Cross-Cultural Solutions

Cross-Cultural Solutions

About

For 22 years, CCS has been the standard setter for the safest, most meaningful, and enriching volunteer abroad programs while striving to be a global leader in child development and women's empowerment.

Since 1995, over 35,000 people have volunteered with Cross-Cultural Solutions, providing meaningful and sustainable volunteer services to international communities, and contributing responsibly to local economies.

Volunteers gain valuable experience working in areas such as education, healthcare, and social services. Visit the Cross-Cultural Solutions website to learn more about how we're changing everything.

Founded
1995
Headquarters

2 Clinton Place
New Rochelle, NY 10801
United States

Reviews

Default avatar
Aubrey
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Cross Cultural Solutions allowed for me to experience more than just a volunteer trip, it was a unique travel experience that allowed us participants to completely engage ourselves in the local culture while also volunteering at a nearby school. The school was only in session until noon, which also ended our day of volunteering. This trip was unique because I felt as if we got the best of both worlds, cultural immersion as well as volunteering. The second half of the day was spent engaging ourselves in the local community as we attended different excursions everyday. Both halves of the day were equally as valuable as both opened my eyes to the extreme poverty that this town experienced. It allowed me to see a different perspective of life, as people lived fulfilled lives with little to nothing. By far my favorite memory would simply be the interactions I had with the school children. This being in the classroom, in the garden, or during breaks. This is a life changing trip that I recommend to all.

What would you improve about this program?
This program was incredible and I would recommend it to anyone interesting in learning more about Guatemalan culture while also making a difference in a small-town school. I feel as if the program does have room for improvement. The main thing that I was taken back by was the large the price attached to the program. However, CCS does a good job of guiding participants through the process of how to fundraise money if needed. Another improvement the program could see is providing a detailed itinerary before the volunteers arrived. Often times we would be driving to a cultural activity without being told where we were going. I was always pleased with where we ended up, however knowing in advance would have been nice.
Default avatar
Kristy
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I had been reading headlines about refugees for so many years, and finally the headlines stopped - but the refugees kept coming. When CCS announced its new program in Greece, volunteering inside a refugee camp, I immediately wanted to go. Because CCS wasn't yet permitted (?) as a nonprofit within Greece, it had to work in partnership with an existing NGO. You can go directly to that other NGO and volunteer, without paying anything, being responsible for your own room, board, and transport. But having volunteered with CCS in the past, I like the CCS approach of handling the main logistics while also giving cultural training every day. I wanted that. The cost for a week was about what I'd pay on my own for hotel, food, and transport. I thought it was a GREAT value. CCS's home base is in Chalkida, a resort town. The van takes you to the camp 30 min away every morning. So you get this lovely town to stroll morning and night, and working hard in the camp by day. It was our taste of Greek culture, after spending all day with mostly Syrians inside the camp.

Food was also a highlight, I should mention. During my volunteering, meals were in a mom-and-pop restaurant where we ate family style, each choosing whatever entree he/she wanted - fish, chicken, beef, vegetarian, really great Greek food. This was fun time with the other volunteers, sharing stories of the day or of lives back home. We were free to dine at any hour, but our group coalesced and chose to dine together.

Accommodations were in a basic hotel, unlike most of CCSs locations where you stay in a residence similar to how people in that country live. CCS is just getting started in Greece, so doesn't have a home base yet. The hotel had some advantages - it was cushy compared to sleeping in bunk beds and showing with a bucket, as I've done at other volunteer gigs. The whole thing was almost too much like a vacation, outside of camp hours, to feel like we were properly sacrificing in our volunteer work!

