Oops! You must enter a search term greater than 3 characters.

Invite reviews

Invite friends and colleagues to share their experiences with this nonprofit
131 Reviews
1234.503825
Write A Review
June 24, 2014

more

June 24, 2014

My experience in Tanzania directly affected my decision to partake in my biggest, and most life changing adventure yet: The Peace Corps. I am currently 7 months into my service in The Gambia, West Africa as a rural health volunteer living and learning in a small village. While Peace Corps is the most intense, challenging, rewarding and inspiring experience I have had to date, I have to say that I don't think I would have been prepared or even courageous enough to go had it not been for my experience in Tanzania. The structure of training here was reminiscent of my time in Tanzania and I spent the first 2 months here so comfortable because I knew, just like my time in Tanzania, it would be wonderful.
CCS is a wonderful way for people to give back to the world, and to learn their potential as well as the potential of those around them. I absolutely believe in Cross cultural solutions, and I am forever grateful for my experience and the future it has given me.

More feedback...

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?

2009

June 18, 2014

more

June 18, 2014

I absolutely loved working in Ghana with Cross-Cultural Solutions. It was life-changing. I have traveled to over 25 countries, and lived abroad and I got an experience in Ghana that I would never have been able to facilitate for myself. I had a meaningful experience working in a primary school. My main personal focus was the empowerment and education of the girl's in the school. We talked so much about how important school is, future goals and professional aspirations, and their desires to travel abroad. It was enlightening for both of us, I think. This organization is professional, and organized. I would definitely recommend using Cross-Cultural Solutions. I felt safe, ate amazing food at the comfortable home-base and learned more about the local community than I ever thought possible in a short 3 weeks.

More feedback...

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?

2013

June 11, 2014
4 people found this review helpful

more

June 11, 2014
4 people found this review helpful

My purpose in writing this review is to help those researching a service-based trip and hopefully keep others from ending up in my situation. I was meant to be departing tomorrow to participate in a program with CCS in Bagamoyo, Tanzania. After a few things that seemed “off” towards the end of the process with them, I started doing some more in-depth research and what I found was truly upsetting. My goal is to share what I learned, consolidating several sources of information to make it easier for others. Read the below, do your own research and then make whatever decision is best for you. For my part, in the end there was no way I could be affiliated with this organization. Thankfully, I have found another program that I am quite pleased with. I am hoping to get my money back, but even if I cannot, I know I will rest easier for not having been a part of a program like this.

In my initial research I came across plenty of good reviews. It was only when I went back and reexamined them did it became clear that the positive and negative reviews addressed very different items. The good reviews were all about housing, food, transportation, free time, and the excitement of being in a new country. Occasionally, you’d find mention of the work, but only as it pertained to the volunteer enjoying it and not about the impact that was being made. The negative reviews are all about the work (or lack thereof). Many of their former volunteers describe how there was little to no plan or guidance for them and that the work they did was useless. Most disturbingly, that some actually felt they were doing more harm. There are also numerous complaints about the few hours spent working, no plan to build on previous volunteer’s work and a general feeling of being not needed. CCS seems much more oriented towards creating an experience to make people who participate feel good as opposed to identifying a community’s needs and addressing them in a meaningful way. I highly recommend reading OrenRose’s thoughtful review on page 15 on Abroad Reviews. Also recommended is Jeremy’s review, “exercise caution”.

As you do your research, you will find that most reputable programs do not allow participation for less than 4 weeks when working with children. This is to protect the kids and keep their needs at the forefront. The tale of a non-native English speaker being told to teach children English and teaching them to spell incorrectly is horrifying. Further proof that CCS is not actively looking to place people in appropriate settings to address a need. There is a great blog by a CCS volunteer who for her part really enjoyed her end of the experience. However, in describing the impact she had, she details a detrimental involvement for the children she was meant to help. Her assessment was, “The negative emotional and educational impact on the children from the turnover is enormous and very difficult for me to swallow.” Her very enlightening blog can be found here: https://carynlevyonline.wordpress.com/tag/cross-cultural-solutions/

I also learned that I would only work 42-56 hours over the course of 3 weeks. I inquired about volunteering more and was told that it would not be possible during week one, but at the discretion of the in country staff they might find me something for the remainder of my time. My feeling was they had no need or plan and would likely find some busy work for me. Also, it seemed clear that I could not go out on my own and find other opportunities, as they seemed to be in control of where and how I spent my time. My impression from other volunteers is that the program caters to those that may not have had much (if any) international travel experience, offering them a way to do so in a bubble. Those that had traveled before and/or volunteered before really seemed to be at odds with this program.

