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July 28, 2010

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July 28, 2010

Upon receiving grant money from my University to complete a social science research project in the Galapagos, I was completely lost as to how I was actually going to live and work IN the Galapagos. I was recommended by an alumnus to contact Emily Pozo of Galapagos ICE and initiated what turned out to be a two month email conversation. She helped me to find the projects and organizations that fit best with my interests and research objectives. It was very encouraging to see how sincere and dedicated Galapagos ICE was to helping the people of Galapagos. I was surprised at how much inter-agency coordination I witnessed on a day to day basis, something that is absolutely necessary to get anything done on the islands. The opportunities to work alongside Galapagos residents educated me about the islands like no publication ever could. The situation in Galapagos is incredibly unique and deserve the attention and dedication of more organizations like Galapagos ICE.

The Great!

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

living with the community of Santa Rosa and seeing the changes that Galapagos ICE inspired there.

Ways to make it better...

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

hire more employees to assist Emily on a day to day basis. While volunteers are amazing, there needs to be more reliable and consistent help.

More feedback...

What I've enjoyed the most about my experience with this nonprofit is...

working with local Galapaguenos that I otherwise never would have met.

The kinds of staff and volunteers that I met were...

enthusiastic and energetic.

If this organization had 10 million bucks, it could...

create an education program in the natural sciences for high school students to learn about the incredible gift that surrounds them every day.

Ways to make it better...

I could have stayed on for the completion of the Green School Project.

In my opinion, the biggest challenges facing this organization are...

a lack of resources, both financial and physical.

How frequently have you been involved with the organization?

One time

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2010

June 28, 2010

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June 28, 2010

I decided to take an extended career break to South America, and during my research into several non-profits, I came across ICE on the internet. Our initial contact took place while I was already in Ecuador, and Emily worked very hard at securing my volunteer opportunity. She was very diligent about asking for personal and professional references, and unlike so many so called non-profits, the organization asked for extremely reasonable registration and participation fees. From the moment we met in Puerto Ayora, Emily consistently displayed the most sincere and dedicated energy towards her multi-faceted goals of working with the community towards improving the lives of people who live in Santa Cruz, and Galapagos. I stayed in Galapagos for five weeks with ICE, and during that time, I personally witnessed the positive relationships that Emily and ICE have developed with the community, local government, and volunteers alike. Whether it was raising funds to build playgrounds and developing other educational opportunities, or facilitating various physical and mental health workshops, and actual clinics for the community, Emily was tireless in her commitments. As a tourism professional, I became involved with another branch of the organization that is connected with socially and environmentally responsible community tourism. We consulted directly with a family who asked for advice on how to develop a community tour to their organic coffee farm. From the initial contact with the family, I again witnessed the development of a special relationship. It is my hope and my intention to remain involved with ICE from afar, as I feel that this is an organization that is very worthy of funding and further commitment from volunteers for the long term.

The Great!

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

Yes,ICE is an organisation that is succeeding on the ground, and I have not only witnessed the successes, but more importantly, the potential for this organisation.

Ways to make it better...

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

My changes would be to add personel who could assist with the fundraising, so that more time could be spent on the actual development and success of the community projects.

More feedback...

What I've enjoyed the most about my experience with this nonprofit is...

Experiencing the commitment and warmth of the people.

The kinds of staff and volunteers that I met were...

from various parts of the world, and also from various professional backgrounds.

If this organization had 10 million bucks, it could...

contrubute greatly towards the health and welfare of many communities. Many non-profits focus on one facet; however, I feel that ICE is working towards a more inclusive model for developing stronger communities.

Ways to make it better...

I could have spent more time

In my opinion, the biggest challenges facing this organization are...

of course always funding.

How frequently have you been involved with the organization?

One time

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2010

June 4, 2010

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June 4, 2010

I have just finished volunteering with Galapagos ICE for three weeks. My experience was definitely a positive one. Galapagos ICE is one of the only non-profit organizations that works directly with locals to support sustainable tourism, as well as community development.It is also one of the few organizations that has an agreement with the Ecuadorian government. Any funding sent to Galapagos ICE is returned directly to the community. I worked very closely with Emily, the director, in the office. I was amazed by her dedication to the islands and to the people who inhabit them. I would recommend volunteering for this organization to anyone who has a deep rooted passion for preserving delicate communities in need of support.

The Great!

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

Seeing the affects of Galapagos ICE´s work has on the locals, and how much they appreciate our efforts.

Ways to make it better...

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

I would not make any changes to the organization itself, but I wish it was easier to get funding for the several very important projects.

More feedback...

What I've enjoyed the most about my experience with this nonprofit is...

really learning about the community from an insider´s perspective, and not just seeing what most tourists see.

The kinds of staff and volunteers that I met were...

all very welcoming and helpful, with similar goals and objectives.

If this organization had 10 million bucks, it could...

change the future of the Galapagos Islands, and the people living in them.

Ways to make it better...

I had the ability to take a hot shower!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! But my home and family that I lived with were lovely.

In my opinion, the biggest challenges facing this organization are...

funding.

How frequently have you been involved with the organization?

