Bamboo Alumni

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Bamboo is a New Zealand Charitable Trust (non-profit NGO) based in New Zealand, Thailand, Cambodia, and the USA. Their vision is to connect volunteers with communities in need. They offer dozens of programs in 19 countries on 5 continents.

Questions & Answers


based on 47 reviews
  • Impact 8.9
  • Support 9.4
  • Fun 8.4
  • Value 9.3
  • Safety 9.5
Showing 17 - 24 of 47
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No, I don't recommend this program

Mixed Blessings

I volunteered at a children's home in a village that lies in the Kathmandu Valley. I was there for the months of October and November. 24 children ages 10 years to 18 years reside in the home. The children and the house manager speak English. The children are a delight and their functioning speaks to the high level of care delivered to them over the many years they've been in the care of the charity. . I keep a travel blog. My entries about Nepal describes the activities I undertook with the children and other aspects of my stay can be found there --. TRAVEL DIARIES. I use the opportunity this site provides for a review of Global Volunteer Network.

The most unfortunate part of my experience was with the administrators of the children's home both westerners who now live in Kathmandu. The stated role of one of these staff was to provide 'volunteer support' and the stated role of the other was 'fund-raising'. Both visited the home and provided a case-management service for the children. I won't go into much detail about this other than to say that during my stay, I, and another volunteer questioned, not only the level of volunteer support delivered, but also how well the children's basic needs -- ie for food and clothing, supplies for hygiene, medical care, were met. My fellow volunteer, a forth year medical student, photographed the children's height and weight charts also their footwear (because of the state of disrepair). My attempt to communicate my concerns to one of the Nepal based staff was brushed off. Upon my return to Scotland I took up the concern with GVN. Three months later I await a response that leaves me feeling reassured that the standard of basic care provided to the children has improved or will improve. (I'm speaking of basic, basic, basic -- eg more lentils, more eggs, maybe feminine hygiene products for some of the girls). Through my church I was able to bring on board a nurse/academic and a pediatrician, both with substantial experience in foreign aid work and with the effects of poor nutrition on the growth and development of children. More recently a dietitian has joined with us in an effort to help GVN understand the issues, and the importance of taking this kind of feedback seriously. I feel sad that the hours spent analyzing the data (professional people volunteering hours of time) has not been suitably acknowledged by GVN, indeed I regret to say that the GVN staff respond with some defensiveness. I fear our concerns will be brushed under the rug.

I paid a large volunteer program fee to GVN believing that my money would help impoverished children and local communities. It saddens me that this apparently is not so. I still don't know how volunteer program fees are put to use.

I'm not prepared to write GVN off at this point. I'm hoping (three months into the process!) that our concerns for the children's well-being will be addressed sooner rather than later.

I do not wish to discourage people from volunteering. I found the work with the children and the staff at the home enormously rewarding and I loved being in Nepal and experiencing life in the village.

Response from Bamboo

We’re saddened to see this review appear while we are still in discussions with you and while we are following due processes in regards to your concerns. We hoped you understood why it’s important to be diligent in our follow up to ensure that all concerns are valid and what this might mean moving forward – this means working with our partner organization in Nepal, as well as yourself.

We acknowledge the time that this process has taken, but given the gravity of the concerns you raised, we need to make a full investigation – and also to allow time for you and your health-related contacts to compile the information you wished to present.

We’re also sad that you are disinterested in reading the information presented by our partner organization as part of our formal report – this information clarifies a lot of misunderstandings that were outlined in your review and our email correspondence.

From private correspondence, we have come to realise that there is some confusion between three legally separate entities – GVN (registered charity in NZ that specialises in volunteer placements), GVN Foundation (tax exempt 501(c)(3) in the US which specialises solely in fundraising and grant distribution and does not involve the volunteering/program fee side of things) and our partner organization in Nepal. If you’d like further clarification as to what entity is responsible for what aspects, how they work together and how each is funded, please feel free to email us for this information or take a look at the “About Us” style pages on each of the respective websites, as it’s a lot to break down in this post.

Program fee breakdowns are provided to all volunteers after they are accepted and prior to making any obligation or commitment to the program – this is done in the interest of transparency, and I can confirm that this information was included in your Program Guide upon acceptance into the Nepal Program. Please see this information for more detail.

