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IFRE Volunteers Abroad

Why choose IFRE Volunteers Abroad?

IFRE Volunteers, a leading U.S. volunteer abroad organization, specializes in ongoing, year-round projects available from 1 week to 12 weeks in 20 countries throughout Asia, Africa and Latin America. Wherever you choose to go, your IFRE volunteer experience will start with a one-week language and cultural immersion program providing you with an in-depth understanding of the local culture, basic language skills, regional issues and local customs. IFRE, a 501(C) 3 non-profit organization, is committed to providing you with a meaningful volunteer abroad experience that will change your life.

Founded
2006

Reviews

Default avatar
Joe
4/5
Yes, I recommend this program

Teaching English in Nairobi

My experience teaching and living in Nairobi was rewarding and unforgettable. I taught 6th and 8th grade “learners” at St. Paul’s public school and collaborated closely with a wonderful teacher. The head teacher, all the faculty, and the beautiful children welcomed me with open arms.
Most of the “learners” are impoverished. I was taken back by the lack of books (one book for each three and sometimes four students) and classroom size (60) and was not prepared for the amount of material which must be printed on the blackboards or on poster boards. Despite these difficulties, the students were very disciplined, polite, and curious about my presence.
There is a lack of government support which is reflected not only in the paucity of books but also in the number of learners (60) in classrooms and lack of individual desks that required many learners to sit together on benches with very narrow desktops. Student sitting at the back of the room had difficulty seeing the blackboard, and I had difficulty hearing them at times in their accented English. The line up for daily porridge for students who did not bring lunch was very large, and even larger when it was announced that learners whose parents did not contribute to the porridge fund (that pays for porridge and the cook) could receive porridge due to a surplus. The teachers told me that the porridge may be the only meal in the day for some of the students.
Due to flooding, there were only three toilet facilities – one for girls, one foy boys, and one for faculty and staff. The toilets were outhouses which required standing up. Everyone had to bring their own toilet paper, including the learners but some could not afford it. There were not enough places for handwashing.
The largely female teachers were very enthusiastic and dedicated, and teaching was only part of their responsibility and deep commitment. The teachers routinely keep track of the tough economic and social circumstances under which most learners live and learn. I saw numerous acts of kindness demonstrated by individual teachers. I watched as my mentor teacher brought in a bag of shoes from her son to give to the “head learner” whom she noticed was having difficulty walking because his shoes had fallen apart.
There was a day of celebration when local elected officials came to deliver sanitary napkin supplies for the first time to the school to end the plague of “menstrual shame” and stop girls from missing school during their periods. St. Paul’s was chosen as a pilot project and each girl having her period would receive two napkins – one for school and one to take home. On another occasion when my mentor teacher pointed out that one boy could not see the text in the shared book, because his mother could not afford to buy him eye glasses, I had a pair of non-prescription reading glasses with me and gave them to him. A whole new world opened up.
I was surprised to learn the language of instruction for all subjects is English, although Swahili is spoken more to the younger children. One suggestion I have is for those who teach English in the volunteer program to receive more specific information about area and school where the will teach, the grade levels, and more precise recommendations on teaching English.
My room and meals in a family home were excellent. As a senior citizen, it was important that I had a single room with shower. But even better was the relationship I developed with the family who were wonderful, understanding, and accommodating. The host father, who is both a minister and a dean of students at Daystar University, was very generous and is planning two projects to assist impoverished youth in Nairobi and in his native village. He also arranged for me to give a lecture to students at Daystar. I wrote a white paper for him outlining some ideas about raising funds and setting up a non-profit corporation in the US. I pledged to donate funds to one of the projects of my host family after an organization is formed. I also plan to send some funds to St. Paul’s to purchase supplies.
As a final comment, I was struck by the role of Christianity plays in the daily life of Kenyans and even in the public schools where there is also a required course on “Christian Living” that I found fascinating. As I non-religious person and American where there is a legal separation between church and state (although changes are underway on this principle), I was not offended at all having observed what is taught which is more about discussing the importance of proper behavior rather and less about religion.

Pros
  • A lived experience with deep immersion. Opportunity to make a difference.
Cons
  • Don't do it if you are looking for an adventure. Do it because you want to make a contribution.
  • Arrangements for the chosen school were a bit sloppy. My host had to find the school which turned out well.
Default avatar
Eleonora
5/5
Yes, I recommend this program

One of the best experiences of my life!

I absolutely loved my time in Kenya, volunteering for HIV positive women under the LPK program. I not only met amazing people (some of the most welcoming individuals I have ever met), but I was able to experience the kenyan culture and contribute to the program in a meaningful way. We carried out home visits to work on each case individually and speak with the beneficiaries of the program. They allowed me to visit the school (in which many students are funded by the program itself) and the slums where many of these women live. It was a culture shock to say the least, but truly eye-opening and humbling. I think everyone should contribute to this program, as it both enriches you and the organization. The food, the accommodation, and the staff members were all great and have made a life-long impression on me. I am definitely coming back for a longer period.

