The risk from parasites is high in Nepal —  Head lice.  Leeches.  Giardiasis.           Hookworm.    Global Volunteer Network.

Chapter I

I Make Post-Placement Contact with Global Volunteer Network – New Zealand

Back from Nepal on December first, 2013, I am eager to inform Global Volunteer Network, about irregularities I  noted during my two months stay.   It was Global Volunteer Network who’d brokered my placement at Shining Stars Childrens Home in Nepal, at a cost to me of $2,200 US.  (Travel not included!).

Erin, Global Volunteer Network’s CEO, and her subordinate, Fiona, are my contacts.   I let them know first off that their advertisement claiming 24/7 volunteer support is false advertising.   I hadn’t suffered particularly from having no support. Although the office tasked with providing support to volunteers was closed during the 10 days holiday (I arrived in the village at festival time), although the  children’s home internet connection was not working and my Nokia — serviceable throughout Europe — could not pick up a signal in the Kathmandu Valley, although I was a little concerned that my family might worry about me after a week of no FB updates, in spite of all this, I was fine.  I am old, resourceful, and have a strong constitution.

But Erin (I said) think of an eighteen year old volunteer!  Someone that young might have freaked out to find himself in a Nepal village, living with a family with no English,  in a work placement where the only adult English speaker, the house manager, was gone for the festival’s duration.  How would that young person manage if they came down with (for example) a parasitic infection?  And there is the question of the false advertising, I added. 

I had started to worry about parasites.  I’d  learned, by perusing the shiny Global Volunteer Network site, the one with the broadly smiling Colin Salisbury, and the Bill Gates recommendation,  that my  ‘volunteer program fee’, was used to finance my Nepal experience, my food, lodging in the village, one night’s stay in a Kathmandu guest house (though I and another volunteer didn’t get this,  We’d to pay the hotel ourselves)  and a cab from the airport on arrival, and the all-important (but conspicuously absent)   24/7 volunteer support, and  ‘training’.  I knew that these costs could not possibly amount to $2,200 but I assumed that I was making a charitable donation and my program fee would help support the children’s home and the local community, I supposed a  small percentage would go to the care and feeding of GVN’s corporate entity.  I am happy to see my money flowing in those directions.

Where did my money actually go?  Well here’s the thing about parasites.  They are sneaky little buggers.  The Colins and the Erins of this world appear benign.  They shake hands with you and your hands look clean but make no mistake you have been touched with something corrupt, and it’s already feeding on you.  You don’t actually see what they are doing.  They hide in the seams.

So I wouldn’t have minded if my money had gone to feeding the kids in the home.  I’d have been happy.

Chapter II  Oliver  Asks for More

One day I was in the ‘treatment room’ (a small room with a box or two of band aids, a couple of bunks, and a bottle of dettol, and a height chart, and scale).   One of the boys, age 16 years, stood on the scale and announced to me that he weighed 48 kg (105 lbs).  He stood 167 cm (5’ 5″) tall.  I am a slightly-built older woman.  I stand 156 cm ( 5’ 1”) tall.  I told Harry that he couldn’t possibly be that light.  I checked.   He did indeed clock in at 48 kg.  To prove that the scales must be broken I stood on the scale.  I weighed in at a little over 50 kg (112 lbs).  Yes.  That’s what I weigh.  The scales were working; How could a post-adolescent male, four inches taller than I,  weigh less than I?  But I had been noticing the kids seemed too thin, especially the older boys.  I remember my kids as teenagers.  They could  hoover up the fridge contents in ten minutes and still be  hungry.

One of my jobs at the home was to help dish out the twice daily Nepal staple of dal bhat.  Each child was given a huge mound of white rice and a ladle of watery lentil soup.  Added to this was a good tablespoon of vegetables.   In addition, a snack  was served early morning and late afternoon — wheat flour biscuits maybe,  and sometimes a small glass of milk. At dal bhat the boys would come up for seconds.  There was usually enough to give seconds of white rice.  There was sometimes enough to give seconds of dal.  There was rarely enough to give seconds of vegetables.  Some of the boys came up for a third helping of white rice.  We’re really scraping the pot at this point and sometimes there is not a grain left to scrape.  During the festivals the strict regime is relaxed.  For example meat is served:  two chickens between 28 – 30 people,  and the children would get a piece of fruit, I mean ‘a piece’, not a whole fruit.