This was also my introduction to the fact that the afternoon activities are mandatory. While immersing oneself in the local culture is important, it is ridiculous that grown adults are not in charge of their own time. Feedback on these activities ranges from fantastic to terrible. (One volunteer’s experience of “learning” Swahili was being handed a list of verbs by someone who worked in the house.) Again, this only matters because you are forced to attend. Several people have complained about being treated as children in this way. The curfew also precludes attending certain events and festivals in town as well. It would seem the only local culture that CCS finds to be of note is that which they provide.

As the process went on, it became clear where CCS’ true focus was. During the orientation call that lasted an hour, about 8 minutes were spent on volunteering. The rest was about shopping, leisure time, etc. I also learned that our on-site orientation would involve local tour operators coming to sell participants safaris, etc. Their priorities became more and more clear. Their time and money is spent on everything except what should be the main reason you are there. (Part of the money you pay goes to have someone make your bed for you!) Bagamoyo is also only a summer program. This means not only is CCS not engaged in sustained long term work there, but there is also a home that has to be maintained for the rest of the year.

As I took a closer look at their financial operations, I learned that their Executive Director is a voting member of the board. This is generally frowned upon in the non-profit world as it is seen as a conflict of interest. I inquired directly if he votes on budget/compensation and got a vague reply that did not directly address this concern. Their ED also makes about 3x that others in similar positions do.

On Abroad Reviews you will see reviews by 3 people that were kicked out of the Costa Rica program on their first day. The story is very odd, but one thing that was consistent was that no one from CCS bothered to speak to them, they were simply presented with letters telling them to leave. I have no reason to believe their word over CCS, except that CCS' response on this public forum was to call the woman a liar and not address any of her actual concerns. Nor those of the others. They did this with another negative review as well. Rather then address the issues and present their POV, CCS responded unprofessionally. If you take a look at better-rated organizations such as IVHQ, you will see appropriate responses to criticisms. This one thing speaks volumes about an organization.

Letting all this go and just focusing on the work, the odds of my doing anything useful seemed slim to none. This was my main reason to not participate. The best-case scenario I could have hoped for would have been for me not do any harm, to have a neutral effect. The likelihood that I would have a negative impact was far too great. And in the end, are we not going to try and do some good? Is that not the point of this whole thing? I just could not be a part of a program that seems to be a vehicle to parade foreigners through an area in need as some sort of show and tell/cultural sight seeing tour to make them feel good about themselves. As one reviewer writes, this is a cultural vacation. Or volunteer vacation. But if you are expecting, as I was, an opportunity to work hard and make a difference, this is not the program for you.

The more I learned about effective volunteerism, it became clear that if you are going for a shorter period of time (let’s face it, we don’t all have the ability to go for longer trips) that a different type of project with specific objectives is more impactful. Habitat International builds for example, programs that have more immediate goals for short-term participation.

In the end, the most important thing I learned was to ask questions. If using an agency, apply to a specific program as opposed to a generalized location. What are the organizations long-term goals? Short-term goals? How do they use volunteers? What kind of constructive criticism have they received? Or better still, go direct. There are plenty of opportunities where there is no cost to volunteer, you just pay your room and board. You can be sure then that your resources are being used wisely. Perhaps most importantly, reach out to past volunteers – this has been the most useful.

More feedback...

Would you volunteer for this group again?

No

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

None

Did the organization use your time wisely?

Badly

Would you recommend this group to a friend?

No

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2014

April 28, 2014
1 person found this review helpful

more

April 28, 2014
1 person found this review helpful

In 2011, I did 5-weeks in Moshi Tanzania. At that time they had 2 home-bases in Moshi. Why? I don't know. I've been staying in Moshi for almost 2 years now and have met many Cross Cultural Solutions (CCS) volunteers and have heard about their experiences. Currently, CCS charges 2-week volunteers $235 a day. Shockingly experience for Moshi. One can easily and safely live and volunteer in Moshi for less than half the CCS amount. Not a single penny of the volunteer's fee goes to supporting the local NGO that volunteers are at. CCS has very strict rules - volunteers are not allowed to make any kind of donation to their NGO placement or give gifts to the NGOs or to CCS staff - even life saving medicine. But CCS staff have no problem accepting gifts (Ipads) from young rich volunteers who want to break CCS and stay out past curfew. They say that their contribution to the local NGOs is the volunteers they provide - unskilled volunteers.

Ways to make it better...

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

Go back to their roots. They've expanded their programs to too many countries.

More feedback...

Would you volunteer for this group again?

No

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

None

Did the organization use your time wisely?

Somewhat badly

Would you recommend this group to a friend?

No

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2011

December 9, 2013
1 person found this review helpful

more

December 9, 2013
1 person found this review helpful

I worked at Las Martinitas to take care of the elderly. I felt it was a good experience, but did find it challenging at times to understand how to help. I use to cook in restaurants, so I naturally gravitated to the kitchen and helped prep food for their meals. Once I got into rhythm, I felt useful and enjoyed being a part of contributing to a good, home cooked meal for those in need.

