United Planet

Provider

United Planet is a non-profit organization with a mission - to create a global community, one relationship at a time. We connect volunteers who want to make a difference with communities in 35 countries, where they learn, teach, work, engage and immerse themselves in a culture outside their comfort zone. For many, it's the most fulfilling experience of their lives.

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Programs from United Planet

Program Reviews

  • Catherine Zhang
    Age: 18 or younger
    Female
    Hopkinton, Massachusetts
    My most amazing summers...
    08/28/2014

    I've participated in China Summer twice, in 2013 and 2014. I can honestly say that those were the best summers of my life.

    This program is such a great way to spend the summer, especially if you're in high school. I've learned so much from China Summer, along with forming some of the greatest relationships I've ever formed with the other volunteers, the students, and the local residents. Not only is it an eye-opening experience in a global, economic, and social perspective, but I've also come to embrace my own character with more confidence.

    There are three sets of volunteers that participate in this program. The first set would be the American volunteers, who participate through United Planet. Most of us, the American volunteers, were high-schoolers. The second set of volunteers are Chinese college students who apply through the FeiFeng agency, which organizes the program on the Chinese side. The last set of volunteers are a little less visible, in the sense that you wouldn't really recognize their efforts right away. This last set includes the staff from the school where we mostly reside in for the duration of the trip, the parents of the local students who send their children to the program, and any other local residents that support the program. I am so grateful for this last group of volunteers who cooked every meal for us, cleaned and set up the dorms for us, created makeshift toilets for our comfort, and for supporting China Summer!

    The United Planet volunteers (who are usually American...my first year, there were two people from the UK) meet in Beijing. We spend a day or two there, and then ride a train to the closest city to the location of the school. It's a small city called Huaihua where we spend the night and meet the Chinese volunteers. The train ride and the days in Beijing are great for bonding between the UP volunteers (: Then, all the volunteers ride a bus up the mountains to finally arrive at the school.

    The school is in a rural setting, and the area is less economically fortunate than most of us are used to. The Chinese volunteers are usually from cities as well, and one way my global perspective was changed was realizing how economically diverse China really was. I'd say most of the challenges at first are getting accustomed to the school setting where the bathrooms are in a separate building and are trenches, where there are a wide selection of flying bugs that I've never seen before coming to China Summer, where food selection is also extremely limited and is eaten with chopsticks, where there aren't really showers, and where local residents can only afford to eat twice a day. It sounds bad, but it's really not! Seriously, the close bond between the volunteers made everyone feel at home and helped us get through these challenges with smiles and laughter.

    At the school, we accomplish the primary goal of the trip: broadening horizons through interaction and teaching. The students are divided up by grades, and each grade gets a teaching group that consists of both UP and Chinese volunteers. Teaching days require lesson planning, which I would consider personally my biggest challenge. I'm just in high school, and I don't even know proper English myself! Coming up with interesting lessons is hard, but it's fun and I loved my kids (: Although we want the local students to expand their English knowledge, we also want to let them learn about life and the culture outside of their village in the mountains. Most of the people probably will never leave, but hopefully we've opened their eyes to more opportunities and to the lifestyle of different people in America (and sometimes UK or other places where UP volunteers are from) and in other parts of China (from the Chinese volunteers) as well. Additionally, our eyes are opened as well. Sometimes at night, we would go stargazing because the stars in that area were amazingly. I felt extremely small lying in the middle of the basketball court in that school in the mountains in southern, rural China amongst all the stars that were invisible where I lived 7,000 miles away. It makes you think bigger, I suppose.

    And about my personal perspective, I've become more confident as myself. I am a very self-conscious person (ask anyone who participated in China Summer 2013 or 2014), but when I'm on the trip, it makes me forget about my insecurities. I was so comfortable with the other volunteers despite being in a foreign setting and in a economic situation that I've never experienced before. Being on this trip made me forget all my concerns at home. I loved forgetting about everything! All I cared about on the trip was anything to do with China Summer. And now, it's all I can think about still.

    Kudos to you if you've read up to this point! I could go on and on about this trip, and I'm sorry if this post was lengthy a bit dull. What's important to get out of this is how badly I want to do China Summer again. I love this program to death and it is undeniably the most amazing experience ever! I wasn't expecting anything too mind-blowing my first year because I am Chinese and I've been to Beijing almost every year since second grade. I was completely wrong. I would recommend this to anyone anywhere at anytime, because I have been the happiest I have ever been on this trip. I've made some of the greatest friends, and we share very special memories that can't be truly empathized by anyone else. I love my China Summer family, and I'm so grateful for United Planet for having this program! :)

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  • K
    Age: 25-30
    Female
    Boston
    University of Arizona
    Volunteer Teaching in Ghana
    07/22/2014

    What a wonderful opportunity it was to teach in Ghana. As a single female, I felt very safe and the in host coordinator was fabulous. He worked so hard to make sure that I felt comfortable. I stayed with a lovely host family and got to know some of the people in the community. Teaching in a primary school was a bit difficult because there was not a lot of English spoken so there were times that I was not engaged but it was a good experience overall for a short term volunteer position.

