HELP International

Program Reviews

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Shanon
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I have volunteered abroad with Help International three times now (Uganda, Nepal, and Peru). The organization’s mission to Empower People is successful, but it is only obtained and sustained when intelligent, driven, confident, and loving people volunteer. I have witnessed firsthand, on countless occasions, the success of their mission. My experiences with Help are all positive and have completely changed my life. But, going abroad, to countries that are underdeveloped because of war or the environment, or for whatever reason, is NOT EASY. It is actually extremely difficult, from living in conditions we are not used to in the United States, to eating food that could very well make us sick. Volunteering with Help tests you as a person. Nevertheless, the power of the experiences with the people you empower outweighs any of the difficulties. So a review criticizing the organization shows me the person should not have taken the trip in the first place and overestimated their own ability to commit to such a program. Volunteering with an organization like Help is for people who are strong already – not just physically, but mentally and emotionally. It is for people who are seeking the next level of their emotional maturity. Not for people who are developing a sense of self. It is for people who want to see what they can do for the world, not what the world can do for them. Help changed my life, and I am eternally grateful. I encourage anyone who believes they are ready to make their life about someone besides themselves – to join Help in empowering people.
Lastly, the criticism I have read seems “personal” and not a reflection of Help as a whole. The safety of the volunteers is paramount and with that, comes strict limitations. I know for a fact that volunteers are allowed to socialize with locals, but volunteers are not allowed to develop romantic or flirtatious relationships with locals. One focus of Help is that we do not place our American belief system upon others; that we respect the culture, and sometimes that means limiting exposure. But secondly, it is dangerous if you do not follow the rules and guidelines well established by the organization. Furthermore, Craig, felt that the organization was sexist. I submit that Craig has never actually experienced real sexism. As he sits in Uganda, where women are constantly raped and degraded for simply menstruating, he is pissed because he is surrounded by a bunch of females? Craig needed to get some perspective. I couldn’t agree with the director’s advice to Craig more, because it is what he will experience his whole life: DEAL WITH IT. There are times in life where we set aside our complaints and allow perspective make us a better person.

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krkthompson
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I loved every minute of my time in Uganda. HELP International was a great program to go with and they were very easy to work with and to help. I am a Health Science major and so I worked mostly with health related projects over in Uganda. I personally planned and implemented an Eye and Dental camp where I met with local doctors and together we put on a free clinic for the people of Uganda to come and receive care for their eyes and teeth. Care that they would have otherwise been unable to afford. We saw over 400 people and all were treated successfully. We also had a local hospital and eye surgery center present to schedule those patients who required surgeries to be able to make an appointment to do so. While there I was also able to help volunteer at various clinics and help test and treat for various diseases. I spent 4 months in Uganda from May 2011 to August of 2011. I loved every minute of it and I grew so much as a person. My knowledge greatly increased also.

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leesiemac
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

The way Help International works, is that you go into a country, take a needs analysis, and then create a project based on the needs of the community as well as your personal skills and interests. Self-motivation is a really important aspect of Help International. You're not going to be told what you need to work on every day- YOU are in charge, and need to have the ability to plan, organize, and problem solve the entire time you are there. The trip is only going to be worth it if you are willing to work hard. I pushed myself to give 100% to my experience, and it was probably the most rewarding and significant 6 weeks of my life. I highly recommend it to all those who want to make a difference!

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Janelle
8/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Since I traveled to Guatemala with HELP International in 2006, they've discontinued travel to there (I'm assuming) based on safety issues. However, despite the problems we encountered with safety while we were there, my time in Guatemala continues to be an amazing experience that I draw frequently from. I have been able to talk and connect with so many, here in the states, because we had that link.
While I was down there we had freedom to work on whatever projects we wanted - whatever we felt was worthwhile for us. If a project idea surfaced, we were able to submit it to HELP for approval and arrange funding if needed. I was able to teach English as a local Salvation Army elementary school twice a week, work in an orphanage or miscellaneous type project twice a week (sometimes it was traveling to villages to teach hygiene classes, deliver hygiene kits, teach square ft. gardening or other money-making skills, or helping teach and build Lorena stoves ), and then Fridays the whole team often got together for a manual labor day. On those days we often worked on building houses (I can think of 4 different houses we built in a 6 week period). We often traveled as a group on the weekends to tour the country. The hours were often early, but never seemed long; and the work was just hard enough to be proud of your finished product. It was a wonderful way to spend my summer! The places I had the chance to see and people I met continue to stay with me - it was a great experience!

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Pondjumper711
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I spent three months in Uganda with HELP International in the summer of 2010. I was very pleased by the quality of the program, especially the care that staff and board members have for the work. These are genuine idealists with real cares about people stuck living in poverty. I felt safe and comfortable while in country which allowed me to focus on projects I worked on. I would recommend this program to anyone, whether they are new to development work, or a seasoned veteran.

