American Jewish world service is the worst organization I've ever gone on a trip with. I attended their week long program in Nicaragua in January 2012 with a group of all college students. I did not really know how the organization worked before hand, but I came in with the idea that we would be helping a small community build a grain silo to help with their agriculture. What actually happened is we were kept in a heavily fortified compound with a armed guard. The only time we were allowed to leave is when we were taken to the community to dig trenches for 5 hours a day. Oh yeah last minute they decided we were better suited to dig trenches in hard-as-rock ground. I actually had no problem with doing this seeing that we were bringing running water to this village for the first time. The thing that really pissed me off is after these long mornings of hard work we went back to the compound and had to sit through lectures and activities for another 4 hours. They tried to force into our heads over and over again why we needed to volunteer more and become a citizen of the world. Honestly they were preaching to the wrong crowd. Clearly we were already on a service trip! The big problems arose when they found the alcohol I had bought. Now the drinking age in Nicaragua is 16 and having known this beforehand I planned to buy alcohol right when I got there, which me and my friend both did. Realizing we didn't have a lot of opportunity to drink we snuck a few here and there. Upon finding us pouring the liquor, our group leader made us all have a long discussion and told us that he would have to talk to their offices in NY. This is all occurring on Wednesday by the way. I hadn't read the rules or the contract before going so I didn't really know the repercussions of getting in trouble. The next day the group leader said we were going home for breaking the rules and the before you know it were in a taxi heading to the airport. So there we were on a flight home with only 2 days left in the whole trip. I get home and look over the rules only to find out our group leader had lied to our faces over and over again. They had no right to kick us out of the country and force us into signing documents. I could have easily stayed on my own till my flight Saturday as I have traveled a lot by myself and am not a minor. The organization treated us all like children, which we are not, and made a fool of itself. Being with them is almost like being in a Nazi work camp. NO ONE SHOULD DO A TRIP WITH THEM!!!!!
Review from CharityNavigator
I have donated to them for many years and have had the amazing opportunity to travel with them to Africa and India to see their work first hand. They do amazing work in many countries around the world.
I spent summer 2008 in Honduras working with an NGO in the community of Gracias. We worked for seven weeks building a community center. I was impressed with the AJWS's organization of the trip and the curriculum that went along with the program. We were able to learn about the poverty and problems that are causing it as well as how to reduce its impact.
I spent my summer in 2008 on a Volunteer Summer program in El Horno, Nicaragua. Working along side with Fundacion Denis Ernesto GonzÃ¡lez LÃ³pez, we assisted in building a community center in order for the NGO to provided sustainable agricultural techniques to farmers as well as to bring in income to provide more micro- grants to local farmers. AJWS provided me with an amazing experience as well as knowledge of social justice issues. AJWS is an amazing organizations and since working with them it has been hard to find other groups that is as dedicated to alleviating poverty. My experience with AJWS has been the major turning point in becoming a global citizen and living responsibly. AJWS provides participants with the essential tools to assess and address social justice issues.
AJWS is a first class organization! I spent a summer volunteering with them in Uganda and another summer in Cambodia. The orientation material was outstanding as was the application process. I felt well looked after even though I was half way around the world from the NY office. Both placements had in-country reps and I was connected with other volunteers who I would meet up with in the capitals once or twice. The two NGOs were great matches for my administrative and teaching skills. Thank you AJWS!
I volunteered with AJWS in Honduras during the summer of 2007 and interned with the grants department in 2008. Having seen the organization on the ground and behind the scenes, I can confidently say that AJWS does extraordinary work and goes above and beyond the call of duty in order to pursue tikkun olam across the planet.
I was in the volunteer corps program for 2 months in India. AJWS did a superb job providing orientation, training, and support before, during, and after my placement in India. They found a good match for my skills and abilities and AJWS has positive relationships with NGOs who are doing transformative work in India. They spend a lot of time and energy making these placements productive for the volunteers and the NGOs.
AJWS runs incredible programs, promoting human rights and social justice all over the world. In doing so they benefit the entire Jewish people by sharing with the rest of the world the importance of tikkun olam-- repairing the world-- to the Jewish people. I have donated money to their campaigns every year and have also participated in their Alternative Break Program to Nicaragua. They infuse the Jewish roots of helping others into hands-on service, creating Jewish leaders and individuals committed to helping make the world a better place.
I participated in the AJWS VS Program. It was an amazing experience. They took a lot of time to help us understand global poverty, its implications and how we can best try to fix it, and really educated our group. We also were involved in Honduran culture and took time to visit the campesinos and understand their lives and the challenges they face.
I traveled as a college student on volunteer summer AJWS to Nicaragua. It was not just the summer component but incredible opportunities afterwords such as domestic year long program that was worth every moment. I recommend AJWS to EVERYONE. this was a positive life changing experience and a lifetime community of support and opportunity. everything is perfect about the program.
