Disappointing and Problematic

Impact: 2
Support: 1
Fun: 3
Value: 1
Safety: 1

I. worked at ETIV do Brasil as a volunteer from late February to April 2020. I saw early on in my stay that ETIV do Brasil is not an “organization” in the traditional sense. It’s “structure” consists of one permanent Founder/Director who lives on-site and has both Brasilian and American citizenship and a very small foreign (remote) Board of Directors who have not visited the ngo in years and has very little context of the actual operations. Volunteers are asked to take initiative on projects without much in terms of a guiding framework or administrative support. You are basically paying for a volunteer experience to satisfy the desires of the Director, not to support a functioning ngo.

The online marketing is robust, but deceptively inaccurate. The mangrove project costs virtually zero dollars in overhead to implement, yet they ask 5$ donations per seed, with no guarantee to the donors. I did not see any way how the money from volunteers and donors was actually going to NGO project development. Online reviews are solicited from volunteers by the director and many of the programs and activities listed on their website either do not exist or are actually other organization initiatives this ngo claims to support. The majority of locals I talked with had not even heard of ETIV. There are no serious Portuguese classes and the ngo takes a considerable cut from the pay of whomever the teacher is at the time. Finding a teacher for Portuguese lessons was second to the $$ the ngo made from the classes.

There is no long-term supporting staff here which makes continuity of project management virtually impossible. No budgets were ever given to project leaders nor did the Director show any active support to help with any volunteer initiated projects. The Founding Director insisted upon only working part-time while the only administrative staff member during this time worked 40+ hours per week. The director also did very little to address any concerns volunteers brought up and was defensive when anyone raised a concern. When I arrived, the swimming pool was being filled by a rain gutter coming off a main roof (an idea touted at the time as “eco”) and the housing units were in serious need of repair. Sanitary conditions did not seem to be a priority.

Many Volunteers complained privately about their own concerns, but many were afraid to speak their minds for fear of retaliation by the only person with any authority, the Owner/Director.

There was no clear definition of hierarchy or organizational management. The Director talked badly about her staff to volunteers, violated her own ngo rules on multiple occasions, accused volunteers of stealing things that she misplaced (and asking volunteers to fundraise to replace said “missing” items), asked volunteers to do things for her at risk to their personal safety and refused to pay staff for work they completed, just as a start.

When COVID-19 started, the director dismissed it as overblown and offered her own conspiracies to the illegitimacy of the pandemic and stating that “mercury is in retrograde”....

I would caution anyone considering this ngo as viable non-profit work. It is hard to consider ETIV anything other than a way of gaining $$ to maintain a personal lifestyle. Volunteering here felt like volunteering to help someone maintain their personal property and business, not to support an ngo. There are much better people and places to volunteer with in Itacare if you are interested in ecology and sustainability. It is a shame, because it could be of great benefit to Itacare, but as I witnessed, the leadership is seriously questionable and aggressively defensive. The Director blurs the lines between personal and professionality and often invaded volunteers personal spaces and eavesdropped on private conversations. Until there is a change in leadership, until there is a long-term local staff presence, more continuity of programs, adequate investment in ngo resources, a clear and definitive separation between personal economic interests of the Director and the economics of the NGO, and more focus on the health, safety and well-being of its volunteers and staff, I strongly advise anyone who is interested in ETIV to understand that what they see online and the actuality on-site are very different circumstances. The online marketing is probably 90% focus of the entire NGO. ETIV do Brasil has been operating for roughly 4 years but still does not convey any real sense of organization in the way operational structures work, indicative of truly serious ngo’s. There are no guidelines for resolving concerns or disputes in any of the literature you receive and the Board of Directors seems to be reinforcing whatever the Founding Director wants. There is no objectivity to this organization. Be cautious before investing in this program as you may be severely disappointed.

There are two other very relevant posts on this site by author “X” and author “Jo” that resonated with me after my experience. I suggest taking their perspectives into serious account too.

Would you recommend this program?
No, I would not
Year Completed