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2019 Top-Rated Nonprofit

Center for Humanitarian Outreach and Intercultural Exchange (CHOICE Humanitarian)

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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: International, International Development

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.

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!

Community Stories

39 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Great people with a great service helping to end extreme poverty!

Nicole U.2

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I support Choice Humanitarian because they're not just a goodhearted relief organization, Choice has a proven, sustainable model for ELIMINATING poverty that is working! They really understand that poverty is a complex problem and there's not a one-size-fits-all solution. In every village where they work, they spend time understanding the leadership structure and working with the villagers to determine what they need to thrive instead of just survive. I'm just so impressed with what Choice is doing and excited at their potential.

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

I love Choice's model of ending extreme poverty by creating and promoting sustainable solutions. The efforts of Choice Humanitarian are changing lives throughout the world, and giving people real opportunities to rise out of and above poverty. I've had multiple opportunities to engage with Choice Humanitarian's headquarters and in-country staff members, and can speak for their complete commitment and love for their work. I'm grateful for the vision and work of this organization and look forward to participating in their efforts to end extreme poverty for years to come.

Donor

Rating: 5

CHOICE Humanitarian has a proven track record of ending extreme poverty - in the past one village at a time, now dozens of villages at a time. CHOICE is scaling and it is on the move to eradicate poverty in Peru, Ecuador, Kenya, Bolivia, Mexico, Nepal, and Guatemala. In 2014, a multi-year pilot program in Nepal, with meticulous analytics, proved that building village leadership with local leaders who define and drive community projects, was key to moving an entire region out of extreme poverty. Developing local leaders to facilitate community growth and leadership elevated communities into productivity, where they could begin to think forward and dream, not just survive day to day. Read "Extreme Poverty Eliminated!"

Previous Stories
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Board Member

Rating: 5

CHOICE Humanitarian is the real deal. The organization has been perfecting its village driven leadership programs for over thirty years. With recent analytics, the organization has documented reducing extreme poverty in an entire region in Nepal. Scaling the CHOICE model from one village at a time to an entire region sets a new precedent for CHOICE. CHOICE’s commitment to ending extreme poverty is thriving and it’s exciting work. It’s changing lives, by partnering capable people with potential and ingenuity with opportunity.

Board Member

Rating: 5

My family and I have been involved with Choice Humanitarian for many years. We love the Choice Humanitarian model that helps the different countries around the world become self developing and self sustaining when Choice Humanitarians organization is gone. I love how the villagers come together and use their own resources to solve their problems and take ownership of their own path out of extreme poverty. The second reason I love Choice Humanitarian is that my children through their service have become lifelong humanitarians. They have worked hand in hand and side by side with members of these villages and have developed life long bonds. After 20 years my children are still participating in expeditions and fundraising efforts with Choice Humanitarian.

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

CHOICE's model empowers people to create their own path out of poverty by providing hand-ups rather than handouts. There model has been tested and proven over the past 37 years and is truly a sustainable approach. The model that they use gives me confidence in the organization. I went on an expedition to Bolivia and it was incredible to see that the villagers were the ones to own the water project that we worked on. Too often, I have gone on humanitarian trips and seen that it is the traveler's project, not the community's. This was not the case with CHOICE!

Board Member

Rating: 5

Our family has been involved with CHOICE since 1998 when we took our first expedition to Mexico. We have loved our involvement from that first trip and have participated in multiple trips with all of our children. CHOICE’s approach has been defining in so many ways. When villagers have challenges and are part of the solution, they OWN their circumstances because they have “skin in the game.” We merely assist THEM in the work. There are so many groups/charities that strive to do good in the world, but CHOICE’s model for sustainability sets it apart with an In-Country staff in every country where they work. This model helps villagers elevate themselves.

Sarah J. W.

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

This organization has changed my life for the better. I made a decision to go on an expedition 10 years ago and it was hands down, the best thing I have done in my life thus far. They understand the complexities of international development and how they can put the bulk of the responsibility on the village themselves and empower, collaborate, direct and share how extreme poverty can be eliminated. They trust the poor and believe that they can have a better life within their own unique set of circumstances. I have been to 4 of the 7 countries and am a CHOICE supporter for life!!

