Global Volunteers

Program Reviews

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Sharon
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

This was my third volunteer experience with Global Volunteers but first trip to Portugal. The goal was to build relationships and provide exposure to (American) English as a native speaker. The educational settings ranged from small classes of six to larger classes of twenty with some one-on-one tutoring. Students ranged in age from ten to working adults. Students (and their teachers) were genuinely warm and welcoming. The people of Beja were so gracious and friendly and tolerated my feeble attempts at speaking Portuguese. Being that this was my first trip to Portugal I was fascinated to learn more about the complex history of the country, the art, the architecture, the agriculture, etc., etc., etc.

What was the most unfamiliar thing you ate?
I am proud to say, that at the recommendation of several of my students, I tasted and enjoyed two traditional Portuguese dishes from the Alentejo region: migash and açorda de alho. You shall have to travel to Beja to try them yourself!
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Denny
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

The title is from a motivational picture of three wolves about Teamwork. The team at Rosebud practiced this every day. Not only with each other on the team, but with citizens of Rosebud. Our mantra was, "what do you need us to do today?" Seniors working along side the next two future generations learning from each other, teaching each other, and helping families of Rosebud. I have been on one other GV project, but Rosebud and Rev. Stanley taught me so much about the Lakota and their continued struggles. I was so proud to be apart of the April 2019 Team and recommend it 100%.

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Jason
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Our second experience with Global Volunteers to us to Beard's Fork, West Virginia, and I'd like to tell you that we changed the world. But that's not what happened and we had no illusions that it would. That doesn't happen in a week. What did happen is that we changed ourselves. We saw West Virginia, lived it for a week, and came out with an appreciation for its history, struggles, joys, and daily rhythms. I'm not saying we didn't do any good. I'm sure we were useful: we helped teach kids and we played with them. We cleaned up the gardens at SALS quite nicely. But we were just part of a river of support that Global brings week after week, year after year.
We made good friends and bonded over the experience. Our leader Celida Dottino did a wonderful job in keeping us busy, well-fed, and well-educated. We hope to return.

What was your funniest moment?
Chasing a chicken around the grounds. It was futile.
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Judy
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

There are experiences in life that you may consider pivotal--perhaps because of the people you were with, the value you believe you gave or gained or maybe how it changed your outlook on life. My volunteer experience with Global Volunteers on the Rosebud Reservation encompassed all of those. I am forever grateful.

Two friends and I volunteered together. We had no idea what to expect when we arrived in the little town of Mission, South Dakota, on the Rosebud Reservation. Our host was Mother Lauren Stanley, an Episcopal priest who serves the local Lakota population. We were not surprised to learn that life was not easy on the Reservation. Mother Lauren arranged a meaningful array of ways we could help and participate with the local community beginning with attending a church service and lunch with the congregation. We had such an amazing variety of service projects. We helped with renovating the local Women's shelter under the guidance of locals Billy and Danny, and helping, Lindsey, the Director of the White Buffalo Calf Women's Society, organize the Women's thrift store. The facility was established in 1977 by Native Americans for Naative American Women and was the first of its kind in the United States. We had such a blast working with the children in the GLORY Program (God Loves Our Rosebud Youth) one evening. We had a wonderful selection of guest lecturers who shared their knowledge and wisdom with us. We took an extremely meaningful and unexpectedly emotional field trip to Wounded Knee Massacre site. We danced with Sage Eagle (using the term danced very loosely), admired amazing beading shared by Hattie, ate delicious food prepared by Billy and his daughter Rachel, and, visited a nearby quilting factory. We also worked at the Rosebud Economic Development garden with Aaron, an amazing project aimed at developing food sources. A personal highlight was our visit and tour of the local Middle School to delivery backpacks we had brought to support a project of sharing food with students. There were several teachers on our team and everyone was absolutely blown away by the programs the Principal, Dana, had put in place. I could go on. In fact, I have to anyone who would listen There is no way to describe everything we learned, all the amazing people we met, our extraordinary team, and the sacred place the Rosebud Reservation holds in our hearts. Yep, a pivotal experience. I highly recommend you give yourself the gift of this experience.

