CENTER FOR HUMANITARIAN OUTREACH AND INTERCULTURAL EXCHANGE

Rating: 4.5 stars   8 reviews

Issues: International

Location: 7879 South 1530 West 200 West Jordan UT 84088 USA

Mission: To build the capacity of rural villages to cultivate and act on sustainable solutions to poverty by fostering village self-determination and international community building.
Results: We have 'graduated' 116 master villages across the globe and have planted the seed of self development in 1098 villages that are learning and practicing the CHOICE model of development.
Geographic areas served: Guatemala, Mexico, Nepal, Bolivia, and Kenya
Programs: We have programs in economic development, micro enterprise, adult literacy, student scholarships, village healthcare workers, building leadership capacity, agricultural, health, cultural development, reforestation, gender equity, women's programs, sanitation, home improvement, and many others!

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Community Reviews

Rating: 5 stars  

Not only is the Choice model of empowerment and village development a great one, but involving donors in expeditions where they have a chance to meet the people who will be benefiting from their donation is actually brilliant! When a person goes on a Choice expedition 2/3rds of the expedition cost actually goes towards the costs of the projects being worked on in that country. After my first trip to Nepal I realized that when a volunteer goes on a Choice Expedition, they are in the target country LESS to 'work on a project' and MORE to 'Make a connection with the people'. When volunteers feel 'connected' to the people of a certain country, as I do to Nepal, they will continue to donate to causes connected with Choice Humanitarian in that country and hopefully continue to go on expeditions as well. The Choice Humanitarian in country staff in Nepal is well educated, professional, enthusiastic, and a model for all other NGO's operating in Nepal. In fact the Nepal in country director Bishnu was invited to meet the President of Nepal who is quite interested in the Choice model and the success that Bishnu and Choice Humanitarian has had in helping to improve the standard of living in rural villages in Nepal. I am blessed to be involved with this organization.

Would you volunteer for this group again?

Definitely

For the time you spent, how much of an impact did you feel your work or activity had?

Life-changing

Did the organization use your time wisely?

Very Well

Would you recommend this group to a friend?

Definitely

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2010

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Review from CharityNavigator
Rating: 5 stars  

1 person found this review helpful

The one negative reviewer of Choice doesn't understand that the labor contributed by US expeditioners is not intended to be a primary factor in getting projects built -- it is to give expeditioners an on-the-ground feel for the quality, importance and philosophy of the work being done, with the hope that will lead them down the path to becoming future financial supporters, not to provide an exotic vacation. I am also amazed at the comment on excess staffing. I have been intimately familiar with Choice's staffing levels for over 10 years, find that their lack of adequate staffing limits the amount good that can be done under their unique development philosophy and am very impressed with the amount of volunteer effort that makes up much of the Choice work. The overwhelming focus of Choice's funding is on showing indigenous peoples how to build self-sustaining health, educational and small business projects and develop local leadership in the process so that those local leaders can lead their villages and regions toward further independence and well-being without continuing support from donors.

Was your donation impactful?

Definitely

How likely is it that you would recommend that a friend donate to this group?

Definitely

How likely are you to donate to this group again?

Definitely

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2012

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Review from CharityNavigator
Rating: 5 stars  

Everyone at CHOICE has the highest priority of outreach and helping others become self reliant. It is an organization run by love, compassion, hard work and dedication to help others. They are highly experienced and organized. I could not recommend any Humanitarian Organization more highly.

Would you volunteer for this group again?

Definitely

For the time you spent, how much of an impact did you feel your work or activity had?

A lot

Did the organization use your time wisely?

Very Well

Would you recommend this group to a friend?

Definitely

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2012

Was this review helpful? 
Rating: 2 stars  

Choice is a decent organization with a great philosophy for sustainable development (teaching villagers how to tackle big projects so that they can progress on their own).

However, I disagree with how Choice utilizes (or rather, underutilizes) expeditioners.

Choice Humanitarian teaches that it's about the villagers and the journey, and that we need to immerse ourselves in "village time" as part of our experience. The conclusion that they make is that we shouldn't impose developed world processes, urgency, efficiency, and increased production to projects. For example, we're told not to form bucket lines passing materials one to another and saving the energy of trekking back and forth, because the villager way of doing things is to plod along the entire way. Others tell stories of jumping into projects and generating a flurry of activity and progress, only to be asked by Choice staff to step aside and allow villagers to work at their own pace, and using their own methods.

