If offered full time employment at the orphanage I was assigned to volunteer at, and if not for the grandchildren I cherish at home, I’d still be in Guatemala. I’ve never been so profoundly moved and have never gathered as much knowledge in the short 7 days I spent with CCS. I learned about cultural differences, tradition, history, and politics, and most importantly I learned things about myself. The preconceptions I had about extreme poverty and the people that live in it led me to believe I had to be on guard at all times from fear of being robbed or cheated. Example; I’d watched a man sprint an entire city block just to return a shopping bag accidentally left at his store by one of my classmates. This was my "a-ha moment". All my life I’ve taken pride in my ability to instantly sum up any situation and a person’s character with a glance. I was wrong. I don’t have or have never had this ability and when I realized it my eyes were open to a world I never knew existed. I can’t wait to work with CCS again.
Thank you, Matt Biaso, Guatemala, 5/15
I spent 3 amazing weeks in Cartago, Costa Rica during May 2015. No words can truly describe how completely spectacular this experience was. The relationships I made in the short 3 weeks are now everlasting friendships. My assignment that I requested was at the HIV home, and I am so glad to have been placed there. Everyone was so grateful even if it was the smallest thing. Saying goodbye was the hardest thing I've had to do, and I cried during each one. The in-country staff was so outstanding that I consider these people more of family than I consider staff. They make you feel so at home and are there for you no matter what you need. So compassionate, so caring, and such amazing individuals. Adjusting back to my life in the States has been a complete struggle, but that's only because this organization is so outstanding. I would go through CCS again and again for years to come.
It's hard to believe that only a week ago I was in Rabat, Morocco, ending a week of service with Cross Cultural Solutions. I am a faculty member at Valencia College in Orlando, Florida and I was with a group of faculty and students from Hillsborough Community College in Tampa.
Although we were well-prepared by CCS staff prior to actually getting to Morocco, it was the in-country staff that brought the experience to life. Mohamed Mhmmoudi, CCS Morocco Director, and his staff made us feel at home and helped us connect to Moroccan culture. Our service locations were a Women's Center for adults to learn and practice English, a Children's Hospital, and an orphanage where we worked with children with special needs. Each service location welcomed our assistance and made us feel valued. CCS staff also led Moroccan cultural experiences on cooking, language, and religion as well as opportunities to visit key sites and experiences in Rabat such as ancient Roman/Moroccan ruins, the medina, and the casbah. Our home base was, indeed, our home away from home. Meals literally provided us with literal "tastes" of Moroccan cuisine. The home base was well-maintained, comfortable, safe and secure. I am convinced that being a part of CCS was the ideal way to experience Morocco.
In one word to sum up my experience: Amazing
In one word to sum up what I experienced: Growth
In one word to sum up what I felt in India: Gratitude
Volunteering in Dharamsala India with my 17 year old daughter was an experience of a lifetime. I am blessed to have found such a wonderful organization who made the process simple. I am a life coach and learned more about myself during the two weeks in India, then I learned in a year of career training. I would recommend anyone who is looking for an amazing opportunity to travel, learn, immerse and grow to take the leap and use CCS as your guide through the process. The staff was amazing, knowledgeable, fun, and truly wanted us to have the best experience possible....mission accomplished! I plan to take groups of women over for my business to have the same experience....CCS will be my partner Organization!
If Casablanca and a sunset camel ride into the desert doesn't get you - volunteer with CCS in Rabat, Morocco . While those images are great - the smiles you get from the special needs children at the orphanage, where I was stationed, will last forever. The opportunities for educational travel are great - but can not hold a candle to the staff and educational experiences right at your home base -they will carry you for however long you stay!
I volunteered in Thailand with CCS and it honestly changed my life! I couldn't find any family or friends to go with me which was a bummer, so I was thrilled when I came across CCS and their home-base model. It was comforting to know that I would be with other volunteers and in-country staff throughout the program. I had traveled a lot before, but this was my first big solo international trip and once enrolled, my Program Specialist made sure I was totally prepared before I went which eased my mind and my parents! She was always available to answer questions about what to pack or expect.
