Volunteer Vacation Testimonials
The work project was meaningful, the young family that we installed the cement floor for were very grateful and needed the new floor, especially with a very young child in the house. It was also great to make the playground a safe place for the kids to play in. The repairs we did to the obstacle course apparatus will help the kids for a long time.
What I liked best was the diversity of activities for us to be involved in. We did cement floors, helped at the youth development centre and at the woman center. The cultural activities were well also wel planned.
The accomodations were excellent. Beautiful setting on the lake. Great food, service and friendly staff.
This was my third Globe Aware trip. They have all been very enjoyable and I look forward to doing another one!
Everything went really well! Federico and I had no issues meeting up at the airport, and from there everything was great. He was a blast to spend time with, and helped provide a lot of perspective on the local culture, not to mention the wildlife and vegetation. He's practically a walking encyclopedia. He also set up transportation for me to visit the LaPaz waterfall park on the morning of my departure, which turned out to be really cool and something I'm very glad I did. I wasn't aware of it until the night before I left when Federico suggested it. But getting to see toucans so close up was cool, and the area where they let you hold test tubes of nectar while hummingbirds whiz around you was probably a once in a lifetime experience. The waterfalls were really dramatic too. And I got to really experience the true meaning of cloud forest after getting rained on while there.
“We had a wonderful experience and are so grateful that we were able to go on this trip as a family and with our friends. Many companies discouraged us from bringing young children along on a volunteer trip, but Globe Aware has encouraged us to bring our children and made it possible for us to do so. Thank you so much! I have already recommended Globe Aware to several of my friends.”- Amy
I am SO sorry that it’s taken us so long to give you our feedback on the trip. We had the most amazing time - and it felt like Anne was very intentional and thoughtful about ensuring that the experience was both meaningful, interesting and fun. Riding in her pick-up truck was definitely a highlight.
We received an email from Joe Siple inquiring about the trip, and Sai and I took a bunch of time formulating our response because I wanted it to serve as feedback for you as well. They sound excited about the trip. We are jealous! This is what we wrote to them:
I have to say that our Guatemala trip exceeded my expectations which were, admittedly, rather low in that my sole intention was for us to do volunteer work while experiencing another culture. However, instead of feeling like we were “giving back,” we actually felt very taken care of - not just by Ann, our coordinator, but by everyone that we came in contact with. Ann was amazing from beginning to end - and bent over backwards to meet our needs.
I felt the work project was meaningful. Just to spend time with the abuelas was what the director indicated was needed. I also learned to play Cuban dominoes and was a teammate to the house champion. It was a rewarding experience and I felt we interacted well. I especially felt my work at Projecto Cristo was meaningful. I work as a garden designer and gardener for people here in the US and have an extensive garden of my own. To be able to plant in Cuba and to plant for Cubans was particularly joyful for me and I hope of help to Sr. Ross and to the garden there. I'd like to return someday to see how those plants have grown.
Cuban food is fresh and wonderful! I experienced many different dishes and was especially fond of the fresh fruits and vegetables I was able to eat. My casa particular host, Victor, offered me organically grown fruit every morning and smoothies, juices and wonderful omelettes. I found some wonderful cafes for lunch or dinner and Andres suggested a good choice for me whenever I had free time for lunch or dinner. He also took me to some excellent restaurants. The free time worked well for me. I love the music in Cuba and spent much of my evening free time strolling the streets and listening to various musicians. I had plenty of time for shopping and my own sightseeing.
The program exceeded my expectations in every way.
The cement work was exhausting but gratifying and teaching English at the library was a pleasure (I am a retired teacher). Working on the reforestation project was also especially gratifying as I am a biologist/environmentalist.
There was always coffee on the wood stove and plenty of potable water in the filter cooler. Oh, and a good bit of cervaza in the refrigerator after a long day. The family we shared time with were wonderful and fit beautifully with our lifestyle.
Anne took care of our every need. The staff and the food at the hotel were exceptional. The refreshing lake swim after 100 degree F days was a treat. I would highly recommend this program to anyone.
Roy King - March 2016
Dear Staff at Globe Aware,
I wrote a long thank you to Frederico for our wonderful trip to the Orosi Valley last Dec., '15 when we painted their church for Christmas, but I don't think he received the email. I has been awhile but this trip is a forever memory experience. It was the most amazing time, and we (with family) enjoyed both work and play on this trip.
