IFRE Volunteers Abroad

Program Reviews

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James
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I did the medical volunteering in/near Surin, Thailand in November 2019 initiated through IFRE and carried out by Starfish (a UK company).
IFRE was superb in answering a lot of questions I had ahead of time and for ensuring I made the right connections with the local group. They were also diligent about checking in on me during the experience.
The Starfish support staff was awesome. They were very friendly and supportive and treated me like a family member from day 1. They were constantly checking in on us and seeing if we needed anything. The coordinator assigned to the medical team has no medical certification but through training functions at the level a Medical Assistant would in the USA. She was energetic, engaged and highly competent. I would hire her in a minute for my own clinic!
The accommodations are very basic but clean. Shared room if there are many people and shared bathroom. The guest house is near some conveniences and a short tuktuk ride away from the center of town.
The clinical activities take place in several small villages surrounding Ban Ta Kook northeast of Surin. There is a very high-functioning team of NPs and volunteers deployed to this clinic and they provide many types of screening, diagnostic and treatment activities that the volunteers support. Transportation to the Ban Ta Kook clinic and surrounding areas occurs in the bed of a pick up truck outfitted with benches and a cover. Activities include basic wound care/dressing changes, dental fluoride sealant application, blood pressure and diabetes screening, and home visits for their immobile patients.
The volunteer activity is meaningful to the local clinic I think mainly by way of providing enough manpower to efficiently do a lot of screening and to free them up from mundane wound care tasks to do other things.
The food is out of this world if you like Northern Isan-style Thai food.
Weekends are free to explore Surin or any part of Thailand (islands, Bangkok or National Parks) or Cambodia (Angkor Wat complex for example) and the staff will set up the transportation for any of these excursions including transport to Siem Reap.
If you're a physician or an NP/PA or Registered Nurse, if you don't have a Thai license you can't really be left alone to do diagnosis or treatment but their NPs are certainly happy to hear what you would do in the same situation in your country. And unless you speak fluent Thai it would be difficult anyways. Just figuring out the medical system for the remote villages, the organization and application of practice protocols and how the community cares for its members is really interesting.
I had a blast in my 2 weeks and would do it again!

What was the most surprising thing you saw or did?
How the community and families, lacking nursing homes, are able to take better care of the elderly and crippled in their own home than the best facilities in the US can do with many more resources.
I also ended up eating some crickets and silk worms.... this is optional!
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Diana
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I had an amazing experience during my volunteering project in Cusco, Peru. My host family was great. Maria cooked great meals and was always friendly and ready for a chat. Roger, my coordinator, was the best he gave me a great background on the orphanage with teen mamas and their children. He really tries to help them in any way he can. On a Sunday Roger showed me around the ruins in Cusco, with some history lessons and we went to a local restaurant to try the best local Ceviche. The work at the orphanage was an incredible experience - helping the moms at their daily work and taking care of the kids was very rewarding! In my free time I was able to visit the Inka ruins in the Cusco region, culminating with the Machu Picchu visit, which is hard to describe in words - it was breathtaking! In Cusco you have everything you want - great Peruvian food, good pubs, a lot of friendly foreign travelers and the best night life in Peru! You your looking for an amazing experience, I can only recommend Cusco! Thank you!

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
If you’re undecided, choose Cusco! ;) Pack lighter than you think, Don’t forget sunscreen, hiking shoes and a poncho! Of course you can find anything you need in Cusco too! And prepare for an amazing experience! Cheers!
Response from IFRE Volunteers Abroad

Dear Diana,

Thank you so much for taking out the time to write us a feedback. We are happy to know that you enjoyed your time in Peru. Thank you gain for volunteering with us and we wish you all the best in your future endeavours.

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Corinna
8/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Had a really nice time at Latin American Sea Turtle Project. The staff and service was excellent. I learnd a lot more about those lovely animals and about nature in general. I can‘t say that mich because I only had time to stay for 5 days. So I tecommend you should definitely stay a longer time. I was there in October so it’s the rain season. But the weather was actually very good always sunny in the morning and later on it rained or sometimes also just a little so really perfect, because it wasn’t to crazy hot. The cabin I stayed in was also good and the food they served me everyday. The host family was super cute and friendly and tried to communicate with me as good as possible, because I couldn’t speak Spanish at all. All in one, an amazing experience.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
Practice your Spanish or bring a dictionary to make sure you can communicate better with the people you stay with
Response from IFRE Volunteers Abroad

Dear Corinna,

Thank you for taking out the time to volunteer with us and also for the wonderful feedback. We are very happy to know that you enjoyed at the Turtle Project. We hope that we can see you in the future someday. We wish you all the best.

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Corey
4/10
Yes, I recommend this program

These children need help.
They have very little english, math, basic life skills. They need an education.

I understand the logistic difficulties finding full time volunteers to teach wich makes a teaching programme difficult to organise.

