Please take a look at some of our independent reviews on the web below, or scroll down to read some feedback stories from our volunteer programmes and get a sense of the experiences our Projects offer. Be sure to also check out Tumblr or our Blog from the Field which includes stories from volunteers and staff at projects around the World.
Samantha Wilson was part of the 8 week Eco Divemaster programme on our Reef Buddy project in Carriacou in May-July:
My 8 week Eco Divemaster programme was a memorable experience. 8 week time well spent I was surprised how much I learnt in this time frame. This was going to be my first volunteer work abroad in Coral conservation and Lionfish containment.
My objective during this volunteer programme was to learn and contribute to Coral conservation work and Lionfish containment and to progress in scuba diving, as I wanted to venture in a whole new career in the diving world, to certify in PADI open water, Advanced open water and Divemaster. That’s exactly what I accomplished during this 8 week programme. I gained confidence and valuable diving experience at the Reef buddy project.
The Reef buddy project has an incredible setting to learn various dive courses and to learn and contribute to Coral conservation work and Lionfish containment. The Turquoise and Cobalt blue colours of the Caribbean sea is incredibly beautiful, I was always looking forward to getting in the water when I was there. It made me feel so refreshed. There are various dive sites you can visit, each has its own unique qualities. Reef walls/ volcanic bubble gardens and a wreck with sightings of exotic fishes and wonderful marine life.
The team at the project are full of enthusiasm and inspiring knowledge and will happily make your diving experience an enjoyable one. I also have to add my lovely 8 week stay at John’s Unique resort. Owners are a delightful couple Tim and Mishka with their friendly staff, made my stay so warm and hospitable which I'll never forget. I had a wonderful time and so should other people out there. It's absolutely rewarding and gives you a fresh perspective on life. Thank you too WorkingAbroad for giving me the opportunity and to many more people in the future.
Anna Hubbard from the UK, volunteered at our Elephant Volunteer project in Thailand:
I had the most amazing 2 weeks and learned so much about the seriously harmful impact that the mass tourism industry has on elephants. During my time there I washed and fed the elephants every day, having prepared their food for them, went on a walk twice a week to find the elephants roaming free in their natural habitat, and looked after the other animals on site, as there are many cats and dogs that need looking after too.
We also took a trip to the local school where I managed to teach a class some English, that was great fun. It was great that, although the main purpose of the trip was to look after elephants, they weren’t always the main focus, which was a good thing, otherwise I think it would have felt more like a zoo rather than a project to actually help these animals. The whole purpose of the sanctuary is also to promote ethical tourism, something that I will take away with me now and promote to all my friends at home!
Victoria Golding, a Marine Science student from the UK, wrote about her week at the Dolphin & Whale Research project in July. Here's a part of her writings:
Meeting the team was great, everyone was so welcoming and had a lively and pleasant attitude. The boat was a lot larger than I had imagined, with wooden décor and the glimmer of paintings of great big blue beasts on the walls. The harbour was large, with even larger boats and extravagant yachts neatly parked in their berths awaiting the next morning’s sunrise.
I’d say the third day was my favourite. We examined the Sea long and hard that day. The sea conditions were OK. Three people were on watch constantly throughout the day to search for any blows from a whale nearby or the glimpse of a dolphin breaching from the water. One person searched on the left side of the vessel, the second on the right and then one of the crew members spanning the entire horizon. Each team was on duty for one hour and then swapped with another group. It got really hot up there, in constant exposure to the fiery sun and hats only got you so far. I’d say my favourite view on the boat was sitting on the bow of the boat, only seeing the tip of the nose of the vessel dip up and down into the oncoming waves, with splashes of seawater either side of me as the waves crashed over the gunwale. The only thing between myself was the stretch of blue to the horizon and the Sun. Just as I was about to start my one-hour shift on watch duty, a blow was spotted! I climbed to the top of the boat and within 5 minutes I saw the blow of my first sighting of a Fin Whale. It was truly amazing. I was ecstatic!
The rest of the week was spent with more trips out searching. On our last day we came across another Fin Whale, a Sunfish, jellyfish and many experts in flying - seabirds. We also had other lectures during the week covering how to identify certain marine mammals, what their behaviours are like in social groups, the 25 years’ worth of research summary and the work that the project has achieved and where the research is heading to in the future.
This was an invaluable experience and I not only learned so much about cetaceans and the work that is carried out in order to help the preservation of the conservation of these animals, but I also learned a lot about myself and where I would like to expand my skills as a scientist. So much work and dedication has gone into this project by the head scientists and employers of the organisation who make it all happen and it was an honour to be a part of journey.