The program itself was incredible. I was really able to learn so much about the Thai culture through the activities in the afternoon. We visited pretty much all of the temples, met with monks and even learned to cook Pad Thai. Pimsuda and her team are the best! What really made the program though was the work I assisted with in a school for children with disabilities. Though their amenities were nicer than I expected, it was easy to see they were a bit short staffed! I helped teach swimming for OT/PT therapy and worked in the classrooms to assist in teaching English! I knew I was making an impact not only because of the relationships I was building with kids and teachers, but because I was also continuing an English project were another recent volunteer left off. It was cool to see the kids progressing in the 4 weeks I was there. The teachers also took me in as one of their own, despite any language barrier and invited me to lunch breaks, after work gatherings etc! It was the best way to take in the culture. I met a lot of tourists during my weekend travel to the beaches or Chang Mai and they had no where near the cultural insight or appreciation for Thailand that myself and other CCS volunteers had. I now know that volunteering is the best type of travel and will be returning for another CCS program soon!
I had an AMAZING experience with CCS! It really allowed me to travel independently as a women and completely immerse myself in a new culture. I volunteered in Ghana, India, and Peru and I felt that CCS does a great job of balancing volunteering with cultural learning or immersion and free time to experience the culture. I volunteered in an orphanage in Ghana, a women's group teaching English in India, and in an elderly center in Lima, Peru. The volunteering challenged me and I felt that the local community greatly benefited from my volunteering. I would recommend this program to all my family and friends! It's such a great and meaningful experience and has changed my view of the world.
I just returned from my second trip with Cross-Cultural Solutions in Rabat, Morocco. Each trip was absolutely wonderful and without a single complaint. The staff is amazingly wonderful from the van driver who delivers us and picks us up from our volunteer placements, the guard who always greets us at the gate with a smile, the cook who prepares fantastic Moroccan dishes and will definitely accommodate particular needs in diets, the house manager who keeps things organized and also provides some of our afternoon lectures, and the country director who makes sure our placements are suited to us, is our afternoon lecturer on many topics, and serves as the person to go to with any assistance we might need. He always made time and treated each question with equal importance. My volunteer placement during this 4 week trip was at an orphanage for children with extreme special needs. We had about 25 children, ages 3 to 30ish. Our jobs were to help feed the children breakfast, which could take up to 45 minutes, and then play with them, stroll them in their wheel chairs, hold the small ones, help with crafts, or listen to music accompanied by shaking some noise makers. In spite of extreme disabilities, these children stole my heart quickly. The staff was wonderful in helping us to become helpful. They were patient and very appreciative. In a few days we were able to be somewhat independent, knowing what was required of us. The staff spoke some, but limited, English. If we didn't understand, we could always follow by example. It would have been beneficial to speak French since it was the staff's strong second language, however, I speak no French and felt fine with creative communication. Other placements were teaching English as a Second Language or playing with children in a general hospital who were undergoing long term care, using crafts and music, Since it is 'cross cultural' part of the mission is for the volunteers to learn and understand the local culture. In the afternoons we had a class in cooking, Islam, women in Morocco, language, or script, for examples. The depth of the staff's knowledge was absolutely amazing. Their willingness to answer any questions made the afternoon sessions feel more like conversational learning. Our home base was very nice and comfortable. Our sleeping was dorm style with bunk beds. The neighborhood felt quite safe. I am a runner and, as a woman, was very comfortable running alone before breakfast. There are restaurants and coffee shops very nearby, plus other shops, if needed. Local extra-curricular travel by taxi was never a problem. If we wanted to go somewhere and doubted that we could make ourselves understood the staff would write it out in Arabic. As far as week-end travel, there are many enchanting places to go including the desert, Marrakesh, Fez, Chefchouaen, and beach locations. We traveled by bus and train. Again, without any problems. While traveling if there were questions it seemed there was always someone around who could answer our questions in English or French. Before each trip to Morocco I was asked many times by friends, "Is it safe?" I can only say that my experience from the moment I arrived at the airport in Rabat was a sense of absolute friendliness, being comfortable, and a feeling of being safe. I will definitely be making a third trip there.