My host family was so dirty, the father asked me for a few loans and feeling horribly sorry for him and his family, igave him some money to help him out.
He still owes me alot of money and i have since found out his ridiculous gambling problem, alcoholism. A family of 3 with no jobs taking money from volunteers when it could be helping the kids, insted the money we pay goes to roulette at the 2 local casino's. (People are free to do as they please but im not happy about funding a casino.)

My host family was extremely controlling and i felt pressured into doing things they wanted to do... then paying for it.

The organisation had no direct contact with the monestary and had no idea of schedule, skill level of the kids or anything. My host family knew 1 monk and that was the only connection.

What would you improve about this program?
A more direct contact between the organisation and the place of volunteering
Response from IFRE Volunteers Abroad

Hello Corey,

Thank you for taking out time to time to write us an honest feedback and for pointing out the issues you faced in the project. We deeply apologize and regret that we could not help you in time. We would have really appreciated if you had comer forward and informed us of the situation during the program and before you lent the loan to the host family. We were not aware of any of this. We had followed you up but received no response from you during the program. However, we take full responsibility for the situation and though we cannot change anything now, we will ensure that such a thing will not happen to any of our future volunteers.

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Vivian
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

This is my first time going to Bali and doing overseas volunteer work. I always wanted to do so, but I cannot find an affordable one. On Aug30, I finally found IFRE and called them to see if it is possible to arrange 1week program at last minute and go to Bali on Sep 21. The staff was very helpful and immediately contacted the local coordinator (Komang) to see availability. I confirmed and did the payment same day. The documents are prepared immediately and I actually very impressed that IFRE has a local coordinator that I can contact during my stay.
Being a person who never teach children and looking after turtles, I am soooo fascinated about education in Bali. Every kids are very polite, and I actually learnt from them too - To be grateful in everything.
For sea turtle program, I am so lucky to see 2 turtle mothers laid their eggs! The person who is responsible for the turtle centre (Agung) is truly enjoy taking care of the turtle and love them. I can feel his passion and I did enjoy the whole week there! I didn’t expect a sea turtle can lag that many eggs and there are thousands of eggs waiting to hatched in the centre! The tourists love the idea of nurturing the baby turtles and release them. They really appreciate what the organisation did. I enjoyed to introduce them the sea turtle information too.
Komang is very supportive and he kept checking with me to see if I have any issue (so caring!). He helped to arrange driver to pick me up from the airport (again I am so impressed about it, I thought I need to go to the accommodation myself). The driver was very friendly and took me to a local restaurant (which is very tasty!). Komang has arranged a hotel for accommodation, I loveeeee the staff there, the meals are good too! They are very friendly and I like them!
The working hours are flexible and you can go to have other tours if you want to. Just tell Komang and Agung is fine.
I was so excited to finally step out of my comfort zone!! I even made a short story to introduce the process how sea turtle mother lay eggs :) I love Bali - good food, good weather, good people. This is a great experience and relaxing week and I definitely will come back next year and have a longer time staying in Bali.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
Just enjoy every moment! If this is the first time visiting Bali/ Kuta specifically, you will love this place. Every moment is fascinating!!
Response from IFRE Volunteers Abroad

Hello Vivian,

Thank you for your wonderful feedback. We are very happy to know that you enjoyed our project in Bali. We would like to thank you for taking out time to volunteer with us and greatly appreciate your effort. Wish you all the best for your future endeavours and hope to see you again someday!

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Michelle
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

My daughter and I volunteered for 2 weeks at the NATUWA Wildlife Sanctuary. We were looking for a true hands on experience that was affordable and educational. It was all that and more!
The staff were knowledgeable, extremely friendly and loved to joke around! They also took their work very seriously. We felt welcome for the moment we arrived and learned so much from them! The kitchen staff were very accommodating to vegetarian and gluten free diets. You will not go hungry!
The theme was, “work hard, play hard” while we were there. Every day was different. Besides preparing food and feeding the animals twice a day, we worked on many projects throughout the sanctuary. It was very satisfying work. At the end of the day there was time to relax in a hammock, play games or go into town. We often walked to the local store and hung out by the soccer field. We even joined in a soccer game with the locals... so fun!!! We felt welcome wherever we went.
We also got one day off a week to go on a day trip. We organized a trip with 8 of us and hired a tour company to take us snorkeling and go swimming on a beautiful island. Along the way, they took us to an island where we got to see spider monkeys swinging around. They also took us past a rocky area where there were may birds. Along the way we saw lots of dolphins and a whale! We ended the trip with a visit to the bioluminescent water, where we could go swimming!
Although I went with my 17 year old daughter, I didn’t see much of her during the work day. She was busy giving tours of the sanctuary and working on different projects. There were 4 feeding routes, too, that we rotated during our stay. This allowed us to get to know all the animals at the sanctuary. There were many young people volunteering, as well as a family and people of different ages. We all made new friends and are in touch through WhatsApp!
We will definitely volunteer through IFRE again!!!