While I agree that it needs to be about the villagers, and that experiencing and gaining an appreciation for "village time" is valuable, I don't agree with their conclusion of not helping the villagers to apply developed world processes, urgency, efficiency, and increased production. Using that philosophy, expeditioners become tourists — dead weight. We're there to experience, and to fund, but not to improve. The villagers do 80% of the work, and the soft foreigners gamely do our best but can't hope to match the villager hardiness and endurance. The end result is that Choice involves expeditioners for the purpose of making them tourists and to get them to fund projects. We're no more than dead weight pocketbooks. We're just there on a REALLY expensive vacation. Additionally, this pigeon-holes villagers into the role of "gentle savages" who can only learn so much, and achieve so much. Choice tells us not to expect too much from them.

LDS senior missionaries, on the other hand, are sent on service missions specifically to help developing nations improve their processes, efficiency, and productive capacity. Industrialized techniques and technologies are taught to those in developed areas. This opens up entirely new possibilities to them.

There are many projects and achievements which villagers believe to be impossible, because with their current processes such achievements WOULD be impossible. If we can teach them new ways of doing things, then we can open up to them new possibilities and accomplishments. Instead of capping their progress, we can make it equal to our own.

The cynic in me says that Choice may intentionally limit progress in order to minimize the actual amount of work that they have to do. Building relationships with villages is difficult, time intensive work, and if villages progress too quickly, then Choice has to spend more time developing those relationships rather than focusing on fund raising, which is what Choice would rather be doing. The idealist in me, however, just hopes that its a case of Choice drawing the wrong conclusions from their philosophies on village interactions.

The other aspect of Choice Humanitarian that I find troubling is how many paid staff they have. I know a lot of people who have worked extensively with Choice over the years, and almost all of them left because of what they viewed as waste, and excessive overhead. There are more cost efficient organizations out there. The Choice philosophy about this seems to be "We're doing great things so we deserve to reward ourselves and our staff" rather than "We're doing great things and we're willing to make personal sacrifices in order to achieve them."

If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...

Reduce overhead, and make sure that the bulk of funds raised reached the villages. Encourage expeditioners to teach the most efficient techniques and ways of doing things to villagers.

Would you volunteer for this group again?

Unlikely

For the time you spent, how much of an impact did you feel your work or activity had?

A little

Did the organization use your time wisely?

Somewhat badly

Would you recommend this group to a friend?

Unlikely

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2010

What one change could this group make that would improve your volunteer experience?

Get more of the money to the villages. Possibly reduce the cost of participating in an expedition.

Did your volunteer experience have an effect on you? (teaching you a new skill, or introducing new friends, etc.)

It was an amazing experience. There were just a lot of things that troubled me about it.

How did this volunteer experience make you feel?

Exhausted, but in a good way. Unfortunately, once I returned I started to think about how expensive the expedition was vs how much of that money seemed to reach the village, and how they seemed to try to narrow our participation.

Was this review helpful? 

We are not sure who left this comment. Michael Gnost has never been on a CHOICE expedition. If Michael is commenting anonymously, we would invite you to call or email our office to discuss your comment. Expeditions are a vital component of our organization in that they reaffirm to villagers that we support their efforts and will work shoulder to shoulder with them in executing a project. CHOICE is not about the project, but about the people and the process. Building leadership capacity in the village, teaching them to network and mobilize resources, helping them find other willing partners, are keys for these villagers to conquer poverty. CHOICE provides the tools! The villagers, for the most part, know already the solutions. What they lack is an opportunity. The CHOICE in country field teams (all skilled, professional, indigenous, local staff) work with the village leadership and help them develop the tools necessary, using existing resources, and willing partners helping to put them on a path of real sustainable development. Your comments were very confusing to us. Our expeditioners have nothing to do with being tourists! We encourage cultural and social interaction....it is this very interaction that encourage villagers to formulate a vision for their future. Obviously, we introduce to them all kinds of proven 1st world appropriate technologies in an effort to help them improve their economic condition. We specifically take issue with your last comment about our 'paid' staff. We have one of the highest ratings at Charity Navigator, specifically for our excellent program/administration ratios. Our HQ employs only 6 persons! As an HQ staff, we work tirelessly and endlessly, giving up many after work hours and weekends in relentlessly pursuing the end to poverty. For many of us, this organization is our life's passion. Almost 87% of all donations go to our FIELD PROJECTS AND PROGRAMS! where, more often than not, that donated dollar is leveraged 5-7 times by a trained and efficient field operation. I would personally challenge anyone to find a more efficient nonprofit. We're sorry that you feel you had to post such a negative comment about the organization...and quite frankly, by your comment, we are not convinced that you have even had a CHOICE experience.