The wonderful other families (both on the trip and our hosts), food and futbol, card games after working a full day made the event more like "camp" since we made new friends while helping and having fun. Please send this Thanks to Frederico who may not even remember me (Sue, Scott and Mark) by this point with all his visitors, but possibly and I hope so. When I say "amazing" trip, I truly mean it and know Frederico was working hard behind the scenes every day to make this happen while appearing relaxed and easy going when he was with us, but always helping us keep on schedule.
New testimonial: Having just returned from our service trip to Orosi Valley I wanted to reach out and thank your organization for putting on a first class trip. It was truly an enlightening experience for my son and me. The accommodations were perfect, Federico did an amazing job in coordinating everything for our week’s stay, and the local work projects which we assigned were were both educational and fulfilling. My son is still talking about all that he saw and learned while in Costa Rica. - Alexander Allen, March 2015
We felt we made an impact on the people there in the right way. We contributed to the local economy and ensured people were working to earn the money from our program fees. I think it's much better than simply giving people money and donations. We also felt that our English lessons will help prepare people for more tourists coming to the area. The Peten region has great sights especially with Tikal so close by. But the previously unstable government has scared many tourist away. The area has a great infrastructure for tourism and the people are amazing. More people coming to the area would definitely do a great deal to improve the lives of everyone there.
This program was a really good mix of volunteer work, cultural excursions, and "downtime". What I particularly liked about this program was the opportunity for meaningul interaction with individuals - we spent a whole day with the family for whom we installed a cement floor (and most of the neighbourhood dropped by to check it out at some point), which provided a unique opportunity for relaxed interaction. Anne's library program is amazing and the volunteers got the sense that we were really needed/appreciated in this role of practicing English with kids and adults. Spending time with local change-makers like Danny at the Harmony Reforestation Project and Dona Maria, the 74 year old midwife/herbalist was an honour and a great learning experience for us.
Globe Aware packed in too many after-hour activities for an older couple like us (59 & 61 years old). No problem. On two of the evenings, we did a little sightseeing on our own and retired early. I suspect most younger people would have the energy to enjoy them all.
Having volunteered twice before, once in Costa Rica and once in Hoi An, Vietnam, we were somewhat familiar with working in less economically advantaged areas. The orientation material provided by Globe Aware was accurate, pertinent, and helpful. The shortage of water and waste disposal facilities in Jaipur and Delhi made us even more keenly aware of the outsized impact American waste has on the global environment.
It is an overused comment that someone has had a life-changing experience; however, it is completely true when I say it in reference to the volunteer trips with Globe Aware and the people I have come to know and love on these expeditions. - Mary Booth, March 2011 (and previously Costa Rica)
Even though we were only there for a week, I feel like we accomplished a lot. All of the aid recipients seemed geniunely grateful for our time and efforts. I felt like we especially connected with the villagers in the countryside. As I look back, I feel like we helped people with some basic necessities of life, whether it was education, food, transportation, or clean water.
I liked having a set schedule and being provided an itinerary upon arrival. It showed me that our time would be put to good use, that there was plenty of work to be done, and provided structure while adjusting to a new country. That being said, I thought we had plenty of time to explore outside of the program. I thought the food was fantastic! Experiencing all of the local Khmer cuisine, even taking a cooking class, were some of the highlights of the trip. The accomodations were great, safe, affordable, great breakfast and outstanding service.
I consider myself a life-long learner and the world is my teacher as I take a break from the classroom during the summer. Winning the “Travel for Good Grant” through Travelocity this year helped me to get to Ghana to volunteer with Globe Aware. Now I’m in love again. With a whole village. I can’t wait to return to Mafi Tsati, a rural village outside of Ho, Ghana, approximately 4 hours from Accra (Ghana’s capital)—and I hope to return soon. My mission now is to do several things: 1) to raise money for a new school, 2) to raise money to buy Maxwell, the teacher I connected with in Mafi Tsati, a laptop with internet access, and 3) to return to finish a photo project I started, and hopefully publish a book about the women in the village.
It’s been 16 years since I started teaching, and though I grow more passionate about my profession each year, I also want to continue my global connection—merging teaching and learning with travel. Perhaps as I find ways to return to Africa to be involved in improving lives there, I can bring other teachers—and maybe someday students—to improve our lives in return. Africa has changed my life in ways She will never know, and we—in our hectic, often myopic, western culture—have a great deal to learn from the amazing people in Africa. - Margit Boyensen, June 2012,
Africa was such an amazing experience. The village that we worked at was wonderful. The people were so friendly and welcoming. We got to cook with the villagers, learn about their culture, teach the students and interact with everyone. The work was hard work but worth it. Although it was hot and challenging, it was so exciting seeing how much the villagers appreciated the work that we did in their village.