One thing which has stuck with me since this experience is the beauty that is right on our doorstep, free to everyone to experience and enjoy. It pains me to see the ocean being polluted with plastics and garbage from our carelessness and disrespect for the environment. It was spectacular seeing these creatures in their natural environment, however the time I spent snorkelling in the evening I could only fear at what might happen to these creatures when I came across numerous amounts of plastic waste in the oceans. To say the least, I did not only see this at the shallow beach coasts, but also out at sea, too many miles far from our garbage bins! Tethys has done a fantastic job in protecting these cetaceans’ home, studies have shown increases in the whale and dolphin populations – it’s amazing. They have inspired me to help the oceans in my own way.
Fenja Squirrell, from the UK, volunteered for 1 month at the Bird, Mammal and Herpetofauna teams at our Amazon Basin Project in Peru:
My time was amazing just a month, not long enough. I learned so much and everyone was really nice! Despite me being the only volunteer for the majority of the time, I made amazing friends with the staff. I still miss being in the jungle and one day hope to maybe live and work there. I was on the bird team for the majority of the time and did alot of bird ringing, which was fantastic way to add to my UK bird ringing experiences, with so many wonderful different species. My highlights were the rufous motmot and the Ivory billed Acaricari!
After a hearing a sighting from one of the locals two weeks before we arrived to the community of a harpy eagle coming to the trail and picking up an armadillo off the path and flying off with it, we had to try and look for it! Trekking through the rainforest to search for a harpy eagle nest for over three hours in the hot, sweaty humid jungle was an eye opening experience. We found three nests one of which had an Ornate hawk eagle in it, which is a beautiful huge raptor. Unfortunately no Harpy eagle but was still a really fun hike and we were rewarded by the eagle in the end! I managed to visit a local Harpy eagle rescue centre later in trip to see the powerful birds up close!
I also went out walking during the day looking for mammals and did some night walks for mammals and amphibians! An amazing find was a huge pit viper which was brought back to the community to try and educate them on snakes and not to kill every snake they saw. In one of the communities their efforts had clearly worked, as locals would catch the snakes and handle them to show their strength rather than simply killing them!
As a vegetarian I was slightly worried by what food I would get, but the chef made me some delicious dishes and really made lots of effort! Overall it was an epic trip filled with so much wildlife, and I would recommend it to anyone who has a love of nature and can cope with the many biting insects and ants which are part of the jungle life.
Alex Hormann, from USA, volunteered as a Lagoon Monitoring Intern at our Blue Lagoon Coral Reef project in Mauritius from September to December:
I personally have been all over the world, and visited many different waters and coral reefs. Therefore, I feel safe saying that Mauritius’s coral reefs are a jewel in the worlds ocean, offering one of the most pristine, and diverse coral reef systems I have ever seen. I have also seen the rapid rate in which this country is developing, its economy expanding and its people growing in number.
As with many other nations around the world, development of a country goes hand in hand with environmental degradation. In many Latin American countries and in Asian countries, the price of development has been the destruction of their natural treasures, their reefs, their national inheritance. As these countries and populations grew, cheap food and decorations became more important than future generations, and their reefs were raped of all life and resources leaving only a shadow of its prior beauty and productivity. This is what I see happening right now in Mauritius, although it has just started.
While the reefs are still here and they are still beautiful, they will not be for long if nothing is done to save them. People may see this as robbing them of their human rights for food and money, but it is merely preserving these resources so that their kids, and future generations can also reap the bounties of the healthy ocean. If one has any foresight whatsoever, and can see past their own greed, then one can see that the production of their oceans is in a great decline, and by continuing to harvest it at such a rate will rob it from the future generations.The magnificent reefs that circle this island are some of the most beautiful in the world, and should be considered part of the national identity of every Mauritian, a reason to be proud of your beautiful country. This is why I think the coral reefs are worth investing in, and worth protecting.
Charles & Diala with their 12 year old daughter Yasmeen spent two weeks over Easter volunteering on our Kariega Project in South Africa:
This is really inspiring for anyone wanting to do a Family Volunteering Project abroad - "We had an absolutely fantastic time volunteering at the Kariega Project!! We had a chance to help teach English one morning to the ‘Gogos” which was fantastic. And the rest of the week was focused on the children of the afterschool center in Klipfontein. What a treat that was. We spent time on English education via reading books, working on writing in activity books, singing and playing together…it was really fantastic. The children are so full of warmth, so dynamic, and so loving! We felt a really strong connection to them and looked forward each day to seeing them again. Yasmeen loved helping the kids…and they really connected with her too! All the activities we did were perfectly suited to her age. She would take a group of children on her own, as Charles and I did…so she really “ran” her own little teaching sessions! I think it was a perfect 1st taste of volunteering for the family…and I can tell we will want to do something similar again for sure.
