Developing World Connections

Program Reviews

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Jenny
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

DWC - Peru November 2019

My husband and I went to Peru as part of volunteer program that his company has with Developing World Connections; it was my first time to be a volunteer and also be in Peru, since the moment I started with the process I was so excited and I had many expectations. I enjoyed working with wonderful team, learning about construction, meeting amazing people in the school, interacting with children and families. My husband was a Coordinator in the group and he did an amazing job and we also had an extraordinary Team Leader (Joshua) he is so kind, friendly, fun and wonderful leader. It was an awesome experience.

What would you improve about this program?
It will be great if it could improve the breakfast/snack for early morning in the hotel during weekdays, we should leave around 5:45 a.m. and it will be nice if the volunteers could have a "small breakfast box" in case it's not available breakfast service before 6:30 or 7:00 a.m. Thanks.
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Jane
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

A blessing

My husband and went with 8 members of my family 5 cousins, 1 Aunt & 2 cousins-in-law to work at Kirinyaga Primary School in the highlands of the country near Mount Kenya, some 6.500 ft above sea level, from 14 to 25 October 2019.

From day one of working at the school we were welcomed by everyone, especially the children. The teachers and Assess Kenya made sure that we were looked after every day, with plenty of work to do.

We worked rebuilding walls and putting in running water for the toilet blocks, putting up facia boards, digging out rain water channels for better drainage around the classrooms. Digging over, fencing, then planting 1,000 plants into a large vegetable garden some 25 x 10 m with the help of the parents. Putting in a foundation for a water tank, painting the girls toilet block doors, as well as decorating a room in the block for girls when they have times of menstrating. The ladies in the group went and gave talks to three schools including Kirinyata, about 'Days for girls'(period days), when normally the girls stay away from school. We were able to hand out some 150 washable kits to girls who had reached puberty, this was very gratifying to see the appreciation on the girls faces. We were all also invited to into the classrooms and talked to the children about our country and way of life, we all found this so gratifying.

During the first week I celebrated my 68 birthday, so in timely manner all the children at the end of the School day, sang to me several songs, some 380 of them, just beautiful. Then on the last day of our 2 week stay at the school, they gave us a farewell, of beautiful Swahili songs.

A lovely end to a very memorable 2 weeks, blessing the Kirinyata Primary School with positive improvements to the school and they in turn blessed us as a family and individuals with their gratitude and love.

May we one day return again, until then may the memories of Kirinyata keep stirring and inspiring us all.

What would you improve about this program?
More money needs to be alocated to materials and equipment for example a petrol driven cement mixer would have made the work easier and then could be left on site for further work. Less money for
administration.
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Preety
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Incredible Volunteer Trip with DWC

Developing World Connections does an incredible job of organizing meaningful trips & there is always someone available to answer any of your questions! Volunteering through DWC has been so life changing! I was Team Leader to DWC’s volunteer trip to Peru in the summer of 2016 & had previously went on their trip to Guatemala 2 years prior. It is not only a great opportunity to make meaningful friendships with those that are part of your team, but also gives you a chance to put your life into perspective & understand the significance of connecting with those that have a different background from yourself. Being of service puts one in touch with the needs of humanity and helps one understand that changing the world is a community effort. If you are interested in developing connections & doing meaningful & life-changing work, I highly recommend going on a DWC volunteer trip!

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Preety
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Volunteering with DWC: A Life Altering Experience For The Better

“Cii,” said a Guatemalan lady, while just behind her a mariachi band played and her boyfriend kneeled on one knee crying tears of joy. A group of us stood on the other side of the street cheering, as we had just witnessed a marriage proposal. The next day while walking through the town we heard a similar mariachi band. The seven of us instantly began dancing until our group leader, Teresa, said that the mariachi band was there for a funeral. This funeral was for an eleven-year-old girl who had committed suicide because she could no longer cope with the domestic violence she faced at home. This was the first time I cried during my volunteer trip to Guatemala. In Guatemala, mariachi bands are not only used for celebratory events, but also during times of grief. This volunteer trip was organized through DWC, a non-profit organization that connects volunteers to communities in developing nations. Our group worked with Open Windows, a foundation that runs a children’s learning center in San Miguel Duenas. We built a room for a family of six and taught English to elementary school students. This valuable experience taught me many things including cultural diversity and that I can make a difference in the everyday lives of those less fortunate. It also taught me about suffering, especially domestic violence, an issue we often ignore as a society and it ignited my passion for addressing social issues.

Developing World Connections does an incredible job of organizing meaningful trips & the trip coordinator, Thomas, is amazing & always available to answer any of your questions! Volunteering through DWC has been so life changing! It is not only a great opportunity to make meaningful friendships with those that are part of your team, but also gives you a chance to put your life into perspective & understand the significance of connecting with those that have a different background from yourself. Being of service puts one in touch with the needs of humanity and helps one understand that changing the world is a community effort. If you are interested in developing connections & doing meaningful & life-changing work, I highly recommend going on a DWC volunteer trip!