Now about the camp. A previous reviewer mentioned the rough situation with the licensed NGO partner. By the time I arrived, that relationship seems to have ended. CCS had fully taken over directly running a few aspects of the camp - the "distribution center" for clothes, water, and staples that are handed out daily on a regular schedule, and the laundry room. Unlike most other CCS gigs, this one had little opportunity for working closely one-on-one with refugees; our work was mostly transactional, helping them at the "check out" counter when they selected clothes with their monthly points from the boutique (like a second-hand clothing shop). But I had the feeling if I stayed longer than a week, I could get to know some of the residents and understand more about the life of a refugee. Little separates us from them - they had the bad misfortune to live in a country that was falling apart, and had to flee for their lives, often without family members who were killed in the conflict. It was heart-wrenching, yet heart-warming, to see the humanitarian support and know that at least they are physically safe, and on a path to progress.

As with many CCS programs, volunteers are given some good cultural training, as in "here's what to expect and how you can be a good volunteer", but not a lot if time is left for training for the particular task. Volunteers have to sort of work it out on the fly. I felt that we could have done a much better job with the boutique had we stayed another week or two, to improve the process and make it even more smooth and friendly for the residents.

The unruly and borderline dangerous pack of "naughty" kids were mentioned by a previous reviewer made their appearance during my stint as well five months later in January 2018, about 5 ten-year old boys with mischief on their minds. There are safeguards, but indeed we learned to keep eyes out for those guys and not give them free access to the boutique etc. Yet this too was a real part of the refugee experience. What had these kids seen in their short lives? Could the camp and NGO efforts begin to reform them? It was great to see a daily soccer game breakout full of seemingly all ages and nationalities, good cooperation and sportsmanship while I watched. I did miss seeing any girls join in though. The camp is keeping people fed and safe from bombs. But there is room for more humanitarian help as they anxiously wait a year or more to hear if any nation will grant them asylum.

Another benefit of CCS is that they generally work with you to give you the experience you seek. I was assigned to the boutique/distribution center, but after a few days, felt I wanted to experience other parts of the camp. So I was allowed to spend a day at the laundry, and a day in a totally different camp doing vision testing for kids. This enriched and filled out my picture of refugee life, thanks to CCS staff efforts to work with me. Much appreciated.

I loved my experience volunteering with CCS at the Ritsona camp in Greece. And I treasure the CCS values of doing no harm, and connecting on a human level, when volunteering. And what a great geographical launching point for adding on travel days afterwards! Several of the volunteers did Athens and Meteora and enjoyed each other's company in the off hours.

What would you improve about this program?
As with all short-term volunteer gigs, keep improving the baton-pass so there is continuity from one set of volunteers to another. So that what is learned is passed on, and each group isn't starting from scratch. I thought the general logistics, food, lodging, and staff were all great.
Default avatar
Danielle
1/10
No, I don't recommend this program

I have gone rhrough multiple progams with ccs. They do have high turnover off young staff to help you prepare i have had good and really inept. I had problems with accounting. Many do be careful and diligent with kepping track. Their records did not match and i had to find discremency they refused and would not send me transacrion reciept. I always had a great time in country but decided not to use them anymore. Then i saw advertisement about refugee program in greece. I did not fundraise but paid to not deal with thier accounting. Found out no longer non profit. Other group of teachers had trouble because of this. We were at two camps and working with two ngos. One was very disorganized and had issues. I was with them at the children's dummer camp. It was extremely unsafe due to lack of structure and philosophy of lighthouse(ngo running it) rocks were being thrown fighting and adults and children getting hit. This behavior eas fostered there. I an another special ed teacher voiced our concerns. Bothing happenned i have over 20 years experience working with children, in schools, residential facilities and psychiatric hospitals. This enviornment was just so negative and hurtful to the children. We had a morning meeting to voice our concerns so many wrre about this problem. Nothing was done i was injured four days later. I spent almost a week laid up in bed. I did go back but worked with I Am You. Same boys who injuref me were in the english classes but luckily behavior was not generaluzed and it was a safe enviornment. The fridsy before i left volunteers were hurt again and had to lock themselves in an isobox fearing for their safety. This is not the first time. I had to do it too when i was at the summer camp. My first doctor appointment and mri someone from ccs came with me. My last three i haf to go by myself and pay for transportation. I did get upset with a program leader who is in charge of greece telling her I cannot believe you are not comimg to help me when it is due to your negligence. She said not ccs but lighthouse. So i do not know why we spend that all that extra money having ccs support us when they clearly don't. I have been hurt before but it was never due to an unsafe environment. i do not know if they choose to do nothing because they cant afford to lose money and are trying to make it but they allowed harm to be done to the tesidents of the refugee camp and volunteers. .