Staying at Woodside B&B was ideal. The location is great and the upstairs room we had with Yasmeen was great. But best of all was Jenny! She is a wonderful, inspiring lady and we really felt at home with her and in awe of all she does to help the township communities.
Thank you so much for this wonderful opportunity…it was all that I hoped for and more."
Stephanie Rogerson, from the UK, joined our Ocean research project in South Africa as an Intern for 3 months:
I completed the Dolphin and Whale Ocean Research and Conservation Internship in Plettenberg Bay, South Africa for a duration of three months. I can happily say those few months were time well spent, the town is small and local and the culture embraces you as soon as you arrive. The atmosphere of the entire area is friendly and very laid-back.
The project was my home for those three months whilst I completed my internship, the team is wonderful and within a week a felt confident and settled in my surroundings. Within the accommodation your meals are provided for by the amazing caretaker Tilly who is a friend to everyone and a character I dearly miss. I met fellow volunteers from around the world and you learn as much from them as the locals. The organisation allows you to experience amazing sights from, animal sightings, hike views and the most beautiful beaches. Participating in various activities such as; tree planting, beach clean-ups, bird ringing, penguin rescues, historic hikes, tag-release fishing, maintaining the aquarium and the most rewarding task of teaching the children at Siyakula Preschool within the local township.
As an intern I completed my own personal research project for my University requirements, the staff were more than happy to help set me up with a research project and provide tools, knowledge and expertise to help me complete it. I witnessed amazing sightings from several species of whale and dolphin as well as various members of the seal family.
They even helped you arrange to activities to do at the weekend as there are nearby animal sanctuaries and extreme sports available. Some personal favourites of mine which I recommend are; Hog Hollows Horse Trails, Tenikwa Awareness Centre and the Elephant Sanctuary.
I do recommend the experience to someone who may be of interest. It is a fantastic way to explore coastal South Africa with opportunities the regular traveller may not be able to experience. All correspondence made through WorkingAbroad.com was friendly and efficient, answering all questions asked and made payments and travelling and easy process, with contact through and after the placement I can’t fault them. Thank you.
Claudia McKeown, from the UK, volunteered on our Dharamsala Community Project in India:
A month in India; an experience that would be so unknown to me and yet one that I can honestly say was the best thing I have ever done.
On the 12th July I had a journey planned that I could hardly believe was beginning. I left the familiar surroundings of places and people, and traded it all in for a month in Rural Northern India doing a job I had little experience in, with people I had never met and a culture so intensely different it often stopped me dead in my tracks.
After having waved goodbye to a tearful mother, and reasonably emotional father and brother, I was a mixed bag of emotions; excitement (primarily), nerves (understandably) and self doubt (what was I thinking booking this trip). All these thoughts running through my head lead to a long, sleepless overnight flight, arriving at 11am (Indian time) on 13th July. The wonderful charity that I was volunteering with had sent someone to collect me from Delhi airport. Vineet had to be one of the most giving people I have ever met, he managed to explain and help me with every problem I had with his superb English knowledge. Along with Varun, the devoted project manager, and Ravi, the fun, lovable chef/taxi driver, I class them all as close friends with whom I keep in contact with since returning.
Due to the project being in the more beautiful, community area further north in Dharamsala, an overnight bus was in order. It was fantastic to see the road side markets lit up for the evening hustle of people as we drove past, I was so glad when we had the chance to stop on a break to have a walk around. The contrast that I could see to my life back home was too huge, it felt dreamlike. There were wealthy families tucking into traditional Indian feasts, treating themselves to gifts, whilst crouching not even 10 feet away were street children, all alone, so painfully thin and with no other option than to beg for money. I felt sick at the sight of this but knew i would be seeing a lot more even worst situations.
Project work began immediately, not 24 hours after arriving in the country there was a class sitting in front of me waiting for someone to give them new knowledge. It only dawned on me, after talking to these lovely children for half the lesson, that I was now that person on the other side of the ‘classroom’ than what I was used to. I had to teach them, I had to plan lessons and, ultimately, improve their English language. The pressure was overwhelming, but with all their big brown eyes staring up at me and faces so eager to learn, I realised I had to put my all into this project.
With two classes that I saw everyday, I got into my routine fairly quickly. In the morning, I walked 10 minutes up the side of a mountain to reach a Tibetan family’s home. The classroom was one of their bedrooms, the age range of the class was 5 to 17 and, so naturally, the English levels varied dramatically. In the afternoon, we drove to the nearby slums and taught in the outside space. As I had expected, I was indeed overwhelmed with the cramped living conditions and health and safety (or more like lack of), but these children were so happy and without fail greeted us with beaming smiles and a ‘hello ma’am, how are you?’ every time upon our arrival. The lesson planning came naturally after a few days, soon enough I was cutting up flashcards, photocopying work sheets and making up interactive games to help with learning. This continued for the weeks and I could see their general English conversation improving, I felt so proud of them and myself.
