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Negative experience with IFRE

Vancouver, B.C.
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24 posts
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Negative experience with IFRE

We were recently sent to Arusha by this so called charity based out of Texas. We paid over $1200 each for 2 weeks for in country support, airport pick up and our room and board at an orphanage in Arusha. This organization, which also goes by the names Rustic Volunteers, Global Volunteers, Global Crossroads and probably others I don't know of was a sorry disappointment. The local representative did nothing for us despite promises to the contrary and could rarely be reached by telephone. The orphanage was never paid for our accomodation and food, putting us in a very uncomfortable situation, taking charity from a charity. We were told that they rarely received any money for volunteers. We had to call the orphanage to pick us up from the airport also as the so called local support was not available. Think twice before you go through these organizations that call themselves charities but keep the money you paid for themselves. (we did receive a $50 travel insurance plan).

The orphanages apparently hope you will bring some supplies and/or become donors. But that was not our goal and we felt uncomfortable with the situation we had been placed in.

The legitimate charities that truly benefit the local orphanages and other organizations should address this issue so that they are not all lumped in the same category. I'm sure there are some good American, British or other developed country charities that do help developing countries and forward reasonable amounts for the volunteer's upkeep but IFRE is not one of them.

Brisbane, Australia
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731 posts
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1. Re: Negative experience with IFRE

Sorry to hear that this have happened to you. What was the orphanages name where you stayed. As there has been experiences that they say this, keep the money and tell you differently.

I have seen many different experiences with vols, orphanages, schools.. the list goes on.

I would always recommend that you look to go with a safari company or lodge/hostel/hotel that is attached or can recommed one. This way if there are any problems. You can talk with them directly.

One orphanage that I vol at for a while. Well the recieved many doanations, gifts and help from visitors and expats alike.

They sold the gifts and pu it with the money they recieved and built a church. The kids an around bare foot and had not much local help.. and yet they built a church!

I would never go with the like of donating any money to a orphanage. Give them a few bags of rice. Go to the school where the children go to school and pay the rest of the years schooling.

Make it hard for the person who is asking for money to do smething differently with it. Then you want to do.

I always told my guest of the story of my old school friend asking me to look on a girl he sponsored for the past 5 years. There was no orphanag, no girl only a po box!

Also as most of you know in the past shopping in Arusha for clothes is hard If you go to the mutunda, you can bu clothes with Red Cross, World Vision and Oxfam labels still on them.

And these arethe worse with ther brand new big x4's every year with heated seats and new steros in them.

Findlay, Ohio
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2. Re: Negative experience with IFRE

There are many good charities working there, who do not scam people. I have seen many broken down World Vision vehicles at their headquarters in Dodoma, and very few new vehicles. And their people do make an effort to get the money in the right places when donations are made to support children there; especially in remote villages. I have personally witnessed this. I would not lump World Vision into the scam artist category. They definitely use their Christian principles when they do their work, and when they work with others.

Typically you can tell those organizations which do "charity" work as a business, and there are many of them that do this. You can typically see the differences in what they charge you. Room and board at different charities (orphanages, hospitals, schools, and the like) will cost you somewhere between $10 and $20 a day living in the local hostels that they have and eating the local food. So, if the charge is $1,200 for a 2 week visit then you know the organization is doing this as a business. Some will also make an organizational charge for an airport pickup, having someone around to guide you, etc. This should be no more then a couple hundred dollars. So using this will sort out those who do this as a business (which you may or may not be disappointed with) and those who do this because they need volunteers to help them.

To get an idea of this look at the web site for International Health Partners which is building health care facilities near Mwanza Tanzania. They spell out everything in their web site on what they do, how to volunteer there, how much it will cost, and how they spend their money. The web site is www.ihptz.org After looking at this information compare it to the organization you will be volunteering with, not for the content but for the information you get and the trustworthiness of the information.

The good and the bad can be sorted out.

Brisbane, Australia
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731 posts
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3. Re: Negative experience with IFRE

Karl I do say sometimes you have to have the bad with the good.

But with my experience and I haven't mentioned half of them here one of them asked for "chai" from me to secure some business, This was the staff, and not the organisation.

I would never donate to the 3 big organsations. as I have chosen to actually do this personally by myself, with family and also friends.

This thread could go on... and on. But people need to know all sides.

Edited: 01 April 2010, 12:39
Neuchatel...
3 posts
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4. Re: Negative experience with IFRE

however a person feels over another is at personal level, i do understand that charity based foundations are not meant for business, and do not intend to make any profits

Anyway if that is the case i just wonder if they did not receive the money how they could offer the service guaranteed, and if we can get a contact of the said volunteers to see what they talk of the negative experience

Dallas, Texas
5 posts
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5. Re: Negative experience with IFRE

Hello Annaliese,

My name is Brandon, and I am the public relations manager for IFRE Volunteers in Dallas, Texas. For the past five years, we have placed over 2,500 volunteers in programs where they have truly benefited underprivileged people in disadvantaged environments.

