Developing World Connections

Developing World Connections

About

Developing World Connections (DWC) matches teams of volunteers and resources with people and organizations in developing nations to alleviate poverty and inspire hope. DWC ensures volunteers work on meaningful projects that have impact for the community.

DWC is a registered non-profit Canadian charity that has no religious or political affiliation. Volunteers work alongside locals, which gives them a chance to make cross-cultural connections and develop a stronger understanding of what locals' lives are like. DWC connects dedicated volunteers to people in countries around the world with a goal of creating lasting and powerful change.

We offer one- to two-week adult and family trips for all ages, two- to four-week youth and university trips for 16- to 29-year-olds and customized group or corporate trips. For more information, please contact us or visit our website.

Founded
2004

Reviews

Default avatar
Preety
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Developing World Connections does an incredible job of organizing meaningful trips & there is always someone available to answer any of your questions! Volunteering through DWC has been so life changing! I was Team Leader to DWC’s volunteer trip to Peru in the summer of 2016 & had previously went on their trip to Guatemala 2 years prior. It is not only a great opportunity to make meaningful friendships with those that are part of your team, but also gives you a chance to put your life into perspective & understand the significance of connecting with those that have a different background from yourself. Being of service puts one in touch with the needs of humanity and helps one understand that changing the world is a community effort. If you are interested in developing connections & doing meaningful & life-changing work, I highly recommend going on a DWC volunteer trip!

Default avatar
Preety
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

“Cii,” said a Guatemalan lady, while just behind her a mariachi band played and her boyfriend kneeled on one knee crying tears of joy. A group of us stood on the other side of the street cheering, as we had just witnessed a marriage proposal. The next day while walking through the town we heard a similar mariachi band. The seven of us instantly began dancing until our group leader, Teresa, said that the mariachi band was there for a funeral. This funeral was for an eleven-year-old girl who had committed suicide because she could no longer cope with the domestic violence she faced at home. This was the first time I cried during my volunteer trip to Guatemala. In Guatemala, mariachi bands are not only used for celebratory events, but also during times of grief. This volunteer trip was organized through DWC, a non-profit organization that connects volunteers to communities in developing nations. Our group worked with Open Windows, a foundation that runs a children’s learning center in San Miguel Duenas. We built a room for a family of six and taught English to elementary school students. This valuable experience taught me many things including cultural diversity and that I can make a difference in the everyday lives of those less fortunate. It also taught me about suffering, especially domestic violence, an issue we often ignore as a society and it ignited my passion for addressing social issues.

Developing World Connections does an incredible job of organizing meaningful trips & the trip coordinator, Thomas, is amazing & always available to answer any of your questions! Volunteering through DWC has been so life changing! It is not only a great opportunity to make meaningful friendships with those that are part of your team, but also gives you a chance to put your life into perspective & understand the significance of connecting with those that have a different background from yourself. Being of service puts one in touch with the needs of humanity and helps one understand that changing the world is a community effort. If you are interested in developing connections & doing meaningful & life-changing work, I highly recommend going on a DWC volunteer trip!

Allen
1/10
No, I don't recommend this program

It would be hard pressed to see DWC's footprint on this trip. DWC hadn't truly partnered with the host organization and hadn't trained them to host teams. DWC's drive to cut team costs and take funds from the supported organization make's it hard for me to believe their business model will survive. The information flow from DWC was too little too late and many things were left up to the team leader to tap dance and make the experience better. I was glad we had a very experienced team leader who could make rational decisions, keep Grace Rwanda on track and effectively communicate to all parties. DWC should count their blessings they have such a wonderful volunteer leader. This DWC experience was built for backpackers, not an experienced international volunteer team like ours. Overall, Rwanda was a wonderful experience, but it was because of the team leader and the team, not DWC or Grace Rwanda.

Response from Developing World Connections

We thank Allen for taking the time to submit his comments on his Rwanda trip. Grace Rwanda is a new partner with DWC and there have been some growing pains along the way. We are working with Grace Rwanda to resolve those issues.
Concerning the comments about undercutting, DWC does not try to slash team costs. The funds allocated for meals and hotel were standards used for other trips in Rwanda and other countries.
DWC chooses team leaders who have experience in the countries where they will be leading. In this case, we knew we had a highly organized team leader who had been to Rwanda and who has a track record of leading not just with us, but with other organizations as well.
DWC is in the process of upgrading its pre-trip preparation for volunteers and team leaders. We review feedback from volunteers like Allen and team leaders to keep improving the experiences we offer. While the vast majority of our trips run smoothly and reviews are hugely positive, there is the occasional case where that doesn’t happen. We are committed to making every trip as enjoyable and memorable as possible for each volunteer. We regret that Allen did not feel DWC held up its end of the bargain.
- The team at DWC

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

While working on Nadia's house. Marcia,Cathy and Bonnie brought the maternal side of the observation that the family did not have the basic household materials. It was heart-breaking. There was a small and very old stove, there was no shower and the kitchen tap needed replacement. When I looked around; just at the corner of Nadia's house I saw a public tap water point where those without taps came to fetch water and take a bath.