With my free weekends I was liberated to do whatever I chose, and with such beautiful local mountains I felt like a hiking trip was necessary, booked very kindly for us by the volunteer company. I was a perfect weekend, the weather, the people, the views, everything was stunning. Five hours up the side of a mountain with regular stops at small tuck shops serving chai tea, then hit by an obvious monsoon storm, but surprisingly arrived on the top at a campsite in glorious sunshine where I spent the most magical evening and morning laying in the sun and watching a sunset and sunrise over the Himalayas. Another trip was up in Amritsar, a five hour drive along bumpy roads through northern Indian villages. Here I again saw in sunset and sunrise the phenomenal Golden temple, so peacefully even with the masses of pilgrims there to pray. The temple also provides and free meal for anyone passing though, hundreds of volunteers were preparing enormous pans of curry and rice; I even got to make a Chapati there (being quite skilled in the art at this point, thanks to Ravi). Whilst up in Amritsar there was a Indian-Pakistan border ceremony taking place, which was an experience due to the severely intense heat and Indian soldiers dressed in full uniform towering above us.
Indian shopping towns and markets really do live up their name, colours and intricate patterns displayed on every stall, streets of bustling bazaars with products sold for next to nothing. In Mcleodganj we found a hideaway of Jim’s 1m x 2m shop packed to the brim of hand embroidered scarves, materials, hand painted ornaments and boxes. I naturally came home laden with bags having spent a frugal amount. Varun took the time on one day to drives us around the local area visiting temples, tea gardens and tombs, there was such a lot of serenity as hardly anyone was at these sights. In the Dalai Lama temple I sat watching the monks of all ages practising Buddhism, it was such a strange understanding that these young boys were devoted to this life from such a young age and yet they seemed so content.
When not in lessons or out exploring, I spent my time lesson planning, learning to cook (Indian style) or taking part in our regular yoga lessons. All of which I improved in, to some level. My volunteer friends soon became like people I had known all my life. Helen, my roommate, and I sat in the evenings drawing hennas on each others hands, legs, feet and back, we all would also sit around playing cards and getting to know one another. They told me of the places that they had all been to, I was so inspired and was beginning to get the itch to travel.
In my last week of the project I planned a few art lessons, one themed with the Mexican festival ‘day of the dead’, in which we all made skull masks and had our own festival outside, another painting bunting to hang around the guest house. After distributing many presents of pencil cases crammed with goodies, and seeing their priceless faces opening them, I had to say goodbye. I felt such a strange sort of attachment to these children, and even though they see hundreds of volunteers come and go, somehow it felt genuine when I received hugs and had them say ‘thank you very much ma’am, I will miss you’. I cried the whole way back from placement that day, I was going back to so much back home while these people live here day to day barely getting by, relying on the charity.
Heartbroken leaving Dharamsala but soon had moved on to Delhi again on a bus, and then caught the sleeper train to Agra. Delhi train station is an experience, packed with people, children running along the tracks collecting plastic rubbish to sell, people running to jump on to the already overflowing trains. Agra, to me, seemed quieter and richer than Delhi. The Taj Mahal, I can’t really express in words how speechless and utterly astounded I felt walking in. The stories behind this wonder of the world explain every carefully carved stone and perfectly symmetrical walkway. I came away feeling so lucky to have seen and learnt about it.
So after four weeks I was now, alone back in Delhi with no guide after leaving the rest of the group. Daunting but also liberating. Over the next three days I visited 3 markets, bought a lot of presents, saw Humayun’s tomb and the Lodi gardens. It is such a magical city, especially in the evening lights and cooler temperatures. I became accustomed to bartering with stall owners and hailing rickshaws, such a thrill riding along in them caught up in the crazy Indian drivers. I wish I had seen more of it but I lost a day to the tremendous heat and an illness I had picked up, keeping me locked in my hotel room.
On the last day I did feel so very upset to be leaving, however felt like I had already said my painful goodbye to my true Indian home and friends back in Dharamsala. I feel lost without that place even after weeks of returning back to England. I would give anything to be back in teaching and knowing that I am touching some lives. Recalling everything that happen to me in writing this has only confirmed what I already knew; India was the most outstandingly magical adventure I have ever had, I would return in a heartbeat and, now that I have the travelling bug, where next?
