There is a lot I'd like to say about my experience with Greenhearts. I would like to first indicate that I do feel that the Greenhearts employees with whom I interacted have good intentions. I also believe that my experience is not indicative of all experiences with them. The most frustrating aspect of my experience have been due to disorganization with the partner organization in Colombia, Volunteers Colombia. However, at this point I can confidently say that my decision to travel with Greenhearts has been a complete failure for me. It has been one of the most frustrating and discouraging experiences traveling.
I applied to leave with a SENA position in 2017. In August of 2016, my boyfriend and I had both been accepted (a process that was confusing and, at points quite frustrating, as I was accepted and asked to submit my deposit or else be dropped multiple times before my partner had even had his second interview/was invited to join the program-an interview that didn't happen for a month after it was supposed to happen). Sometime shortly after submitting our deposits and committing to the SENA 2017 program, our Greenhearts recruiter informed us that there was a program beginning in early September that still had a few spots open. We were ready to go abroad and we agreed to leave on September 9th. However, a week before departing, after quitting our jobs and moving out of our apartment, we were informed that the program had been pushed back by 3 weeks. I spent a good amount of saving meant for travel on unexpected living expenses in the U.S. in that time and fronting the fee to change the flight. The new departure date was supposed to be October 2nd.
A week before October 2nd, we were informed that the program had been pushed back another week to October 9th (we fronted fees to change flights again). Then, a week before we were supposed to leave for this latest start date, we were told that the program had been outright cancelled. We were homeless, jobless, and we had eaten through a significant portion of our savings in the month we spent jobless in the U.S.
We felt that we didn't want to continue to trust Greenhearts to get us jobs, however, given the hole we were already in due to placing our trust in them in the first place, we felt our best option was to hope they got us different positions as soon as possible. They got my boyfriend a SENA position in Bogotá (not the city we were initially supposed to go to, but completely acceptable). They said that I would be working in one of their 'other' placements. This meant a private institution not affiliated with SENA. However, the position was one that Greenhearts' partner in Colombia, Volunteers Colombia had placed volunteers before.
We arrived in Bogotá on October 9th. My partner got his visa with no problem on October 10th and has mostly enjoyed his time teaching in a SENA center in Bogotá. However, my application for a volunteer visa was rejected by the visa office, despite the 10 hours I spent there over 2 days. And despite that there are already two Greenhearts/Volunteers Colombia participants already working at the same University with the visa for which I have applied.
The person assigned to support me at Volunteers Colombia told me that he would keep me updated as VC corresponded with the manager of the visa office about my visa. He said that if I couldn't get the proper visa, I could be reassigned to a SENA position (and sure to get a visa if in a SENA position). He informed me of meetings and letters, but that very little came of them. Recently, he said I could apply for SENA positions in early 2017 and would be sure to be placed in Bogotá. He did not outright say that they were giving up on getting me a position/visa this school year, but it has been a month. He strongly implied in my last correspondence with him that VC has given up on getting me a job/visa for this school year. This means that I quit my job in the U.S. and traveled to Colombia around 6 months before I will even get a chance to teach here in Colombia (as SENA 2017 classes don't start up until March 1st).
Without a visa before the end of the year, I will be required to leave the country in January when my tourist visa expires. I was assured before I left that if I wanted to continue teaching in 2017, I could renew my visa and not have to leave the country (as I cannot afford it since the unexpected joblessness and living expenses in the U.S. for a month). Also, without a visa, I will not have access to the health care I was promised with this program. I had canceled my health insurance in the U.S. beginning in December, as I had intended to stay in Colombia and teach next year. I now have to afford three additional months of health insurance with my provider in the U.S. which is not realistic on the stipend I am being paid.
I am out of money and patience. I feel like from the very beginning, I was treated very poorly by the Volunteers Colombia (Greenhearts' partner here in Colombia). I feel that it is only getting worse now that I am here. I don't think this is Greenhearts' fault, however, the non-profit with which they are partnered here in Colombia is a mess.
I would absolutely not recommend anyone do this program. Find a different way to apply for SENA if teaching adults appeals to you. I am so frustrated and feel very much abandoned by Volunteers Colombia.