I volunteered in lima, peru. I enjoyed my experience, and the staff members were all kind and accommodating of my special dietary needs, which I really appreciated. The senior citizen center where I volunteered was well staffed and over staffed with volunteers. I think that I expected that my service would be needed, and it wasn't, though I was glad to be able to help in the community by rebuilding portions of a house for the cutest little women I've met to date! Getting to know the people and the history of the community was rewarding, and I'm glad I went, I just found myself searching for purpose in my travel and expense as I was clearly not needed. I did find purpose and joy in the little bit of service that I was able to participate in, I just expected the service aspect to be more valuable to the people then it was. My experience led me to the realization that ccs is a vacation organization with a little bit of service instead of the other way around. As long as you understand that, and understand that you are paying 2500$+ for transportation to and from the airport and to and from your volunteer placement, a place to sleep and food to eat, and nothing else, you'll likely really enjoy it. The money wasn't an issue with me, so i really don't resent it, but if I had been saving for a long time, I probably would have. I could have stayed in a 5 star hotel with 5 star meals and gotten my own transportation and traveled around a bit for that price, but, the fact that I was traveling alone for the first time, staying with other volunteers made my trip more enjoyable. I really did enjoy getting to know the other volunteers. I would say that if this is your first time traveling abroad, and you feel nervous about it, ccs is a comfortable way to go, if you can afford the upfront expense and all the expenses of your travels in country. The "cultural immersion" activities were really more of a bother then an enjoyable part of the program, though I did enjoy learning about the history of the community. Now that I've been to Lima and seen how comfortable I am in that city, I would not return their with ccs. I, personally, would have a more meaningful experience with something more authentic and service oriented, as the service was more of a motivating factor for me then the vacation was, and I found myself with a significant amount of time to kill, and really didn't have the extra cash to do any significant traveling in country.
I did have one other motive in going and that was to see if ccs would be a good program for my high school age niece to participate in on her own, for the service and the culture. During my stay, there were three 18 year old kids, one still in high school, who liked to stay out past curfew and drink and party all weekend. Though there were technically rules in place about those issues, they were not enforced, and the kids were left to wander the city on there own at night, drunk. Though there was someone to open the door for them at any hour, and the night guard did call the director, he did not enforce the rules. This would have been an uncomfortable living arrangement for my niece, and a lonely one, with very little support, so it isn't likely that I will send her out with ccs either.
I am giving 2 stars because I enjoyed my trip and I was grateful to not be bothered with finding vegetarian meals. I'm not giving more because I felt that ccs did not manage my money (there were 11 staff members half of whom I didn't know what their job was) my time or my service well, they did not live up to their clearly written rules on safety as displayed on their website (the seat belts in the vans didn't work, they didn't enforce curfew or drinking rules, etc.) and the cultural immersion was almost entirely self-directed and a further expense to myself.
CCS was absolutely AMAZING!!! This was my first time traveling abroad and I was VERY nervous... My anxiety was immediately relieved when I met Mohamed at the airport in Morocco!!! Everyone at the home base made me feel right at home! The accommodations were up to par and we were very well fed with very yummy Moroccan dishes! CCS provides many great opportunities to learn about the culture and immerse yourself completely! The volunteer placements are well researched and meaningful! I worked at the orphanage with the special needs kids and it was so rewarding and all of the staff was very nice! Most importantly, I felt safe!! This experience was life changing!!!
I just completed two weeks of volunteer work in Cartago, Costa Rica. I have done volunteer work in several other countries around the world (Guatemala, Trinidad, Kenya, Jamaica), but the CCS experience has been the best. The work that I did was rewarding itself (helping a teacher and a cafeteria worker at a local school) . Above and beyond that, however, the CCS staff made the in-country experience comprehensive. We had optional classes to help us learn and understand the local language (taught by a top-notch instructor). Other options were visits to local areas of historical and cultural interest. These optional classes/trips helped me to gain a deeper appreciation for the host country and its people. We had instruction on how to do the local dances (i.e. mambo, salsa, etc); and we had three amazing meals at the "homebase" everyday.
It's possible to become so absorbed in doing "the volunteer work" in a country that one can totally miss the "bigger picture" of the country. CCS is interested in making sure that its volunteers have a "Total Experience" because that gives the volunteers a greater "connection" with the country's people.
Although I would love to return to Cartago, there are other countries where CCS is based; I plan to explore some of these. Also, I plan to share my knowledge of CCS with high school students and others who may be looking for a top quality mission/volunteer experience.
Absolutely Amazing. I was able to serve in Cartago, Costa Rica over my Spring Break. CCS allows you to see the real culture, people and cuisine of the country you are in. There are many concerns about "Charity Tourism" and its problems. CCS; however, has a constant presence in their community and the work they do is badly needed. While the trip was a little more expensive than other volunteering trips, they amount of activities we did and the difference we made up for any and all expenses. My week with CCS Costa Rica has been the best day of my life.