We worked in the village Monday through Friday and built a washroom for them. We learned how to fetch water on our heads, which was very interesting. It was amazing to see how much women and children could carry on their heads! We taught the children some of the games that we play over in the U.S. and it was fun to watch them try and learn and then play together with them. I loved how happy the kids always are. One day I asked a little boy if he was always happy.. He replied to me, 'Yes we are always happy. There is no reason ever not to be.' That brought tears to my eyes. These adults and kids are just happy with the little that they have. They were also so joyful when the washroom was finished. That, in turn, made us all so happy.
Saturday we got to explore a little. We went to the monkey sanctuary and got to feed the monkeys. Then we went on a 45 minute hike up a to a beautiful waterfall and all got to swim. Sunday we went to the village and said our goodbyes. They all sand and danced for us and prayed for us. It was such an emotional goodbye.
Ghana is a beautiful country. I am so blessed to have been able to experience Africa. It was such an incredible experience to volunteer like we did and made me want to go volunteer wherever possible! I encourage anyone to do this. It's so worth it! Africa taught me so much, especially to be more grateful. I will never forget this experience. Thank you Globe Aware and all the volunteers! - Mandi Evans, November 2012
I taught in the schools and yes, I think the children enjoyed it and learned from it. It was very much a novelty for them though, as an "obroni" (their name for white person) you are somewhat of a mythical creature and they are so curious about you - I hoped that it did not distract from my teaching. Furthermore, I definitely think the more meaningful part of the program was not what I was able to teach, or donate, but rather the time and attention that I gave to each of the local people that I interacted with. From my language teacher, to the local women who taught me how to cook, to the elders who taught me music and dancing, and to each and every person and child that I met - the fact that I was there to learn from them - to learn their culture and language and traditions (rather than coming there as if I was some smarter-than-them American trying to "help" them) was much more meaningful to them and I think it was well received and appreciated by them. - Nicole Vasquez, November 2013
Working with the children, working in and around the home, experiencing the rich culture, and making connections were so meaningful to me. Every aspect of my week was rich and meaningful. We cleared a bunch of weeds that were overtaking the soccer field/basketball court. Then during the free time of the day, we played a great game of soccer with some of the kids. That was a great moment - seeing the benefit of the labor. Then we went to work on the cement floor of the future classroom. Helping out with that project, knowing that the children will have a place to study away from distraction was great.
There was plenty of food and it was FANTASTIC. I miss the food! Every meal, I was raving about how fabulous the food was. It was fresh and full of wonderful flavor. There was a good amount of free time. I was able to visit an internet cafe within a minute's walk to check my email. I had time to call home as well.
The room was great! The view was spectacular. The shower had warm water. The beds were cozy. The architecture was great. The stairs are a great reminder of the altitude :)
Everyone is so happy and laid back, but they definitely aren't afraid to work hard, even the kids. Since there was a teacher strike while I was there, the boys were involved in laying the cement floor and separating the rocks. For a major city, it was so peaceful. I loved waking up to the sound of roosters in the morning and hearing the neighbor's radio while working outside during the afternoon. There was no rushing traffic or loud city sounds that I'm accustomed to in the States. The albergue was so restful, even when I was working hard. The history is rich and I was so happy to get to learn some Quechua and see the kids doing many things to keep a hold of their heritage. Seeing the Inca influence throughout the city and daily life was really special. Ruins are scattered everywhere. I was so impressed to see the rural areas on the outskirts of Cusco. It really is a beautiful place with amazing people. The generosity of the people I met throughout my trip was unmatched to anywhere I have been. They share what they have with you and with each other. It makes you feel welcome. You quickly feel a part of the community. Everyone there makes you feel welcomed into their hearts and home. - April McCarthy-Morgan, April 2012
For me personally it was very enlightening and I had an amazing time. I believe it's a very good way of knowing the culture and the people of a different country. I found amazing people who struggle every day with such different situations and problems from my own, that it helped me face my own reality with a different perspective. And of course, I feel good for having tried to improve others lives even for just a few days, with my presence, work and my monetary contribution.
I had more than enough free time, the food was great (many thanks to señora Alicia!). During my free time I went to beautiful places, all well arranged by the volunteer coordinator (Rocio).
I believe it was an advantage for me to be able to speak spanish. It enabled me to have a closer link to the children and all the people I met. I had a specific task - handwork, where I worked with local people helping build a new study room, but it was also good to help the children with their homework - math and english. It felt more integrated than I was expecting, they treated me as I belonged there, and it felt really good.
