What was the most difficult thing you experienced?
Adjusting to the cultural differences in regards to the orphanage. Back in the states you have schedules, deadlines, verbalized expectations, rules & consequences, structure and here there was VERY little or non existent. Trying to be helpful but not being able to be preform to my full capacity because I had no idea what was expected of me until 4 days before I left
What was the one thing you wished you were better prepared for?
To know that things in Arusha are more expensive than I had anticipated
Any tips for future volunteers (clothing, travel, personal items, donations, sightseeing etc)
Go on a safari, for sure, it was an amazing experience and well worth the money. I didn't need a mosquito net even though I brought one. Don't bring more then you have to in regards to donations, bring maybe one bag in addition to your personal belongings with items to donate (stuffed animals, color books, crayons anything small they can play with, they will love it) wait till you get there then you can asses what else the program needs and you can buy it in town. Stimulating local economy and not having to take an extra bag.
How would you describe/rate your experience working with the ABV staff in the USA?
I had a great experience with ABV- I have absolutely NO complaints. From the moment I signed up with ABV until the day I completed my program the ABV staff was very quick and diligent to answer all my questions/concerns. They were very honest as to what to expect and didn't sugar coat anything. They set me up with amazing people in Arusha that made sure I was very well taken care of. When I was in Arusha I heard the stories of other volunteers everything from how their host family treated them, what they ate, their living conditions, and the fees their programs charged them- by far what ABV set me up was the best out of all of them
How was the local ABV Director and the support provided in-country?
The coordinator was great, he has an amazing staff on hand and they were great with everything. Every time I saw him he always made sure I was doing ok and that everything was running smoothly.
Personal Paragraph (ABV Program Testimonial):
This journey started a year ago when I decided that I wanted to go to Africa and Volunteer. There was hours of research and planing done to make sure that I choose the program that fit me perfectly- and I did- ABV was just right from me. From the moment I signed up they made me feel at ease and even when I was abroad, they checked in on my occasionally, I couldn't have asked for a better program. They set me up at a great orphanage where I felt I could make an impact & a difference. My experience was both emotionally & physically challenging and each day I endured a new and different challenge. Would I change any of it? Not in a heart beat. Being there for those children and being able to enrich their lives for the 7 weeks I was with them was by far the most rewarding things I've done. Nothing can ever beat the sound of 8 children who speak little to no English chanting your name as you make the long trek up a hill to the orphanage and them meeting you with smiles once you reach the front door. The kids were amazing each in there own individual way and i will never be able to forget the the positive impact they had on me. I can not thank ABV enough for setting me up at such a great facility with such great welcoming staff and amazing children.
Are you willing to speak to other potential ABV volunteers?
Yes id love to! I really wish I would have been able to be in contact with someone who had completed the project that way I would have had a better Idea of what to expect
ABV: we provide contact alumni information at request. Also many videos and reviews in our website give a better idea of what to expect and the orientation guide as well that you can download for your ABV account
Also a suggestion from me!
Considering the amazing work ABV does you need better marketing and a better social media platform. For some people choosing right the program that fits their needs and that is also in their budget can be a very difficult and daunting thing. As im sure that you know there are tons and tons of programs that are out there, each a little different but generally from the volunteers eyes promise about the same thing (airport drop off/pickup, a host family, a safe program). I feel like not only does ABV promise those things more importantly they deliver them & they do it in a professional manner and people need to know that they can in fact trust the company. I feel like the more social media you had would make you more of a known program, when I was telling people about the program before I left nobody had ever heard about it. Its a win win situation- the more you market yourself the more volunteers you are able to recruit & the more people around the world you are able to help and the more money you are able to make. ABV is such a great & helpful program and everyone should know about you. Social Media is such a wave of now and ABV could use a little more. It was hard finding the Facebook Page and even then it wasn't very current and it'd be a useful tool to help volunteers reach out to each other and give advice.
ABV: We are in all the social networks, we have over 200K followers in Twitter, over 22.6K followers in Facebook, over 800 videos in our Youtube channel with more than 4.8M views, flickr over 28.6k pictures of our programs and many other social networks, you can see some here https://www.abroaderview.org/abv-social-network and we have a Google grant for US$10K a day of adwords, all our social networks are updated each day with feedbacks, pictures, videos, blogs, we are doing our part, now volunteers should promote our social networks, follow us, share our content and like the posts, this way it will propagate much faster.