Pod Volunteer

Program Reviews

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Ruth
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Seeds of Hope, Huaraz, Peru

This is a fantastic placement. The centre is right in the middle of Huaraz, so that you have everything you might want or need at your finger tips. The accommodation, although not luxurious, is comfortable and again, it provides everything you might need. There is hot water and very good wifi! I volunteered during their long summer holidays, so that we only worked during the mornings with the children. We did also teach English to adults in the evenings, but as this was shared, it meant that you do not work every evening. It is the interaction with the children and the adults that make this placement so rewarding. The children are very responsive and enjoy meeting their new teachers. If you do not speak much Spanish, this does not matter as everyone is quick to help and to understand what you would like to say. It does though, give you a wonderful opportunity to learn Spanish and there is the possibility of having private Spanish lessons if you so wish. I found I was given a chance to be creative in what I did with the classes. We did not have to keep to a strict program but could teach them English, do art work with them and play games in a way that we found useful for them and interesting for us. My time there passed very quickly as we were busy every morning and then there was plenty to do in Huaraz for the rest of the day. At weekends, it is possible to explore the beautiful places around Huaraz which is right in the middle of the Andes. There are lots of opportunities for trekking or for tours high into the mountains. I quickly built up strong friendships with the other volunteers and was made to feel very welcome form day one, even though I was much older than any of the others there. Peru is a wonderful country. It is extremely varied in its geography and it has such a long and rich history, that there is a lot to learn about and to explore. Travelling around the country is very easy and not expensive. I spent time on my own visiting different places after I finished volunteering. I felt safe and wished I could have stayed on longer as there is so much more I want to explore. It was very easy to join tours if you do not want to be on your own. I only booked them the day before. They are a great help as you can get to places that it is difficult to go to on your own.

I would recommend this placement as it is one of the best ways of integrating into Peru.

Ilan
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Beautiful Experience

My experience as a volunteer in Sri Lanka was probably the best experience I have had abroad in the last years. The people of the project is amazing, they care about the animals, they care about the people and they care about you, they want you to be happy. The job done in the organization is varies a lot, an can be from planting trees to make sand traps and to observe the elephants. The job is much related with animals and nature and you will spend a lot of time in the jungle and you really feel that you are helping to diminish the human-elephant conflict.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
Bring your camera, rain coat and all your energy because you are going to work hard to help the local communities and the elephants!
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Martha
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

An incredible experience

Volunteering in India was by far one of the best things I did whilst travelling. The programme was well thought out and although I was only there for 3 weeks I felt as though even in my short time I made a bit of an impact on the children I was helping. The programme is well split between the school, the boys home and the rag pickers community too. Ravi and Gurav were excellent in supporting us the whole time and I never felt out of my depth with them around. They were very good at explaining the wider social issues which have led to the wide scale problems India is facing. Since my time there all I have wanted is to go back and visit, but this time for much longer. The volunteer house was also such a lovely environment to live in and was a lot of fun too! Ravi’s Wife Neha cooked the most incredible food and it really felt as though we were having a traditional Indian experience whilst living with them. She also gave us cooking classes which was so sweet, and has meant we have brought a little bit of India home with us! This programme is most definitely for you if you want a like no other experience, as well as the chance to help a community which is advancing and make life long friends.

What would you improve about this program?
I would really struggle to think of a way this programme could be improved! It is so carefully thought out and Ravi and Gurav were just incredible!
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Jen
1/10
No, I don't recommend this program

Do your research

This was a large and expensive learning experience. My advice is to never go through an agency like Pod Volunteer. I wasted so much of my hard earned money when I could have volunteered and given my money to a legitimate organization. Pod assured me my vegan diet would be accommodated and it was not. The center was extremely disorganized and offered more opportunities to those they would benefit more from. The conditions weren’t really safe as far as having amateurs go into cages, while being barked at by the kitchen manager. When I brought these issues up to Pod, they only covered for the center and brushed my (valid) concerns off. This is a money making scheme on all ends. I love to volunteer my time, which is actually more valuable to me than money, but I could have used my resources and went somewhere that appreciated my help. I wasn’t given the name of the actual center until right before I left, and conveniently after I paid. Next time I will go to the organization directly to make arrangements and i will never trust an organization like Pod in the future.

Response from Pod Volunteer

Hi Jennifer,
We are very disappointed you still feel this way given the review we undertook with yourself and the local team at the beginning of 2019, which included giving you money back towards the fees you had paid.

