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Programs and Reviews
Our vision is to connect people with communities in need. We do this by supporting the work of local community organisations in countries through the placement of international volunteers.
At GVN we align with the idea of 'local solutions to local problems', so we work with local community organizations in each country. We believe that local communities are in the best position to determine their needs, and we provide volunteers to help them achieve their goals.
The Global Volunteer Network (GVN) is a New Zealand Charitable Trust (non-profit NGO) based in Wellington, New Zealand.
Why do we do it?
"We believe in inspiring learning, innovation, and action to unlock the potential of vulnerable communities around the world."
GVN places volunteers in Asia, South America, and Africa and has fundraising treks to Everest Base Camp, Mt Kilimanjaro, and Machu Picchu; along with specialist tours such as the Youth Tour for 15-17 year olds, and our Young At Heart Tour.
Program: GVN - Nepal Volunteer Program
Program: GVN - Nepal Volunteer Program
GVN's Response to Anne Lindsay:
We're saddened to see this review appear while we are still in discussions with you and while we are following due processes in regards to your concerns. We hoped you understood why it's important to be diligent in our follow up to ensure that all concerns are valid and what this might mean moving forward - this means working with our partner organization in Nepal, as well as yourself.
We acknowledge the time that this process has taken, but given the gravity of the concerns you raised, we need to make a full investigation - and also to allow time for you and your health-related contacts to compile the information you wished to present.
We're also sad that you are disinterested in reading the information presented by our partner organization as part of our formal report - this information clarifies a lot of misunderstandings that were outlined in your review and our email correspondence.
From private correspondence, we have come to realise that there is some confusion between three legally separate entities - GVN (registered charity in NZ that specialises in volunteer placements), GVN Foundation (tax exempt 501(c)(3) in the US which specialises solely in fundraising and grant distribution and does not involve the volunteering/program fee side of things) and our partner organization in Nepal. If you'd like further clarification as to what entity is responsible for what aspects, how they work together and how each is funded, please feel free to email us for this information or take a look at the "About Us" style pages on each of the respective websites, as it's a lot to break down in this post.
Program fee breakdowns are provided to all volunteers after they are accepted and prior to making any obligation or commitment to the program - this is done in the interest of transparency, and I can confirm that this information was included in your Program Guide upon acceptance into the Nepal Program. Please see this information for more detail.
We have no concerns about how the Nepal administrators use funds as these have been independently audited by the Nepali authorities that oversee locally registered non-profits, and they have passed with "flying colours" every time. This is a regular, rigid, and state-mandated review, and covers all the aspects of fiscal and organization management that we deem important for transparency and accountability. Our own reviews across the years of financial information has never raised any issues or causes for concern either.
Just to add to this, GVN and GVN Foundation are also both independently audited by the relevant authorities and have also been found to meet necessary requirements for non-profits in each respective country, and in confirming that our work and funds spent meet our mission statements.
In regards to your concerns about child nutrition, we have come to understand that the data you have based your information on is height/weight charts found at the Children's Home. This is not the most up to date information - this is stored at the partner organization office for privacy reasons, the same as at most doctor's offices. Taking into account the children's medical history is also really important - these children had a rough start in life and the nutrition they received during their formative years was definitely sub-par (ie. prior to coming to the care of SSCH).
As per the World Bank's reports on child nutrition, poor nutrition during the first 8 years of life significantly impacts, and can even stunt, a child's growth for the rest of its' life. Part of the information that our partner is providing for us in response is the most recent medical information from registered health professionals in Nepal who have worked with these kids for a significant portion of their life since coming to Shining Stars. There is also medical records provided from the three health professionals who have most recently worked with the kids directly, as well as information from a past volunteer (registered nurse) who knew and worked with the children before their time in SSCH and since - it provides a very insightful understanding to how these children have grown and developed since living at SSCH, and we're disappointed to hear you're not interested in hearing this 'side of the story'.
The children are fed a Nepali diet (although, 2 meals + 2 kajja a day is above what an average Nepali might have). The meals that they are given are the standard fare of Nepal - large amounts of rice, daal and vegetable curry - what all bar the wealthiest families eat twice a day, every day. On top of this, monthly funding is available for meat, eggs, fruit and milk - items deemed luxuries in Nepal and usually only consumed by your average Nepali on festival days or at weddings.
Your review states "even with this kind of evidence, their tack is to start a dialogue with the Nepali partners to give them a chance to tell their side of the story". In the same way that you would not expect an organization to believe information presented by our partners at face value, we need to allow the same right to our partners as well in light of your (potentially very damaging) concerns. Without this open dialogue with our partners, we would not have the information above in regards to nutrition prior to SSCH, health records, etc.
We're happy to continue discussions with you (our most recent email correspondence was less than 24 hours ago) and work on this progress together, but we are concerned that prematurely posting this information, without all the facts, may have an impact on our ability to continue supporting these children. At the heart of what you, GVN, and our partner organization in Nepal want, is the welfare and future of these children.
- Fiona GVN
Submitted on 03/06/2014
Program: GVN Ecuador Volunteer Program
What position do you hold at GVN? What has been your career path so far?
