Madventurer Projects and Adventures Worldwide

Madventurer

About

Madventurer offers a unique combination of empowering community development placements, service learning, and exhilarating adventures in some of the most exciting destinations in the world including Ghana, Kenya, Peru, Thailand, Fiji, Tanzania, and beyond! The MAD Tribe works on many different projects which support the advancement of education and the relief of poverty by focusing on teaching, construction, health, and sports development.

Madventurers are the earth shakers, risk takers, and difference makers of the world.

Founded
1998
Headquarters

United States

Reviews

Cat
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

In the summer of 2015, I had the opportunity to join Madventure in an individual community-service trip to the small village of Naboutini, Fiji. I had multiple friends who had been on the trip before that spoke very highly of their experience, so I made it a point that I go. There were 2 parts to this 2-week stay: (1) working on the community-service project (2) learning about everyday Fijian life. The community-service project included finishing up the community hall that Madventure had been working on for a couple of years, this included repainting the outside of the hall and building the cabinets for the nurse's room and serving room. By immersing myself in the Fijian way of life, I was able to learn a lot about the culture, gender norms, and education, as well as build strong relationship with some of the villagers. My experience in Fiji was so great that when I returned to the US I began planning a group trip with California State University, Fresno. The following summer in 2016, I as well as another student, led a group of 24 students and faculty on this amazing experience. During their trip we had a few projects going on at the same time that included building a community kitchen, visiting the local primary school and teaching lessons, and a water project that would help with villages limited water access. Aside from their community service the group also engaged in everyday Fijian life and culture. As part of the Service-learning course they also had set aside time for reflection and discussion of their experiences. This trip is different from any other trip that I have experienced because not only do you engage in community service, but you also get to immerse yourself into a new culture and learn about their everyday life. Definitely a trip I would recommend and I can't wait to go back!

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Zandra
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

My time in Naboutini was like nothing I could have imagined! When we arrived the villagers were there to greet us with open arms. Throughout my time in the village I made many personal connections that changed my outlook on life! It is hard to say what my favorite part of my trip was, but if I had to choose I would say it was our time visiting and teaching at the Volivoli primary school down the road from the village. It was eye opening to see what the kids do with what they have. I will never forget my time in Fiji and I hope to return someday soon. Vinaka!

What would you improve about this program?
I think the program would be improved by explicitly stating that much of your time will be spent connecting with the villagers. I think that is a valuable part of this trip, but some may want to choose a trip where they will find themselves in a more labor intensive roll.
Izzy
4/10
No, I don't recommend this program

I am sad to report that my experience with Madventurer was extremely disappointing. I went into the trip with an open mind and ready to have an impact on a community. I have done a number of service projects so I had a little expectation. To start, signing up for the program was a frustrating process. Everything happened through email, no medical or emergency information was asked and it took up to two weeks at a time for an email back. About two days prior to departure I was informed that I had to book another flight to a remote island, which would have been okay if I had know ahead of time. Once I got there I was ambushed by the fact that all other participants were from the same college and I was the only solo traveler. While that had its benefits, it would have been nice to know in advance. The village and the people were wonderful but at times it felt that we were not needed. All work, the little that was needed, was done by male participants due to cultural beliefs. The females in the group spend every day sitting around the village and helping for maybe half an hour a day to cook and clean. A number of us spent all day sitting in a hammock just talking. While the 'tuition' price is quite nice, there ends up being a decent amount of added expenses (food, internal flights, excursion on the last day). Out of all of my travels, traveling with Madventurer was sadly the most disappointing. Spend the little extra money and actually enjoy your trip and feel as if you are making a difference.

Response from Madventurer

Hi Izzy,

Thank you for your feedback. I am really sorry that you were disappointed with your project. I was concerned when I read the review as while you were in Fiji our project leaders felt that you didn’t show any indication that you were having a bad experience and you seemed to jump right in with our Fresno group and it looked like you made some strong relationships with other volunteers. It was tough for our group to contribute to the building project on this phase as much of the work was very labor intensive or it involved dangerous working conditions (for example, constructing the roof).

The group was really good about being engaged with the village and they saw a lot of our volunteers participating in the different cultural activities throughout the village everyday. Our project leaders felt that you seemed to have been enjoying yourself whenever they were with you or when they checked in on how you were doing. The cultural immersion is a key part of the trip, and although the local skilled workers have to take over at different points in the build, the other activities that are part of the trip, such as the snorkeling boat trip, giving lessons at the local primary school, or even just sharing time making lemonade with the Fijian woman, you all seemed to enjoy. Hammock or porch time for rest and reflection is part of a College Service Learning itinerary. You did seem to have made really great connections with the group and become really good friends with some of the girls from Fresno State.