We have no concerns about how the Nepal administrators use funds as these have been independently audited by the Nepali authorities that oversee locally registered non-profits, and they have passed with “flying colours” every time. This is a regular, rigid, and state-mandated review, and covers all the aspects of fiscal and organization management that we deem important for transparency and accountability. Our own reviews across the years of financial information has never raised any issues or causes for concern either.

Just to add to this, GVN and GVN Foundation are also both independently audited by the relevant authorities and have also been found to meet necessary requirements for non-profits in each respective country, and in confirming that our work and funds spent meet our mission statements.

In regards to your concerns about child nutrition, we have come to understand that the data you have based your information on is height/weight charts found at the Children’s Home. This is not the most up to date information – this is stored at the partner organization office for privacy reasons, the same as at most doctor’s offices. Taking into account the children’s medical history is also really important – these children had a rough start in life and the nutrition they received during their formative years was definitely sub-par (ie. prior to coming to the care of SSCH).

As per the World Bank’s reports on child nutrition, poor nutrition during the first 8 years of life significantly impacts, and can even stunt, a child’s growth for the rest of its’ life. Part of the information that our partner is providing for us in response is the most recent medical information from registered health professionals in Nepal who have worked with these kids for a significant portion of their life since coming to Shining Stars. There is also medical records provided from the three health professionals who have most recently worked with the kids directly, as well as information from a past volunteer (registered nurse) who knew and worked with the children before their time in SSCH and since – it provides a very insightful understanding to how these children have grown and developed since living at SSCH, and we’re disappointed to hear you’re not interested in hearing this ‘side of the story’.

The children are fed a Nepali diet (although, 2 meals + 2 kajja a day is above what an average Nepali might have). The meals that they are given are the standard fare of Nepal – large amounts of rice, daal and vegetable curry – what all bar the wealthiest families eat twice a day, every day. On top of this, monthly funding is available for meat, eggs, fruit and milk – items deemed luxuries in Nepal and usually only consumed by your average Nepali on festival days or at weddings.

Your review states “even with this kind of evidence, their tack is to start a dialogue with the Nepali partners to give them a chance to tell their side of the story”. In the same way that you would not expect an organization to believe information presented by our partners at face value, we need to allow the same right to our partners as well in light of your (potentially very damaging) concerns. Without this open dialogue with our partners, we would not have the information above in regards to nutrition prior to SSCH, health records, etc.

We’re happy to continue discussions with you (our most recent email correspondence was less than 24 hours ago) and work on this progress together, but we are concerned that prematurely posting this information, without all the facts, may have an impact on our ability to continue supporting these children. At the heart of what you, GVN, and our partner organization in Nepal want, is the welfare and future of these children.

- Fiona GVN

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Yes, I recommend this program

Simply Life Changing

My volunteering experience in Ecuador was simply PERFECT. I spent four weeks on the Amazon station and two weeks on the San Cristobal, Galapagos station. The whole process was smooth, safe and comforting. The amazon station is beautiful, the volunteer cabins are double cabins with basic beds and amenities and they are surprisingly very comfortable, you fall asleep every night to the sounds of the rain forest creatures. The work is amazing and so fulfilling, Monday mornings consisted of five hour hikes in primary and secondary forests, some of them were medicinal hikes (learning about the different plants and trees and their benefits), other were bird watching hikes or just informational hikes about the forest. The afternoons were always spent in the botanical garden that belongs to Jatun Sasha, planting seeds, cutting down invasive plants, replanting endemic plants, raking leaves, learning about the different plants and their benefits in the classroom, building bridges, collecting fruits and vegetables in the organic garden and planting new ones, the botanical and organic gardens are huge forests on their own. Simply surreal.
Wednesday afternoons were social afternoons, we would walk through he forest to reach a huge clearing where the river napo would greet us, we would swim, play soccer relax and then head to town in Tena for a fun night out. The work is hard and tedious at times but extremely fulfilling. Breakfast was served at 6:30, lunch at noon and dinner at 6. Work hours: 7:30 to 11:30, 1:30 to 3:30. Hammock time after a cold well deserved shower was the best thing ever, the food is simple but satisfying and the cooks are wonderful jolly people who become your friends. Weekends were amazing, there is no shortage of things to do, from rafting trips, to 3 days in banos town, to visits to the indigenous communities and waterfalls, simply amazing!! I was so sad to leave the amazon it was the most fulfilling, fun, rewarding time of my life, I cannot wait to go back.
The volunteering in the galapagos was just as amazing. The reserve is different, it's a 40 min cab ride from the san cristobal airport and you reach this gorgeous isolated reserve, the volunteers are either housed in the new house or old house, and share rooms with 1 to 5 people. The morring view is simply gorgeous, the balcony looks onto the ocean in the horizon, pure bliss. The work hours were similar to the amazon except the volunteers are expected to help in the kitchen for either the morning, afternoon or dinner shift, which is actually very fun if you like to cook or just want to learn (like me! i learned knife skills...). The work involves a lot of machete and hand work, it's tough at time but simply amazing. Tuesday and thursday afternoons consist of a trip to the Gualapaguera, a gorgeous tortoise reserve where you get to see huge turtles in their habitat, help maintain the reserve and work in the nearby greenhouse planting coffee and chocolate, SO MUCH FUN. Friday mornings consisted of hikes or wonderful trips to beaches where you tan next to sea lions and blue footed boobies, what a dream! Most weekend are spent outside of the reserve in San Cristobal town where you can go eat drink and island hop to all the nearby islands, which is simply surreal. The staff and coordinators on both the reserves are so caring, friendly and wonderful people who watch over you day and night and respect your needs and likes. GVN was wonderful at facilitating my entry into this program and I could not recommend going to Ecuador enough, it will change your life forever!

