After volunteering with Voluntario Global for 4 months I learnt that you should not pay to volunteer, unless the money is being spent on materials for the project. I was very disheartened to learn that around just 30% (roughly) of what I paid went on my project. So where does the rest go?
I am also disappointed that large companies like STA travel are involved, charging volunteers a ridiculous amount to go via them instead of direct through VG.
I myself am involved in another project in Bolivia and know that such costs are unnecessary. Of course some fund raising may be involved, we did that at first to pay the wages of the local women in Bolivia making blankets for the homeless people until they could find a sustainable way of making money themselves. But we as volunteers do not pay to work. As soon as we pay, we become customers rather than employees. Surely that's not fair. And if money is required, surely a donation of however much the volunteer feels necessary would be more appropriate. Or, even better, the volunteer buys necessary materials upon arrival.
Those children I taught that never brought the textbooks to class, not because they forgot them, but because their parents couldn't afford them. The kids that always borrowed my pens because they didn't have any. Not to mention the break-times with no snacks to eat.
I really enjoyed the school I worked in and received support whenever needed and always felt welcome. I just wish people could go and volunteer just for that school and not Voluntario Global as a whole.
I must mention the fact that I had discussed hours before I arrived and been told I would tell them when I could work when I arrive. Yet when I arrived I was told I had to work Monday to Friday 2-9:30 including the 3 hour return commute. I was upset that I had been lead to believe that I would choose between morning and evening shifts and in the end had to work all evenings. Luckily the teacher let me negotiate a day off, for me to allow time for my Year Abroad studies at University (this was part of a placement).
The fact that there were no longer morning shifts was not the teacher's fault, but rather the lack of communication between the team and the fact that they had not told me about the change beforehand. Unfortunately, one night I was mugged on the train which I could not blame Voluntario Global for in any way, but, inevitably, having to take that train every night for 3 more months hardly made me comfortable. Luckily the teacher I worked with was always very helpful and understanding and travelled with me as far of the journey as she could.
I was also surprised that volunteers were told that they did not need a reasonable level of Spanish as many turned up without even knowing basic Spanish and this just prevented more problems rather than helping us out. An important part of teaching the children is having the ability to communicate with them and understand them, so unless you only teach the one class of 15 year olds, the necessary teacher-student rapport is not going to be built up at all without knowing Spanish.
All in all, I could not recommend Voluntario Global after seeing how well run other free or actually low-cost organisations are. I would suggest Conviven perhaps who my friend volunteered for and loved. I really enjoyed my role of teaching and loved the children and teacher I worked with. I could not fault the small school I worked in but rather the running of VG. I am very grateful for the help the teacher gave me at all times and this review is absolutely no reflection of working with her & the kids, but rather, my overall experience. If there is a way for her to run the school independently, I would completely recommend volunteering for her; but until then, find a smaller organisation.