Nathan C.1

Donor

Rating: 5

CHOICE Humanitarian changed the course of my life when I went on an expedition with them as an engineering student. I was able to experience first hand the kind of impact they are having in their ever-growing circle of influence. I was inspired to pursue work in community development and will now be a lifetime volunteer, donor, and family member at CHOICE!

Volunteer

Rating: 5

More than 15 years ago, my husband and I decided to do something amazing. . .take our children to Kenya to engage in a humanitarian expedition in a remote village. Our project was the construction of a school, our purpose was to do something good, to provide a meaningful learning experience for our children and educational opportunity for a community that heretofore had none. We selected CHOICE Humanitarian to be our vehicle and what a blessing that decision has been for our family ever since.
I have been involved with CHOICE since that first encounter and now I lead expeditions, taking individuals to impoverished communities to learn, to grow and to establish friendships that are lasting. It is a great blessing to witness first hand the transformation from busy life volunteer to humble, grateful volunteer. To see relationships formed without the advantage of a common language, but a common desire for goodness, acceptance and love. To know, that children will be educated, that a community will begin to prosper and that lives will be blessed on both sides of the service equation.

Previous Stories

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

CHOICE Humanitarian exceeds the measure of excellence through quantifiable data but more importantly, CHOICE is providing a proven platform of development that elevates communities through individual leadership capacity training, education, opportunities, guidance and encouragement. The CHOICE model succeeds because CHOICE recognizes the value of the individual, the importance of dignity and the power within the individual to improve their standard of living through sustainable technologies, education and the realization that the individual has the power to rise above poverty when given the opportunity.
CHOICE provides a enriching expedition experience for volunteers who seek to do some good in the world. This aspect of the model of development creates the perfect environment for volunteers to see first hand how their efforts bless the lives of so many. This is one of the elements of the win-win equation of the CHOICE model of development
CHOICE works because CHOICE believes in the infinite power within each individual and respects the dignity that comes through self- reliance and personal commitment.

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Board Member

Rating: 5

Being involved with CHOICE Humanitarian gives me the opportunity to help people in poverty solve their own problems and achieve lasting change through increased knowledge, experience, and access to resources. I know all of our seven in-country directors and many staff members (all native to each country), and I have witnessed their dedication and sacrifice as they work with village communities to organize and work together to help the extreme poor among them lift themselves to a better quality of life. I have visited communities in Nepal, Mexico, Guatemala, Ecuador, and Peru and spoken with people who have changed the trajectory of their lives through entrepreneurship training and mentoring from CHOICE facilitators. In the accompanying photo I am with Radhika Pariyar, a young widow, member of the untouchable caste in Nepal, who started a chicken and goat business after receiving training and mentoring from CHOICE and a loan from a local cooperative which CHOICE helped organize. She became respected in her community and after participating in CHOICE leadership training, she was elected to public office!

Alex K.2

Board Member

Rating: 5

Choice Humanitarian changed my life. I went on an expedition with them in 2006 to Bolivia and Peru. Bolivia sits on an elevated desert plateau more than 14,000 feet above sea level and the people are the poorest in South America. Literally living in houses made of hardened mud, the villages didn't have access to running water. Our group dug wells for clean water, and then trenched and piped the water directly to the villagers. Water is life, and this has dramatically changed their quality of life.

However, the most profound effect was the change I saw in myself. I realized how much I have (being raised in the U.S.) and how little others have. It ignited within me a desire to help, serve, and give myself to others. 13 years later this desire still burns bright.

