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ISV (International Student Volunteers)

About

ISV’s mission is to support sustainable development programs around the world through life changing student volunteer programs designed to positively impact our world and to educate, inspire and result in more active global citizens.

Destinations include South Africa, Costa Rica, Thailand, Australia, New Zealand and the Dominican Republic. ISV has won multiple awards and over 40,000 participants from around the world have experienced their educational, cultural and adventure programs. Volunteers can join small teams for two-week projects in the field of conservation or community development, followed by a two week adventure tour. Many students earn academic credit for their involvement and highly qualified local staff carefully oversee programs in each country. ISV is recognized as one of the highest rated volunteer and travel organizations in the world and is a non-profit organization in California, USA. Its Australian operations are based in Sydney. Begin your ISV adventure today!

Founded
2002
Headquarters

4848 Lakeview Ave
Suite 100-A
Yorba Linda, CA 92886
United States

Reviews

Faya
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Isv- all about safety, they said, while finding our way through the wood covered, muddy, wet steep hills. It wasn't dangerous, but imagine our sarcasm!

Noty only provided ISV a great learning enironment, they also gave us a life among a Maori family to teach us more about cultural identity, tradition and the ancient thoughts on nature, the earth, our modern way of living and travelling as a grest way to safely explore the world without doing it any damage.

Highly recommended expierence both mentally, physically and on a conscious enviromental level ad well as culturally.

And... Thank you for being here, reading comments/revieuws to be inspired, but now it is time for YOU to inspire us. Go out there and have a great time while doing great work!

What would you improve about this program?
More people from around the world! As much as I loved the almost all American group, I hope more and more people from other countries would enter (I am Dutch, for example).
Cat
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

In 2011, a couple of ISV student reps enthusiastically promoted their program in one of my lecture halls my junior year of college. Little did I know this moment would change me life dramatically. I picked up the flyer and thought, I could never do this! I can't afford this experience. It sounded amazing though and I didn't want my doubt to be what hindered me. I looked into it more and decided to try fundraising for it. It was super hard and I didn't come up with all the money, but I begged my family to help me pay the rest. In a nutshell, the 2 week volunteer experience opened my eyes to the large-scale social problems of gender inequality, economic hardship, and poverty which was the hallmark motivation to pursue my Masters in Social Work. This trip was my first overseas experience as a traveler, not as a tourist. I met amazing people and it opened my eyes and my heart to the meaning of life, of traveling, and of being a humanitarian. Since then, I have completed my Masters in Social Work with a focus on international community development and am currently serving a 27 month service as a Peace Corps volunteer in Peru. It's been 4 years since my trip to Ecuador with ISV and I believe now more than ever, I would not be where I am in life today if it weren't for this experience. So, if you are considering doing a trip with ISV, but have doubts, find a way to make it work because it could be a big step in fulfilling your destiny!

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Yidi
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

we cried a lot during the time in Thailand with our buddies, they are like my real sister and brothers, and i hope i can come to Thailand again to visit Maekok Foundation .
It was the most memorable experience in my life. I learned so much during the time spending with the Kids, and i miss them so so so so much!!!
We taught the Kids English while they also taught us how to do the work, like how to mix the sand and rock, how to plan rice.

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Carol
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

When I first learned about what ISV was, I immediately wanted to sign up- and I'm so glad I did! Traveling to Costa Rica in the summer of 2016, was the best experience of my life that I've had so far. My career goal is to become a veterinarian, so when I found out that ISV had programs involving wildlife conservation I was hooked. Luckily I was placed in the Osa in Water project, which involved many aspects of sea turtle conservation, and I was thrilled! The project site was on Playa Blanca, and we traveled to several neighboring beaches where we would set up nets in the ocean in order to capture either Hawksbill, or Black sea turtle species. Once we had one trapped in the net, the researchers would haul it onto the boat, ride to shore, and we would conduct the data research of measuring the turtle's carapace, plastron, and tail length. If it was a new turtle that we had never encountered before, we would give it a number tag on its left and right flipper in order to monitor its travel patterns. We would also take a tissue sample from its hind flipper so the researchers could further study blood lines. On days where we weren't working directly with the sea turtles, we would plant Mangrove seeds, which are a vital food source for the Hawksbills. We would also do beach clean ups, and different maintenance work along the project site. It felt so rewarding, being able to help conduct this project successfully. Something I would definitely do again!

What would you improve about this program?
The project was great!
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Alison
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