What would you improve about this program?
They can actually listen and support their volunteets. Also you can save money and work directly with i am you. They do like a rwo month commitment though.
Default avatar
Michael
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I was blessed to spend two weeks in Azrou, Morocco with Cross Cultural Solutions. It was an amazing experience and something that I highly recommend to everyone. The country and people are so wonderful. I felt 100% safe the entire time and never had any issues. Everyone we interacted with had a big smile and a welcoming spirit. The volunteer experience they set up will leave a lasting impression in my mind. The whole team was great but especially Mohamed. He was the best. Morocco was fantastic and I hope to visit again. CCS was great!

Default avatar
Quinn
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I attended CCS's Spanish Immersion Gap program Feb-Apr 2017. We spent a month each in Peru, Costa Rica, and Guatemala. CCS has a home base for volunteers in each country, and in all three locations the staff were lovely. They were primarily Spanish-speaking which gave volunteers a great opportunity to practice their skills while getting to know them. As far as accommodations go, the only complaint I have is that there were no fans in our dorm in Peru. Everything else was fantastic- food, beds, cleanliness, and support if we needed it. CCS provided cultural activities in each location- we toured ruins in Lima, had dance and cooking classes in Costa Rica, and attended a Mayan wedding in Guatemala (among lots more things). Weekends and some afternoons were also left free for volunteers to do as they pleased. My group took advantage of this to explore the countries more, like going to Machu Picchu in Peru, San Jose in Costa Rica, and Lake Atitlan in Guatemala.

Volunteer placements were well-managed and CCS was attentive to where volunteers wanted to help, within the realms of what their respective communities needed. There was an issue with a few of my fellow gappers in Costa Rica at the HIV home, but once it was brought to CCS's attention the problem was quickly resolved. I loved all of my placements: in Peru I worked with 5-year olds, in Costa Rica I was at a senior center/nursing home, and in Guatemala I volunteered with deaf kids. I learned something new at each placement, not only about myself, but also gained a closer look at the cultures of each country which I think couldn't be achieved without being incorporated so thoroughly.

As far as the Spanish immersion aspect of the program goes, it was easy to speak minimal Spanish over the course of the trip. It is up to each volunteer to seek out opportunities to practice, which is easy to do if you look. I wish we could have had more Spanish classes (we had 2 a week in each country), if only to develop a firm foundation to build off of. Once again, the staff in each country were great help with speaking. They were patient, kind, and happy to answer any questions we had.

It was an incredible experience that I think everyone should have the opportunity to do. I met an incredible number of wonderful people whose experiences and stories will stay with me as long as I can remember.

What would you improve about this program?
I would have liked to have more Spanish classes every week.

Programs

Displaying 1 - 9 of 12

Alumni Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with verified alumni.

Darlene Grieger

Darlene was raised in Iowa but she is living in the Phoenix, Arizona area. She went to Thailand to volunteer with Cross-Cultural Solutions. She had spent 12 weeks in Costa Rica with CCS and most recently, she volunteered in Lima, Peru with CCS. After 40 years of being a real estate broker, she retired. She has worked in some of the schools helping students with English, Math and homework. Darlene was a volunteer at both of George W. Bush's Inaugurations.