On the way back the team agreed to contribute from their pockets and procure plumbing material, kitchen utensils,a folding mattress and a new stove!! The team was going an extra mile and we agreed that the presents should be a surprise to Nadia and the family on our last Friday at the project site. The team split. John,Gab and I shopped for the plumbing material. I did not know so much detail was needed for the measurements and John was really great. Meanwhile the other team shopped for the other kitchen and bedding presents which were latter wrapped in beautiful packs and boxes.
The last Friday came and we did our last chores.Finally we sat down on the newly made top floor in Nadia's house and presented the gifts. I saw big smiles from the team and Nadia and her husband could not believe it. Their faces expressed it all and it was such a heart warming moment. When we finally left and hugged them goodbye I saw tears of joy in their eyes and I felt my eyes shedding tears too!! 'This is a connection' I cried to myself.

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

A group of twelve of us volunteered to build a family a small home in the village of San Miguel Duenas, Guatemala. We worked diligently on the project for two weeks. The good parts for me was learning about the country, its people, and how things get done. We left for the worksite at 8:00 and returned about 3:30. We stayed in nearby Antigua - a much larger centre. Breakfast was provided at a nearby café, lunch was in a private home near the project, and dinners was our choice at any restaurant in Antigua. It worked quite well.
Everyone on our team gave 100% while working on the house. We essentially were unskilled and unpaid labourers assisting the bricklayers with supplies and materials. it was rewarding to see this cinder block house (10 x 17 feet) take shape. A regret is that we could not finish it before we had to leave. One concern is that I might have preferred to work on a community project rather than a home for just one family but nevertheless it still improved the lives of a few people in this rather poor part of the country. I feel positive about the entire experience.

What would you improve about this program?
There was a last minute change in for whom we were building the home. Unfortunately there was a legal lot line dispute that meant we had to build the home for another family on a different lot. We knew little about the needs of this new family so those of us who wanted to take items from Canada for them could not do more that guess what might be useful.

Programs

Displaying 1 - 9 of 9

Alumni Interviews

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

Kelly Gerlings

Kelly Gerlings spent a wondrous 29 days in Nepal in May 2013and is currently writing this from Johannesburg, South Africa, though she is from a small town just north of Toronto. As a political science undergrad at the University of British Columbia, Kelly could not imagine a more intense learning experience than every joy and challenge contained in traveling. She prefers nights spent in conversation, days that destroy comfort zones and moments made of music, tea, and crazy colored socks.
Kelly and students

Why did you decide to volunteer with DWC in Nepal?

I was introduced to DWC through a teaching assistant in university. I applied for the position of Team Leader, as it seemed like an amazing opportunity and combined everything I enjoy—travel, meeting other passionate people, making connections around the globe, challenges. I chose Nepal as the destination because of the project that we would be working on: partnered with Creating Possibilities Nepal, a social organization that works for the welfare of disadvantaged children and women in Nepal, we would be contributing to the construction of a classroom and teaching English to students in the Dang district of Nepal. The school we worked in supports the education of girls that CPN has bought out of bonded labour. My research of DWC and its practices, plus the recommendation of my teaching assistant, convinced me of the sustainability and ethicality of DWC’s volunteer trips.

Describe your day to day activities as a volunteer.

There was no one typical day on a DWC trip, and I’m sure this applies to every country in which there are currently projects being supported. For us in Nepal, we spent a handful of days in Kathmandu at the beginning and end of the trip to stock up on snacks, see the sites and adjust to the time and cultural differences. We spent two and a half weeks in Lamahi, Dang, Nepal, where we stayed in a small hostel/hotel and took a jeep ride in to Chainpur, the village where the school was located.

We worked on construction for a week, waking up before the sun to beat the heat, laying bricks and moving cement, and one week teaching English in some of the classes, grades 7-10, during teacher examinations. A delicious local lunch was always provided by some of the mothers that CPN supports through micro-financing mother’s groups, which we spent a few days visiting and learning about. Afternoons and evenings were spent back in Lamahi, recharging, reconnecting, debriefing. Breakfast and dinner was lovingly provided by the family who owned the hotel. Weekends we toured around Nepal, with a trip to Lumbini and a trip to Bardia National Park.

If you could go back and do something differently what would it be?

If I went back to Nepal with DWC, I would stay longer, quite simply. DWC works in 2-4 week trips usually, but I wish we could have had even more time. CPN was an absolutely amazing host and they do inspiring, if difficult work—I would love to have been able to learn even more from them, and from the students and girls we met. We had a wonderful time with the children in Chainpur at the school and got quite close to them while we were working, making it very difficult to leave. Though we finished our construction goals, I would love to spend more time teaching and getting to know the children even more.

Ten years from now, what’s the one thing you think you’ll remember from the trip?

My worldview always changes as a result of any travels I take, as I gain a much more intimate understanding of the country I have travelled to. Being able to have these stories from Nepal, of our time in Kathmandu, our weekend travels, of the women and girls we met—this deeply changed and challenged the way I think of Nepal, and the way I imagine myself in context of the world. Even with all the talk of “global village” and increased communication and knowledge sharing, it is not easy to imagine complexly the lives of people outside of one’s comfortable life, your comfort zone.