What would you improve about this program?
Can't think of anything--the program was well planned. We had all the information needed. Most important, we had an AMAZING Team Leader, Kathy.
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Barbara
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

It was one of my most amazing Global Volunteer experiences and I've had 3 others. I knew nothing about Appalachia, including how to say it. To learn how impoverished the coal mining communities are, how in need of ongoing support and acknowledgement, and how dedicated were all the local volunteers, was mind-expanding to me.

It would be of enormous benefit if the program were to be longer than one week. The summer school for the children, the Read and Feed component, the driving around to distribute food to families, the organic gardening and animal care, all of this is needed for more than a week of Global Volunteering. I wanted a longer program and SALS was only available for a week.
If at all possible, I would do it again next year, and perhaps a close friend of mine would come with me.

If you did this all over again, what's one thing you would change?
Expand the program to at least 4 weeks. Find ways to encourage local families to take advantage of the Read and Feed program. There needed to be more incentive than we were able to provide to make Read and Feed viable.
Make sure that the volunteers read to the classrooms as often as possible. Make sure the volunteers have opportunities to share their skills and interests with the children, with local volunteers, and with each other.
Finally,, as a single gay woman, it was difficult to be with two families who had teenagers as part of the Global Volunteers in the dorm, at meals, and at work. Because they already had comfort with each other, mothers, fathers and adolescents, I felt like an outsider, and I coped as best as I could. I
Response from Global Volunteers

Thank you so much for your wonderful review of your service program in Appalachia! We are so glad that you had such an amazing experience volunteering at SALS. We also thank you for your feedback. We are taking your concerns into consideration here at Global Volunteers. Longer volunteer stays can be pre-arranged with the community partner on a case-by-case basis. Thank you again for your service, Barbara!

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Mary
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I have traveled three times with the organization Global Volunteers and have never been disappointed. I took the Greece trip with my 16 year old daughter. My husband is of Greek heritage and I wanted her to have a taste of her roots. The family who runs the hotel where our group was housed was incredibly hospitable and would go out of their way for the volunteers. Greek hospitality is among the warmest anywhere. My daughter has Celiac disease and must follow a gluten free diet. Every day, there was gluten free food prepared for her in a special container so that there was no contamination. And the food was delicious!

Our work was teaching English at a community day camp for kids. My daughter and I chose the 11 year old group and after a couple of rough days of figuring out how to manage a group that we didn’t know well, we had an amazing time with those kids. It was hard to say goodbye at the end of our two weeks. We still laugh at all of the antics in class.

The group leader Sam was so helpful and we really felt like we could ask her about anything. In the evenings, she joined us for dinner at the hotel and sometimes I would sit with the owner of the hotel and his family, just listening and trying to learn some Greek. In the evenings, for those that are a bit younger, there’s a lively town within a 5 minute walk from the hotel with lots of restaurants and shops. The beach is also only a 5 minute walk.

My daughter cried when our volunteer time had come to an end. We had made a real connection with our students and with the Cretans. I plan to return to this program. Don’t hesitate and go; you won’t regret it for a second!

If you did this all over again, what's one thing you would change?
I think I would have been a bit more relaxed about how much teaching I could accomplish. I’m a foreign language teacher and I approached the volunteer work in the same way I would approach a class at home.
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Jessica and Allen
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Incredibly family friendly project, atmosphere and staff. Participate in improving the economic future of children in Crete. Family owned hotel lodging is close to project, beaches, shopping, night life.

Crete has everything you could ever want in a project location. The weather is incredible, the people friendly, and the food fantastic. Your daily English camp sessions with Global Volunteers will be providing for the futures of your students - many of whom will need English to secure employment in the island's tourism industry.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
Rent a car and travel the island after your project!
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Nancy
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

From the time we arrived to the moment we departed, our Global Volunteers were provided the utmost hospitality in the charming town of Beja, Portugal! The endearing relationships that have developed over the years amongst Global Volunteer staff, and the host teachers, citizens and boutique hotel staff made us volunteers feel like we were part of the Beja family.