Review from CharityNavigator
Rating: 4 stars  

A good organization for family volunteerism. CHOICE partners with motivated village leadership to choose self-sustaining projects in poverty striken areas. Expeditioners are then brought in to work side by side with entire communities building schools, clinics, and water sources.

I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...

Observing mothers in drought-ridden Africa building a school and then taking on the water carrying duties formerly done by their daughters daily to enable school attendence. Effective model for creating change driven by locals. Returning to the same area a few yrs later, it was immensely heartening to observe a growing school and student population. Change iniated by CHOICE and seems to be carried on by the community.

If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...

More training for the volunteer expedition leaders and country team.

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Review from CharityNavigator
Rating: 5 stars  

CHOICE is an organization that creates opportunities for everyone to get involved! They wisely use their resources and efficiently engage community members to donate their time and talents to the organization. By doing this, they save money on administration and in turn focus funds on the projects. After seeing this model of administration, I was quickly impressed to get involved.

I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...

Lots of ways both personally and professionally

If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...

Use volunteer power even more than you already do!

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Review from CharityNavigator
Rating: 5 stars  

I volunteered with CHOICE on an expedition to Bolivia in 2008. I had volunteered internationally before and although I had a good experience, I was wary of international NGOs because I saw desperate need for change, even though I plan to work in the field. CHOICE was a very positive experience and exceeded my expectations. Their approach to international development is at a grassroots level and involves the local people every step of the way to ensure a sustainable future. As a volunteer, you will feel like you contributed very little, and that's great, because you will not be the one to sustain this project into the future. That belongs to the people of the village and they need to hold responsibility and ownership of the projects. CHOICE makes sure that the villagers are prepared before and after the brief visit from international volunteers to undertake these projects. As a volunteer, you will exchange cultures and a become a part of something bigger than yourself. You will inevitably take away so much from this experience and have the assurance that CHOICE will ensure success in the village after your departure. CHOICE gives me hope for international NGOs everywhere, and theirs is a model worth following!

I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...

Seeing the change CHOICE brings to communities and feeling a connection to the world around me.

If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...

Make the expeditions longer. A week is not long enough to fully appreciate the experience. Based on other volunteer travels, I recommend a month or longer commitment. This gives the volunteer time to acclimate to the culture and surroundings before diving into work. You will want to stay much longer than a week, trust me! Also, create more job and volunteer opportunities at the SLC headquarters!!

Would you volunteer for this group again?

Likely

For the time you spent, how much of an impact did you feel your work or activity had?

A lot

Did the organization use your time wisely?

Quite well

Would you recommend this group to a friend?

Definitely

What one change could this group make that would improve your volunteer experience?

Make the trips longer!

Did your volunteer experience have an effect on you? (teaching you a new skill, or introducing new friends, etc.)

Definitely. I made great new friends and got to experience a new culture!

How did this volunteer experience make you feel?

I felt a deeper connection to the world and it inspired me to continue making a difference internationally.

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2008

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Review from CharityNavigator
Rating: 5 stars  

I first stumbled upon CHOICE through one of it's sister organizations. I did my research of how the organization worked and instantly fell in love with it. CHOICE encourages people everywhere to make a difference in their own lives and of the lives of those around them. It is an upward spiral of teaching, learning, and doing.

For example they have expeditions that send out anyone willing to participate for a few weeks in one of the 5 different countries they work in. One of my friends went on an "expedition" last year and loved it so much is going again this year. You work side by side with the villagers, learning from them and their humility. Reminding us of how fortunate we are. It truly changes lives.

I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...

feeling fulfilled at the end of the day knowing my efforts aren't in vain and that someone will be helped through the skills I've been taught.

If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...

try to make it more public of all of the good it's doing.

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Review from CharityNavigator