The feedback we receive is incredibly valuable to us and it’s hard for us to see how you feel we can have ‘brushed off’ your concerns given that it was escalated to a Director of Pod Volunteer who led a 2 week in-depth review into the situation with both our UK staff and the team in Costa Rica.

As a non-profit and registered UK charity we are in no way in this to make money, we are passionate about helping to match volunteers to projects in need of assistance around the world, and supporting our volunteers throughout the process. We are very proud of the high levels of feedback we receive from volunteers and, in the unlikely event there are issues, we try to address these as quickly and thoroughly as possible.

The placement fee that we charge has to cover our own costs as well as the local placement costs incurred. We keep our costs to a minimum, but do need to ensure we are able to operate as a highly professional organisation and meet or exceed the standards that are expected of us as a leading UK based volunteering organisation.

The project itself is dedicated to provide the best level of care possible to the animals, supported by volunteers who enable the specialised local team to focus their attention on new rescues and prepare animals for their re-release into the rainforest. Without the efforts of volunteers such as yourself, the centre would not be so successful in re-releasing animals to their natural habitat. This is particularly true in busier periods, when there are a limited number of volunteers and the small team in the sanctuary really benefit from the additional volunteer resource. The safety of volunteers is always carefully managed and we have never had any incidents or issues.

With regard to your vegan diet, we were very sorry about the use of a vegetable oil spread as we know how important it is to respect dietary choices, something we also believe passionately in. The team are very apologetic about the vegetable oil spread which was used to cook a few of the foods – as soon as it was discovered that this contained small amounts of milk solids it was no longer used. We understand that the team checked with you on a daily basis about food and if there was anything they could do or buy and that you said it was fine, so we are surprised to get this feedback. The project receives quite a few vegetarians and vegans, and they feedback that they have a good selection of food available.

In our position as a volunteer agency, we can’t disclose the project name on our website so we provide very detailed information before volunteers book so they can see if it’s the right project for them unlike most other organisations who ask for a deposit before giving all the information. We then give further details including the project name and contact details after a volunteer is confirmed.

We hope that despite the issues you still have some positives from your experience and that over time you may reflect back on our role a little more favourably.

Best wishes, the Pod Volunteer team

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Kate
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Incredibly Worthwile

I spent months looking for volunteer opportunities overseas and it wasn’t until I came across this one that I knew i’d found the perfect fit. Having the option of working with both children and animals was what made this program stand out above the rest. The brothers who run this program are very passionate about their work in their community in Udaipur and are super supportive to their volunteers. The entire experience was extremely fulfilling and that is in large part to the environment that the brothers have created for both the volunteers and the people they help. I felt so comfortable and safe and truly had the time of my life in the few weeks I spent on this project. Leaving STEP felt hard as in only a few weeks they became family. I highly recommend anyone to take part in their projects in India.

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Thomas
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Belize

My family volunteered in Belize and the experience couldn't have been more rewarding. The POD and TIDE organizations were first-rate in every way. We learned about the history and culture of the country and its people, the vital and wonderful work these groups are doing, and the value of hard work. This isn't a cruise ship excursion. You're gonna sweat and get sunburned and get blisters. And at the end of the day you'll sit back, have an authentic local meal, and look at the stars and feel good about yourself and the work you just did. Everyone involved are knowledgeable, supportive, and extremely friendly. You marvel at the beauty of the country and experience the genuine nature of the villages. We are better people in several ways from this experience. I would go back again and recommend anyone else to do so.

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Ellee
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

STEP Volunteer

When I travelled to India it was my first time alone experiencing a new culture and volunteering abroad. I am so thankful I chose STEP, it was an amazing time of my life that I will forever look back on fondly. Every aspect of my time there, Guarav, Ravi and Neha made sure I was happy and safe. Their knowledge and support throughout was incredible. From when I awoke in the morning I was surrounded by mountains to when I explored the city and was immersed in vibrant colours and kind hearted souls, it was simply beautiful. It is a wonderful chance to explore India as they offer quite a few trips to different cities and experiences. The atmosphere in the house was always friendly and fun, full of laughter and smiles from breakfast to afternoon chai. Volunteering with the children was incredible and I really felt our contributions were creating a positive change. The children at the nursery, orphanage and disabled school were so sweet and eager to learn and I learnt quite a bit about organising lessons and creating fun activities. Watching the work done at Animal Aid was so inspiring and the care and dedication they put into looking after the animals was amazing to watch. You fall in love with the animals and make great connections with the people working there. Volunteering with STEP showed me how passionate everyone I met were about changing peoples lives and animals, and I am so lucky to have experienced it.