Our assignments were to talk with a variety of classes each day about life in the United States and answer questions they had for us. Since there was no formal “teaching” of English, anyone would enjoy volunteering for this program. One of the most enjoyable experiences was talking with inmates in the prison.

Beja - a magical city filled with a rich Roman history, architecture, cobblestone streets wonderful people and delicious food!

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Allegra
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I participated in the Crete Program for two weeks in May 2019, with only a couple of really hot days, and a couple of times, a few minutes of surprise rain. The weather was pretty wonderful overall. I went by myself and was 71 at the time, semi-retired. In 2020 my service weeks got cancelled. I hope to go back in 2021, God Willing. Other volunteers come back again and again to Crete.

This was my second time working with Global Volunteers. The first time I decided to try them out in the US and worked a week, while a Pow Wow Celebration was going on, on the Blackfeet Reservation in Montana. I loved GV, the staff, the whole experience. So I ventured further in 2019 and went to Crete.

Before you go, much of the information (in the form of a general Handbook and Teaching Guide) provided by GV is geared toward their English Language Summer School which they organize. There, I expect you do more teaching of classes. When the kids (who are great, by the way) are in their regular school as they are in May, you are working with professional teachers in private Language Schools in the area. I think there were about 5 of them that the volunteers worked in, in pairs. Sooo, since the kids are attending regular schools during most of the day (and although I believe they also get English language instruction in them), mainly you are working in an after school program. Our hours would vary, but generally for the school I was in we went from 4:00 pm to about 9:00 pm at the latest, often getting home earlier. (Our school was close, so we walked there and then Sam [(Samantha) our great team leader] arranged to have a taxi pick us up and take us back to the hotel. Other volunteers had to go farther so they were given bus tickets, often there and back.)

You are pretty limited in terms of what you are doing. We were native English speakers who practiced conversing with the students. We did practice oral exam tests with them and talked to them generally. Everyone is thrilled to be talking to a native speaker which was weird because I did not feel we were doing much. If you go, I recommend you bring pictures of where you are from, because you will be talking about your home and family. The more pictures the better. The kids are always interested and like seeing them. I am from San Francisco, so I bought postcards of some of our major sites (wish I had brought more from California generally). Also, when I was looking up my city, I remembered that two of our past mayors were Greek-American. The kids also wanted to know if California was like Greece, so the more information you can provide that relates to them and their lives, the better.

We learned a lot from them too and asked them why they wanted to learn English. Mainly they responded that they wanted to get into the University in Greece (which is free to them, by the way). To do that, they had to be proficient in English. Also, they needed English to get a good job there. I think Greece's major industry has got to be tourism, so they told us that even if they wanted to be a doctor or a pilot etc, they needed to know English for the tourists. Also, they want to travel or go to school abroad. The owner of the school I taught in was a real anglophile, so most wanted to go to England. Also the school used English words, instead of American. You know, lift/elevator, flat/apartment etc. One student, however, had travelled to New York (everyone knows New York City) and wanted to go to New York University. I wish I had known this beforehand, since I have a graduate degree from that school. I would have gotten a sweatshirt or something for her (although we are not supposed to give anyone gifts). I also bought a kids' atlas of the US and gave it to the school. We used it in the classes. I recommend that anyone signing up for this program do the same or at least a map, so you can show them where you are from. The other volunteer I worked with was from New Jersey. We go from class to class; the kids are at different levels in their English language skills, so there are different types of practice tests we go over.

Really what we were doing did not feel like a job. And, most importantly, I felt accepted and appreciated in the community. No problems there. That was a great part of the experience. Not your ordinary travel adventure. The schools, teachers and kids, were thrilled to talk to native speakers and practice their language skills. It really gave most of them more confidence. The people appreciate what we are doing, working with their kids, and spending our money. Making a better place for them. I just loved them all.