I liked the whole experience, being there on their day-to-day situations, receiving their knowledge and sharing mine. I think one week is enough to get involved, but I left feeling and wishing to have done more. - Marta Carvalheiro, September 2012
We tiled a floor, painted and helped clear away grass in the play area. These were all areas that will be used by the children.
It was a good balance of work and free time. We feel we learned a lot about the culture of Peru through our excursions during our free time. The food was incredible, Alicia is a fantastic cook.
The best part was going to the homes of people and seeing how they lived. That gave me the most insight into the culture. We decided to have the kids experience the American tradition for Easter eggs. We had a difficult time answering why there's an Easter bunny and why it hides eggs. They did enjoy the hunt, and the candy. You realize how happy people are with a simple life. They didn't have internet and TV 24 hours a day, but spent their time talking to each other. - Donna Kaylor, March 2013
Our experience there was so wonderful between the work that we did and the various other experiences that we had, that we were thrilled. It was the first trip for our granddaughter out of the country and she loved every moment.
We have been lucky enough to have been in a number of different cultures, so that change in how we view our own culture happened a long time ago. But for our granddaughter, it certainly was an eye opening experience. I think she now has a different view of other cultures and I also think she understands more now about the value of less trappings. But that is just what I observed while with her during our time together.
This was probably one of the best trips we have taken. We have done a number of volunteer trips as well as those with active tour groups. We thoroughly enjoyed being directly involved with the people in the community. They are wonderfully kind and welcoming. Gilda is the most incredible coordinator. She is very well organized, very caring and fun to be with! She thinks of everything. Our time with her couldn't have been better. Mario, too, is wonderful. He is extremely knowledgeable and thorough. Our work was well explained and he worked right along with us. We are very impressed with their commitment to the program and the enthusiasm with which they carried out their responsibilities. - Michelle Maloney, March 2012
We were working on building a bridge so that the villagers in El Sur could cross the river. It was meaningful because we could see directly how we were building something for the community. We could look at our work and know it would make a difference. There was plenty of free time, and the villagers had activities planned for us in it. We got to do so many different cool things such as horseback riding and the trapiche. It was so amazing to experience the life of a local Costa Rican. They were all so gracious and generous, spending their time with us and showing us around. (What I liked best was) being immersed in the culture. Listening to Ronald play his guitar in his home, singing with his daughters was the highlight of the trip. - Alana Crumley, June 2012
I changed my views on happiness. The people of El Sur were some of the happiest people I've every met, but they weren't always as fortunate as us. I learned in a week, and experienced, a new type of happiness. I hope I can take this happiness into my own culture, now knowing how very loosely connected happiness and fortunes are.
If I were to go on another volunteer vacation work experience, I would love to go with Globe Aware and go back to Costa Rica! My friend asked my how my trip was. Here is my response: It was life-changing. I feel like it could have done nothing (in terms of happiness and realization) had I not tried, but I tried to enjoy everything, so it was amazing! - Natalie Jones, June 2012
"It was absolutely perfect. I was seeking a meaningful, cultural experience for my pre-teen daughter and this was exactly what I wanted. The people in El Sur were incredible, gracious, patient, I cannot say enough. We were welcomed with open arms by all the families. Gilda, Mario, Ronald and their families were particularly amazing." - James Quackenbush, August 2012
I feel so fortunate to have come into contact with Globe Aware and El Sur. I had the most wonderful trip, this was definitely one of the best experiences I've had in El Sur (which is difficult to say because every time is amazing). I'm already itching to go back. I'm sure it will be no time at all before I'm emailing with you again to plan it. I really love everything Globe Aware does and I can't wait to work with you all again. - Sophie Marsh, January 2013 (after her fourth Costa Rica Rainforest program)
Saphire was the perfect person to serve as an ambassador of Globe Aware and a delegate of the communities we were in. She is energetic, humble, and it was clear that the families in the communities viewed her as one of their own. This experience was amazing because of Saphire's facilitation and guidance. I was impressed by her professionalism, her ability to be personal, and the true appreciation and understanding she had of Costa Rican culture.