Landon Suggitt, from Canada, volunteered on our Cloudforest Conservation project in Ecuador:
When I first pictured cloud forest, I figured it might look like a forest with clouds, like in BC? The reserve you work and live at looks more like the picture on the right. The diversity of life in the hills at the equator is something you must experience to appreciate. The perfect weather was a nice bonus, and most days settle at a comfy, but not too hot temperature (in the low 20s Celsius). Also, expect daily storms during the rainy season, some very exciting! Ecuador is beautiful: in its landscapes, people and culture. The cities are worth seeing, but can very dangerous for tourists lacking the proper precautions. I was luckily never robbed, but it was common story among people I ran into. Protect your valuables! Also, use the recommended hostel while staying in Quito: very cool and safe. Still, being out in the country is much safer, and it's where you will spend most of your time.
From the city, La Hesperia is about a 3 hour bus ride across amazing Andean countryside, and a 1 hour hike up from the road. You're far from civilization, but the cell reception is still not too bad! The reserve is altogether a protected area, a (mostly) self-sustaining farm, a local school, and a great learning experience for aspiring international conservationists like you or I! The volunteer house was very comfortable and open, with views of pure nature that I still miss. After a hard working day and a cold refreshing shower, you will be overwhelmed by the sounds of the forest at night that leads to some intense and vivid dreaming.
The daytime work was varied and sometimes challenging. My tasks over the course of a month ranged from tree planting to trail maintenance and basic farm work including planting/harvesting crops (such as bananas, oranges, sugar cane, yucca, chocolate, coffee, etc.), weeding, and working with animals. Regardless of the job, a machete is the only tool you need! Also, at one point you have to take the daily milk down the mountain with the most stubborn donkey ever. There is electricity, but you hand wash your own clothes. Also, safe drinking water and meals are prepared by the staff (luxury!) Expect staples and fresh food that couldn't be any more local.
That's what volunteering and living is like, but of course there's plenty of time for fun and meeting people. The reserve itself is full of things to do including Spanish lessons, soccer games, hiking, horseback riding, swimming, and a communal chill area of the volunteer house with books, a guitar, games, etc. Still, weekends are better spent exploring more of the country. There's lots to see, and you can get recommendations from other volunteers and locals. Me and a buddy I met on our first day spent one weekend biking down volcanoes through Inca ruins and indigenous villages, one living it up in an awesome adventure/party town called Banos, one taking in the history of Quito, and I made an excursion to the Galapagos for my final leg. All were great experiences that I still tell stories about. Produced some breathtaking pictures too!
I couldn't recommend this volunteer experience more, even if Ecuador is not near the top of your list. It's simply a better way to travel while contributing a little back to this amazing country you're visiting. The work is satisfying and makes you feel like a part of the community rather than just a tourist. Plus, you can still have as much fun as you want. Meeting people comes naturally, and a trip like this is a great way to take a person out of their comfort zone in front of a screen or whatever, at least for enough time to appreciate what you have at home, and perhaps what's missing. You may not "discover yourself", but I can guarantee you will grow from it.
The great thing about a travel opportunity like this is that even the hardships are part of the experience, and often the best stories later on. I can't say I would change any aspect really.
That said, I could have gotten a bit more out of it if I learned a bit more conversational Spanish prior to going. Also, the mosquitoes suck (literally, hah), especially during the rainy season. It's essential to have rubber boots, a bug net, bug spray and afterbite, but it won't be enough!
Debbie Hughes, from the UK, writes about her experience on the Bottlenose Dolphin Research Project, for 12 days on the Dalmatian coast in Croatia:
The trip was amazing and an excellent experience!
It was very well set up and well organised. Grgur was a great lead and he created a good balance between work and relaxing time. The description on the Working abroad site is a good insight into the whole experience and between that and the pack I was sent I was well prepared for the trip. The accommodation on the boat is basic but it is perfect and a great opportunity. The meals are prepared by the skipper on the boat and the food was amazing.
The usual day consisted of getting up about 7 with breakfast at 7:30 then out on the rib searching for dolphins till about 1. When back at the boat it was lunch then free time during which we sunbathed, went swimming in the sea, snorkelled and relaxed. (When we were out on the rib the skipper moved the big boat to a different location where we met him) Over the whole trip we covered over 500 nautical miles!! On a few nights we did some computer work which Grgur had explained to us- for about 2 hours (only about 3 nights though). Dinner was served about 8 where we discussed the daily activities and the plans for the next day. After dinner on 3 nights Grgur gave us a powerpoint presentation about different areas of his work and ours, these included our role on the boat, his research and the work on dolphin behaviours. On the other nights the time was our own to do with as we pleased.
Most days had the same plan, only on 2 days we didn't go out to search due to winds and high seas. Over the 12 nights we were anchored at sea for 9 nights and 3 nights docked at quiet bays. I preferred being anchored as the sea was amazing but even when we were docked the bays had 4-5 other boats and the small towns only had about a dozen houses and a small bar.