The work that AJWS does globally and nationally is phenomenal. Their philosophy of working with local grassroots organizations that are already in existence allows them to be in touch with what local communities actually need--a model other organizations should adopt. In addition, their contributions to the education and experiences of American Jews is incredible and important.
I have been a group leader for service trips to Central America with AJWS and I am also a member of the steering committee of Global Circle, the organization's new young leadership initiative.
We have volunteered for the AJWS since 2000 for 3 1/2 months each year in Thailand, India, Uganda (2 times) Namibia, Ghana, Kenya, and for a shorter time in Mexico. Through this partnership we have been able to make an impact on communities and individuals, and become more educated and sensitized ourselves. Check out our blog at wwww.peterandhindas.blogspot.com, and our videos at www.youtube.com/hindapeter to learn more about AJWS and us. Peter and Hinda Schnurman
Before leaving for a three month stint in Thailand with AJWS, I figured I would have a "nice and interesting" experience. I had no idea it would change the course of my life and impact me so deeply. As an English teacher with immigrants from Burma, I saw firsthand the struggles that people live with on a day-to-day basis with regard to basic human rights. While I am Jewish and the women of my organization were devout Christians, I saw us overcome our religious differences and work together toward improving the quality of life for those who have very few opportunities. It wasn't about Jew, Christian, Asian or North American. It was about humanity and doing what's right. Currently, I am working as a social worker in New York City, but the lessons that I took away from my experience with AJWS are with me always.
I am currently in India volunteering for AJWS, and I couldn't be happier. they matched me with a local NGO perfectly; we are such a good fit. I got ample support and preparation, and the staff in New York is always available whenever I need them. they check up on how everything is going in a number of ways, but always in a supportive way, never in a way that makes me feel they don't trust me. the organization with which i am working does incredible work, and i am able to really help them given my particular set of skills and background. AJWS has always been very responsive to anything I need or want. When i think of the amazing work they do around the world, I am proud that they are living the idea of Tikkun Olam, or the Jewish directive to help heal the world. As a Jewish organization, they are very involved in issues of genocide and racism, and they do a lot of work in Darfur, but they are also interested in women's issues, helping underprivileged or underrepresented groups of people, and many other forms of service work. The way they work is to partner with local service organizations, and that helps in so many ways. it helps directly, and it also helps those organizations develop sustainability long after the AJWS grants or volunteers have gone. I am extremely grateful for the opportunity they have given me to serve India, a country I love.
My wife and I (a nurse/doctor team) have volunteered with American Jewish World Service on three occasions, one in Uganda and two in Thailand. We have been so fortunate in getting to know staff from the New York City offices both on their site and in the field. The purposes, goals, methods of operation of AJWS are beautifully spelled out in their literature. The people who work for AJWS are so bright, warm, passionate and compassionate, and work so effectively with people in all settings. We had the utter joy of working, in January-March, 2009, again with a Burmese group in southern Thailand serving Burmese refugees. We started with a week's orientation in Chang Mai led by two most wonderful young women from the central offices of AJWS. It was a sensitive, cohesive, well orchestrated and immensely helpful orientation, even for us, who had worked on two previous occasions with AJWS. Defining community-based organizations in multiple countries, using staff on a regional basis who visit all organizations to whom volunteers are sent forms the operational base for AJWS. Volunteers are linked according to their skills and interests. In our case, we worked on issues related to health; yet, we were meaningfully challenged in much broader ways, working with deeply committed and caring staff within the NGO we were assigned to. Our experiences have been so moving, so dear, so interesting and exciting, and have enabled us to maintain contact with a coterie of new friends in other cultures and countries. AJWS is simply a great organization, mobilizing the very best in Jewish life, history and thinking and applying that in a heartfelt way to help meet the needs of people in need. From the leadership of the organization through all of its staff and on to its linkages with people's organizations, AJWS maintains the highest level of dignity, ethics and intense commitment.
I traveled to Kanchipuram, India with AJWS as part of their Volunteer Summer program in 2008. The program was the most meaningful thing I have done with my entire life and has completely changed my path. Because of my experience with AJWS, I have now decided to pursue international development after graduation. The summer program I did also included a year-long domestic component the following year. Rather than let one amazing summer experience stand on its own, AJWS gave me and my fellow participants the necessary tools to take our experiences in India and transform them into continued meaningful change back in the United States. AJWS knows what they are doing. They are able to work on a grassroots, culturally-aware level with their grantees and provide the assistance needed in the developing world in sensitive and effective ways. AJWS serves as a model for a successful international development organization. AJWS also ensures that their work doesn't just happen overseas--their work in the secular and Jewish communities aims to educate people about international poverty and development, and is quite successful. AJWS is an amazing organization and I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to work with them.