One time

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2010

May 28, 2010

I just finished one month of volunteer work with Galapagos ICE where I helped the organization on various marketing projects including advising on web design, creating brochures and flyers, and editing web content. While there I lived and ate with a local host family. I have no major issues with my experience, and found it to be as well-run, effective, and enjoyable as any other of the many volunteer projects in which I have participated. I got to see the value of the work we did in person. For example, we are working on beginning tourism with a local coffee farmer on Santa Cruz who has been making coffee for decades. She is a sweet lady, and it was great to see the organization´s passion for helping her out. This is a perfect example of how they help the often-overlooked population of the islands. Too often, tourists have no contact with the local population there, but this is just one example of working to support the local economy and help the local population take control of their own destinies and the fragile ecosystem around them. As far as I could tell, they are the only organization doing this kind of work with the people there instead of just the animals. I am proud to have been a part of the work Galapagos ICE is doing and can recommend them to anyone with an understanding of the importance of health and education as basic human rights and means of conserving our delicate planet.

The Great!

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

experiencing the work they do in the Galapagos, seeing the playgrounds they built, and hearing other volunteers´ stories of the individuals helped by medical campaigns.

Ways to make it better...

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

really not know what to change. Galapagos ICE was the 4th of 5 long-term volunteer projects I have done around the world in varying capacities. I have also served in full-time volunteer positions in the US and can say with certainty that they are solid.

More feedback...

What I've enjoyed the most about my experience with this nonprofit is...

knowing that I´m doing something meaningful and seeing the results in a place that needs a lot of help.

The kinds of staff and volunteers that I met were...

solid. Other volunteers were .generally very intelligent and passionate about the work, significantly more so than other volunteers I met with other organizations

If this organization had 10 million bucks, it could...

do a whole lot of good for this fragile ecosystem. Just getting reliable clean drinking water would solve the majority of health problems here.

Ways to make it better...

I had received a bit more information on the front end.

In my opinion, the biggest challenges facing this organization are...

the government. Things seem mired in a whole lot of red tape in the Galapagos. This keeps basic infrastructure in the area to a minimum. Also a general disregard for laws by the general public creates a number of problems.

One thing I'd also say is that...

the most important thing to do while in the Galapagos is to get out of town and see the beauty that is all around. Don´t lose sight of why this place is so important!