Fiona: I am the GVN Program Specialist for our Africa Volunteer Programs, and a few of our Asia Programs. My role mainly focuses on assisting volunteers with their preparations - both practical and mental - for their time overseas. I also work very closely with our partner program staff in each country, finalising details for placements and projects and generally providing support for the work they do.
AAfter studying a Bachelor of Arts in Development and International Relations, I interned and worked in fundraising for GVN Foundation (GVN's non-profit grants and distribution arm) on various campaigns. It was a natural progression from there to my current role, as I get to work with the same great local projects in a more hands-on role.
What do you enjoy most about your role at GVN?
Fiona: One of my main passions is encouraging and enabling people to take action about the issues they care about. My role gives me the unique opportunity to do this, but I also get to hear from volunteers when they return home about what they've learnt, the connections they've built and the overall impact the experience has had on them.
On the flipside, I also work with some fantastic people around the world in Africa and Asia who are committed to the development and empowerment of their community - they continually inspire me, and their work is incredibly motivating!
Often, when people think of "developing countries", a lot of negative words spring to mind - poverty, illness, and images of sadness or hopelessness. My role at GVN has showed me the opposite - there is so much life, motivation, innovation, creativity and spirit in the communities we work with. It's great to be able to contribute in my small way to helping them achieve the goals of their community in whatever direction they lead us.
Did you volunteer abroad? If so, where and what inspired you to go?
Fiona: My first taste of international volunteering was when I was 17 - during a trip to Vietnam to study history, I spent some time at a local orphanage for children with severe disabilities. That experience stuck with me, and the trip to Vietnam as a whole sparked a love of travel and grassroots development and helped me understand the importance of my role in the global community.
Skip forward and I visited GVN's Vietnam Children's Project on a backpacking trip - in a weird moment of deja vu, I was coincidentally back in the same orphanage from years earlier. I felt like I had come full circle and knew I needed to be more involved in GVN, which is when I started my current role.
I've also spent time at GVN projects in Nepal and Uganda. I have equally great things to say about all of them, and the people I have met - volunteers, staff and community members alike - are some of the most warm-hearted people I know.
Which GVN program do you have your eyes on for your next adventure?
Fiona: Without a doubt, I would most love to spend time in our Ethiopia Program. Volunteers work with a small rehabilitation-style school - only about 15 - 25 kids aged 5 to 8 years. Each year, a new group of children from disadvantaged backgrounds are enrolled and they spend a year taking classes, life skills sessions, and extracurricular activities to kick start their education before entering a local government school
The families of these kids also receive some different training to help improve their situation - learning income generating skills or taking life skills workshops on health and nutrition. We've also just received donations to continue a lunchtime feeding project for the kids, which has vastly improved their general health, nutrition and concentration in classes.
Every volunteer who returns from Ethiopia has said that the benefits of this program for the community are so clear, and it's a great example of how international efforts can support a locally run and empowering project.I would also love to return to Nepal - we have a new program there working with women who haven't had the chance at an education before. The ladies are great, and so motivated to learn as they missed out on getting an education when they were younger.
What position do you hold at GVN? What led you to join them?
Scott: I am a Program Specialist with GVN which means I am responsible for volunteers who join a program in one of the countries I cover (Argentina, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guatemala, Panama, Peru, South Dakota, Philippines, Thailand and the Seychelles). I joined GVN after previously being sole charge in a not-for-profit organisation managing volunteers in a mentoring program. After four years I felt the need for a more collegial atmosphere and I was drawn to GVN's global scope and excellent team spirit.
What is the most challenging aspect of your role? Most enjoyable?
Scott: The most challenging aspect of the role is educating potential volunteers on the nature of global volunteering and why it costs money. It is also challenging to deal with those who don't read the information provided or are ill-prepared for the realities of volunteering in a developing country. Complaints about the basic food or lack of hot showers in a desperately poor community can be a little infuriating.
The most enjoyable part is being able to facilitate and witness volunteers connecting with locals and cultures and being fundamentally transformed by their experiences. Also, my generous and caring colleagues who make it all happen.
Tell us about your latest experience volunteering abroad.
Scott: Having only been with GVN for 3 months I've yet to visit and participate in any of our programs. My last overseas volunteering experience was self-directed. I was travelling in the islands off the west coast of Lombok, Indonesia and was stunned by the amount of plastic rubbish accumulating along the coast.
I visited with a local chieftain and organised a program where accommodation suppliers and visitors were encouraged to pick up rubbish around the island and bring it to a central location. It was then bagged up and shipped back to the mainland for proper disposal.
What is your favorite story of a volunteer's experience with GVN?
Scott: My most recent favourite isn't from a GVN volunteer but a couple of travellers who had heard of us and wanted to contribute. They were travelling by van around Central and South America and wanted to donate the van when they were done. I arranged to have them make their last stop with our partners in Panama, where the van is being converted into a mobile children's library for use in remote and under-privileged communities.
If you could jet off to any GVN program tomorrow, which one would you pick?
Scott: That's a tough one. We recently partnered with an organisation working in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro and I would love to see how things are going there in light of the ongoing problems leading up to the FIFA World Cup in 2014 and the Olympics in 2016. If not there then I would love to spend some time at our Amazon Conservation program in Ecuador or with our awesome partners in the Philippines.