If you did this all over again, what's one thing you would change?
I would get in touch with the spokesperson at the organization, asking her what I need to bring that might support the program/the beneficiaries. If I had known in advance, I would have brought resources for both the kids and the women under the program.
Pros
  • Experiencing the kenyan culture
  • Meeting women with HIV and seeing how they overcame their challenges
  • The chance to travel around Kenya and do safaris
Cons
  • no internet (SIM card needed)
  • Different working hours than what specified in the program
  • had to pay extra drop-off fees (40 USD)
Default avatar
Arthur
5/5
Yes, I recommend this program

Photojournalism in Nepal

This was my first time in Nepal, so I didn’t really know what to expect, but as soon as I arrived I felt welcomed and made myself at home very easily and quickly.
The food prepared for us was always amazing, and the location of the guest house in Kathmandu was a short walk from the town centre.
I was on the photojournalism course, which was an amazing experience in itself. The first week was a bit tough to get in the working rhythm. I also thought I would be having photography classes, as the program presented it in such a way - but ended up having a few talks with the teacher to understand what my work was and that was sufficient for me to get on my way.
Overall it was an amazing experience where I learnt a lot and met amazing people. 100% would reccomend.

If you did this all over again, what's one thing you would change?
I would go trekking and explore the remote areas of Nepal more
Pros
  • Close to city center
  • Lovely food
  • Beautiful views
Cons
  • Outside of the city center
  • Not many people
Default avatar
Sarvesh
5/5
Yes, I recommend this program

Medical Shadowing

I volunteered at Sahid Memorial Hospital, a small community based hospital in Kathmandu,Nepal. During my volunteering stint, I was attached to the Emergency Department (ED). In the ED, they had a different medical officer in charge every day, which allowed me to interact with and learn from multiple doctors. Despite being a small hospital, there was a significant number of walk-in patients in the ED with diverse medical needs. During the afternoons, I was given the opportunity to explore different departments in the Hospital. My personal favourite was the Surgery department. The highlight of the program was observing live surgeries.

Registering for the program was easy. The program cost is fairy affordable as well.
Anjana, my program coordinator was friendly, accommodating and supportive throughout my stay in Nepal.

I would strongly recommend pre-med students to apply for this program to witness firsthand the diverse medical practices and gain invaluable clinical experience.

Pros
  • The staff at IFRE are friendly and helpful
  • The hospital had various departments for exploring niche opportunities
  • I had an opportunity to interact with different medical officer on a daily basis
Cons
  • The accommodation (Hostel) wasn't comfortable for my stay.
Default avatar
Michael
5/5
Yes, I recommend this program

Sahid Memorial Hospital Experience

I volunteered in Sahid Memorial Hospital in the heart of Kathmandu in April 2024. I was assigned to the ER. I also made rounds in the General Ward with two of the ER young doctors. I participated in the assessments and treatment plans for some of the patients. The nursing and medical staff I interacted with were friendly. I felt at home after the first day. It’s a wonderful experience for me. I’d definitely seize another opportunity to go back. I spent some time touring the city. I also took a guided hiking tour of Shivapuri Peak which was exhausting but fun.

What was your funniest moment?
Riding on a commercial scooter.
Pros
  • Eye opener
  • Fulfilling
  • Cost-effective
Cons
  • Travel time
  • Long layover

Programs

Displaying 10 - 18 of 25

Alumni Interviews

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

Why did you choose this program?

I spent one month in Bali in 2018 and I fell in love with the exotic island of Gods and its wonderful people, hence I made a promise to myself and decided to go back a year after to give some of the kindness and helpfulness back to their community.

I have always been interested in teaching; however, I have never done it in a classroom before. Therefore, for me, the combination of traveling and volunteering with IFRE as an English teacher seemed to be a perfect opportunity.

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

During the process of my online application, everything went smoothly; I was given all the help and support that I needed.

The in-country coordinator Komang was more than just a support for us: he took us to a traditional Balinese wedding, showed us the most beautiful authentic parts of Bali and was there whenever we needed him. He was also really flexible and helpful when we wanted to change our accommodation or had any other questions.

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

My advice to other volunteers is to be really open-minded and take every opportunity you have to get involved in an authentic cultural experience. Nothing compares to the feeling of getting to know multiple different cultures, religions, people and their stories. It also truly is a wonderful thing to see how huge an impact you can make just by teaching English in a primary school.

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

We were teaching from Monday to Friday, three classes per day in a primary school in Bali. The entire school had one English teacher, Miss Surya, and we were assisting her from 9.30 until 12.30. The students (age 6-12) were really respectful, energetic and lovable, and all the teachers we met were very helpful and amazing.

We had breakfast and lunch cooked by a wonderful Balinese lady and had our meals nearby the school which was approximately 30 minutes from our accommodation and organized by the in-country coordinator, Komang. The program does have accommodation 5 minutes' walk from the school; however, I and my friend decided to stay somewhere else as that place suited us and our needs better.

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

My biggest fear was being alone in a far-away foreign country. Luckily, one of my friends joined me on this journey and that was a great help. However, the organization and their in-country coordinator in Bali do give you all the support and help that you need. Though, if you are planning to volunteer on your own, and you do not like being alone, this might not be the best option for you.

As IFRE is a smaller organization, they spread out the volunteers all over the island, hence do not really expect to meet with other volunteers.

What did you like the most during your stay?

The first five years are crucial for children’s cognitive development. During these early years and even after, children have the ability to pick up, process and understand languages much quicker.

That’s why I’m more than thankful I could be part of these wonderful, energetic and lovable Balinese children’s journey of learning English as a second language.