However I can also see where being the only independent participant in a group project may have been difficult and although we did try to promote your trip extensively we could not achieve individual sufficient sign-ups to run a separate project for you for your desired dates, and we did give it as long as possible to try and fill the other places. The alternative would have been to cancel your trip but this may have been even more disappointing for you. Rest assured that when you signed up we had all your emergency contact and personal health information included in the registration form.

In the project debrief with your project leaders we discussed your feedback we are all fully committed to make sure that the circumstances which led to your disappointment should not happen again. We will no longer offer or try to integrate independent travelers with our college groups.

We have also just changed the way independent travelers are looked after pre-trip and our Head of Operations to care for independent travelers pre-trip as they have the scale and capacity to respond more quickly, and although the arrival airport to book flights is included in the project overview we will ensure that she reemphasises to all independent travellers the arrival point.

Your feedback has highlighted important gaps in our pre-trip support that we had for individuals this summer so thank you for this - it is all very much appreciated.

Safe journeys,
John Lawler,
MAD Foundation Trustee

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Eduardo
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

We went to Naboutini as part of a Service-Learning trip from our university. I was one of two faculty advisors to a group of 14 students. What we loved the most about Naboutini was the pace of life and community life. Their understanding of family, time, and community were transforming.
The memories I cherish the most were the times in which I would sit down by myself and friends from the village would come to sit with me. The first few days I felt the need to start a conversation (no one likes awkward silences). But they would not talk. They just wanted for us to be in each other's presence. By the time we were done there were times in which we would accompany each other for quite a while without saying a word. A different experience of freedom.
In Naboutini I learned a new way of being human by enjoying someone else's presence not by what they have to say but by simply being there!

What would you improve about this program?
Probably a little bit more of a cultural orientation as to what to expect particularly among gender roles.
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Boris
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Bula!

I had such an incredible experience working alongside the amazing people of both Madventurer and the villagers of Naboutini. After being part of such an amazing program it is very easy to recommend Madventurer to anyone interested in having an incredible service learning experience!

Having the opportunity to become part of someone's lifestyle and to learn so much about others all while providing meaningful service was what I enjoyed the most about the trip to Fiji with Madventurer. Only with trips and service projects to such small and rural areas can you truly see how much of an impact a few students can have on a society and with these types of trips you are forced to try new things, meet new people, and grow as an individual.

Fiji 2014 was one of the most inspiring things that I have ever done and it has motivated me to continue with other service projects and incorporate service with my studies of medicine.

Programs

Displaying 1 - 5 of 5

Alumni Interviews

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

Boris Pavic

Boris Pavic is currently a student at California State University, Fresno and is majoring in Biology and minoring in Spanish in hopes of going to medical school. Boris was born in Fresno, California but his family is from Serbia and he loves to travel.
Boris Pavic Headshot

Why did you pick this program?

I chose to participate in the 2014 Fiji trip with Madventurer because I knew that I would have an incredible opportunity to learn more about a culture that I knew very little about by living and helping in a small remote village.

This program was organized with Madventurer and my university which made it very appealing and accessible. I quickly realized that this trip was not going to be an ordinary volunteer experience but rather an immersive cultural exchange, and that is what I really wanted.

What do you tell your friends who are thinking about going abroad?

Do it!!! It's a must! I think that every student while in college should have the joy of some type of abroad experience, be it studying or doing community serve. Going abroad gives you a whole new perspective on life, your goals, your dreams, and what you believe in. It will most certainly have an incredibly positive impact on you and will leave you a more understanding, caring, and compassionate individual.

Many believe that going abroad is out of their budget but there are so many grants, scholarships, and donors that want you to have the experience. You just have to be motivated enough to look for them.

What was the hardest part about going abroad?

I think that the hardest part about going abroad is the change is your daily schedule. This will be evident whether you are studying abroad or doing a community service project in a village. Your routines will change and that's fine, so just be ready for that.

Embrace this change and it will make everything so much easier and more enjoyable. While on this service project I saw many individuals struggle to hold on to their "little worlds" and keep everything under wraps. It is so much more fun and exhilarating to just let go and dive into these new experiences and emotions.

There is nothing holding you back and no one for you to be afraid of. Going abroad gives you the incredible opportunity to learn about other cultures but also about yourself and about your own culture. It will allow you to reexamine how you behave, how you should behave and what kind of individual you want to be.