The food was again, more than I expected. It was plentiful and delicious. I enjoyed every meal because it was made by someone and the food came directly from the farms or nearby sources. One of the lasting effects of doing this trip is the desire to change my eating and cooking so that I can enjoy what I'm eating! The time spent doing activities in the community was also something I wasn't expecting and probably the most perspective changing for me. It was an emotional and mental challenge to feel uncomfortable, out of place, yet desiring to connect with people. Saphire is the perfect person for mediating and guiding. She was non-judging of us, how we all tried to navigate our discomfort, and energetic, always able to find humor and encouragement. I put "no" for the free time question b/c I would've liked more time, perhaps at the end of the day, to reflect on my experiences that day, to talk with our other group members and process our experiences. I appreciated and enjoyed the extra activities that Saphire planned for us, eg. rappelling and horse parade. - Eunice Kim, December 2013
The accommodations were much better than the literature led us to believe. Wonderful time. Federico is the best. Lovely people and community.
Always a gift to step outside our "rat race" and see a group who are verrrrry content with their lives and appreciative. A gem of a country. - Patricia Fitzharris, November 2014
Amazing to see another culture and how they live. My children were amazed at how small houses were but everyone seemed happy. More is not always better. We were able to communicate even though there was a language barrier. It was a wonderful experience.
Our guide, Federico, was amazing. He knows so much about the local culture and community. He was a travel guide, interpreter, chef, driver and friend all wrapped up into one. He is an incredible person. - Jennifer Hilger, July 2014
This trip once again reinforced how incredibly fortunate we are to have the things we have in the US. Everywhere else people make do and live with so much less. It's humbling. Federico made the program for me. He was gracious, patient and always looking out to provide the best experience for all of us. He went over and above what I expected and was a really wonderful host for my family, my friends and all the people in the group. When we had a health issue with one of the boys he made sure everything was taken care of and Nick got to the clinic. He was always thinking ahead around what he needed to do to help maximize our experience as part of the program and as a guest in Costa Rica. He integrated with the group and became a friend - not just a guide or manager. The combination of his wit, humor, personality and listening skills are wonderful. Katie was only with us a couple of days but all the kids loved her and appreciated how well she connected with them. My 2 daughters (& husband next time) look forward to future vacations with Globe Aware. - Karen Gilboux June 2014
We learned a new skill (stripping paint & sanding). It was a great project. Federico made sure we saw a lot of the countryside & the culture - whether we were touring a coffee farm, local church, town square to watch the end of a World Cup game, zip lining, hot springs. The food was very good and it was nice to eat local food. I call the trip a volunteer vacation & cultural immersion. It was wonderful to spend time with the families and our boys (age 16 & 12) enjoyed playing soccer, games, and eating lunch & dinner with the local children. We all came back understanding the Costa Rican culture a lot more than if we had stayed in a resort for a vacation. We returned home with an appreciation of the Costa Rican culture and the wonderful people we met. It was a real growth experience for all of us. Federico was such a wonderful coordinator and host. He was wonderful to have and interpret for us, share knowledge of the culture, and make sure we were on track for our volunteer and cultural activities. - Jacqueline Carney June 2014
The local people were so appreciative and welcoming. There was plenty of free time to unwind. The food was great and they even made vegetarian meals for my daughter. It was amazing to see another culture and how they live. My children were amazed at how small the houses were but everyone seemed happy. More is not always better. We were able to communicate even though there was a language barrier. It was a wonderful experience. Our guide, Federico, was amazing. He knows so much about the local culture and community. He was a travel guide, interpreter, chef, driver and friend all wrapped up into one. He is an incredible person. - Jennifer Hilger July 2014
I believe our group's work project was indeed meaningful. The direct interaction with the locals on a daily basis helped establish smooth interpersonal relationships and gave me a positive impression about the warmth and natural openness of the people. It was also a good way to practice my rusty Spanish. Furthermore, this also gave me an opportunity to get to know my co-volunteers whom I do find friendly, kind, and fun to be with. We had enough free time to explore the area, do some hiking, swim in a hot spring, enjoy a zipline activity (Canopy tour), go to the market, etc. Locally prepared Costa Rican meals (e.g. Casado) are so delicious. This has been my second time to engage in a volunteer vacation with Globe Aware. The first time was in July 2010 in Romania. In general, I am pleased and satisfied with how the programs (both in Romania and Costa Rica) are organized and do look forward to more volunteer opportunities in the future. - Adhara Lazaro December 2014
Seeing the homeowner so happy with what was being done, and how active and interested the community is in the project really showed us how meaningful our work was. It was good to see how happy and content people are with the basics when they are surrounded by a loving family. Federico was very good at explaining his country and culture and how it is different from the U.S. - Ann Ackerman January 2015
The project was something that the community needed to be done and it was fun to do it. We enjoyed the kids in the school who were eager to learn and show us their culture! What we liked best was meeting the people in the community and eating meals with the families. Federico was incredibly helpful and fun! Patricia Oppenheim February 2015