I overlapped with a number of other volunteers (oh yes, the money rolls in.)  A young American volunteer, at the house manager’s request, did  heights/ weights for the resident children and charted same.  In the ‘treatment room’ we found a height and weight chart from 2010.  A fourth year medical student volunteer from Australia —  examined the data and was convinced the children were losing weight.  She photographed the charts.  On her return home during her post-placement contact she offered her opinion on the height and weight issue also on other issues relating to substandard care of the children.  She was soundly rebuffed by Erin and company,  had a residency ahead of her, and knew I’d pick up the baton on my return home.

I firstly took up the issue with Miryam, one of the westerners based in Kathmandu.  Hers is the job of supporting volunteers.  Along with her superior, Kate, she provides case management services for the kids.  Makes sure they are OK.  Visit the home once a month.

I believe Kate represents Global Volunteer Network in Nepal.  I never got a straight answer about her role, function or who she actually reports to.  (I digress and I fear irritating my audience.  Please bear with me.  I am still on the trail of the parasites, Colin, Erin and, yes, let’s add Kate,  maybe  Fiona too, the  ‘program specialist’ .  She works  at Global Volunteer Network in New Zealand.  I expect she is paid for her work).

I talked to Miryam, Kate’s underling —  I know this is confusing.  Kate and Miryam are based in Nepal.  They live in Kathmandu.  Kate, as well as working for  Global Volunteer Network,  runs a business –  Himalayan  expeditions.  She advertises her business  at the VSN Shining Stars Childrens Home.  One can buy postcard adverts for her business and some of the profits! from the sale of the cards go to Shining Stars!  I would call this conflict of interest, but this is  Global Volunteer Network and the  ethics of parasites.

Miryam, (I said) some of the children seem to be underweight and even hungry.  Miryam gave me a lecture of how legumes and rice combined make protein.  Miryam, I said,  I know all of this but here’s the thing:  some of the children seem to be  underweight and hungry.  No, she said.  That’s not true.  Some of them seem to have eyesight problems I said.  I notice when I write on the white board a number of them have to approach very close to take notes.  No.  Miryam said.  That’s not true.  I wondered, I said, if the eye sight problem is a consequence of poor nutrition.  No.  Miryam said.

One of the girls at the home was being treated with water.  She’d been complaining for months of feeling of feeling tired and dizzy.  She was diagnosed by Kate’s team as suffering from dehydration.  This is illness that is easily treated.  She had to drink water.  She took a long walk with me one day.  I noticed she had to pee twice as often as I.  (I’m the elder, our positions should have been reversed. She wasn’t drinking more water than I was).  I asked the house manager if she might perhaps see a doctor for blood tests.  He took her to the local clinic where she was prescribed antibiotics.  Her primary diagnosis was not dehydration.  She was found to have a chronic untreated infection.

So at my first conference, (skype), with Erin and Fiona,   (Colin would have been at his two martini lunch.  He’d have been tucking into his New Zealand lamb)  I related all of the above, and more.  I tried to help them make a  link between payments to them from folk like me, and a Nepal home where kids go hungry.  The two things linked in my mind.

Now I know that 50% of kids in Nepal don’t get enough to eat. Nepal is one of the poorest countries in the world.  But  wouldn’t you  expect children living in a home funded by a respected charity, a charity that brokers the placement of volunteers, and takes a hefty fee from them, to land in the advantaged group? In the healthy 50%?  We would all agree that these children can’t be kitted out in a way that makes them stand out too much from their disadvantaged peers, but we would expect children in a home under the auspice of Global Volunteer Network to be fed properly and to have shoes without holes, shoes that do not need to be repaired with layers of cardboard.  We would expect a charity that receives large ‘volunteer program fees’ to direct some of these funds to making sure the children are fed.

That’s what I told Erin and Fiona on the skype call.

Chapter  III  I  call in my consultants


The minutiae of the email correspondence between Global Volunteer Network and myself (following the first skype conference)  apropos  of nothing.  Months go by.  Some pretty useless budget information, an opportunity for Erin, CEO to chide me for my ignorance about how Global Volunteer Network and its subsidiaries really work,  futile attempts on my part to communicate my concerns about the children.  I tell them I don’t care about the volunteer support part, sure there is false advertising, yes they need to provide what they say they’ll provide, but let’s just look after the kids here.   There are issues beyond just feeding the kids, there are discharge planning issues, there are privacy issues, there are issues to do with clothing, shoes,  soap, toothpaste, feminine protection for one child (with heavy flow)  for whom rags are  insufficient to ensure her comfort and dignity.  But food.  At least get them fed.

