I was on the Hill Tribes program for 1 month.
The Philippines IVHQ program is a tough one. I'll start by saying the month I spent on the program was the BEST and most difficult month of my life thus far. It was exotic, fun, sad, frustrating, adventurous, dangerous and life-altering all at the same time.
The Philippines is an absolutely stunning country with amazing people. But you have to peel back the surface and really get in there to appreciate it. The program in Davao really positioned you to do that, though.
A lot of volunteers did really really poorly on the program. I saw many volunteers go through some real fits of depression because they felt like they weren't being helpful, that the Philippines was hopeless, that they wasted their time. There was one volunteer who stayed in bed for almost the entire month I was there.
The program in Davao has almost no structure, no agenda, no guidance, no support. But if you are the kind of person who can see problems and are motivated to make things happen then this program NEEDS you. This program NEEDS people who can work independently, who can think big, who can shake things up and aren't afraid of failing or succeeding!
It's a plus if you have a background in social projects.
The hill tribes program was nothing more than banana farming when I first arrived but I saw the need for women's health in the tribes and I got a women's health clinic to make monthly visits to the village. Now hill tribes women who never had access to birth control, have access to it monthly. That was an awesome accomplishment because I built something from the ground up, and there is almost NO red tape in PH, so we were able to move fast and without much government interference.
But, a lot of people didn't know what to do or how to help and they ended up chilling around the volunteer house a lot, occasionally travelling around the Philippines and coming back to Davao.
The Philippines is a third world country and there are no animal rights there so be prepared for that. The people are honest, helpful, accepting, fun, and they want to make their community better when they get a chance to.
Another cool thing about Filipino culture is that they are generally very accepting of LGBTQ people. Even the older generation will not be fazed by it.
The other volunteers were absolutely AMAZING. I made some of the best friends of my life there. The type of person who chooses to volunteer in the Philippines must be some kind of above average person because everyone I met was totally cool and hardy. The friendships alone totally made that trip.
The coordinator for the IVHQ Philippines that was based in Davao passed away a few weeks ago. She was an amazing person who held the program together, so now that she is not there I cannot say what the state of the program is now.
Don't go to the Philippines if you want to be told how to help and what to do. It's not going to go down like that.
Go to the Philippines and work hard, seek out what the community needs and go above and beyond to make the changes you want to see. This community needs INNOVATION! This program needs people who with an open heart and mind. This program needs good people with a strong work ethic.
They will be supportive when you try to help! The pay off is enormous if you can make things happen! Don't hesitate to go if you want a once in a lifetime experience that will push your limits and expand your horizons.
I especially recommend this for experience travellers who want to push themselves.