Allen
1/10
No, I don't recommend this program

DWC Rwanda Dec 2016

It would be hard pressed to see DWC's footprint on this trip. DWC hadn't truly partnered with the host organization and hadn't trained them to host teams. DWC's drive to cut team costs and take funds from the supported organization make's it hard for me to believe their business model will survive. The information flow from DWC was too little too late and many things were left up to the team leader to tap dance and make the experience better. I was glad we had a very experienced team leader who could make rational decisions, keep Grace Rwanda on track and effectively communicate to all parties. DWC should count their blessings they have such a wonderful volunteer leader. This DWC experience was built for backpackers, not an experienced international volunteer team like ours. Overall, Rwanda was a wonderful experience, but it was because of the team leader and the team, not DWC or Grace Rwanda.

Response from Developing World Connections

We thank Allen for taking the time to submit his comments on his Rwanda trip. Grace Rwanda is a new partner with DWC and there have been some growing pains along the way. We are working with Grace Rwanda to resolve those issues.
Concerning the comments about undercutting, DWC does not try to slash team costs. The funds allocated for meals and hotel were standards used for other trips in Rwanda and other countries.
DWC chooses team leaders who have experience in the countries where they will be leading. In this case, we knew we had a highly organized team leader who had been to Rwanda and who has a track record of leading not just with us, but with other organizations as well.
DWC is in the process of upgrading its pre-trip preparation for volunteers and team leaders. We review feedback from volunteers like Allen and team leaders to keep improving the experiences we offer. While the vast majority of our trips run smoothly and reviews are hugely positive, there is the occasional case where that doesn’t happen. We are committed to making every trip as enjoyable and memorable as possible for each volunteer. We regret that Allen did not feel DWC held up its end of the bargain.
- The team at DWC

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Lawrance
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

An extra mile,suprise.... to tears of joy!!

While working on Nadia's house. Marcia,Cathy and Bonnie brought the maternal side of the observation that the family did not have the basic household materials. It was heart-breaking. There was a small and very old stove, there was no shower and the kitchen tap needed replacement. When I looked around; just at the corner of Nadia's house I saw a public tap water point where those without taps came to fetch water and take a bath.

On the way back the team agreed to contribute from their pockets and procure plumbing material, kitchen utensils,a folding mattress and a new stove!! The team was going an extra mile and we agreed that the presents should be a surprise to Nadia and the family on our last Friday at the project site. The team split. John,Gab and I shopped for the plumbing material. I did not know so much detail was needed for the measurements and John was really great. Meanwhile the other team shopped for the other kitchen and bedding presents which were latter wrapped in beautiful packs and boxes.
The last Friday came and we did our last chores.Finally we sat down on the newly made top floor in Nadia's house and presented the gifts. I saw big smiles from the team and Nadia and her husband could not believe it. Their faces expressed it all and it was such a heart warming moment. When we finally left and hugged them goodbye I saw tears of joy in their eyes and I felt my eyes shedding tears too!! 'This is a connection' I cried to myself.

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Wray
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Two Weeks Building a Small House in Guatemala

A group of twelve of us volunteered to build a family a small home in the village of San Miguel Duenas, Guatemala. We worked diligently on the project for two weeks. The good parts for me was learning about the country, its people, and how things get done. We left for the worksite at 8:00 and returned about 3:30. We stayed in nearby Antigua - a much larger centre. Breakfast was provided at a nearby café, lunch was in a private home near the project, and dinners was our choice at any restaurant in Antigua. It worked quite well.
Everyone on our team gave 100% while working on the house. We essentially were unskilled and unpaid labourers assisting the bricklayers with supplies and materials. it was rewarding to see this cinder block house (10 x 17 feet) take shape. A regret is that we could not finish it before we had to leave. One concern is that I might have preferred to work on a community project rather than a home for just one family but nevertheless it still improved the lives of a few people in this rather poor part of the country. I feel positive about the entire experience.

What would you improve about this program?
There was a last minute change in for whom we were building the home. Unfortunately there was a legal lot line dispute that meant we had to build the home for another family on a different lot. We knew little about the needs of this new family so those of us who wanted to take items from Canada for them could not do more that guess what might be useful.
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Marty
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Outstanding Service Trip for US Air Force Cadets

I organized and led an institutionally sponsored service trip to Cambodia for future US Air Force officers and was looking for an organization to help find the right project for us and provide support. Developing World Connections was outstanding throughout the process. I heavily researched them and found that what they were doing with Equitable Cambodia was a close match to what we expected. Throughout the eight months from initial contact through program completion, DWC was responsive, open, honest, and delivered exactly what they promised. Once we got to Cambodia, the team leads were friendly, professional, and just became part of our team. Our cadet learned so much and all five have praised this experience as truly life-changing. We had the right mix of free time and hard work, too. I will definitely recommend DWC to my colleagues and others for future trips and would someday like to be a DWC trip leader.