I am fortunate in having a friend with a master’s degree in nursing.  She’s an academic,  a woman who has worked in third world countries, with children, a health-care professional with an interest in nutrition.  She charted the children’s heights and weights on the appropriate instrument and was convinced there was cause for concern.  But, just to be sure, she elicited the assistance of a pediatrician she had worked with at some point.  This doctor currently works in underdeveloped countries.  His assignment is to teach health care professionals in these countries about childhood nutrition.  He took the data and charted it.  He did some additional research  to ensure the findings would reflect the situation in Nepal.  This information was then directed to Erin and Fiona. A dietitian came on board too and provided additional analyses.   There follows a quote from one of the health specialists:

Here are the growth charts of the four children whose growth is very poor and who need to be reviewed by a paediatrician.  Each one has crossed two or more centile lines.  All of them have poor growth in height as well as weight, and therefore each of them may have a chronic illness, or inadequate nutrition, or both.”

Here is a second quote from another health specialist:

If these children were in this country we would be concerned to get them seen urgently by a senior experienced paediatrician to find the cause of their very poor growth, and to ensure that there are no child protection issues involved.

Erin began her response to the experts’ advice with these words:  ‘Whilst not a health care professional, I am of the opinion…’ (By truncating the quote, and omitting the consultant’s exasperated response to Erin’s show of ignorance,  I spare Erin further embarrassment).

At some point during the long correspondence. and as time passed,  I recalled that the nature of the parasite is to exploit the host, not help it, and realized that Colin and Erin have no genuine desire to help  anyone other than themselves.  This is an organization that has  forgotten its mission, if it ever had one, their energy is directed towards self-preservation maybe towards personal status,  financial rewards.  You might think that is a harsh thing to say, and it is hard for me to write it of another human being, but one question I asked Global Volunteer Network was this:  if your  children were  hungry would it take three months for you to feed them?  I never did get an answer.

What I got was an assurance that since I had made a serious accusation  Global Volunteer Network  would see that Kate and company had an opportunity to respond.  I would hear back ‘in due course’.  I pointed out that you do not ask a body that has been shown to need investigation to investigate itself.  I think this might have been a new concept for Global Volunteer Network.  My eyewitness accounts could now be set up to be refuted. Why?  I have no vested interest.  I have no motive for interfering other than I don’t like to see neglected children.  The consultants worked for no fee only out of concern for children that they saw as neglected.

For those of you hungry for detail, I and some other volunteers did a little sleuthing. Host families are  paid  180 rupees a day for providing dal bhat and a bed to a volunteer.  180 rupees is about £1 or $1.70.  The indigenous house manager is paid $100 per month.  If any one is interested in the budget allocated for food I can include it.  I have the information.   It is not that the manager gets paid too little, I’m not sure if he should be getting a little more or not, it is again the puny expense of running the home that I want people to know about, the low cost of keeping the free labour that a volunteer provides,  while GVS is doing God knows what with the large income derived from volunteer program fees.

I’ve used parasitic behavior as a metaphor for the modus operandi of Global Volunteer Network.  But let me be clear.  It is not that I have been eaten by the parasite, it is not my $2,200 expenditure that I am bemoaning here, rather it is  that Global Volunteer Network is a parasite on the back of  impoverished communities and vulnerable children. They are stealing resources meant for the needy.

Chapter IV  I am stapled, collated, shredded and trashed

After three months my patience wears thin.  Last week I posted some critiques of Global Volunteer Network on volunteer evaluation sites.   Global Volunteer Network was quick to  post a rebuttal.  Out of respect for  the limit of your patience I will not regurgitate it here.

Except for a couple of points:

Erin, the signatory of the rebuttal, stated that the height and weight charts we used were out of date;  that the most current height and weight charts were kept locked in the Kathmandu for privacy reasons.  This is a lie. And Erin knew that the most recent chart had been completed at the home by a volunteer.  The house manager had asked her to do this.   Erin knew this because I told her. The part about the children’s privacy is also a complete crock!  I can’t understand why she would set herself up to be caught out in a lies.  The rebuttal also mentioned that Global Volunteer Network  was ‘saddened’ that I had gone public while the review was underway and I had thus jeopardized the program funding, the children etc etc.