Morning: As soon as I got up I would go to the kitchen and check if the coffee was ready. If not, I would make it, have a cup, and smile to all of the other volunteers running through the kitchen to get to the shower. We were given sarongs so we always looked presentable...I got dressed and made sure the room was picked up. We did have room check on occasion. I was fortunate to have my own room most of the time. I was the oldest and felt they gave in to that. I would go back to the kitchen and have some cereal or peanut butter sandwich. There was no cooking inside. The stove was outside on the patio. Some cooked an egg; however, the cook was always available if needed. By 8 AM we had to be ready for our bus and the cooks would prepare our lunch and always put in a little packet of tissue. There is a shortage of "paper goods" there.

There were 12 volunteers from around the world and we were assigned to the different schools to help students with English. My partner was an 18 year old from Canada. Each couple had their own room assigned and the students would go from one class to another on a schedule. We had between 80 and 100 students a day and we had to come up with subjects that would interest them. That was not difficult as they all seemed to want to learn from us. We would have our lunch together and then the bus would arrive to take us back home. We would be escorted to and from the bus by some students and some teachers and often times, the principal. We would be at one school for 2 days and then another school for 2 days and so on for 2 weeks.

Afternoon: Sometimes there would be trips planned and sometimes we were on our own to do whatever. I did go on some very interesting trips but I also enjoyed going to my room and resting. There were times we would watch TV together. We were all busy checking our emails and still getting acquainted with each other.

Evening: We would all have dinner together about 6 PM and a few times, CCS took us out to dinner to get acquainted with their food and their customs. After dinner I would work on my lessons for the next day. Most of the volunteers were also preparing for their classes and we did it around the kitchen table or in that area, all together. The driver would take some people to town or shopping or to a place where younger kids meet. He would pick them up and bring them home at their agreed upon time. I did go but preferred talking with other volunteers.

Highlights: The highlight of my volunteer experience was with the young people. They were so happy to see us there and they wanted to touch us all of the time. We were appreciated. My big highlight was when the bus would pull out of the school parking lot, the students would line up on the left side of the driveway (I sat behind the driver with an open window) and they would reach for my hand. This happened at different schools and it always brought tears to my eyes.

I hired a driver in Bangkok and he took me to lots of different and interesting places, plus acting as a body guard. He took me to the castle when the King's sister was cremated. He asked that I wear a black outfit and pearls. Before we went, he took me to an elegant place to buy some beautiful pearls. When he escorted me on the grounds, he told me that the people watching were saying "What a nice lady!" I was showing respect for their King and Family.

The overall experience was overwhelming. I tried to cram every single second into my mind so I wouldn't forget it. How wonderful it is to have these thoughts that I can "bring forward" and smile again, just remembering what a great experience I had. I want to go back.

Staff Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with program leaders.

Thea Mushi

Job Title
Tanzania Country President
Thea Mushi

What is your favorite travel memory?

Traveling by boat to Zanzibar is my favorite travel memory. I was born in mainland Tanzania, near the highest mountain in Africa (Kilimanjaro), but I had never experienced travels on the sea before.

How have you changed/grown since working for your current company?

I joined my current company, CCS, 13 years ago. I started as a Program Director and am now a Country President. Although my daily work is not different, my experiences and what I've learned have helped me to grow tremendously.

Meeting different nationalities of different backgrounds and cultures makes me feel like I have traveled to almost all of the countries in the world.

If you could go on any program that your company offers, which one would you choose and why?

I would chose Tanzania. It is a peaceful country, with welcoming people and it has a lot to offer in terms culture and nature. The CCS programs in Tanzania have a lot to offer through volunteering in the community and working with CCS partners - the work is very rewarding.

It allows you to connect on a deeper level with local culture through interaction with communities and cultural and learning activities. It also provides a safe and comfortable home base, traditional tasty Tanzanian dishes, and local language lessons.

It also offers free time on the weekends where you are able to visit National Parks and other nearby sites, go mountain climbing in Zanzibar, and visit the ocean.

What makes your company unique?

I think that the professionalism our staff displays when working with volunteers and the desire for them to have a positive experience is what makes our company unique. Also, safety and security are a priority for us!

What do you believe to be the biggest factor in being a successful company?

Teamwork and dynamic leaders.

More Interviews

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