Volunteer Ben Campbell, from Australia gives his feedback on our Ocean Spirits sea turtle conservation project in Grenada
I’m really glad I joined Ocean Spirits as a volunteer for three weeks in May 2013. The work and time there was enriching and it feels good to have contributed a bit to the conservation of the Leatherback turtle. In fact, I couldn’t get enough of these wonderful creatures and will miss them. I´ll also miss the like-minded, friendly, committed staff and volunteers. Living and working in the one place abroad, especially amongst locals, allowed me to get a deeper experience of Grenada, its people, environment and wildlife. The staff provided a good balance between serious work and fun, taking us on trips to the islands nearby for BBQs and snorkeling and giving us opportunities to be involved in cultural and community activities. It was also fun being with other volunteers from around the world.
The Ocean Spirits residence is very comfortable and secure and has an outstanding view from the spacious verandah out to Levera Beach in the distance and archipelago beyond. The garden has plenty of coconuts and a variety of tasty fruits. Our dinners were always good and the cooking was fun, with each night´s chefs not wanting to lower the standards set in previous meals!
The highlight, of course, was working hands-on at night with the Leatherbacks, especially in the moonlight - counting eggs, measuring, tagging, etc, then taking a snooze on the sand under the stars and occasionally spotting some hatchlings. Seeing a few turtles by day was always a bonus, and what a buzz it was one day to join the staff in rescuing a Leatherback tangled in an illegal fishing net at the south end of Grenada. This event exemplified the staff´s dedication to saving the turtles and was very satisfying to be part of.
For anyone who has a love of nature, is OK with occasionally roughing it a bit and has an interest in being somewhere very special in the Caribbean, I highly recommend joining Ocean Spirits – for the place, the people, the turtles and the cause.
David and Lauren Scruggs volunteered on the Rural Community Project in Nepal:
For my daughter's 18th birthday I promised to take her anywhere or do anything she wanted. When the answer was I want to do volunteer working Nepal it literally brought tears to my eyes.
I was impressed with the projects available and my daughter and I opted to work at the Daycare Center in the Chitwan region. Admittedly, we were both a bit scared of the unknown on our way out to Nepal. We are both seasoned travellers but this was the first time we travelled to a less developed country and neither of us knew what to expect.
We were greeted at the airport by staff and we immediately put at ease. Despite the somewhat different (read nail-biting) drive from the airport to the hotel, we settled in and were accompanied by Phil Palmer into Kathmandu for a quick visit and a bite to eat. The first night was a shocker and an eye-opener having seen kids no more than 10 years old living on the street, camping by fires and sniffing glue to stay warm. The constant barking of the numerous wild dogs and the images of street kids made sleep that night hard to find.
The next day we were greeted by Phil and Sunju in the hotel. Sunju spent the day taking us around Kathmandu to temples, museums and markets. It was a pleasure to see Kathmandu in the daytime and we quickly felt more at ease with the environment. Phil and Sunju made sure we felt comfortable and that was well received by both my daughter and myself. We then took a bus to Chitwan where we were met by our homestay family.
They brought us to our room and we rested up. They immediately made us feel at home and looked after us like family. We worked for week at the Daycare Center and working with the kids and staff was an absolute delight. From playing with them to teaching them the alphabet, washing their faces to fixing lunches, it was all just an amazing experience. Dilu and Binu (our homestay Dad and Mom) made our stay in Chitwan an excellent experience. We even had time for a few elephant safaris and jungle walks. To top it off they organized the biggest and best18th birthday party anyone could have ever imagined, with several people from the village over dancing and sharing local tradition with Lauren.
I was speechless. I was moved by the poverty. I was moved by the beauty. I was moved by how happy and friendly people can be when they have so little. Kids playing hacky sack with makeshift elastic band balls, families and friends just sitting and talking, people working on the farms, in the numerous little home shops... everything just seemed to be in harmony. For our second week we decided to travel and see some of the rest of Nepal. For the first time in 20 odd years Dilu left Binu for more than the day and came with us. He took us to Bandipur and to Pokhara looking out for us and taking us to visit some of the most amazing places we have ever seen. Upon our return to Kathmandu we met up with Phil and he found us another hotel on my request away from the howling dogs, he brought us there and made sure we got settled in before meeting up with us later that night to enjoy dinner with some new volunteers.
I spent a lot of time talking to Raj and Phil and I am moved by their dedication and their selflessness. They work hard and make sure that the volunteers have an excellent experience... while helping people in Nepal get access to education, medical care, shelter, and some of their ideas and new projects on how to help Nepal have captivated me.
I would like thank everyone for making this experience possible. I highly recommend for any volunteer looking to help people and gain an amazing and unforgettable experience.
Alex Liang from California, USA spent some time on our Olive Ridley Sea Turtle Conservation project:
I had a great time at Ostional, the work was rewarding, a great cultural experience and lots of great memories!