Maria P.1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I find Choice back in 2015 and found out they had just started working with Ecuador the country that I am from. Started volunteering with them and just fell in love with their mission to end world poverty. As I read story after story of people in the countries they were helping and how they made a difference in their life I wanted to do more. I asked if I could lead some trips to my country and they were more than excited to let me. Going back to my country last year on two expeditions with Choice was a life changing experience. It was amazing to see people lending a hand to my people. You couldn't help but to fall in love with the people and the volunteers. I will always treasure that time and will always be grateful at the change Choice is making not only in Ecuador but in the other countries where they are changing people's lives. People that stopped dreaming can now dream about how they can change their lives for the good of their families and communities.

1

Board Member

Rating: 5

I've personally associated with the group for the past five years and their mission is strongly defined and honestly carried out. Everything they do is working for the greater good of those they serve.

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I first volunteered with CHOICE in 2013, traveled with them to Nepal in 2014, and have stayed involved with the organization since. I have traveled to Guatemala and Nepal with them again since, and hope to visit each of the other countries they work in soon.

The CHOICE Team, both in the US and in each country I've visited, is incredible. Competent, passionate, dedicated, and determined to create real, lasting change. The organization has learned from 35+ years of work, and the scale of impact they make is truly remarkable.

Innovative, but firmed committed to protecting and honoring the culture and traditions in the communities they work. CHOICE is a rare, top-notch NGO. I have never doubted the impact of my work or donations with CHOICE.

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I found CHOICE after a tedious internet search for humanitarian organizations I could travel with, and found more than I hoped for: a community of passionate individuals dedicated to eliminating extreme poverty! I knew I had to be a part of this! Since my discovery in 2014, I have seen volunteers, local leaders, community members, staff, and in-country teams join together in the CHOICE model to impact individuals at the village level. These village-run projects include leadership development, education, and utilization of local resources that enable poverty-stricken communities to create sustainable solutions.

As I have laughed, danced, cried, and worked side-by-side with villagers in Kenya, Guatemala, Nepal, and Peru, I have been impressed by the dedication and passion of the local community members. They are empowered to become leaders as they see a need, reach out, and take part in the projects. My personal experiences with CHOICE influenced me to further my education to broaden my ability to impact the world. As I learn about global health, I feel pleased to be a part of an organization that is doing things right in their efforts to eliminate extreme poverty. CHOICE has been a catalyst for good in the lives of thousands of people around the globe, including mine!

1 Brook B.1

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

I have worked with CHOICE (Center for Humanitarian Outreach and Intercultural Exchange) Humanitarian for 4 years now and I can honestly say they are a remarkable origination. They actually make a real, sustainable, difference in the areas they focus.

1 Leah Meissner B.

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

CHOICE Humanitarian has a leadership model of development that is changing lives in the most remote villages around the world. I have witnessed their impact first hand and seen the lives changed. Dollars are well managed and they are transparent with all of their dealings!

1 Brent B.2

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I believe in the work of CHOICE so much that I've volunteered for over 12 years. It's an amazing organization that instigates real positive change in the lives of tens of thousands of people across the globe - teaching and empowering them to continue the development on their own!

They have fine-tuned & perfected their village-driven methodology over the past 35 years. Their system educates villagers to become self-developing (instead of being reliant on outsiders for a hand-out) and spread the word to neighboring villages. It works!

I've see the work work first hand on CHOICE Humanitarian Expeditions, working side-by-side with local villagers, in Kenya, Bolivia & Nepal. Villagers lives are changed. Expeditioners lives are changed.

Time and money invested with CHOICE Humanitarian is always multiplied and never wasted.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

We were bit by the CHOICE bug four years ago when we participated in our first expedition to Nepal. It was the eye-opening, soul-stretching humanitarian experience that we'd been searching for–even far exceeding our expectations! Since then we've served in Guatemala, Peru, and Kenya with CHOICE. Our favorite part of it is working alongside the local men, women, and children, laughing and playing, and learning about their village and family life. Bonds of brother and sisterhood are formed quickly, despite our inability to speak each other's language! CHOICE–through experience and proven research–really knows how to help people raise themselves out of extreme poverty. The permanent in-country CHOICE staff (in each of 7 countries) is composed of educated men and women native to the country where they're working. CHOICE doesn't just appear in a village, build something, then leave. Instead, they identify a region of a developing country where the families are highly motivated and committed to change, identify both male and female natural leaders within the community, then implement a sustained training and mentoring program that lasts several years and teaches the people how to lever their humble resources to select and develop smart, sustainable projects that will allow them to achieve self sufficiency as individuals, families, and communities. The volunteer expeditions usually "plug into" projects that are already underway by the locals. That's the way it should be. We are convinced that CHOICE has found the formula to eliminating extreme poverty and are SO grateful to be members of The Village!