If I were ever to steal from children, (I won’t, I’ll leave that to Global Volunteer Network), but if I did   I would never have Erin as my accomplice.  She’d let the cat out the bag.

I wrote to Global Volunteer Network a couple of days ago pointing out that the rebuttal contained  bare-faced lies.  I received an email  this morning stating that since the government in Nepal were closing the children’s home Global Volunteer Network had decided a review was unnecessary.

Full stop.

Global Volunteer Network runs this scheme in Vietnam and Africa, Thailand too I think.  Visit their site.  Have a look.  Ask them before you pay where exactly your Volunteer Program fee will go.

Please share this link.

About annewlindsay

I don't go 'first class'. I can't afford to and even if I could I think I would still choose to travel as I do. I think you meet a more interesting class of people if you use local transportation and just take your chances. I'm getting restless again. Hope to meet you on the bus or train.
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  1. Miriam says:

    Thanks for writing this article. .breaks my heart thinking of the hungry kids. I really appreciate that u have put the first-hand experience on your blog here as I was planning to volunteer with GVN, but now, not so sure. Poor children and adults in places like Nepal need all the help and support they can get, and I encourage any organization/person who can do their best to help out, but to do it with a corrupt heart would be despicable. Hope GVN and its staff read your blog and realize that their lack of transparency (I too noticed this) and hungry children are making people want Answers, at the very least.

    • annewlindsay says:

      Thanks for reading and commenting Miriam. I’m still in touch with the children by email. They, unfortunately are the ‘money cow’ for GVN. It is despicable. On a personal note I am only just recovering for the shock and grief I experienced when I discovered what GVN are really about. It felt like a betrayal of trust. I keep in mind that the real betrayal is the betrayal of the children at Shining Stars, and of others in other projectss in developing countries that GVN showcase on their webpage.

      Again, just to be fair in my comments, the Shining Stars kids were not starved — but there was evidence of malnutrition in kids cared for under this auspice for a decade. The huge ‘program fee’ I paid could have bought enough lentils for each of their lifetimes. The clincher for me was when I discovered GVN lying to me, even lying in rebuttals to my comments on public program evaluation sites. They are a well-oiled machine when it comes to crafting public response to any criticism. I wish they were a well -oiled machine when it comes to doing what they purport to be doing in foreign aid.

  2. Gary Ogilvie says:

    Hi Anne, I would love to have a chat to you about this, and something else of importance, if you can get back to me, i would be most grateful, it breaks my heart to read your story, and won’t be going the Philippines with them. Thank you

  3. Gary Ogilvie says:

    Hi, thanks for the reply, sorry its been so long replying, but i have been so busy with things here, i will mail you my details later. Thanks again.

  4. Dorothy Dean says:

    Too many reviews I have read about GVN focus on the personal response of the volunteer to the experience. Your response is reasoned and about the program itself. I started having doubts about the program when they accepted me in less than 48 hours on a weekend. Why did they accept me? I want to hear from them about exactly how they will accommodate my physical disability before committing to the program. For that I expected they would contact me.

    The email I recieved after acceptance was welcoming me for a program in Ecuador that involves daily hikes. Impossible for me. Besides, I am interested in teaching English in Peru. The next email in quick succession was a request for money so the staff could arrange the placement for me with no mention of how they would deal with my circumstances. This has all happened in the space of three days. How can an organization provide quality placements like this. Quality for the students and for the volunteer. What level is being taught? “English as a second language” teaching requires certification so this must be more basic, I guess. I should not have to guess.

    Your methodology is sound. This is the kind of evaluation that I want before I commit to anything. If I want a personally rewarding experience I can volunteer with charitable organizations I know about in Peru. I expect more diligence from GVN. Perhaps that is my answer.

    I want to check the United Nations connection and will, through higher level program administrators there I know and trust. I’m an older woman with experience evaluating programs. I do not intend to evaluate this one because I have very little data, but there are certainly holes in the way GVN operates.