You're absolutely correct about there being an issue with your volunteer trip to Tanzania, and our director, Dr. Adhikari is in Arusha right now where he has replaced our in-country coordinator. We were not made aware of the problem in Arusha until we received feedback from volunteers, such as yourself.

We are a (501)C3 non-profit organization and we do charge our volunteer programs at cost. Our mission has always been to benefit the indigenous people involved with our programs and help bridge a gap between true humanitarians and those in need. With that being said, I will contact you personally to rectify your volunteer trip and make sure you are accommodated accordingly for the mistake. I am very sorry for the poor experience, and I hope you allow us to make this right through another volunteer program in the future.

Should you have any questions about IFRE Volunteers or our programs, please feel free to contact me personally via email or by phone.

Sincerely,

Brandon Hurtado

Public Relations Manager

800-675-2504

info@ifrevolunteers.org

Findlay, Ohio
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12,485 posts
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6. Re: Negative experience with IFRE

Brandon... can you please tell me how $1,200 for two weeks living expenses in Arusha is at cost? If they were staying at an orphanage hostel the cost would be no more then about $150 a week room and board. Or is there an overhead charge (office and administrator expenses in the US) and that's what the remainder is paid for.

I am there often and know what the charges are for this kind of thing. Most true charities in Tz will only charge a volunteer what I indicate above.

I know you are a public relations person, but don't put a spin on it for me please.

Dallas, Texas
5 posts
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7. Re: Negative experience with IFRE

Karl, thank you for your post. Our program pricing for Tanzania is $753 for 2 weeks, which includes room/board, all meals, airport pickup and travel insurance. The rest of the funds are distributed to the program of choice to help support the foreign community. Our administrative fee is $349 when applying, which allows us to operate as a non-profit organization. Unfortunately it is sometimes difficult to communicate with our coordinators immediately due to time zone differences and lack of technology in rural areas, but once we found out the coordinator wasn't performing up to our standards, we took immediate action and sent our director to find a new coordinator, which has already taken place. If you have any other questions, please feel free to ask.

Brandon Hurtado

Public Relations Manager

Kurashiki, Japan
Destination Expert
for Kurashiki, Cambodia, Myanmar
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8. Re: Negative experience with IFRE

Holy h*ll, I've been volunteering at orphanages for quite a few years now and have never had to pay to volunteer. This is obviously some sort of "voluntourism" effort, and people seem more than willing to shell out large sums of money to go do this sort of thing. I just don't get it.

Vancouver, B.C.
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24 posts
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9. Re: Negative experience with IFRE

I want to respond to the recent posts on this topic since I was the original poster.

I went back to check my bank records regarding payments to IFRE for a 2 week volunteer stint for 2 people since this seems to be in dispute. I paid $220 Canadian (or $200 U.S.) on Sept. 21st, 2009 and a further $200 U.S. ($216 Canadian) on November 13th, 2009. This was the required deposit for myself and my daughter. A payment of $1952. Canadian or $1789 U.S. was made on January 28th for the final payment. This is how I arrived at the $2400 amount I mentioned. I believe exchange rates are more favourable for Canadian currency now.

Prospective volunteers should perhaps know in advance that the costs of vaccinations is about $500. each (in Canada)

On the IFRE website there was a FAQ addressing the issue of why we were paying to volunteer. In effect it was because organizations including schools and orphanages in poor, developing countries could not afford the expense of providing room and board for volunteers. This seemed fair enough to me. The room and board for two weeks would be the majority of the cost so I assumed the orphanage would receive at least half of what we paid.

The airport pickup is one way only we are told (arrival) and we must make our own way back to the airport upon departure. A charge of $75 is made for this or $150 for the two of us. (a taxi would have been about $10 to the Arusha airport). We were picked up both times by the orphanage and I was told they only received the $75 we had each paid after I insisted in an e-mail to IFRE. I paid $15 to the orphanage driver for our drive to the airport at the end of our stay.

There was included a medical insurance for us both at a $50 charge each. I don't know how useful this would have been had we needed to use it. We were told they had no representative in Tanzania but we should call collect to a country that did have a representative. As we found out there are no telephone operators in Tanzania and therefore no collect calling. I don't know how we would have made contact. I e-mailed the insurance rep upon our return to let him know of his mis-information and he suggested that if we could get internet access, we could set up a Skype account....