Traveling and working in Nepal has given me the ability to see, to experience, to have known for a short while the realities and landscapes of life in Nepal. This gives me an intimate handle, a mental image, a sensory recall of what ‘Nepal’ contains within it—no longer just a place on a map, but an extraordinary journey in my life.

Has your worldview changed as a result of your trip?

My worldview always changes as a result of any travels I take, as I gain a much more intimate understanding of the country I have travelled to. Being able to have these stories from Nepal, of our time in Kathmandu, our weekend travels, of the women and girls we met—this deeply changed and challenged the way I think of Nepal, and the way I imagine myself in context of the world. Even with all the talk of “global village” and increased communication and knowledge sharing, it is not easy to imagine complexly the lives of people outside of one’s comfortable life, your comfort zone.

Traveling and working in Nepal has given me the ability to see, to experience, to have known for a short while the realities and landscapes of life in Nepal. This gives me an intimate handle, a mental image, a sensory recall of what ‘Nepal’ contains within it—no longer just a place on a map, but an extraordinary journey in my life.

Staff Interviews

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

Tell us a little about DWC and your role at the organization.

Developing World Connections was founded in 2004, with our first group volunteering in February 2005 after the Asia tsunami. From Sri Lanka as our first project location, we have now added 12 other countries in Africa, Asia and the Americas. Our projects are all related to construction of infrastructure to help eliminate the causes and effects of poverty. Typically we build schools, medical facilities, livelihood generating facilities, water and sanitation projects and agricultural projects.

I am the founder and president of Developing World Connections and along with overall management responsibilities, I am responsible for establishing and maintaining the relationships with our developing world partners, as well as with our corporate partners in Canada.

How did you get involved in the volunteer industry?

I first encountered international volunteering with my Rotary club, as we conducted a home rebuilding project in Guatemala post Hurricane Mitch. During the trip, I spent considerable time with the family of the village chief. When I first saw Maria, their six year old daughter, she was asleep in the mud of their living room floor. She was a healthy, sweet child and she became my shadow for the entire time I was in the village. When I returned the next year, Maria was no longer the vibrant little girl of a year ago, but was now thin, gaunt and bedridden from tuberculosis. Several nights during my stay I sat with Amilca, her older brother, while he tried to keep her fever down with a damp cloth.

With her parents and a doctor from our group, we decided that when we left the village, we would take Maria with us to a tuberculosis sanitarium. However, by the end of the week her condition was much worse and she was unable to travel. By the time we finished our long hike out of the jungle, word awaited us that Maria had passed away. This event changed me. I realized just how privileged I was; how if Maria were in Canada or the USA, she would have gotten the proper care she so desperately needed. From that point forward, I committed to do whatever I could to help alleviate the burden of poverty in the developing world.

After several more volunteering trips, I began to realize that not only did we make a great difference in the lives of our project beneficiaries, this work was also having a huge impact on us. The opportunity to serve internationally added a whole new very positive dimension to our lives. At the time, there was little opportunity for people outside of organizations like Rotary to be involved in international volunteering, so we decided we would start an organization that would offer the opportunity to anybody and everybody.

What makes DWC unique?

There are a number of things that make DWC unique in the international volunteering sector:

  • We are committed to and follow strong principles of development effectiveness, rather than aid effectiveness.
  • Our projects are always construction related and include facilities for improvement of education, health care, community services, water and sanitation and agriculture.
  • We commit to building long term relationships with the communities where our volunteers participate. We partner only with non-profit organizations that are well established and respected in their communities and we expect accountability.

What characteristics make a good international volunteer?

A good international volunteer is one who goes into the experience with an open mind and a desire to serve, share of themselves, work to their physical capabilities and learn enough from their experience that they can then contribute in a greater way to global peace and understanding. A good international volunteer leaves their ego and expectations at home and, rather than try to change their host culture and community, embraces the differences they experience.

How do you prepare the volunteers for their projects?

The process of volunteer orientation starts several months prior to arrival in the host country. The volunteer is provided information about DWC operating principles, the host country and culture, the project, what to expect, how to conduct oneself, safety and security, travel, accommodations, food and packing lists. Each volunteer group is assigned an experienced Trip Coordinator and a Team Leader. Whenever possible the Team Leader conducts at least one orientation session, either in person or by conference call, allowing opportunity for a lengthy question and answer period. When the volunteers arrive in country, an orientation is then conducted by our Host Partner. This orientation focuses on their operating principles, safety and security, cultural differences and expectations.

How do you ensure your programs are sustainable and mutually beneficial for you, the community and the volunteers?

We spend considerable time seeking out host country partners and communities who are committed to sound development principles. Because we return to the same community several times over many years, we have ample opportunity to monitor the projects and ensure they are meeting the needs of the project beneficiaries.

We ensure the volunteers have daily opportunity to work through cultural barriers by working side by side with local people, engaging with families, visiting community facilities and participating in community events. The benefit to Developing World Connections is achieved through providing a meaningful experience for the volunteers and meeting the infrastructure needs of the project communities.