    • annewlindsay says:

      Thanks for sharing your experience Dorothy. I should have been more suspicious right from the beginning when I was ‘accepted’ to work with children PRIOR to arranging for a criminal record check. The criminal record check they eventually asked for (I’d to bring it with me to Nepal — could have been falsified!) was not the higher level one that I’d have expected — the level of criminal record check that one must produce in the UK and Canada (I have worked with children in both countries) to entitle one to work with vulnerable populations. At the same time I entered into the program in a trusting manner and naively thought that the New Zealand HQ staff would be very glad to hear my feedback about program weaknesses upon my return from Nepal. Their attitude to negative feedback was truly shocking — that they tried hard to fob me off, then the delaying tactics as detailed in my blog. I intended to report the case to the Charity Commission in New Zealand but, to be honest, did not have the heart. GVN are a large powerful organization. I had a sense that they would marshall forces and any further efforts would be for nothing. As it was, the three months long process (after I returned from Nepal) was so disheartening, so disappointing, so totally unexpected that I experienced a severe grief reaction. I’m a older woman with years of experience in mental health services and criminal justice services but with a deep faith in the essential goodness of people and this experience rocked me off my moorings. I did write a note to the Bill and Malinda Gates Foundation but the heading on the foundation’s email form warned me that notes were filtered and I should not expect a reply. I suppose the foundation staff saw just ‘another complaint’ and my appeal was consigned to the ‘recycle bin’. The Shining Stars children keep in touch with me by email, and when I receive an email I feel sad and ashamed that I could not help them more. Another prospective volunteer recently forwarded me an email he received from GVN, again a misrepresentation of how they dealt with my complaint about child neglect and again a careful guarding of information about how volunteer program funds are utilized by GVN. Again thank you for responding. I feel my puny response (the public statement on my blog) is having some impact be it only encouranging people to scrutinize GVN program and policy carefully before parting with their funds. I’ve had as many as 300 ‘hits’ in the one day! I’m glad to hear you’ve found a credible agency and a place where you can feel your contribution will count. All the best to you in these endeavors. We can make a difference!

  5. annewlindsay says:

    Dorothy. I read your comment the second time and realize you haven’t decided yet on where you will make your volunteer contribution. I’d very much like to know if you manage to find an ethical volunteer placement agency and the name of that agency (for me, for next time). Also thank you for considering contacting the UN. I felt unequal to that task. GVN’s narrative includes that they have very few complaints about their program. The truth is that they muffle complaints. When I was in Nepal I overlapped with many other volunteers. Each of them had concerns, but most were young busy people and their resolve to lodge complaints when they returned home seemed to dissolve quickly — apart from the one young medical student who did bravely confront GVN and experienced a quick and discourteous dismissal.

  6. Dorothy Dean says:

    Sorry, I lost a sentence in transferrin from paper to electronic. I specifically said I wanted to teach English in Peru. I checked with the UN and the relashionship claimed by GVN is pretty much meaningless because just about any organization can get the designation. In order to produce outcomes that are useful for the people the program works for, there must be adwquate support in terms of materials for the people being helped. That is a huge red flag. I saw another volunteer glowing report that commented on the lack of classroom materials for the students. She said if she had known, she could have brought some. There are a number of other red flags that might have a reasonable explanation but I have not seen much in the way of detail on the GVN website or links. At the very least they could be well-meaning people who just don’t know what they are doing. For example why create a new organization.? What does GVN DO better than any other program? What new problem have they found that no one else is addressing? There is nothing about that on their website. The website says they empower women and girls – what does that mean based on the specific programs offered? I have many more questions and will not send money until I get answers and photographic assurance that GVN has solid arrangements for my circumstance.

  7. Joyce says:

    annewlindsay..would like to share my 4 day nepal experience with you..signed up for 3 months but parasites were readily apparent and knew I was only in for with you I am less concerned about the money ..wonder if Bill Gates would approve

  8. Zooey says:

    Hi everyone,
    Thanks to all of you for your comments and this article. I’m a french student looking for a volunteer experience. I have, indeed, apply for empower women and girls program as it is part of my bachelor subject and my career wish for later. But all your story just stunned me. I was so happy few hours ago that GVN accepted me so fast in the program for Nepal. I just feel pain like the longest fall I could have been through.
    Did one of you finally find a trustable organization ? I really want to take part of such a program about women rights and education in Asia.