My trip to the Dominican Republic this summer was without doubt the most fulfilling and worthwhile experience of my life. I opted to travel out to the DR for the 5 week programme and enjoyed every second of it. Before flying out, I must admit that I felt a little uninformed about the exact tasks we would be responsible for on the project site. Please do not let this put you off - once over there everything became clear and all fell in to place.
The first week was a Spanish and Cultural Immersion programme. This is something I would definitely recommend to future volunteers because knowing a bit of Spanish is invaluable when working in a school and interacting with the locals. Extras such as dance and cooking classes, city tours and a trip to the beach really added to the experience and gave more of an insight in to Dominican culture. For the duration of the week I stayed with a really lovely host family who took great care of me and made me feel extremely welcome in their home.
For the two week programme myself and 13 other volunteers were placed on project at Blue Moon. We worked in a kindergarten teaching the local children a range of subjects including English, Health, Road Safety, Arts and Crafts and Physical Education. On top of this, we restored and developed the worn-out playground at the school, and re-built the foundations of an elderly man’s house and laid concrete floors within it. It was a truly eye-opening experience! Seeing the children playing in their new playground touched my heart and really made all of the hard work and sweat worth it. A really rewarding experience that I felt honoured to be a part of.
The adventure tour was another incredible experience. I would 100% recommend staying for the last 2 weeks as it’s a perfect opportunity to see more of the country and do so many fun filled and adrenaline pumping activities. A couple of my many highlights were rappelling down the side of a 45m waterfall, surrounded by beautiful scenery, and another was cliff jumping.
I must also mention the awesome ISV project leaders Danyi and Pedro, and adventure tour leader Adolfo. They were all full of fun and enthusiasm, constantly keeping a smile on everyones face. The experience really wouldn’t have been the same without them. Think yourself lucky if any of them are involved in your ISV experience!
I would recommend this programme to anybody who wants to make a positive impact in our world. Whether you are an avid volunteer, a wanderlust globetrotter, or a novice traveller, you will fall in love with the Dominican Republic and ISV. I was lucky enough to make some amazing friendships along the way. I’m already looking at another ISV programme for next year! We as volunteers take part in a programme like this to enhance the lives of the less privileged, but my life has also been enriched in so many ways. Amazing experience and I fully encourage everyone to look in to volunteering with ISV or a similar organisation.

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Alumni Interviews

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

Dulce Estevez

Dulce Estevez is a undergraduate student at California State University at Monterey Bay. She is pursuing her bachelor's degree in Environmental Studies with a concentration in Education. She currently working in addition to school to save up for her next trip. She loves volunteering, learning new languages and cultures all around the world.

Why did you choose this program?

Sea turtles in Costa Rica

I choose this program because it gave me the opportunity to volunteer in a specific project and give back to the community. At the same time it gave me an opportunity to travel around the country and experience the culture.

Being an environmental student I am very passionate in conversation of habitat and species. ISV gave me the opportunity to work with the conservation of sea turtles and it was a life changing experience that I will never forget.

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

One important piece of advice I wish I had ahead of time is more information about the type of weather the country has. This will make it more simple to pack and organize the right things.

Also, arrive to the country with an open mindset because when you leave you will miss every moment.

Be open to try new things and be emerged within the culture by eating typical foods and practice the language spoken.

What is your favorite memory from the trip?

hiking in Costa Rica

An unforgettable moment being part of the ISV team was when I hiked for about an hour or so to get to our luggage at the place we were staying. This was very challenging, especially with the warm temperatures of Costa Rica.

There was a moment that I began to cry and felt as if I wasn't going to make it to our place in Nancite. I began to debate if I should continue or go back and leave the program early. With the help of the tour leaders positive encouragement I was able to continue the hike.

Once getting to our place I was so amazed by how much I pushed myself. This motivated me to set high goals and never give up because I now know how much stronger I am. PURA VIDA!

Staff Interviews

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

How long have you been part of the team at ISV? What is your role?

Adolfo Ramirez

Adolfo: I have been part of this amazing team since May 2005 when Randy Sykes, the founder of ISV came to the Dominican Republic and visited Cabarete on the North coast of the Island looking for Dominican tour leaders to lead the ISV groups on our Adventure Tour around the island.

My role at ISV for the past 4 years has been Tour Director. I am the one responsible for organizing everything regarding the tour, from transportation, accommodation, meals and activities, to ensure participants have the best experience possible.

But what I enjoy the most about my job is taking participants on our Adventure Tour around the island and showing them all that my country has to offer.

What inspired you to join ISV?

Adolfo: Having led many mountain biking trips and hiking trips around the country and to the highest mountain in the Caribbean, I saw an opportunity in ISV to meet a lot of new people and show them my country.

At the same time feel a sense of fulfillment, since each one of these participants have come here to volunteer their time to help my country become a better place for our people. And showing them the beauties of this island is like a reward for their work. And I enjoy doing it.

Adolfo with some volunteers

What is your favorite aspect of the ISV's program in the Dominican Republic?

Adolfo: I really enjoy taking people around and showing them things they probably would never see or experience back in their home countries. But I have to say that my favorite aspect is the volunteering part of the program, what the participants experience and the stories they tell about it.

What is the best story you've heard of a volunteer's experience with ISV in the Dominican Republic?

Adolfo: There have been so many fantastic stories in the past 8 years that it is really hard for me to recall one specific one. What I will never forget is the comments of most participants at the end of the volunteer part of the program or when they are going home after the end of the Adventure Tour, things like ‘I am in love with this country’, ‘This is the best experience of my life’ or ‘This has changed my life.’

I am member of almost every ISV group on Facebook and I can see how participants who didn't know each other before coming to the program and from many different parts of the world are now best friends even when they are half a world apart.

Adolfo Ramirez

What tips/ insights do you have for volunteers considering Dominican Republic as their next volunteer destination?

Adolfo: The Dominican Republic is considered as one of the happiest countries in the world. We are also really friendly and welcoming and you will see this if you come here. Be ready to dance our Merengue and Bachata. Like most Latin American countries we love our music and dance. Even the poorest of the poor will have some stereo at their house to play some music.

Come with an open mind and flexibility and be prepared for some refreshing rain showers from time to time. Respect the culture, but go a little further and try to understand it and mingle with the locals to have an even better experience.