I had the privilege of volunteering through the CCS in India program in March 2015 and I cannot overemphasize what an incredible, transformative experience it was. The staff genuinely cared about our group's experiences there and did everything to ensure our comfort, safety and learning about Indian culture. The flats were very comfortable and the food was incredible. They were also very responsive to requests of all kinds as well as ensuring that we had fun in our off time. I loved it so much that I hope to go back.
I was a part of CCS India in March 2015 and it was one of the most meaningful experiences of my life. I felt safe and comfortable during my stay and the CCS staff was amazing. I would love to volunteer at other CCS locations in the future and encourage everyone to look into their programs.
CCS is an organization where the magic of the program happens "in-country"! The local staffs provide a great experience that combines volunteering in the mornings with cultural immersion programs in the afternoons. And of course there is time to explore on your own, which I would highly recommend doing. Traveling on the weekends is a highlight for any abroad trip. It's a great way to meet others.
While the program fee is a bit expensive, I think that overall the program meets expectations. You could go with someone else, but you definitely won't have the same level of support. Moreover, I encourage anyone to ask questions before signing up; what does an average day looks like, how much of my day is spent volunteering, where is my money going when I pay the program fee, review the financials of an organization, and most importantly to evaluate the impact that you will have (at the community level as a volunteer and you as an individual in what you will learn).
Good luck in your search and keep an open mind when it comes to learning about new cultures!
I was fortunate enough to experience Lima, Peru for 3 weeks with Cross-Cultural Solutions. The team and the volunteers at the placement were so welcoming and frankly all amazing people. I worked at both the school and the senior center. Both experiences were amazing and left me with memories I will carry forever. I learned so much from the short time I was there from the people I met, the rich culture and the beautiful surroundings. Lima is now my new favorite place in this world and I plan on returning as soon as possible. Thanks CCS! I highly reccomend this company for anyone who is interested in international volunteering.
I volunteered at CCS India Dharamsala this summer during the month of July. Every portion of the volunteer experience, from my placement to the cultural events planned were extremely well executed. As a special education teacher, although a position was not promised, the crew in Dharamsala worked hard to make sure that my volunteer experience would align with my training. I hope to be able to volunteer with CCS again, as many of the volunteers who I worked with this summer were on their second or third trip and it seems that all the locations are as well run as India.
I volunteered in New Delhi, India for 2 weeks and absolutely loved it. My placement was eye-opening and inspiring all at the same time. The social workers and teachers at the placement were supportive and so pleasant to work with. But most of all, it was the children that grabbed my heart and will remain unforgettable. I learned so much in such a short period of time , that no text-book or course can ever provide. Hands on experience, meeting and engaging with the people and the culture, is truly the greatest way of growing , learning, and expanding as a person. The change within you will only be felt and noticed once you return home to your routine life . It'll hit you and wow you simultaneously. No other travel experience has enriched me as the one I completed with cross-cultural solutions. I am still glowing from my adventure 3 weeks later...... !! :)
I volunteered in Lima, Peru for 2 weeks. I met some amazing people and sharing a house with them was always eventful! It was a great experience, the food was delicious every meal and we were allowed the independence I expected to wander off on our own during free time to explore. I was at Inabif working with the children, (I definitely recommend the older kids) they were so appreciative and excited to learn from us, especially listen to our English. The language barrier was difficult but I managed fine with my high school experience! Kique, our house manager was awesome. I'm definitely looking into other locations for the future. Thanks!!
My husband and I just completed a 2 week volunteer assignment with CCS at San Rafael Adult Day Care and Nursing Home. What an incredible opportunity. Sandra and Lorena provide an amazing opportunity for the people coming to the center.
The CCS crew at the CCS Home Base were amazing. They provided us with help, activities, learning opportunities, etc. What an amazing, fun, caring staff. They made us feel so at home.
The adults that we got to work with at the Day Care were so appreciative as was the staff at the placement. It was so exciting to see their eyes light up every morning when we arrived. I will not forget these special people.
I plan to volunteer in Cartago again.
I would recommend this opportunity to everyone. It changed how I look at volunteering and being immersed in a different culture.