    Best regards,


    • annewlindsay says:

      Thanks Zooey for reading and responding. I wish I could help you locate an organization that would meet your needs. As you can see from my blog I made a bad choice myself in terms of finding an agency that focusses on the needs of at risk populations, instead of on the need to maintain or enhance its own power base.

  9. Dorothy Dean says:

    I wrote back to GVN today with the following:

    There are several things that bother me about GVN.

    My application was sent in, accepted and then came the ask for money. This was all done in 3 days over a weekend. Almost like form letters. I bet they are form letters. This is too fast.
    Where is the specific information about why my application was accepted? Why didn’t it take longer to check out anything in the application? Did you check out anything? On a weekend?
    There was no evidence that locating housing for my situation was being done? No questions asked of me and no statement about what is available — or not.
    Why is GVN not part of a larger organization to increase its reach and not duplicate work already being done?
    What specific situations/problems were found by Colin that convinced him that yet another help organization is necessary? Was any careful research done by Colin to not duplicate what existing organizations are doing? If so, what is it?
    There is a statement in one of the form letters and on the web site that one thing GVN does is “empower women and girls”. There is one example. It’s not enough. There are, as I know, some excellent charitable organizations doing work that is a lot clearer than what you publish..
    Your mission statement is too vague. You have too many different kinds of projects to be good at all of them. How did you choose those specific projects?
    You have too few employees to support the variety of volunteer work that you say you do. The staff might be able to provide support for a smaller number of projects but you just have too many different directions to cover.
    There are testimonials that you publish from former volunteers. All that I see is statements about how good these volunteers felt about their volunteer work. That is no a true measure of the value of the program.
    Bill Gates and CNN are odd choices for supporters. I know CNN does not endorse programs but covers programs. CNN may have covered your programs but that does not imply support for the programs. After all CNN covers disasters. Does that mean CNN supports disasters?
    Bill Gates is a philanthropist and does not operate a hands-on program. He does not have the credentials nor the recognition among the experts as someone whose support for a service provider would carry much weight. Funding an organization is very different from operating a service program.
    Being a partner with an organization like the UN is very easy. All it means is that the UN is encouraging your organization to do good for the people you say you serve. Being part of the World Association of NGOs means you have a tax-exempt status and that’s all. It doesn’t even mean that you do anything. Just that GVN exists. The Idealist thing is strange. It’s your web page. Makes no sense, unless you created
    Your mission statement is one of the vaguest I have seen in a long time: Our mission is to close the gap between intention and action by connecting people, organizations, ideas, and resources. What does this mean? It’s a “nice” statement but it doesn’t really say what you are about. Explain the “gap” as you see it. Big deal. You want to connect “people, organizations, ideas and resources”. That is about as vague as you can get. And about as meaningless as you can get. If you are “connecting people, organizations, ideas and resources”, what are the real organizations that you connect people with?
    When I use search engines to find GVN, I find ads for GVN at the top of the page for every search engine. Why do you advertise and how much is that of your budget? You are listed anyway in what search engines uncover, why do you pay? I think you are good at marketing since GVN shows up so high on search pages. That does not mean you are good at delivering real service to a population. Your advertising seems to focus on how inexpensive GVN is for participants. That tells me that your programing is too weak to advertise the programming on the internet.
    Finally, when I applied I said I wanted to teach English in Peru. There is no evidence that this is even possible through your program. No one from GVN said anything about what is done or not done in a particular country. You leave your statements vague about what can be done where. On one of your web pages it says child care is what you do in Peru. I have decided to get ESL certification and pick a highly rated organization to work with. Not GVN.

    Before I give money to any charity, these are the questions I expect answers to. If you expect money from the public then you should be prepared to provide copies of your budget and your tax returns.

    Based on these questions and observations, I will not send you any money. If you have a real placement — you have yet to say you do or you don’t — you know where to reach me.

  10. Theresa says:

    I was just accepted to go to Brazil for 6 weeks at the cost out of pocket totaling 2,050.00 if this money isn’t going towards the charity then where is it going. GVN is starting to sound more like a scam than anything else. I wanted to do this for the kids not to make GVN rich I think i am going to pass on this opportunity.Someone should really look into this company.

