Village Volunteers

Program Reviews

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Brett
10/10

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!!

How can this program be improved?
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.
Yes, I recommend this program
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Molly
10/10

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.

How can this program be improved?
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.
Yes, I recommend this program
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ryandrysdale
9/10

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.

How can this program be improved?
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.
Yes, I recommend this program
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Linda
10/10

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.

How can this program be improved?
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.
Yes, I recommend this program
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Elizabeth
10/10

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.

How can this program be improved?
I would not have changed a thing.
Yes, I recommend this program
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Katie
10/10

I chose Village Volunteers (VV) because they are unlike most international volunteer organizations. They have a true concern for sustainable development on the ground and in reducing the impact of the volunteer program on local families, the local economy and the culture.

I am a professional business women who had just finished a secondary degree in Business in Developing Countries. I travelled to Kenya for some hands-on experience. What I got was much more.

VV arranged all of my ground travel, food, and accommodations. I was able to explore the programs of my host organization in three separate and very different villages. The independent nature of the program allowed me to contribute my skills where the villages needed. For a week, I learned about the local water filter plant and used my skills to map out the workflow that the employees used to gain added efficiencies. In another week, I developed a curriculum for teaching women's microfinance groups how to do basic bookkeeping. I led several seminars in multiple villages.

My hope is that what I shared made an impact. My visit certainly impacted me. The slower daily life, setting my own path, managing the daily struggles with a locals, living with the natural cycle - the day is over when the sun goes down and the day starts when the rooster crows. Because I created my own agenda at my own pace, I really felt like I was able to fully immerse in the local way of life. I'm not sure I could have gotten that from another organization.

How can this program be improved?
For me, there are no improvements necessary, although a journey like this is a very personal one and others may not be comfortable with the level of independence awarded. For me, it was essential to feel like I was getting an authentic experience and not just "viewing" the environment like I was on a tour through a zoo. My safety was never a concern, I always had trusted local partners watching over me. VV did a good job preparing me for the journey and kept in contact with the local partners during my entire trip to ensure all was going well.
Yes, I recommend this program
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Holly
9/10

I have made three trips to Kenya with Village Volunteers; the variety of opportunities available and the close working relationship between VV staff and the Kenyan project leadership make VV outstanding! You can trust that all your logistical needs will go smoothly, that your food will be delicious and abundant and that you will be safe at all times.

The project directors in Kenya valuable working partners because you can partner with them to develop sustainable programs that have true value within the Kenyan culture.

I have taken my daughter on all 3 trips; she was 14 the first trip and had much to offer! It is a valuable learning experience for kids from both cultures to meet each other, become friends, and enrich each other's lives.

How can this program be improved?
The number of volunteers has fallen to catastrophically low levels due to ebola hysteria and hype. VV needs the volunteers because the project sites depend on the creativity, innovations and energy of the volunteers. Volunteers need to research their geography before deciding against Kenya... it is as far from Village Volunteers' sites to "ebola" as it is from Orlando, Florida to Juneau, Alaska. GO!!
Yes, I recommend this program
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Jana
10/10

I worked with three village programs with varying needs during my time volunteering in Kenya. The programs were run by three of the most dynamic people I have ever met. They are making a huge difference in the lives of children. All three have schools; Sister Freda's also has an orphanage and hospital, Common Ground has a huge number of programs including organic gardening and water filters systems and Namunyuk Maasai Welfare gave us the opportunity to get out on safari and see the beautiful Maasai Mara.

At Common Ground we were able to visit people in their homes and survey how newly made ceramic water jugs were working. We also set up a seminar to help the treasurers from women's microfinance groups with bookkeeping and goal setting. Most of the time though was spent with the children, many of them orphans.They were super intelligent, talented, rambunctious and full of love.

Village Volunteers and Shana, the founder were awesome and made every single arrangement for the trip. All I had to do was get the plane ticket and show up. I met the most wonderful people both in Seattle and Kenya. I made some lifelong friends and had an experience I will never forget.

How can this program be improved?
I wouldn't change the program, but I would extend my trip to include some time to explore on my own, possibly taking a tour to Mombasa.
Yes, I recommend this program
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Rev
10/10

I have been a "Village Volunteer" three times now to Common Ground for Africa, located in Kiminini, Kenya. I feel I have contributed to the sustainability and improvement of life for the people of that area. Village Volunteers has wonderful partnerships that are accomplishing long-term, lasting results to improve the health and economic well-being of a wide range of peoples. The Clean Water project not only impacts the local community, but extends internationally as the clay water filters are now being shipped to other countries! To see this commitment and success not only helps and encourages the people of rural Kenya, but it is a win win for everyone. Volunteers who participate through Village Volunteers do not complete their volunteer experience feeling there is no hope for rural Africa, instead we left filled with great hopes--seeing the promise of quality education, permanent agriculture and people's lives being changed, including our own--for the Betterment of all!

How can this program be improved?
We had some logistical problems when we went on Safari, meals were not adequate and of poor quality. The Safari took place after our primary volunteer experience, which was completely wonderful, and we had expected the Safari to be more accommodating, as it was to be more of a fun time at trips ending.
Yes, I recommend this program
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Sierra
10/10

i would recommend this program.it really made in impact on my life, and i felt like i became really close with the children and made such a life long bond with them. It can be really difficult teaching the children in the school,but i learned so much from them and about my self.

How can this program be improved?
knowing more information about the program before i go into it. and being given more assignments and projects to do while i was out there.
Yes, I recommend this program