Written on: 24/08/2010
I think that I am in a unique position to comment on GVI, having just returned from 10 months of traveling and doing 3 GVI projects in a row. My aim was to take some time to see the world, immerse myself in cultures and to try and give something back to the world.
My first project was "Teach English to Buddhist Novice Monks and Local Communities in Laos". The support here from both the GVI staff and the other volunteers was amazing. Living in a guest house with our own rooms gave the best of both worlds in that we were able to spend as little or as much time together as we each wanted. I went into the project with no teaching experience but by the end I was taking smaller groups of novices for lessons on my own. To have a young novice monk grab my arm and say "You are a very good teacher" was as rewarding as anything I have ever done.
For anyone wondering how your contribution is spent on these projects the blog for the Laos project at http://gvilaos.blogspot.com/ lists some of the things that they have been able to do.
My second project was "Teaching and community work in Nepal" and it was a completely different situation to Laos. Here I was on my own in a small village and looked after kids in an orphanage. Support was from the manager of the hotel where I was staying and eating and he was able to quickly and easily supply me with anything I needed. Working with children was completely new to me as well but it was hard not to fall for them and to be able to live the life of a local with such enthusiastic guides gave me a view of Nepal that couldn't be matched by any standard trek.
The third project was "Wildlife Research Expedition in South Africa" and here the emphasis was on animals rather than people. Early starts, long days and mind blowing close up wildlife encounters were the norm. Living was in communal style and it was a bit of an adjustment after being so independent in Nepal to have to fit in with a group again. As in most communal situations the cooking and cleaning was a group effort with some meal noticeably superior to others. :-)
The emphasis here was learning about the local environment, fauna and flora and regular lectures gave us a deeper understanding of what we were seeing along with the practical lessons in maps, telemetry and reptile handling etc. Many of the other volunteers had biology backgrounds or an interest in going into the field but I feel, even though I was only there for the "experience", that I came away with a far greater understanding and appreciation of the work being done than I thought I would.
In the end I wouldn't hesitate to recommend any of the projects that I did or GVI as an organisation. I had great communication and assistance throughout and have seen firsthand what they are managing to achieve in the field.
Ask questions. Volunteering may not be for everyone and it is important to be aware of the field conditions before you go but I can say from the unique position of having done 3 of them that a GVI project will change your life in ways that you can't even guess now.
I also want to let everyone know that I have created an Unofficial GVI Volunteers forum at www.gviforum.com .
When I was first trying to find out info about GVI and its projects I found facebook was not a real good way to create a long term discussion. It's too easy for responses to get lost in the crowd if you're looking for questions that have probably already been asked. I always thought that they should have had a proper discussion forum set up.
I ended up doing 3 projects in a row with GVI and kept asking other volunteers what they thought of my idea. They all said that it would have been handy when they were looking for information so, now that I'm home, I've set it up. It is unofficial though, so all posts are the opinions of the person making them.
I don't work for GVI, I am just an ex volunteer who saw a need for a place where questions could be asked by those wanting to know and answers given by those who have actually been there. The GVI site will always give you the official details regarding a project but the forum is where you can go to find out the really important stuff, where's the best coffee in town, is there wifi, should I bring my own shampoo or can I get it there. Like I said, this just an ex volunteer doing something so there will never be any advertising and I'm getting nothing out of this apart from the idea that I may encourage others to volunteer like I did.
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