  11. tohsooklin says:

    Thank god – up till now I had just seen dozens of rave reviews about GVN, but all of them were on websites that they controlled. I was just accepted into their Youth Ambassador Program, which I kind of just applied to because I didn’t see the harm – the application process seemed really non-binding and there was literally no information on their site. I haven’t paid yet so I can still back out. After reading this, I think I will. The program is USD$3500, $500 for a two-day leadership training in my city and $2500 for a 5-day SITE VISIT of their projects. These costs were not on their website and only on the acceptance email. Once I saw that figure, I was immediately suspicious. Do you have any recommendation for another organisation? I’ve been looking at IVHQ or Cross-Continental. They’re a lot cheaper, but my parents are worried for my safety. Any recommendations?

    • annewlindsay says:

      Thanks for this response tohsooklin. That is incredibly expensive! And, as far as safety goes with GVN — that 24/7 volunteer support that they tout is not 24/7. At least not when I was there (in Nepal). It might different in other countries. I suppose it would depend on how well they’ve liaised with the local agency who actually provide the support. As to my own experience: I’ve no complaints about the indigenous staff at the home or about my host family. I’m referring to the putative support from the two western women in Nepal who were tasked with providing support. 24/7? No. Also their ideas of how one might support young volunteers from western middle-class backgrounds adjust to living in an impoverished country were poorly conceived and whimsically delivered.

  12. Natalie says:

    Thank you so much for this article. I was ‘selected’ for the Youth Ambassador Program but I have forfeited by ‘partial scholarship’ of $500 after reading this and some other horrible reviews online. I am so glad I have not started fundraising for GVN’s profit yet, and instead and deleted all promotional posts and have also sent Fiona an email saying that I will not be joining them.

    However, I am still interested in doing some overseas volunteering trips. Where do you think I should go about finding a REAL not for profit organisation for such an activity? Thank you!

    • annewlindsay says:

      Thanks for responding Natalie. I’m glad you took the trouble to read a range of reviews about Global Volunteer Network before making a commitment of time and money. In response to your question: I understand that GVN is a Not for Profit organization. Not for profit organizations could conceivable be staffed by volunteers who would work without salary (but would usually have their out-of-pocket expenses covered). I believe, but don’t know for sure, that GVN HQ is staffed totally by salaried people. I don’t object to this either and would have expected a proportion of my ‘volunteer program fee’ to be put to the purpose of salaries, overheads, etc. for the parent agency. One major problem with GVN is its lack of transparency. I never did get an answer to my question ‘where does the ‘Volunteer Program Fee go?). I worked out that it doesn’t go to helping feed and clothe the children — otherwise they would have been adequately fed and clothed. Indeed, as you point out, it makes one wonder where the money does go to? Is GVN a REAL not for profit agency? is the question you pose. If I should decide to do another overseas volunteer program one of the questions I will ask up front is what proportion of total funding received by the program is earmarked for salaries and overheads. I should mention too that when I was in Nepal some volunteers at another GVN sponsored home asked the same question I asked — How is our GVN volunteer program fee used. They received the notorious ‘pie chart’ — a grossly simplistic analysis tool you get with excel and other like programs. In the context in which GVN use the tool it is meaningless, and useless for volunteers seeking information about how their program fee is put to use. I suppose it’s a valuable tool for GVN if their purpose is to keep such information private. I hope you find a reputable agency. Please post here if you do. Others will be interested.

  13. Abi says:

    Thank you for this! GVN is doing some intensive advertising over Facebook, so I know that lots of people are talking about it. One of the other organisations I’ve heard of is IVHQ- I have no link with the organisation and I really know nothing about it, but their program fees are substantially cheaper than any I’ve found elsewhere (only a few hundred per week, not thousands), as they claim to put you directly in touch with someone at the location. If anyone knows anything about IVHQ, I would be grateful to know, as I am thinking of volunteering with them in the future.

  14. Heather Rose says:

    My Grand daughter has just been accepted as a GVN Ambassador and is truly excited. However, I personally have serious reservations about this entire scheme and have researched as much as I am able. It is unforgiveable that this crowd incites so much pride and excitement in these young children who are “selected” and then ask for money for all sorts of rubbish. Absolute shame on them. They state that she has been awarded a $500 scholarship – crap to that too. In my heart I am 100% certain this is a cruel cruel scam and I have been advised to avoid them like the plague. Please be careful with your money and your children and God Bless. Thank you so much for the insight although I am not sure how to break the news to hear that this crowd is nothing but a scam.

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