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Village Volunteers

About

Village Volunteers (VV) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that works in partnership with rural village and capacity-building programs to support the development of sustainable solutions for community survival, education, and thoughtful growth.

Rather than hindering growth by creating a dependency on outside management, the Village Volunteers’ model is based on empowerment: all village projects are executed and managed by locals. Village Volunteers supports local community efforts by providing grant writing assistance, developing income generating social enterprises and mobilizing the resources of volunteers worldwide.

Founded
2003
Headquarters

United States

Reviews

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

I have had three trips to Kenya via Village Volunteers and will be doing a fourth next summer. Shana Greene and her organization are doing more to help the world be a better place than any group I have ever worked with. They work incredibly hard, are very professional and are always willing to take on the tough tasks that make living in this world so difficult for so many people. VV has connected me up with four different communities in Kenya and they always have me well prepared for my visits. I have run a variety of programs thru VV, including a High School Scholarship Program that now supports 11 students, and none of this could have been done without the support of Village Volunteers. Please support and help Village Volunteers in any way you can. Your resources could not be put to better use!!

What would you improve about this program?
Village Volunteers works on a minimal budget. Given more resources they could do even more amazing things. Lack of resources is the only thing holding them back.
Default avatar
Molly
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

After applying to Village Volunteers for a 3 week stint at Sister Freda's I was contacted by Shana shortly after ward to talk about my interests and to see if I would consider splitting my time between 2 different organizations to get a more rounded experience. My first impression does this normal happen in volunteer organizations? I don't think so. Needless to say, I took her up on her suggestion and have no regrets.

My first 2 weeks at Sister Freda's was full of new experiences such as watching a C-section, holding a kerosene lantern during a birth due to a power outage, preparing and helping out at a community health clinic, and giving one of their new wards a make over with a few cans of paint and plumbing repairs to the bathroom. On top of all these experiences I was also learning all about the organization, it's ups and downs and made a bunch of new friends that I think about a lot and have contact with to this day.

My week at the Sirua Aulo Academy was an equally rewarding experience where I was able to participate and get involved on daily with all the children attending the academy in and out of the classroom. And manage to help in a small way with the dining room construction.

In both locations I immediately felt connected and able to involve myself within hours of arriving. I think the key to this that both Sister Freda and Emmanuel welcome you with open arms, ensure you are comfortable and really do treat you as part of their family.

My experience in Kenya will forever remain in my heart and mind and I have full intentions of volunteering again at Village Volunteers(VV). My dilemma will be returning to Kenya or experience one of the may other organizations VV is affiliated with around the world.

What would you improve about this program?
I honestly can't think of one thing within VV's control that can be changed. There was no shortage of support and information during the registration process,and the assistance/support provided on arrival and transfer between organizations was excellent.
Default avatar
ryandrysdale
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

My month with Emmanuel after my freshmen year of college changed my life. Visiting community development programs, schools, clinics, and watching his parliamentary campaign ingrained lessons from international development text books and lectures that I was receiving in college. Emmanuel was like a professor. I am now completing a masters in international relations after three years of working with small NGOs abroad. I still look back on the lessons learned from my experience in Kenya and the efficiency of Village Volunteers overall. Shana, the executive director, and I exchange long emails and phone calls 3-4 times a year. Even more than 7 years later Emmanuel and I still exchange emails as well. If you want a real, raw experience to see the world as it is and not as some organization or business wants to package it with cookie cutter itineraries, GO WITH VILLAGE VOLUNTEERS. It's worth every penny. The development world and voluntourism world can learn valuable lessons from the Village Volunteer's model.

What would you improve about this program?
No program is perfect, but as I sit here reflecting on my time with Village Volunteers and continued exchanges, I struggle to think of anything relating to my experience that I would improve that wouldn't significantly take away from the authentic experience that I had in Kenya.
Default avatar
Linda
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

In August of 2008, Shana Greene, the director of Village Volunteers, connected me to someone who was thinking of volunteering. He asked me some questions and this was my response, copied and pasted from the email with some bits only deleted for brevity.
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Around May 2007, I ended up with an unexpected [two-week] break in my work schedule in June. I told a friend I wanted to go overseas somewhere, anywhere, and she randomly suggested Africa. I thought, 'why not?' So I Googled "volunteer Africa" and came up with a ton of organizations. I had no idea what I was doing, but knew I didn't want a program with band-aid solutions that 'white people' came up with. I also avoided the websites that seemed to focus too much on marketing and promotions, because that's inevitably where peoples' donations were going, instead of the villagers. On a gut feeling, I applied to Village Volunteers and it has changed my life.