What would you improve about this program?
More veggies and protein in the food served
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Yes, I recommend this program


I highly recommend the kili trek! It was an amazing experience and a great physical challenge to overcome

Visiting kibera and the orphanages was a very emotional and eye opening experience. It was a good feeling seeing exactly where and how the funds raised would benefit the communities

The GVN group did a great job helping ensure I was prepared for the trek and fellow Trekkers offered great support, helping each other make it to summit!

I have made some forever friends through GVN and am excited to participate in another GVN project in the future!

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Yes, I recommend this program

An Adventure of a Lifetime!

GVN's Mt. Kilimanjaro Fundraising Trek was without a doubt, an Adventure of a lifetime! I did the trek in 2010; and, then the Machu Picchu Trek in 2011. I am currently training for the South Africa Cycle Challenge. GVN does an amazing job at offering a Physical challenge with a reason: to help people! I know that you will never regret a decision to take on any of GVN's fundraising opportunities. You will never regret it; and, you will never forget it!

What would you improve about this program?
I was surprised that I got altitude sickness; and, did not even bring medication for it! Perhaps, it would be good to outline how probable it is for some of the people in the group to get altitude sickness.
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Yes, I recommend this program

A Well Organized and Amazing Adventure

Our program began with meeting in Nairobi with a collection of inspiring and motivated people from around the world, who had all worked hard to fund raise and train for this trip. Meeting these people was one of the great benefits of the trip.
Our accommodation and food was excellent, and we were transported by bus all together to the mountain, and to the organizations we visited afterwards. There was no stress in having to organize these things individually.
The guides and porters who took our group up the mountain were professional and attentive to us. They spoke English well, and not only made sure that we were safe and well, but were also ready to tell us about the changing scenery and wildlife on the six days we spent ascending and descending Kilimanjaro. Between them they cooked our meals, put up tents, carried most of our gear, and even warmed up water for us to wash when we got to our evening campsites!
The mountain was amazing. I can't describe it well enough - you have to see it.
The walk up was taken extremely slowly, in order to reduce altitude sickness, and was not steep until the last day. As a result most climbers in the group made it to the top.
After climbing Kilimanjaro we were taken to visit a clinic at Kibera, and also to various children's' homes to hear from those who ran them what the needs were, and where the money we had raised would be going. It also showed us what more needed to be done, and gave food for thought about how to contribute further.
I felt well looked after while with the group, and much safer than the few days I spent after the trip making my way around Nairobi without them. I had an amazing time!

What would you improve about this program?
I felt uncomfortable sometimes with the contrast between the high standard of hospitality we received at the hotels and throughout the trip, and the lack of comforts that so many around us had. I think this is inevitable, and I'm not sure what could be done to change this.
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Yes, I recommend this program

Uganda Distribution Trip 2013

The one week distribution trip to Uganda was packed with excitement, inspiring people and whole lot of fun with similar minded people.