And, we had most of the day free to go see the rest of the island. One volunteer went to visit Santorini. (Weekends are free.) Sam will point you in the right direction so you can make arrangements to go sightseeing. Lots to see in Crete. We also just hung out and sunbathed. Looked over the teaching guide, but really it was just talking to the students. The boys like video games, soccer, basketball (I was surprised about this, but there are some Steph Curry fans on Crete), etc. Maybe next time, I should bring some mementos from the Golden State Warriors for the school. The girls were more serious and some took traditional Greek dancing. Their general interests were less well defined, mainly focussed on school, career and their families. The ages of the kids were about 11 to 16. Some of them could speak English quite well. Not knowing Greek was an advantage. The kids knew it would do no good to try to talk to us in any language other than English. It made them try harder.

We never had any problem getting around Crete. The location of the hotel is in a tourist area. I suppose if you were out in the more rural areas, language might be a problem. English never was a problem where we were, except among the older residents. Sam treated us to dinner and lunch a few times and it was great food. We also organized our own excursion one day to see a local olive oil producer, go to a winery and learn about Cretan grapes and wine and have lunch in a great restaurant outside the city area. The wine is pretty good and we drank a lot of it well into the night.

The routine day is a morning meeting after breakfast and an evening meeting after work. Each person is assigned a day in which they have to write a journal entry and come up with some inspiring quote. It is read the next day at the morning meeting. (This is universal at GV sites; we had to do it in Montana.) One of the volunteers acts as secretary and puts the entries and quotes together so at the end everyone has a record of our days on Crete. These exercises made you paid attention.

What I enjoyed the most: the location, the ease of getting around (good transportation system), the community and kids, Sam (she is English, a former dancer, and just an all around great human being), the other volunteers (very interesting and diverse group), Heaven (a local cafe/restaurant we would go to; going to Heaven is a treat), not necessarily in that order. You are really a part of the community and a lot of people know Global Volunteers. You will be admired.

Everything is pretty inexpensive. We were off-season, so you felt catered to. Greece's economic situation is still dire. I did my part in bolstering the economy. By the end of the two-weeks, the tourist season was just beginning.

I think everyone who had not been there before was surprised at the hotel. I think it is probably a two star hotel. Lovely family who runs it, but the older owners did not know much English. A younger family member (Sophie, as I remember) was around most of the time and was fluent. Having Sam around is also a great help. She makes things go smoothly. The plumbing, as in most of Greece, cannot take toilet paper, so you dispose of it in the trash instead of flushing it.

I roomed with another volunteer, but some of them paid extra for a single room. My roommate was surprised there was no hair dryer. Ha, Ha! It is pretty bare bones, but clean and pleasant enough. There were some mosquitos, but no odd insects. A lot of stray cats and dogs around the area, however.

The food is generally good, home-made. I am a vegetarian, so I was accommodated but missed out on some pretty tasty looking dishes. The yogurt, as you can imagine, was great, but I suspect it is because they have never heard of non-fat anything. Also no de-caf coffee, thus the trip to Heaven. Gosh, I had to settle for Nescafe's de-caf coffee frappes which turned out being delicious. Needless to say, I gained a little weight.

I would highly recommend this travel and service experience! It will change your life!

What would you improve about this program?
Really, nothing to improve. It gets you out of your comfort zone and gives you the tremendous experience of being part of another community and people. I highly recommend it to anyone.
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Sophia
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I have attended this program twice and was booked to go this year, but at this time that may not happen.
On both occasions I had a wonderful and fulfilling experience. The program is excellent and very well organized by Samantha Pinakoulaki the Group Leader.
I enjoyed meeting the students and families. Also the other volunteers were so interesting and from all over the US.
Also it such a was a pleasure to be serving on the beautiful island of Crete. I would highly recommend this program to anyone.

What would you improve about this program?
I thought it was excellent. I don’t have any real feedback. The program would be difficult if you have a severe physical disability as you are walking to school and working with young students.