It was absolutely crazy because I had given myself only two weeks from the day my application was accepted to the day my flight left for Kenya. During those two weeks, I was on the phone with Shana every day, who stepped me through EVERYTHING clearly, thoroughly, and most importantly, sincerely. That confirmed right away I chose a good program. The fear of contracting some disease or any other travel fears never had a chance to sink in, so I can't give you any insights as to how someone new should prepare mentally for Africa. On the other hand, now that I've already gone twice and am planning a third trip in October, I can tell you with absolute certainty there's nothing to be afraid of if you are prepared.

Both my trips to Kenya have been flawless, with people constantly taking care of me, offering me more chai than I can handle and ensuring I've got plenty of clean water, food, etc. My last trip was for 3 weeks from June 19 to July 10, and I was the first Village Volunteer Shana had allowed back into Kenya after the post-election violence earlier this year. Shana took extra steps to ensure I was escorted every step of the way, and the villagers themselves were ecstatic that a mzungu (i.e., "white person" or "foreigner" in Swahili) has returned.

I didn't plan much on how I was actually going to HELP when I got to Kenya prior to my 2007 visit; I was too busy packing and getting my arms pricked with vaccinations. I view my first trip as an eye-opener, desensitizer, and brainstormer. This year, I went with clear culture-sensitive goals and knowledge as to how my specific skills could benefit the people. As a speech-language pathologist, I decided to focus on language and literacy development for school-age children while screening children with disabilities.

When I returned to the states last year, I decided to go to Seattle for my next job assignment (I do short-term contract work around the US) so that I can meet Shana and volunteer directly with her. So for over a month, I actually sat in her office and saw how she does things primarily by herself (!!!) maybe 80 hours a week (!!!). I'm fiercely loyal now to Shana because I've worked side-by-side with her and know that she sends donations directly to the villages, and then I've been to the villages and seen that money go where it's intended and I'm the lucky one to witness the sheer joy they exude. I find it hard to trust other organizations that charge unreasonable amounts for volunteer fees, or -- and I hate these the most -- the volunteer programs that address the symptoms by sending in their own idea of solutions. Village Volunteers supports programs that the villagers themselves have created and have already proven to work and intend to be self-sustaining, and sends volunteers to help them. This I consider to be VV's primary strength, that the villagers are enabled to do what they feel is necessary in their own country, their own way that has proven successful.

What would you improve about this program?
Village Volunteers does not spend money on sleek marketing and relies heavily on word-of-mouth referrals. While this is honorable and noteworthy for a non-profit organization, I think it makes getting a consistent stream of volunteers unpredictable. It probably also makes it harder to get the message out to potential travelers that there's nothing to be afraid of with Ebola or other hyped-up issues. I wish more people would give Kenya and Village Volunteers a chance. I wish more people would listen to the testimony of volunteers instead of the stereotypical, negative media coverage of Africa.
Default avatar
Elizabeth
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I traveled to Kenya in 2010 through Village Volunteers. I stayed in a host house in Nairobi and then went on to the Maasai community near Kilgoris. I stayed 21 days in Kenya and while there worked at the school - Sirua Aulo Academy. I spent time with the children and staff teaching them about Canada, introducing an anti-bullying program and kept a blog on my stay. I attended a Maasai funeral and was asked to pray for the family- it was a life changing experience overall. My host was Emmanuel Tasur and his wife Lily. I stayed in a hut and lived the Maasai life. I went on a safari during my last days in Kenya. This trip changed my worldview and left me with new friends across the globe. Village Volunteers ensured my safety through out my trip - this is a great agency that is doing marvelous work across the world and supporting many worthwhile projects through volunteerism. I could not recommend a better program.