What made this experience unique and special?

The trip to Fiji was special for so many reasons but I think the what made it so incredible was the people that were part of the trip. Going abroad you will meet so many people from different walks of life that all have one common passion, traveling. With this one similarity, you will have the opportunity to make such amazing friends.

This love for traveling and culture is something that is able to bring groups together and help you ease into new and possibly uncomfortable situations. What made this Fiji trip so unique was also the villagers that we worked with. They were so accepting of us and so kind and friendly. They enjoyed having us in the village and we were so incredibly thankful for that.

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Staff Interviews

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

Natasha Hope

Job Title
Marketing Volunteer
Natasha was born in Zimbabwe but emigrated to the UK when she was 5 years old with her family. Tash studied Geography at university and subsequently volunteered in Botswana and Swaziland in her gap year. She's never looked back! With a newly established love for traveling, discovering new cultures and exploring new traditions, she's been a Volunteer Coordinator in Zimbabwe, a Teaching and Project Coordinator in Fiji and most recently a Senior Project Leader for Madventurer in Ghana and Tanzania.
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What position do you hold at Madventurer and why do you like working there?

I've just been in Ghana and Tanzania for a year with Madventurer as a Senior Volunteer Project Leader, which was my dream job. As I'm now back in the UK I am continuing to volunteer for the organisation doing its Marketing and Social Media.

What I like most about Madventurer, compared to other similar organisations I have worked for, is that it's small; a lot of attention is paid to each and every project ensuring its managed well with positive outcomes; there are next to no overhead running costs as John Lawler (Founder) runs it from his home; Project Leaders get a lot of autonomies and are encouraged to be the decision makers with regards to how projects are run; and all projects are community-led, meaning we work with communities to improve issues they feel are important to them.

Did you volunteer abroad? If so, where and what inspired you to go?

Yes, after university I volunteered for 5 months in Botswana, Swaziland and Zimbabwe, as a Wildlife research assistant. I've always had a desire to travel, but what drew me to Africa was the fact that I was actually born in Zimbabwe, so I wanted to head back to my home continent and explore what it's best known for, its wildlife! It changed my life and I've never looked back since.

Whilst in Botswana I took the opportunity to visit some family in Zimbabwe. One thing led to another and I was offered a role as a Volunteer Coordinator for a local animal charity which I took up with great enthusiasm... The rest is history!

What is the level of cultural immersion your volunteers receive?

Volunteers are 100% immersed in the culture and traditions of the community they are placed with. Volunteers and Project Leaders live in, eat with and social with the community their project is based in. We eat the same food, bucket wash or bath in rivers, sleep on mattresses on floors under mosquito nets and play local games with the children.

We sometimes live in Homestays, or the community offers a secure house to sleep in. Volunteers are encouraged to live like their community members, instead of staying in plush hotels or hostels. By doing this, we can be sure that the money volunteers raise for their trip goes back into the community, by paying them accommodation and food costs, hiring locals for specialised jobs such as carpenters and masons, and sourcing building materials locally.

As a result, volunteers and their community members become family, friends and lifelong pen pals. Ultimately, the communities we work with appreciate our help, welcome us with open arms and we can create long-term positive partnerships.

How are the volunteers supported when they arrive at their project?

The role of Junior and Senior Project Leaders is to be the 24/7 support for volunteers., so that when they land in-country they have nothing to worry about in terms of operations and logistics and can get stuck into their project from the first day. Project Leaders are there to personally meet and greet volunteers at the airport, they work with them on their projects, they accompany them on weekend trips away and they are there to answer any questions or concerns along the way.

For a lot of volunteers, it is their first time away and its Madventurer's number one priority to ensure volunteers feel safe, supported and that ultimately their time and impact is positive.

What's your one piece of advice for people who want to volunteer abroad?

My number one piece of advice is to keep an open mind. By that I mean have no expectations, immerse yourself into the culture, learn their traditions, learn the language, try the local dishes and be respectful of the differences you may encounter as to the way of living.

The biggest adjustment for me, in all the countries I've been to, was the pace that people lived and worked. 'Fiji time' and 'Ghana time' are well-known phrases if you've ever heard of them? Where we are used to sticking to the clock in our Western worlds more often than not in developing countries they're up when the sun rises and they sleep when the sun goes down. Whatever happens in between is at their pace and that's something you will have to embrace. If you can't beat them, join them!

What is your favorite quote, about volunteer or travel?

“In travelling a companion; in life, compassion” - Haruki Murakami.

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