What would you improve about this program?
The only improvement I could site would be if DWC had sent us basic plans for our construction project before we departed. It would've been nice just to see the complexity of our work in advance.
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Nilum
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

A nice dose of hope

It seems like a growing fad nowadays, to volunteer abroad and help the underprivileged. To give them a school or a house, and change the world. But this troubled me, and continues to do so. The idea that “first world” individuals who have “immense resources, astounding knowledge and a great gauge of the world” can go in to less developed parts of the world with a sense of entitlement and responsibility to help the poor troubles me. This troubles me because it isn’t true. It strips those in “poor third world countries” of their voice, of their individuality and their stories. It creates this asymmetrical relationship between the volunteers and the locals, where the volunteers feel a sense of power, whether conscious or not, over the locals as if they have the “responsibility” to help them because they cannot help themselves.

Having no idea what Africa was like except for the arguably exploitative commercials guilting viewers into donating, I wanted to see for myself, what “Africa” was all about. And so I wanted to go abroad. But I was held back by my previously mentioned suspicions of such endeavours. I was worried I would be patronized for doing more than I actually did. I didn’t want to be applauded for changing the world when I know I didn’t.

But writing this nearly nine months after I returned from Rwanda, I still have nothing but wonderful feelings from my experience. I am glad that my volunteer experience to Rwanda was anything but my expressed concerns, and I applaud Developing World Connections for making their volunteer experiences anything but that.

And I am so glad I did not let my fear or negative beliefs about this form of volunteerism stop me from embarking on this long and incredibly empowering journey.

On May 3rd 2013 I set off to Rwanda for my first ever-travelling experience. The project took place in a rural village Gashora. Our team was responsible for helping with construction work on the Covaga Innovation Centre. The innovation centre was a cooperative that was started up by Building Bridges with Rwanda and Developing World Connections. Rwandan women who joined would weave baskets and then sell them through the centre. The women kept 90% of what they earned and 10% went go back to the cooperative to continue to help it grow. Our job was to help with the construction of the left wing of the innovation centre.

As we learned early on from the founder of BBR, malnutrition was the biggest problem in Rwanda. It was a combination of many things – many people couldn’t afford to eat nutritious food. For some, they worked such long hours they didn’t have time to eat. An underlying factor that made this malnutrition such a hard problem to fix was the fact that Rwanda does not have a food culture. For example, a country like Germany is famous for it’s bratwurst sausage, a place like South India for it’s dosa and sambaar. Rwanda in turn, does not have a “staple food” and events such as “dinner time” or “eating out” aren’t fads as they are in Canada, or other parts of the world. Therefore, most people eat just to feel full so they can continue to work. They are therefore less concerned about consuming nutritious food.

The left wing was going to be used as a restaurant as well as a place to hold cooking classes where locals could learn which vegetables were nutritious, how to cook food without losing all the nutrients and how to make kitchen gardens.

I realize that the money I spent on this trip could have been donated straight to this project. Skilled labourers could have been hired to do the construction instead of novices such as our group who were plastering for our first time ever on this project. They would have probably been faster and better at the work.

I also realized that the part I was playing in the development and rebuilding of this country was very small, very miniscule.

I decided the biggest contribution I had to give was to dignify this nation, to bring their stories back home with me and keep them alive, to do the most I could with everything I had by making my eight hours a day on the work site count.

So that is what I did. I didn’t change the world. I didn’t fix Africa. I didn’t do anything worthy of recognition. But I opened my eyes and got everything I could from my time in Rwanda. I learned as much as I could – whether it was construction related such as building scaffolding, plastering walls, and mixing cement. Or about things deeper, such as the heartbreaking struggle many of my new Rwandan friends experienced due to the 1994 genocide. I did as much construction as I could. Listened to as many stories as I could and told my own stories whenever I was asked. I shattered this homogenous image of "Africa" for myself that many North Americans continue to hold. And all I can say is I dignified this group for myself and whoever else I speak to about my trip. I brought memories of my friends back with me. I spoke of the work ethic of all the skilled labourers, the innovative ways our project manager made use of the resources, the intricate and complicated past that meshed into the present, the powerful souls of the local Rwandans, and the warm comforting love from all the Covaga ladies.
I was more than impressed with DWC and everything the program offered. I appreciated the transparency from the coordinators; they were very open with a breakdown of our donation and trip. They didn’t patronize us, or make us feel like we had “saved Africa”. They were aware at how important it was for us to learn about this population and hear people’s stories and tried to give us the most opportunities possible to meet and interact with locals.

So I have DWC to thank for opening my eyes to great initiatives that believe we have just as much to learn from others, as we have to teach them. That believe that our job is to connect with people from all over the world in a symmetrical and deeper way in order to learn from them as opposed to help them. And that you can’t change the world or save the poor in a short month, but you can do something, something small. And this small gesture of love and vulnerability that you can offer to another is a step in the right direction.

What would you improve about this program?
I loved meeting with local people from the community and learning about other cooperatives that were taking place. Even more opportunities like that would make this already great program even better.
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Ashley
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Bhinder Idia 2013

The all round trip was turly amazing and enspiering. Getting up everyday and going to the site where everyone is always so happy and excited to great and work with your for the day. Seeing all the children coming to the site and hiding and day by day they would slowing start showing them selves some more. I couldn't have asked for a better first trip. The only downside was not beig able to work a full day and then having last minute plans that we don't really know what is going on.

What would you improve about this program?
Staying longer.