What would you improve about this program?
I would not have changed a thing.

Programs

Displaying 1 - 4 of 4

Alumni Interviews

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

Holly Corbett

Holly Corbett is a freelance writer with a serious case of wanderlust who lives with her husband in Upstate New York. She is also co-author of "The Lost Girls: Three Friends. Four Continents. One Unconventional Detour Around the World."

Morning: We'd wake up as the sun rose to the crow of roosters and shower by dumping soapy buckets of water on our hair before joining Joshua, the director of the Pathfinder school and the Common Ground Project, and his family in his hut for a breakfast of hard boiled eggs, popcorn, and toast with hazelnut spread. Then we'd work on writing a play for the preteen boarders to perform or drop by some of the grade school classes to help with the lectures.

Afternoon: Joshua wanted us to get a firsthand glimpse at some of the other organizations Common Ground had partnered with, and would bring us to visit neighboring farmers or a local medical clinic. Eager to explore the world outside of Pathfinder’s gates, we'd follow him and flag a boda boda, or bicycle taxi, from the school and the drivers would deliver us to the matatu stand on a street corner where a crowd of villagers waited for the next community-shared van to arrive. It was interesting to live with locals and then to travel outside of our home base to get an inside glimpse of the culture and issues that the locals faced.

Evening: Every evening, after playing kati and dodgeball with the preteen boarders or teaching them dance classes until it was almost too dark to see, we’d get cleaned up and head into dinner. All the volunteers eat dinner in Joshua's home as well. When I was there years ago there really weren't any other food options or things to do at night. We'd listen to poems the students read out loud or head back to our huts to read books. It was pretty remote and low-key, and really allowed us to immerse ourselves in the local culture.

Highlights: Volunteering with Village Volunteers was a great experience because they work with locals on the ground to help them help themselves. This helps empower the local people and serves as powerful inspiration to the volunteers.

Take for example Joshua, the program director at Common Ground: Not only did he take care of his family and his farm, he also granted those a chance at education who otherwise wouldn’t have it, and he organized the Common Ground project to teach organic farming to his neighbors so they could be self-sufficient rather than have to rely on food from the markets. He was a living example for the children he stewarded that one person could make a difference. It made me see that I didn’t have to save the world, but that I should do whatever I can, great or small, to give back when I crossing paths with someone who needs it.

Staff Interviews

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

Ismael Carrion

Job Title
Amazon Construction Supervisor

Ismael was born in the City of Loja, Ecuador. He moved to the Amazon in 1997, and in February 2016, he joined the WE Organization.

What is your favorite travel memory?

My best memory is of that opportunity I had to listen to a participant and witness how a community visit changed something inside her. She felt emotional when she realized the opportunities that she has to make a change. She said she wants to come back and build a hospital there someday.

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

My professional life has really grown from all the knowledge I get from other team members. My interaction and work with the community in producing better results has contributed so much in my professional growth.

Personally, the opportunity to see life in a different perspective has made me a better person. I realized the value of being grateful and understanding that every dream can come true.

What is the best story you've heard from a return student?

We had one participant who had an opportunity to start the construction of a classroom in one community. When she came back, the classroom was already finished and ready.

She was really happy to be part of the process, and how the project can help the teachers and students in that community.

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

I am really interested to go to Kenya. I want to be able to know more about their culture and traditions, and understand what projects work for them. I’m sure that my learning from being there will help me be able to think or work on more alternative programs and projects for Ecuador. I would also love to meet and work with my colleagues there.

What makes your company unique? When were you especially proud of your team?

What makes our company unique is the big development that we make in communities that nobody pays attention to.

I’m very proud of my team when we work for the same goal and objectives. When I see my team growing not only as professionals but also becoming successful in their personal lives.

It gives us more strength and courage to go ahead.

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

The biggest factor to being a successful company is making others part of the team. Always put yourself in other people’s shoes. Give everybody your 100% regardless of your differences. Make everybody feel welcome and at home.

It is important that we live by the company’s core values of transparency and honesty, and become an example to everyone.