The village/community was great. People were warm and nice. During my stay there was a rodeo/festival going on, so it was awesome to experience some new culture.
I definitely loved my host; she was a great cook (the food/drink were amazing), and even though she speaks very little English, she was very warm and helpful. The homestay experience was great.
Thanks for such an awesome memory!
Julia Breuer, from the UK, volunteered on the Rural community project in Nepal for 1 month in October
I went to Nepal for a month and booked my placement through Working Abroad Projects. From the outset I found everyone friendly, approachable and professional. When I booked my placement for voluntary work, a member of staff called me and answered all the queries I had. I stayed with a family in the Chitwan area and volunteered at the daycare centre there for pre-schoolers. The work was really rewarding and I shared a lot of laughs with the kids, despite the language barrier!
The homestay that I stayed with were so welcoming and made me feel like part of the family. It was such an eye-opener to see how a Nepali family live day to day. It helped that the mum of the family was an amazing cook and I watched her a couple of times to get a few tips.
I was also lucky enough to be in Nepal when Dashain (a religious festival) was on. During this time I stayed with Sarita's family and had a lovely time celebrating with them. Again, they were really welcoming and included the other volunteers and I in all the rituals involved with the celebration.
I will never forget my time in Nepal. On the first night, all the volunteers and staff went out for dinner, so you got to know like-minded people straight away and never really felt on your own. The flexibility of the project made the trip even more enjoyable as I knew that if there were any problems or if I wanted to move to another placementI could, and this gave me peace of mind.
Francesca Fairbairn and her 5 year old son, from the UK, spent 2 weeks at our Pacific Turtle programme in Costa Rica, living in with a local family in a homestay and taking part in all of the turtle conservation and community activities.
“We had a wonderful time. And although my son was mostly very hot and also ravaged by mozzies, he thought Costa Rica was the best and he loved it. Rob was very accommodating, and the other volunteers were all very nice.”
Sean Park, one of our volunteers on the Ocean Spirits programme, Grenada, and other volunteer researchers wrote this Song about Grenada's protected Leatherback turtles, singing it together with local school children. Check out the video below!
Our Statia Conservation project was recently included in The Guardian's 10 Volunteering Holiday ideas:
"The stunning Dutch Antilles island of St Eustatius is home to two national parks where volunteers can build trails, maintain the diverse flora and fauna, and help with surveys and night patrols of turtles during the nesting season. You need to like camping and the great outdoors – your accommodation is a tent out in the wild, and the island is famed for its snorkelling and hiking."
You can check out the full entry here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/travel/2012/sep/18/top-10-volunteering-working-holidays?INTCMP=SRCH
Edward Beavan, from the UK, volunteered for 2 weeks on our Rural Community project in Nepal in August:
In August I spent two weeks working at the Sauraha Daycare Centre, I found working with the children very gratifying and emotional, as I believed I was making a difference to the children’s lives and hopefully to their future.
When I arrived in Kathmandu it was the start of the Chitwan Festival and I thank the staff, Phil, Raj and Sahrita for whisking me off, altering all previous timetables, for me to experience the culture of the festival, which I thoroughly enjoyed.
During my stay in Chitwan I experienced washing elephants and I was lucky enough to watch a rare one horned rhino calf and its mother, as well as a multitude of other wild birds and animals.
The staff were very helpful and were always thinking of me, making sure I was ok and that I was enjoying myself. When I first arrived in Nepal and was greeted by the staff, I could really sense that this was an organisation who are dedicated to helping others and that really shone through. When I was with them, they were always thinking of different ways they can help more Nepalese people and to me this was wonderful, to see people so dedicated to helping others. So if you are looking for a truly memorable, fantastic experience, helping others less fortunate than us, then I definitely recommend the project.
Volunteer Gaby Lieuw, who blogs about all things Dutch-Caribbean, has written a great entry on the Statia Conservation project and the Botanical Garden where volunteers will stay and work. You can read more at this link.
Natalie Roussouw from South Africa, joined the Teach in Cambodia project from August to November
My volunteer experience in Cambodia was fantastic. The whole volunteer set up is very well organised and the staff really are fantastic.They constantly make sure that you get the most out of our time in Cambodia by organising day trips on weekends and cultural activities.
The experience is very much about getting a taste of life in Phnom Penh, Cambodian culture and working as a teacher at the school, which was fantastic. The students are amazing and they alone make the whole experience worth while. They care so much about you and making sure that you are happy in their country.
Video: With little to no ability to hear, Cindy King from Oregon, a volunteer on our Amazon Basin Research and Conservation Programme in Peru, discovers the rainforest in silence, using her heightened sense of sight to locate animals during wildlife monitoring.