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2009

October 9, 2009

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October 9, 2009

GICE is a small nonprofit which is run by a sister and brother. She lives in the Galapagos and he does the accounting from Virginia in his spare time. It was one of the few organizations that didn't try to charge me to come volunteer as a health care worker. Myself and another occupational therapist (OT) paid them an application fee and then we were expected to pay for housing, flights etc. It was set up so that people in education and health care can come down and do a "project" but despite numerous attempts to get information before arriving we essentially arrived having no idea what we'd be doing. I specifically wanted to know what the ages and diagnoses were of the children I'd be serving and whether I'd be in a classroom or clinic setting. I only received a vague list of diagnoses. This made it difficult to bring needed supplies or prepare materials. Before going I asked them about fund raising for my project and how best to do it so people could write off their donation. I wanted to know that if people donated to them directly on the GICE website that I'd have access to the money for my project. I was assured that I would if I asked donors to specify that the money would be for my project with the disclaimer that if it didn't all get used in my project it could be used in the end for other purposes. That way the wouldn't have to return the money. It sounded reasonable at the time but I set myself up when I agreed to that. It seems that the director was more interested in getting her hands on the money after I left than helping me use it for my project. Her actions made it appear she was trying to block me at every turn. Before I get into the specifics I will note that I made every attempt to work with the director, Emily Pozo, and her brother, Eric Thomas Caldwell, to resolve these issues before I wrote this. I've repeatedly asked for the grand total amount of what was donated by my friends and family for my project but was told if they told me I'd spend it all. I still have no idea how much money was donated in my name only that it was over $2000. I also wanted a list of who donated (not amounts) so I could thank them and was told it is illegal to disclose that information. They said they'd send out a thank you letter for me and if I wrote anything negative about them they reserved the right to edit it. The lack of professionalism on their part was stunning. Once I arrived and began discovering what the needs were I wanted to start spending the estimated $2000+ I had had donated to my project but was told "no" on just about every idea or told they would do it later after I left. Emily Pozo's management style is both controlling yet not able to stay on top of things she commits herself to. Everything she is involved with appears half done (half finished library, half finished playground etc) Seeing that did not instill confidence when she'd assure me she'd finish things on my project after I left. Emily tried to use intimidation tactics to get us to do what she wanted which sometimes had nothing to do with our project. We were told in no uncertain terms that we could not work with the children one day because she needed us to go to the airport to hold up signs and greet incoming physicians for a conference we had nothing to do with. She told us only after we arrived that ALL volunteers are required to do what she wants when she wants. We refused to go to the airport saying it was not a good use of our professional skills and she did back down. The other volunteers pulled off their projects reported the airport was a total waste of time. She yelled at the other OT working with me when we she discovered that we had discussed with the local physical therapist (PT) what his needs were and told him we'd try to have a $500 climber built (with little stairs, ramp, and ladder) with the project money. Only after having gone around her and started speaking to carpenters with the PT did she agree to allow the climber to be built but she chose the carpenter and agreed with him it didn't have to be built for months. I can only hope it will actually be built and paid for with the money from my project. I was given a $100 of my $2000 plus and was told it was my spending money for my whole time there. This was suppose to be to purchase things for the children I was working with. Being an island, prices were the same as US prices so that was useless. I ended up buying things with my own money and collecting receipts. Eric told me they would determine whether my purchases were truly needed for my project and only then would they be reimbursed. There was no question that I was only spending it on the children so ultimately I was reimbursed but it took months and the whole time I wasn't confident Emily and Eric (neither of which are health care professionals) would deem it all necessary. Emily had told me about a little boy with Cerebral Palsy who lives on an island of only 100 people. The idea initially was that we'd bring him over to Santa Cruz for therapy but I was told his island had had no electricity or phones for the weeks before I arrived so it had not been arranged. I decided it made the most sense for the PT and I to go to him and do a home assessment. This would run around $200 for boat and hotel for both of us but again was told no. Emily said she'd bring him to the main city later but myself and the other OT would no longer be there. So again, I asked the PT, to help me book us a boat. Emily discovered that I was going anyway and I felt like a 10 year old sent to the principals office when she raged at me for going around her. While I could understand her frustration that I was not following her orders she really left me no choice. If I wanted to leave the islands feeling like I'd done anything useful with my time and money I had no choice but to work around her. I have unending gratitude to Dayan Acuna, the physical therapist, who helped me accomplish things that would not have happened without his willingness to help me. He put himself in the middle to help the children. To be fair there were moments when it felt like Emily and I were able to work together. When she realized it was inevitable that I was going to see the little boy with CP she went shopping with myself and the other OT to buy the family diapers, food and clothing with the project money. Their explanation to why they were being so controlling around the money was because they were concerned I'd go over budget. Yet they were unwilling to have any transparency. I thought they would calm down if I made it clear that if we found needs that exceeded what I had fund raised, I'd go back and fund raise more. I knew that if I went over budget the only risk was that I would not get all my receipts reimbursed and only I would be the one who would have to absorb it. So their explanation did not hold water. I was reassured in writing after I left that I would have a say in how the remaining money for my project would be spent. I even continued to offer to fund raise more if the needs were greater than what my project had left. A few emails were exchanged about the needs I discovered while working in the clinic and talking to the special education teachers but after a couple of weeks it all fell a part. I was informed that I could write a proposal for the remaining money and that they would only take into consideration the things I wanted my project money spent on. That is difficult to do when i have no idea how much is left. I'm guessing close to $1000 and maybe more if they don't keep their word and have the climber built. I have no confidence whatsoever that the money my friends and family donated will be put to good use. This is a poorly run non-profit that has no built in sources of income other than an application fee and a portion of housing. I told Emily that I understood that nonprofits need money to run the organization and if she had just said ahead of time that a certain percentage of all donations would be going towards administrative costs I would not have blinked. It would have been so much easier to do it that way then fight for scraps and risk doing less for the people your nonprofit was designed to help. She did take that to heart and now has a disclaimer that 10% of donations will go towards admin costs. Maybe that will save a future volunteer from experiencing what I did. I understood that other volunteers were frustrated by Emily's management style but I admit my experience was extreme. The money certainly compounded things for she and I. All I was ever asking for was a little transparency and to be respected for the professional knowledge I was hoping to share with the children. I am obviously still upset that she made this experience so difficult. It was unnecessary. I did write all this in my exit interview that she had me fill out on her computer at her house in in a word document that she can easily edit. I asked who reads the feedback in these exit interviews and she said mostly just her and sometimes her brother. I would not recommend volunteering with this organization and definitely would not recommend donating money to them. It is painful to say that because the people of the Galapagos desperately need what Emily is trying to provide. Her intentions may be good but due to poor management is it questionable how much will ever be achieved. If you do decide to volunteer with them get everything in writing and put any donations in a Paypal account that you have access to. That is the only way you can be assured that the money will actually go the people you go there to help.

The Great!

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

August 2009? Despite the hurdles thrown at me I still feel like I managed to make a small difference and left feeling like I want to do more...just not through this nonprofit.

Ways to make it better...

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

try to have it be a more organized experience for volunteers coming in i.e. more information ahead of time and helping them use their time wisely while there. I saw many great volunteers coming through that didn't get utilized to their full potential.

More feedback...

What I've enjoyed the most about my experience with this nonprofit is...

working with the children and staff that GICE put me in contact with.

The kinds of staff and volunteers that I met were...

amazing.

If this organization had 10 million bucks, it could...

get potable water and a sewage treatment plant for the islands:)

Ways to make it better...

I had been treated as a professional and the organization had had more transparency around the money donated to my project.

In my opinion, the biggest challenges facing this organization are...

lack of follow through, lack of transparency, and a lack of a collaborative management style.

One thing I'd also say is that...

I do believe the intentions are good but intentions are not enough to run a successful business.

How frequently have you been involved with the organization?

One time

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2009

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