Why did you choose this program?
I was supposed to go on yet another trip outside the United States and yet again it fell through. I thought I would just put the money I saved to more "practical goals." After seeing someone go to the country I was supposed to go to, I finally decided I was just going to go alone on a trip.
I also sat back and looked at all the trips in the U.S. that didn't fall through and they were ones where I gave back, so I combined the two things that I love: travel and giving back. After looking into different programs, I liked that everyone had a background check and they pick you up from the airport. Both of these aspects the first time away from home makes it more comfortable.
What did your program provider assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?
The program provided airport pick up, food (breakfast and lunch), and sleeping accommodations. We provided dinner and food on the weekends, but we did get a gift card to the store to help off set the cost. Along with transport to and from the volunteer location, unless it was a day were it was "off site" from our normal place.
What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?
I do not think that there is something I could suggest. The training videos that IVHQ provided prior to the trip and the volunteer handbook really helped me walk through the steps of how to prepare and what to expect from the program itself.
If I had to choose something to give, would be to go in with an open mind; there are things that will happen that you will not expect, but they were always the best parts of the trip.
What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?
The average day started off around 8 am, getting ready to catch the bus; after about a half hour bus ride, weeding (most days) from 9 am-2 pm with a lunch break.
After work, heading back to the hostel and either just hanging out with people from all over the world or going to check out where you are staying.
Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?
Personally, my biggest "fear" was the airports! Not getting to the terminal on time, security and just the unknown of what to expect once I landed. I got though it like I do everything that I'm unsure about, one step at a time, asking questions (maybe too many) and being OVERLY organized.
I made sure I left enough time, and just worried about each step as I got to it. In the end, what you fear the most is the unknown, but the only way to get over that is to go through it.
I know you stay in a hostel with people who are not part of the program -- is it safe?
Short answer, yes.
Long answer, if you feel unsafe for any reason, there are people there to speak with; that could be the people from the organization itself, IVHQ, the staff where you are staying at and even your fellow volunteers.