Taking into account local prices in Tanzania it may be that $1200 each for two weeks was too much. I didn't mind if the orphanage received a donation in addition. I accept there are local U.S. costs. What I cannot accept is that the orphanage received no payment for our stay and had rarely received any payment for any of the volunteers that were sent by IFRE and its partners. I was told this by the founders of the orphanage. They have tried to change this but without much success. Some volunteers have become donors; one in particular, or rather her parents, ended up funding a wing of the orphanage. I had some long conversations with the orphanage founders as well as a local Canadian who heads the North American fundraising operations. All confirmed this situation. I suggested that some of their financial issues would be helped by actually getting their share of the money that IFRE collects from clients. I also heard many tales of woe about IFRE and the other names it goes by and the general lack of service.

Most of the volunteers are young high school or college students without, I would think, the maturity or funds to deal with the lack of help or even contact from the so called 24/7 in country support. I was happy I had gone with my daughter to provide assistance. The situation with the local representative had been going on for several years I was told and IFRE was aware of it.

As far as public relations for IFRE I hope this is more than just talk. I also made a complaint to the Better Business Bureau in Texas upon our return so perhaps the PR department would like to deal with this. I won't be satisfied unless I hear that the Orphanage has received a reasonable payment for our room and board.

To conclude on a postitive note, the 3 day safari that was arranged by IFRE with a local tour operator was excellent and a highlight of our journey.

Saint Paul...
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for Tanzania, Serengeti National Park
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10. Re: Negative experience with IFRE

Oh if only we could capture everyone's (the world's) good intentions and point it all in the right direction. Things would be different.

But that's not likely to happen with ease.

As usual, Karl describes the situation fairly well IMO. I'd just like to add a few thoughts/ideas/observations:

For people looking to volunteer:

(1) Reduce your expectations: Your ability to really make an impact in such a short period of time is really extremely limited. This is a lesson that I didn't fully learn until I had been in Tanzania for 18 months - out of my 24 month stay. It's a hard pill to swallow: Admitting that your impact will be limited, but it helps put things in perspective - and well, it's reality.

(2) Understand your own goals: Are you really there to help? Look deep in your heart and ask if this is for you or for them. Most likely, if you're honest with yourself, it's for you. You are seeking that warm fuzzy feeling that one gets with helping someone. I'm not saying this is a bad thing. It's a great thing! But it's best to admit it up front. If you were really doing this for the less fortunate, you'd be sacrificing a lot more - and making long-term plans for how to help these same people. Or you'd figure out that the best way to help is not to purchase that plane ticket but rather to send the money to someone you can trust. By understanding your own goals, you will be more likely to achieve them.

(3) Seek advice & information: There are a lot of people who have gone through this before. A lot of people who know a LOT about development work and volunteering. Many people know what works and what does not. There are LOTS of publications describing what works and what does not. Get a little bit analytical about what you are doing. Does it really work? For example: Is an orphanage really the right answer?

(4) Alone or in a program? You could do this on your own. You could find a place to volunteer and work directly with them and avoid the added expense of an organization like IFRE that organizes things for you. I went with the Peace Corps so things were organized but I didn't have to pay for it. My opinion: Peace Corps is absolutely the best at what they do. By going with an organization, I was part of an organized effort to provide greatly needed teaching power in math and science. This was a strategy to help on a broader level than just at the school where I was teaching or just for the two years that I was there. If you go with a good volunteer group, then they should be able to provide some sort of larger vision about how the efforts of the different volunteers through the years will cumulatively result in something positive. I happen to believe that you are paying for a quite useful service when you go with a group that lays the groundwork for you. It allows you to focus on the work that you are doing. And if they've done their job, they've identified something for you to do that will actually be useful. Some of these organizations, like IFRE are non-profits. But others are for profit. You decide what makes sense to you. And you need to research these organizations carefully - ask a lot of questions. I know nothing about IFRE, by the way.

Orphanage? I single out this area because there is a lot of debate about when orphanages are appropriate or not. I'm afraid that in the vast majority of cases orphanages are being built, supported and used in cases where it is not the best answer. Why? For the local people, an orphanage can be a serious money maker. For the guests/volunteers, it's a seriously heart-warming way to volunteer. But for the kids? Well, it should be the option of last resort. Unfortunately, it's way too often not the option of last resort.

Give money or time? If you have a particular skill that is in great demand, then it will indeed be quite useful. But if you are doing things that many Tanzanians could do, then realize that you are doing it mostly for the experience. And so for the local group to hope that you become a donor is expected and appropriate. They are happy to have you there to help out but they are also hoping that you'll drop a few dollars.

IFRE asks you to pay $1200 and the amount above your costs goes to a project. I whole-heartedly agree with the approach of asking donors to pay a little extra into a local project. If you can find the money to get there, you can find the time to at a minimum, do some fundraising to bring some cash to leave in the country. My opinion here. Oh, and BTW, you'll be glad you did. It will make you feel much better about being there. Without it, you'll feel like you missed a big opportunity to help.