Alumni Spotlight: Jess Ledinsky


Jess is a mother to three children ages 10, 12, and 13. She strives to have unique family experiences while giving her children the experience of another culture.

Why did you choose this program?

I Googled "family volunteer trips" and went to IVHQ’s website. I was impressed with their organization, process, and the partnerships they had all over the world. The way they took care of us before and during the trip alleviated any anxiety. They were there every step of the way.

What did your program provider assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?

My family, including three children – 13, 12, and 10, volunteered through IVHQ in the Street Children Program in Ecuador. IVHQ made this trip possible with excellent customer service and an easy step-by-step method.

I spoke to IVHQ, for the first time, four weeks before we landed in Ecuador. Though this is not an ideal lead time to plan a trip like this, I was able to plan a fabulous trip because they are so organized, helpful, and overall fantastic! My family and I felt comfortable and safe because of the support, information, and training.

I will team up with IVHQ again. They were our travel agent, concierge, and booking agent all in one!

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

That is a tough question, because we were so thrilled with everything we experienced in this program. I guess, that I would have had more time to plan beforehand; I contacted IVHQ for the first time, less than four weeks before we landed in Ecuador.

Because our trip was such an awesome success, and that we were able to pull it off for a family of 5 with that short timeline, I’d say that speaks to IVHQ’s organization and process.

What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?

We wake up and have breakfast with our host family. We then walk a couple of blocks to UBECI’s office where they brief us for the day. We get on a city bus headed to the market where we will be working at that day.

Once we get to the market, we set up our station which consists of a couple of canopies and some educational toys and books. A few volunteers go with one of the leaders into the marketplace and collect children who will be spending the day with us.

We do the lesson plan that we were told to do. It was simple – colors, numbers, vegetables, and fruits. We do the various lesson plans and just play with the children. The ages vary as well as the tasks. Even though we spoke only a little Spanish, it's amazing what we learned in just a few days! For lunch breaks, we bring the children back to the stalls where their parents are selling.

Yuba City's leadership walks us to a local restaurant where we all have lunch together. We go back to the market and work for the afternoon. We do lesson plans, games, and attend to children. At the end of the day, we return the children to their parents and hop on a local bus back to UBECI’s office. We are free to go from there. We are provided dinner back at our host family.

Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?

I feared it would not be organized enough or palatable for a family with three children. I wondered if it was only tailored to college students and retirees. I was wrong. We were welcomed with open arms by the volunteers and the staff. The transition was seamless, and we all became a family volunteering together.

What was it like staying with a host family?

Our host family was fantastic! Our kids quickly became friends with their kids, the first minutes we were there. We were lucky enough to be staying with them when one of the children had their birthday. We were embraced and invited to a wonderful Ecuadorian birthday party with many extended family members. It’s truly a wonderful experience we will remember forever.