What would you improve about this program?
I honestly cannot think of anything, it was simply brilliant.
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Charlotte
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Two words.. Life Changing

I decided for my 30th I wanted to do something different, explore a new culture, give to a community that needs help in some way and to take myself on a personal, spiritual and emotional journey.

After 8 months of research I chose to volunteer with POD at Animal Aid and live with the wonderful hosts at Step (Ravi, Gaurav, Neha and the cutest (and best) of them all, Heer). During my 2 weeks in Udaipur, I felt an overwhelming sense of love and charity - something I had not experienced in the UK. Sure we raise money, but it’s usually at personal cost (cutting hair off, or running one hundred million miles) - which is great of course because it’s a sacrifice. However the humbling love and kindness I experienced both directly and indirectly has categorically changed my life.

Animal Aid is a sanctuary founded on love, support and encourage. Never have I more inspiring people who have one thing in common... Their love for animals.

Ravi, Gaurav, Neha and Heer carefully considered every day/moment I had spare. Helping me make the most out of my stay. Whether it’s a bike ride around the lake, or darts on their roof terrace (they even arranged the most delicious birthday cake for me).

I cannot recommend this project/hosts enough. So much so... I actually considered hiding in the wardrobe so I didn’t have to leave.

What would you improve about this program?
N/A
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Jane
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Amazing experience in Udaipur

Spent the most amazing 2 weeks in Udaipur, staying with Ravi, Gurav and Neha. Perfect hosts. Made me feel so welcome. I worked alongside other volunteers at the schools and orphanages which was the most rewarding thing I have ever done. Lots of free time to explore Udaipur which is absolutely beautiful. I would completely recommend this experience as a more senior traveler and female I felt safe and secure the whole time. The most amazing experience

What would you improve about this program?
No need to improve
Read my full story
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Jill
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Experience of a lifetime

If you are looking for a trip of a lifetime, look no further than traveling through Pod Volunteer to Udaipur to work with Ravi and Gaurav. You won’t regret it, and you will likely want to return for a longer amount of time. My daughter and I spent two weeks with STEP Volunteer teaching English to school-age children and spending time with orphans from two different orphanages. It was an incredible experience.

Gaurav, Ravi and Ravi’s wife Neha are some of the kindest, dedicated people you will ever meet. They made us feel immediately welcome in their home, and they took great care of us while we were there. More importantly, they are passionate about what they do and they take very good care of the children and families in their community. They work tirelessly side by side with volunteers throughout the year to teach English to children and bring joy to the lives of orphans in nearby orphanages. Some international volunteer programs offer opportunities to teens for a few weeks in the summer, and then abandon the program until the following year. STEP Volunteer is dedicated to helping people in their community all year long.

After breakfast each morning we would travel to a local school and work on English lessons with our assigned class. My daughter and I had five year olds who were new to the idea of school. It was quite a rewarding experience to teach them some letters and try to communicate with some of the Hindi words we learned in our evening lessons! Afternoons were spent with the orphans playing all sorts of games with the boys. The evenings were for planning for our class the next day, taking Hindi lessons, dinner and hanging out with Ravi, Gaurav and fellow volunteers. There is time to explore the city of Udaipur as well as traveling on weekends.

I went with my daughter because, at 17, she was unable to volunteer on her own. It was an amazing opportunity for us to experience this together, and I am so grateful we did. However, I see that Pod Volunteer now offers an opportunity for students under age 18, which is fantastic. If you are a parent considering sending your 16 or 17 year old to volunteer in India with STEP, I assure you, your child will be in very good hands. If my second child asked to go, I would not hesitate sending him to volunteer with Ravi and Gaurav without me.

This was a life-changing experience for my daughter and me. She just began her first year of college. Because of her experience in India, she is planning to major in Global Health and she’s currently taking classes on Hinduism and India’s history and culture. For me, this experience opened my mind to the possibilities of more international volunteer opportunities when I am an empty-nester.

Don’t hesitate for a minute before signing up with Pod Volunteer to volunteer with STEP Volunteer. You’ll travel to a beautiful part of India, work with some of the nicest, passionate people you’d ever want to meet, and support an organization that is doing really good work for children in need in their community.