Deanna Jeanette D.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I joined this organization on a trip to Nepal and fell in love with their commitment and dedication to building stronger communities, spreading love and peace, and making the world a better place.

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I went on an expedition with my company and loved every moment of it. I felt very well taken care of, everything was planned exceptionally well, and even when certain plans didn’t work out, there was so much room for getting to know the community that it made it that much sweeter. That trip changed me in ways I couldn’t even put into words, and still have such amazing pictures and memories of what an incredible trip that was.

1

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

CHOICE is a model humanitarian organization, who employs in-country teams and engages communities locally and abroad to bring about sustainable change. I will forever be loyal to this organization and donate regularly.

2 Joseph F W.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I was introduced to Choice through my company and have now participated in three expeditions and countless other activities. Their model of development is great and always improving as they learn about what works to help people lift themselves out of poverty. If you’ve ever thought about serving abroad, I highly recommend joining a Choice Humanitarian Expedition. You will be well taken care of and have amazing opportunities to connect with beautiful people.

Doug A.2

General Member of the Public

Rating: 4

Raymond "Doug"Las Austin
The Original here to share
THE BEAST OF POVERTY
The Beast Of Poverty rides a Horse called Law as whimsical as may be the devastion lays in it's wake too see.

2

Donor

Rating: 5

Choice Humanitarian is incredible. They use every dollar wisely and are truly trying to make a difference for communities living in extreme poverty. Instead of just sending in supplies or money, they have teams on the ground that bring real change to make the communities self-sufficient and stronger on their own, thus allowing them to be independently prosperous. What a great model!

1 Devin T.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

CHOICE Humanitarian is one of the few NGOs working around the world in a constructive, grass-roots way to completely eradicate extreme poverty. Their inclusive model is designed to lift entire communities out of poverty, giving them access to the global economy. They leverage donor funds multiple times through matching grants, government and local participation. Their model has been developed over 30 years of field work and relies neither on simplistic self-reliance or "leave them to weep" training nor on dependency-building donations. This is the one to support.

1

Donor

Rating: 5

I've been passionate about gender issues and root causes of chronic persistent hunger and extreme poverty since the late 1970s. CHOICE is one of the very best organizations around that is effective and strategic. CHOICE's model is about empowering its village partners in figuring out their vision for their future and then supporting them through leadership training and other tools, to realize those visions. This model works.

The other thing I love about CHOICE is this: too often people in developed countries think we have so much to offer "poor" people, as if we had a superior way of life. Of course we have access to numerous opportunities and technologies and those scales are unbalanced, but the CHOICE model really allows those of us in developed countries to appreciate the tremendous assets, skills, and rich traditions of our human family who lives in poverty. The most resourceful, creative, and hard-working people I've met are those who scrape together what they need daily to keep their families alive. Often, in developed countries, we seem to lack a deep sense of connectedness to the world, so while our hunger is more of a spiritual nature, we have a great deal to learn from those in other parts of the world. Go on an expedition with CHOICE! Heal yourself. Change the world! CHOICE is doing just that.

1 Terry Madsen

Volunteer

Rating: 5

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.

Review from CharityNavigator

2

Donor

Rating: 5

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.

Review from CharityNavigator

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

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.

Volunteer

Rating: 2

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."

Comments ( 1 )

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kellis 04/05/2012

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

Volunteer

Rating: 4

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.

Review from CharityNavigator

Volunteer

Rating: 5

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.

Review from CharityNavigator

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

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!

Review from CharityNavigator

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

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.

Review from CharityNavigator