What was the most surprising thing you saw or did?
We fell in love with the baby anteater! It was so cool to watch it climb and search for food... adorable!!!
Response from IFRE Volunteers Abroad

Dear Michelle ,

Thank you for your feedback. We are very happy to know that both you and your daughter enjoyed our wildlife project. Thank you so much for taking out the time to volunteer with us. We wish you both all the best in your future endeavours!

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Sophia
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I volunteered for 6 weeks in Chitwan doing forest conservation where I helped to build a small farm for which vegetables would be grown and given to the nearby orphanage. Through this I learned how to grow cucumber, okra, soybean and pumpkin and different conditions need to grow each one. Despite it being quite physically challenging i really enjoyed it in addition to the stunning views and great staff. I also appreciated how they listening to my ideas regarding plating trees where we ended up playing roughly 270 jackfruit and mango trees in the nursery. Thanks you also to my lovely homestay for their hospitality and amazing food! Overall I would definitely recommend this project as it really improves your tolerance, persistence and communication skills with the local people.

What would you improve about this program?
I would like if there was a more scientific approach for learning about the flora and fauna in Nepal. For example learning about particular species about their behavior and interactions. In addition to more experimentation with growing plants and maybe an introduction to grafting.
Response from IFRE Volunteers Abroad

Hello Sophia,

Thank you for volunteering with us and for taking out the time to write us a feedback. We are happy to know that you learned new things at the project and enjoyed your time during volunteering. Also, thank you so much for all the extra effort and research you put into the project. We hope to see you again someday and wish you all the best for your future!

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Nadine
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I was involved in two projects during my 3-month stay in Kathmandu, Nepal in 2009 - teaching English to young Buddhist monks in a monastery (they were actually very naughty the little ones!) and working in an orphanage, where the children were so upbeat and loving, it made me want to cry. Both projects left a huge impact on me, so much so that I want to return some day.

My host family made me feel like I was a member of their own family, and they even gave me a Nepalese name 'Nisha' which I became accustomed to. I'm so glad I didn't stay in a hostel or hotel whilst in Nepal as I believe the experience would not have been as enriching.

Then there's the other volunteers you meet which have the potential to become friends for life! I met people from Australia, Canada, Denmark, UK, Germany, Singapore - we're still in touch after 10 years!

What was your funniest moment?
We all got sick during our first week in Nepal, and we found it quite funny in the end so we decided to make a joke of it. We got t-shirts printed for us all to wear with the words "Team Wak Wak" means 'sick' in Nepalese.
Response from IFRE Volunteers Abroad

Dear Nadine,

Thank you for your wonderful feedback. We greatly appreciate you for taking out the time to volunteer with us and are happy that you enjoyed the project. We wish you all the best for your future endeavours.

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Constance
7/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I wanted do to something very useful for cative elephants, to improve their life. Here, you can discover how elephants are used by sri lankan people, and why. It is not just a place where captive elephants can rest, the staff really try to change the mentality of sri lankan people about elephants and their need of care. All the staff is very kind with volunteer, and answer to any questions. The vet is really important in this program because he works with owners of elephants to assure a good quality of life of their elephants, and try to make them understand that perahera and poja is not good for elephants, because it is a lot of stress, loud sound, and cages on their back hurt them a lot.
The foundation is not perfect, but they try to changes a lot of things.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
Take old clothes, gloves, and come ! The work can be difficult, but it is really a satisfactory work.
Response from IFRE Volunteers Abroad

Dear Constance,

Thank you for volunteering with us and lending a helping hand to the elephants in Sri Lanka. We greatly appreciate your help, time and effort. We also wish you all the best for your future endeavours.

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Tierni
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

You are never too old! My son, daughter, and I made this journey together from Texas. On our "Thailand Elephant "volunteering adventure we experienced the wonders of a part of the world that still believes in kindness, family, and the saving the Asian's elephants population.

Taking this journey was something I have always have wanted to do but would tell myself ... "Next year when I have more time." Now, at 60ish I did it and I will do it again. Volunteering overseas and at home is my now my passion.

We meet and made lifelong friends from all over the world.

The daily agenda always included laughter, hard work, and a kinder love for our gentle swaying giants.

Our guides in Surin, Thailand - were our favorites. Shout out to Worn and Ing!!

So, add this volunteering program to your bucket list.

What was the most surprising thing you saw or did?
The petting of a 10-week baby elephant and bathing the elephants in the river.
Response from IFRE Volunteers Abroad

Dear Tierni and family,

Thank you for your wonderful feedback. We greatly appreciate you for taking out the time to volunteer with us and are happy that you enjoyed the project. We wish you all the best for your future endeavours.