from the Projects Abroad office in India. It wasn’t until three of us approached the man with the beaming smile, holding aloft the Projects Abroad sign, that I realised the two volunteers from Germany I had befriended, on the bus to the arrivals department, were also doing their projects, care and sports, with Projects Abroad. From this point on I was never alone. I had never expected to meet so many like-minded people from across the world and the volunteers I shared my experience with, the people I am now lucky enough to call my friends-for-life, were one of the best aspects of my trip, helping to make my time in India so memorable.

Madurai is a fascinating city; living in a host family it really becomes your home, each volunteer you meet becoming another member of a strange, new, extended family. It is difficult to ever feel homesick when you are surrounded by so many other volunteers; there is always so much to talk about, so much to see and so much to do. I was lucky enough to stay with a family that supported up to eight volunteers. On average I shared a room with two other volunteers and we became as close as sisters. From arranging weekend trips to Kodaikanal, a beautiful hill station in Tamil Nadu; to local adventures up to the ‘Monkey Temple’; afternoon walks home via the watermelon-wallah, and evenings spent watching the sunset on the roof of our home in Moolakarai; we shared everything together. It is safe to say that I had never laughed so much, nor had as much fun, as I had over the space of time I spent in Madurai.

Working on the Madurai Messenger was a fantastic opportunity. A challenging and exciting project, the magazine gives volunteers the chance to choose their subject choice, within the theme of a particular month’s issue; conduct interviews, often on-location; write their articles; and see the printed result. Although I had no plans for a future career in journalism, I enjoyed writing, and the project couldn’t have been better for me. As a volunteer journalist with Projects Abroad I was immediately thrown into the deep end, learning on the job as I interviewed students at a Pongal Festival celebrating the harvest, with guests from the Iowa University, USA. I soon adjusted to the fast-paced progression presented by each issue. In my first month alone I travelled with a group of other journalists to Munnar for our issue on India’s tea plantations, I conducted a Skype interview with eminent American field biologist, Dr Clifford Rice, and I wrote about the illusive Nilgiri Tahr of the Western Ghats.

As journalists you find yourself immersed in the rich and vibrant culture of India. Opportunities with the magazine had me travelling to Chennai on night-trains, helping to release endangered Olive Ridley turtle hatchlings, tasting culinary delights prepared by a YouTube internet sensation, riding elephants through the forests of Munnar, and driving to the world’s highest tea plantation where we sampled cups of steaming chai. I attended festivals, visited the cinema, participated in the February’s One Billion Rising event at the Ghandi Museum, and travelled to Valparai for my cover story on elephant-human conflict in Tamil Nadu.

The people we met and the stories they told were incredible. Whether I was behind the notepad of questions, or attending an interview conducted by a fellow volunteer, I was fortunate enough to meet many inspiring individuals with fascinating stories to share. From wildlife photographer, Sriram Janak, to feminist poets, Salma, Sukirtharani, and Kutti Revathi; founder of Mahatma Schools, Premalatha Panneerselvam, to Dr. P. Kumarasamy, ‘The Batman of Madurai’; all were incredible to interview. The histories, achievements and testimonies which they recounted will remain as enshrined in my memories as it shall in the print of the Messenger.

One of my favourite aspects of my trip with Projects Abroad were the weekend trips. It was great to be able to explore Tamil Nadu with the help and guidance from the organisation. Weekend trips were also fantastic opportunities to meet other volunteers, find out about the projects others were working on, and to make friends with groups you may choose to travel on with. My first weekend in India was spent at a Pongal celebration held at a local school for the January festival. Volunteers joined staff and students, dressing up in saris, and learning about the local traditions and festivities. Everyone enjoyed the weekend of games, song, dance, and, of course, the auspicious – and delicious – pongal!

Other weekend highlights included a trip to Rameshwaram where we visited an array of vibrant temples, enjoyed a thali lunch, and swam in the pristine shores of Dhanushkodi Beach beneath the sunset. After meeting volunteers on other projects, a group of us organised a weekend trip to Kollam and Varkala in neighbouring state, Kerala. Staff from the Projects Abroad Indian office helped us to plan our itinerary, booking our train tickets and arranging our houseboat tour of the backwaters.