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  • Alison Cohan
    Age: 19-24
    Female
    Boston MA
    James Madison University
    Counseling Center Quest
    06/19/2014

    During my time in Nepal I learned more about myself then I ever though I would. I take medicine for anxiety so going abroad was very nerve racking and culture shock freaked me out a little bit. However being in Nepal and learning to work through all of this helped me so much. I was surrounded by poverty which was hard but I learned to adapt to the best of my abilities. I also got to see one of the biggest Hindu temples and one of the biggest Buddhist temples in the world. Nepal's culture is so rich and there is so much to learn from the people there.
    I would very highly recommend this program to anyone who is interested in learning about themselves and exploring the boundaries of their comfort zone, and then breaking them.

    How could this program be improved?

    While I was there, there were a few things that I would have liked to change but now that I have been back home for a while, I wouldn't want to change anything. This was a challenging trip and I am so happy that it was challenging because I feel so accomplished now.

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  • Joy Tang
    Age: 19-24
    Female
    Hong Kong
    Other
    Love the children
    02/03/2014

    I volunteered in an orphanage called OCCED in Kathmandu, Nepal, and stayed with a host family for two weeks. I couldn't help falling in love with the cute children and my lovely host family. They gave me a very unforgettable experience and had a great impact on my life and value. Here is a typical day for me in Nepal:

    07:00 Get up
    08:00 Breakfast with my host family
    09:00 Go to nearby supermarkets to buy toys or snacks for children (not required, just I wanted the children to be happier)
    10:00 Start work in the orphanage
    Work included: teaching, playing with smaller children, chatting with older children, having lunch with the children and the orphanage staff
    17:00 Leave the orphanage
    After work, normally I went back to my host family, but sometimes I went to Thamel (the main shopping area) to explore some nice restaurants
    19:00 Dinner with my host family
    After dinner, I would chat with my host family, showing each other photos, or watch TV with them (when there was electricity)
    21:00 Go to bed

    Apparently two weeks was not long enough for me to spend with the cute and smart children. I wish I could have stayed longer!

    I would definitely recommend this program to my friends :)

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    Response from United Planet
    03/19/2014
    We are so glad you had such an unforgettable experience in Nepal. Here at United Planet we do our best to give volunteers an authentic experience through living with host families. It is great that your home stay worked out so well for you. It's awesome to see what your typical day was like. Thank you for sharing your experience and volunteering in Nepal with United Planet!
  • Karsen Gradidge
    Age: 18 or younger
    Female
    Canada
    Life Changing
    12/27/2013

    My experience with United Planet was marvelous. I arrived in Peru with no idea what to expect. Although the pre-departure sessions and all my back and forth with staff had been extensive and gratefully appreciated, nothing can prepare you for landing alone in a third world airport at the un-travelled age of 17. I will admit I was slightly panicky, and wondering what I had gotten myself into. I met my host family and started to feel a little more settled after having a home base at both my Spanish school and my home-stay. Once the shock wore off, my adventure really began. I have always been bothered by people who come back from life changing experiences and simply say "it can not be put into words", but I am beginning to understand where they are coming from. None the less, I am going to do my best and try to paint a picture of my time away from home.

    I have made some of the best memories during my quest, and my stay in Peru was and always will be a monumental time in my life. I feel that I made a real difference in the lives of the children in my project, and I can say without a doubt that they had (and are continuing to have)a huge impact in mine. I felt immersed in the culture and lives of the Peruvian families. My excursion to Machupicchu was an amazing and spiritually enhancing experience. I will forever cherish the memories of my day at the monumental Inkan ruins. My overall experience on my United Planet quest to Peru was everything I had hoped for and more. I will have these memories for the rest of my life, and would recommend United Planet to anyone looking for life changing volunteer experience.

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    Response from United Planet
    01/08/2014
    Thank you for telling about your life changing experiences during your Quest in Peru! It is great to hear about the impact volunteering had on you while at the same time it had a great impact on the Peruvian community. We are happy to have helped create these lifelong memories!
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Staff Interviews