We visited three local projects funded by GVN's Eat So They Can campaign. It was very cool meeting the local people invested in their community projects. The greatest impact for me was when we met the women of Kitoola. As soon as we got off the bus they were dancing, singing and giving us great big hugs and just full of smiles. These women received cows from the ESTC campaign, and the reception we got made me understand the value of the cows to these women. Their gratitude was written all over their faces.

The accommodation and living conditions were standard and comfortable. The trip was really well organised, GVN and their local partner organization did a fantastic job. I felt comfortable and safe within a trusted group of strangers.

I would recommend this trip to anyone.

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Yes, I recommend this program

The Perfect Program at the Perfect Time!

If you've got a great idea for a worthwhile project, but you don't know what your next step should be, this is the program for you! At "Be The Change," you are taught effective ways to get your message across and gather support for your project -- and at the same time you get to meet wonderful people, all with great ideas of their own. I attended the program in Tuscany, and not only was the company superb -- there were fabulous meals served in a beautiful setting in the Tuscan hills outside of Florence. I came away from the meeting with inspiration and a plan which is now bearing fruit -- and, most important, with so many new supportive friends, all of whom are dear to me to this day!

What would you improve about this program?
I'd like to be able to have the group reconvene a set time after our original meeting, to touch base and recharge!
Response from Bamboo

Thanks for your feedback - we hope that participants can connect with each other through our GVN Alumni forum, as not all participants can commit to a second meet up.

Colin and the facilitators are always happy to sound out ideas and plans with our former BTC alum, so if you're looking for renewed inspiration or guidance, just get in contact!

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Yes, I recommend this program

You, ANYONE, really can Be The Change.

From the very beginning, my communications and concerns with the facilitators via email, from questions about the program itself, to finance and travel information, were handled promptly, efficiently and in a very warm and friendly manner, and this treatment carried well into the program and beyond. I was given a truly welcome and open environment to explore what was important to me, what change I wanted to see in the world, with constant feedback that was critical and constructive, understanding and encouraging.
Upon arriving, while I felt like I was partly on vacation, because of how removed I was from my day to day life, the Be The Change staff was quick to rein in the focus, still providing a wonderful and relaxing environment, but also emphasizing a definite plan and curriculum. They asked us to trust in their plan and they made it wonderfully easy to do so. For the next 6 days, we made time for work, developing our own plans of change and really diving into the core of what we wanted out of the program and how we should best approach our own personal goals, from the general to the more specific. I always felt included in the teachings, like they were fine tuned for me as much as anyone else.
The evenings were for relaxation and recreation, from small hikes to wonderful meals cooked in groups, creating a comfortable environment where we could take the needed time to let the workshops really sink in so as not to feel overwhelmed, and to be honest, the program was at times overwhelming, but never in a negative way. If I was ever overwhelmed, it was at the realizations of my own potential. That a simple, everyday kind of normal guy like me has what it takes to start something bigger than myself and make a change I want to see. To be surrounded by so many like minded people, all of whom are now friends, made it so much easier, the experience was very humbling. Real people making real change, it's that simple, and the Be The Change program and staff helped me build the skills, focus and confidence to BE one of those real people, for real change.
If it sounds like I'm gushing, it's because, well, I am. I have nothing but praise for a program that took a guy like me, struggling with a vision, and helped guide me into someone with a plan, who KNOWS he can make a difference. While I can't speak for everyone, I can say confidently that the Be The Change Program has been, and likely will be, one of the defining experiences of my life, I couldn't be more thankful, and if anyone is looking into the world of creating change, regardless of scope or direction, I couldn't recommend this program enough, it was simply amazing.

What would you improve about this program?
My only criticism, and not a complaint, would be that with the introduction of video recordings, maybe film participants in the program at an early stage when they are often unsure of their focus, and then film them at the end, so they can see how completely different they have become, how much more focused and driven. It blows me away to think of who I was going into the program, and who I am now, having come out, and I think it could be a useful motivational tool for the individual participants to see that look in their eyes. Again, just a suggestion, not a complaint, as I think the program was handled wonderfully.
Response from Bamboo

Thanks for your feedback! We love the idea of having an "entry" and "exit" interview, so participants can see how far they've come in just a week! We'll look into how we can make this work for our upcoming conferences in Taupo (2013/2014).