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allenm7
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I went to El Salvador with HELP International summer 2011. It was amazing! We were totally submersed in the culture, we all improved our Spanish skills. The people were wonderful and ready to start projects. The great thing about HELP is that it's so versatile. We had recent graduates and students in nursing, business, public health, teaching, music, political science, Arabic and more. We planned, completed, and evaluated projects in many of these areas. This makes a great and unique internship. It also is a great opportunity to be involved in a leadership position. The team members are actively involved in the program planning process as well. The HELP code of conduct also provides for a great experience. There's plenty of sight-seeing to do on the weekends too!

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africagirl21
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I served in 2009 in Lugazi, Uganda with Help International. I was there for 3 months. You are able to develop your own projects with the guidance and approval of your country directors and the Help office. I specifically worked with women's groups helping them create micro-enterprises and develop business skills as well as developing the largest HIV/AIDs awareness campaign that continued to be held the following years. Additionally we engaged in labor projects such as building mushroom huts which were extremely cost effective and were very productive for the village. I loved every second of my time in Uganda and fell in love with the people I worked with. I loved working with Help International and am looking into applying as a Country Director!

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Krystal
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

HELP as an organization places college-aged volunteers in countries around the world to work on "substantive development projects". After you choose the country you want to volunteer in, you are placed with other teammates and two country directors, who you will live with for 6 weeks-4 months.

I found the experience at HELP to be completely dependent on personal drive, dedication, and attitude. HELP does not hand anything to you--you must develop your own projects, find partner NGOs to assist, and develop each project and partnerships (for the most part) on you own. This worked perfectly for me, as I already had a plan of who I wanted to partner with and an idea of what I wanted to accomplish. Others in my team found this model very hard to deal with, mainly because they wanted other people to tell them what to do and not be expected to figure it out for themselves.

Don't expect this experience to be filled with "substantive" development work either. The model of putting people there for 4 months tops does not allow for much. The majority of people will be there for 6 weeks-2 months, which is even less time to make a difference.

Overall, I had an amazing experience, though many did not. It is what you make it. If you want to work with people more serious about lasting development, HELP is not the place for you. I learned so much, but I believe most volunteers were there for the international experience, and were not interested in development.

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ilovetanzania
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Though I have served abroad, this was my first experience going with an organization. I was in Tanzania from the beginning of May through mid-July and I fell in love with the people there!
We had people in our group from a large variety of backgrounds so we were able to all learn from each other and work on some really cool projects. I'm a public health major, but I got the chance to help teach business classes, do construction work, network in the community, meet with professionals and members of the government, teach girls how to write job resumes...it was awesome to see that I had more to offer than just health information.
The people there are so wonderful and I loved having such rigid standards through the group because it meant that we were really focusing on developmental work. Some of other volunteers that we met from other organizations spent their time dating locals instead of focusing on their work.
Of course, it wasn't all work. The location that was chosen was outside of the city. We were surrounded by a beautiful, jungle-like environment close to the base of Mt. Meru. The neighbors were all very welcoming and we had a great time getting to know them.
We were also able to take some fun trips - Arusha is just a bus ride away from the Serengeti and the Indian Ocean so we all used our vacation days to visit those places.
Since it was HELP's first year in Tanzania, I feel like there were some problems that would be worked out by next year. When we first got there, we didn't have very many contacts to work with (while more established HELP sites arrive with initial projects and partners in mind). We also didn't speak any Swahili. We expected the local population to know more English, but we had to use a translator for many of our projects. However, the people were very open to our work there and have think highly of HELP. I'm sure that in the years to come, projects will be easier to get started and more successful in the long-run.
If there's anything I wish someone had told me before I got there, it would be to do as much research as you can before arriving. There were some days when there was no electricity and it was really frustrating being stuck without easy access to resources. I think that hindered our projects more than anything. So if you're thinking of going next summer, try to make contact with some local organizations online and see what kind of work they're doing what they think the biggest community needs are. You won't regret it!
I love the people of Tanzania so much. I know that HELP International isn't a perfect organization, and there were times when I was frustrated with our projects, but it was definitely worth it in the end. I'm so grateful for the experiences I had and the people I was able to meet through it and I wish I could go back next year.

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adventurerescuefunteam
8/10
No, I don't recommend this program

HELP International is a unique program, in that one of it's specific goals is to give volunteers the best experience possible. This means that they allow you to design and implement any project you can come up with.
You go out with two "country directors" who are usually college age, as well as all other college students.
Most people who decide to volunteer have little knowledge or understanding of development work. I saw many volunteer abroad programs doing very poor development work, and I saw a lot of failed projects. This organization is no exception. A bunch of college students, who have no idea what they are doing, and are in country for one to four months. This formula doesn't produce great sustainable development. While I think it is a great international and learning experience, I think the development work is very poor. I would probably say this about many organizations though.
If you are looking for an awesome experience in Africa and you aren't familiar with development work, this is awesome. If you really want to make an impact, do some research on development first, then research for good organizations, and that might be your best route.