Piotr Marszalek, who volunteered on our Cloud Forest programme in Ecuador, has compiled a report describing his experience. Please click the link to read more: Cloud Forest conservation and sustainability programme, Ecuador - Report
Bart Libaut volunteered on our Carpathian Wolf Watch project in January/February
I would say the set-up of the project was pretty professional and well taken care off, such as the presentation on the internet, travel info, practical arrangements, documentation, mountain security the evening before starting the work, the wide range of field materials, etc.
At the site itself, there was smooth coordination and also quite some autonomy and responsibility for/from the participants. It was definitely a good choice to have 3 'team leaders'; Robin overlooking it all (+ some focus on wildlife/tracking issues, of course), Dan taking good care of the 'social' and 'people' side of things (and throwing in his field experience from over the years) and Peter sharing his skills as an outdoor person and experienced tracker.
I was also very pleased to see that in Slovakia itself we had excellent accomodation and very attentive and friendly hosts. The delicious meals (always nicely 'adapted' for vegetarians), (hecto)liters of tea and warmth of the stove/fireplace were key and welcome ingredients to keep us going and carrying out the daily work in winterish conditions and often extreme temperatures.
Group-wise things went rather smoothly and I believe we had a good mix of people. There was enough room for participants to choose in which kind of field work they wanted to step into the next day (transects, scrutinzing tracks) and with whom.
Photos taken by Bart Libaut
Claire Brown, Bsc Environmental Science Student from the UK, writes about her Flying Squirrel Internship in Nevada, USA:
My summer internship was valuable work experience. I learned a range of skills from live trapping live small mammals to conducting radio telemetry. Highlights of the trip included locating the first radio collared squirrel using radio telemetry and watching the squirrels glide between trees. The fieldwork was physically demanding however we were often rewarded by the opportunity to have a dip in the cool blue water of Lake Tahoe after a long day of hiking. The internship was not only excellent experience for my future career, it was also an opportunity to make friends from across the globe. I would certainly recommend this internship as it offers a good balance between learning, work and adventure. A typical week would involve four long days working and camping in the field undertaking research, a small amount of time in the office and a three day weekend enjoying the range of adventure opportunities that Nevada has to offer.
Yvonne Hendrych, a textile professional from Brussels, joined the Teaching in Rural Thailand programme in August and gives her feedback:
The project was amazing. Everything worked out so smoothly and everyone was so extremely kind and nice to me that I had the most wonderful time there.
Everyone was incredibly nice and helpful and I felt at home right away. Also my host family was amazing. I really found a second family in Thailand and we got along so well even without speaking the same language. My host mother made a great effort to learn some English and I did my best to learn a couple of Thai words. Teaching was great fun but also quite challenging because I was teaching many different classes and all different levels of English. So I always had to first check and then quickly adapt to the level of English they had.
But luckily all the previous teachers kept a teacher’s diary and wrote down their experiences with the students so I could check in advance what kind of games or exercises they had been doing. Anyway the emphasis is on conversation. And this is best done through little games or quizzes. Students love the competition and teaming up against each other. It sometimes takes a bit to involve them because often they are very shy. But once they warmed up it was so much fun. I must say I enjoyed all classes and never had a boring moment.
On Sundays I went to temple school to teach the little ones (5-8 years) together with other teachers from Prangku who teach on a voluntary basis on Sundays. All the teachers at Prangku are so committed and engaged and dedicate also so much of their free time to the school and the students. It is really remarkable. Big compliment. And the students were just wonderful. They were so nice and polite and really eager to learn English. I can only recommend this experience to everyone who enjoys being with children and to everyone who is interested in getting to know a new culture.
Thank you Working Abroad. This is really a remarkable initiative which offers unforgettable experiences for both sides.
Cristina Melchion, from Italy, volunteered on the Desert Elephants project in Namibia, and describes her experience:
Everything went well! I met a lot of new people, everybody was very nice. I learnt many camping activities like making a fire, collecting wood, making breakfast and dinner, and how to pay attention to dangers.
I improved my English, I spoke with local people, I danced with them, I learnt a lot about local culture because I participated in a township tour, I did sandboarding, I had another bad but very interesting experience with local transport (you don't leave until the bus is full!!! So you never know when you leave and when you arrive!).
I followed elephants for two weeks: how amazing it was!!!! We were very very near to them. We managed to build two walls: I learnt how to make cement. I enjoyed the desert and its views....but I, most of all, enjoyed my stay with local and non local people, the people always make the difference, people as friends, as colleagues, as travel mates, always make the difference in the places you visit. I learnt a lot from them. The project is not only an association which tries to make peace in the Namibian desert between farmers and elephants, but I think there is a more profound purpose behind it: learning to share everything, to collaborate, to stay together and learn to face difficulties together, something that in modern society is lost.
So definitely I don't regret my choice this year.....I'm already thinking of what I can do next year!