I also did some home visits and quickly realized how important this organization is. I often wondered how and when they would have their next meal and what they were doing to be a part of society. I felt that CCS offered them actives, food, and a clear understanding that they are not forgotten.

On a more positive note, I went to the market to buy food. Great time! Very different from United States grocery stores.

Lastly, the staff was great and hospitable. I miss the food that was provided and always had seconds. The accommodations were comfortable and to expect anything more would take away from the purpose of volunteering to those who need it.

One other point I want to make. I enjoy being very busy and am able to handle a lot. I wanted to walk away feeling like a made a lasting impact, and maybe I did…..but I know that I could have done more to help. Determining the balance between creative work and structured work with an actual "to do" list needs to be thought through. I suppose you get back what you put into it….right? Anyway, just a thought, not necessarily a criticism.

I would rejoin CCS for another trip in the future. Thanks!

More feedback...

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?

Some

Did the organization use your time wisely?

Somewhat badly

Would you recommend this group to a friend?

Likely

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2013

December 6, 2013
1 person found this review helpful

more

December 6, 2013
1 person found this review helpful

I have not actually conducted business with Cross-Cultural Solutions but judging by some of the comments here about CCS, it doesn't look like I EVER will conduct business with them.
I personally have done calculations and the fees they are charging are INSANE!! This is India were talking
about folks, not HAWAII! $9395 for 12 weeks? They're smoking something funny! That's just INSANE!! Are people actually paying that to go volunteer??
What ever happened to the NGO picking up the tab for everything and in return you volunteer with no salary? I find most of the NGOs's to be a bit of scam. They are just making WAY TOO MUCH money in fees for what is supposed to be a truly non-profit organization.

I'm glad I found out before I laid my money down!

Not a sucker this time around.....

Ways to make it better...

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

I would fire the EX Director who is making almost $300K a year, clean house and replace all the corrupt ones and charge a feel that is more in line with the rest of them.!

More feedback...

Would you volunteer for this group again?

No

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

None

Did the organization use your time wisely?

Badly

Would you recommend this group to a friend?

No

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2013

December 4, 2013

more

December 4, 2013

I will never forget my experience working at a nursery school in Tanzania. The children were eager to learn and so loving. Everyone was so helpful and willing to help you in any way they could. The other volunteers are very friendly and I learned much from them. This was a once in a lifetime experience.

More feedback...

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?

Some

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?

2013

November 19, 2013
2 people found this review helpful

more

November 19, 2013
2 people found this review helpful

I was in Cartago, Costa Rica from October 6 - October 19, 2013. I was placed in a mini day care center with average age of the children from 2 to 8 years old. We probably averaged about 8-10 children a day. Some were just learning how to communicate and others were well passes that. My Spanish was not very good so I tried my best to figure out how to communicate with not only the children but also the "Tia" or house mother. It was an experience that far exceeded any expectations that I had prior to going there. The children were so special and came from broken homes with not much. The inspiration for me was how these children showed up everyday with a smile on their adorable little faces. The CCS staff was truly amazing! They are so professional and love what they do. What an unbelievable experience that will bring a smile to my face every single time I think of those children and my experience with CCS!

More feedback...

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?

2013

November 3, 2013
2 people found this review helpful

more

November 3, 2013
2 people found this review helpful

I loved the people at cross cultural solutions and my assignment! Everyone was so helpful and kind, and I was so impressed with the organization and how it was run. Every detail from security to cleanliness was top notch! I did not have a single bad experience during my two week stay in Guatemala City..all exceeded my expectations. I highly recommend CCS to all my friends who want to volunteer internationally.

Ways to make it better...

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

Not change anything!

More feedback...

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?

2013

November 2, 2013
1 person found this review helpful

more

November 2, 2013
1 person found this review helpful

I was placed at the Karanga Catholic Nursery in Moshi, Tanzania in October 2013. When I stepped off the van all the kids ran up to me and gave me hugs. There were two girls, each one of them came up and held my hand and wouldn't let go. They wouldn't let any of the other kids hold my hand either. I looked down at these girls and saw sparkles in their eyes and I knew, at that moment, that I loved them and loved being in Tanzania. The staff was absolutely wonderful. They are very supportive and helpful. It was the greatest experience of my life and one that I will never forget.

More feedback...

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?

2013

Filter by reviewer role:

Support This Nonprofit

Help this nonprofit get more reviews

5 tips for getting reviews

5 tips for getting reviews...

  1. Sending an email to clients, volunteers, donors, board members, and other partners with a link to your profile page.
  2. Putting a link on your Web site
  3. Including a link in your email newsletter
  4. Putting a link in the signature of your email
    Putting a link on your facebook page and status updates
  5. Tweeting out a link to your twitter followers