I was always so touched by the lengths to which people went to help us, to accommodate us, and to make sure we were safe, happy and well. From organising transport and travel, cultural workshops, and tours, to checking up on me when I was sick, taking me to visit the doctor and getting me the medication I needed; there is always a member of staff looking out for you, or just a phone call away.

The food offered in India is incredible and the culinary delights of South India are often a mysterious surprise for the western traveller. My experience in India turned me into a true foodie and I long for dosa, idly, poori, thali, raitha, and other Southern treats - I know that I should soon return and my stomach shall make sure of that! Whilst your host family may prepare pasta or noodles, most of the food we ate was South Indian cuisine, and my roommates and I would take regular bus trips into the city for dinner out in one of the many authentic eateries offered in Madurai. In addition to this, we would join the weekly ‘volunteer’s dinner’ on the rooftop of the Residency Hotel where Projects Abroad volunteers would meet up for a meal, a catch-up, and a Kingfisher. This was a great opportunity to keep in touch with other volunteers on different placements and weekend trip plans were often cemented over a chicken biryani, or a butter chicken masala.

My experience as a volunteer in India with Projects Abroad was incredible. Whilst it required a good deal of funding, looking back and considering the experiences I have had, the friends I made, the lessons learnt, along with the life-skills and character development that comes with travelling abroad, as cliché; as it sounds, it has been priceless. Volunteering abroad gives you a new perspective, you are able to experience a new culture, meet people you would never have crossed before and you can see the world through a fresh set of eyes. Seize the moment whilst you have the chance, take the opportunity you have always considered and I can assure you that you shall not look back.

Volunteering with Projects Aboard gives you the chance to travel and more. With Projects Abroad you will be a part of your destination – rather than a tourist looking in on a city, you will be immersed in it, truly experiencing the culture for yourself. As a volunteer you will be constantly learning and will engage with an active role, be that by teaching in a local orphanage, or writing about the extraordinary efforts of a neurosurgeon. Your experience will be enriching for yourself and for your CV.

My decision to volunteer with Projects Abroad was one of the best I have ever made and I hope that my review shall help others to make similar decisions. Your project abroad will never leave you and when you are not volunteering or travelling overseas, you will be planning your next trip…

Program:
Location:
Posted: November 7, 2013
Overall:
10
Support:
10
Value:
10
By: L_Dean
Age:
19

I completed the two week medical program in India with Projects Abroad. During the first week, we went to several outreach facilities such as a family planning center, a leprosy village, and a special needs school. We were able to have direct interaction with all of the patients we met and I learned a lot. During the second week, we shadowed at a hospital and watched many surgeries. I even got to see open heart surgery! The surgeons allow you to take pictures in the operation room so I got some really great photos. This is definitely a once in a life time opportunity and I thought that the staff and other volunteers were very friendly and helpful. I learned a lot about the medical field and I was even able to take a CPR course! Every day we had lots of fun activities planned so I didn't feel like I was wasting my time. Overall, I would definitely recommend the program to anyone, because it was truly a unique and memorable experience.

Program:
Location:
Posted: November 2, 2013
Overall:
9
Support:
9
Value:
8
By: Nennels
Age:
17

During my volunteer internship at a local government hospital in Dar es Salaam I was able to have the most eye opening experience of my life. Day to day I would work under the supervision of doctors, nurses and students who were always more than willing to take time and talk you through everything that was happening in the hospital. I was assigned to work in a certain ward each week, but if I felt uncomfortable in a certain place I was free to change that schedule. The staff was welcoming and allowed me to assist in as much as possible.
My home stay was by far the best part. My family opened their arms and treated me as one of their own. This experience made me completely immersed into the culture. I ate all of my meals with the family and participated in family parties and outings.
Though the people in Dar aren't strangers to outsiders, you will be stared at and treated differently. You will have a safe and fun experience if you listen to the Projects Abroad staff on safe travels.

Program:
Location:
Posted: September 2, 2013
Overall:
8
Support:
10
Value:
9
By: sarahs
Age:
20

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