I can't say enough good things about this foundation as well as my experiences in the Galapagos Islands. Being the only foundation in the islands that works directly with the people, it was a wonderful opportunity to make a large impact in a small place. With this small size advantage, the leaders of the foundation had contacts that spread far and wide and this was a huge advantage for reaching the most people possible as well as using those connections to realize more possibilities and accomplishments. It truly is a wonderful place, but being so far from the mainland and with limited resources, you begin to notice how deeply it affects the population. It is such a paradise, but it takes a certain kind of person to live a lifetime on such a secluded island, thus it is difficult to bring in an ample supply of excellent physicians, health professionals, teachers, and supplies due to the cost of importing. Simple things that are taken for granted here in the states like having clean sheets every time someone steps onto the examination table or language teachers that fluently speak the language and have up to date teaching methods and materials to ensure the highest efficacy in learning, they lack. And you begin to see how this lack of education affects the population in every way. If you are not being educated, then how can you educate your children and on and on? I could talk for ages on the vast levels that this lack of education and healthcare has affected these people, but the important thing is that a little goes a long way there because of the size. They are eager to learn and this foundation provides many avenues for bridging this gap. We saw people's eyes light up with they first learned that rice, pasta, and potato are all made of carbohydrates and how important it is to have a balanced meal. Very simple fixes in diet and lifestyle choices that we never think twice about are huge epiphanies to the people of santa cruz and this foundation has helped thousands of people learn how to prevent illness, ecological problems, and more efficient teaching methods. My favorite aspect of this foundation is that it aims to alleviate the problems at the root and incorporates problem solving methods that are manageable and sustainable. Aside from this, it was a pleasure working with the people who run this foundation. I always feel that leaders of volunteer foundations are generally good hearted, genuine, and humble people, but never have I worked for a foundation with such caring people. They live within this community closely tied to the people and you can feel the close connection that they have with those they are helping. It was truly a beautiful thing and I will always appreciate their fervor for helping their neighbors. Of all the many volunteer works that I have done, never have I felt that my work has made such an impact as this one and I look forward to the opportunity to return some day to be a part of Galapagos ICE and once again witness how they have immersed, connected, and evolved along with the islanders around them.
My experience with Galapagos Ice was amazing. This is the most successful immersion program that I have worked with. Galapagos ICE is the only organization on the islands that deals solely with the people in the community. Their projects are unique and crucial to the growing community. I worked on the health campaign, and was able to represent the organization during clinic hours and the extraordinary Saturday Market services. The organization offers free exercise classes, nutrition clinic hours, and runs some important tests(blood sugar, BMI during Market days); these are all free of charge, and mostly uses volunteer manpower. I am a Nutrition Science student, and was able to tailor a portion of my project to focus on my area of study and interest. Everyday brought to light a different opportunity to help the organization grow, and to connect with the local population. It was absolutely thrilling to have the opportunity to work with Galapagos ICE.
I volunteered with Galapagos ICE for 4-weeks as part of my MBA program. I was working from the office and was in close contact with the Organization's staff. Simply put, I was amazed by what I saw. The work that Galapagos ICE does benefits so many people and the passion I saw from them touched my heart. The people of Galapagos are lucky to have such a great organization close by and I am lucky I was able to work with them.
I spent a month on the Galapagos, working for Galapagos ICE on a team project for my MBA studies. It was an amazing experience as I was able to contribute to the change the organization is going through right now (from a smaller, start up organization to a professional not-for-profit). During our stay, Emily energized all of us with her drive and charisma. Thanks to her enthusiasm I got in touch with the different aspects of the society on the Galapagos (education, health projects, etc).
It was an unforgettable experience
During one month I could be part of the Galapagos Ice Organization and was there most of the time working at the emergency hospital of St.Cruz. This pracitce was part of my practical training during the medical studies. The emergency was a good way to get in contact with the local health system. Besides that some small projects like health check for people, education and so on. A great month on Galapagos!
Review from Guidestar
Galapagos ICE is a very admirable and effective organization in that it not only provides sustainable assistance to the people of Galapagos, but also provides a life-altering experience to the volunteers. I volunteered primarily as an English teacher for ICE in 2007 for 3 months, in Santa Rosa and in Puerto Ayora.
It was in Santa Rosa that I observed ICE volunteers engage with an entire town, making dramatic improvements to the school, and teaching practical English language skills to grades 1-7. As I assisted in new volunteer orientation throughout the later part of my stay, I observed how carefully, the founder and executive director, Emily Pozo, selects and places volunteers. The accommodations she secured for each volunteer (including my own) were safe, comfortable and provided a very accurate taste of what life is like for the average Galapageano. It was an awesome experience. Because of the networking abilities of the director, I was able to have lunch in a different student's home every day. Obviously, I gained a significant exposure to a new, exciting culture and I am certain that I was able to teach Ecuadorians new ideas about "gringos."
I count this as one of the best experiences of my life. Where else could I have gone to teach English and be able to go pig hunting, cattle herding, cliff-diving, and birdwatching? I hope this organization grows exponentially because the work it does is fantastic.
I worked directly with this organization for a month last December. Myself and a colleague spent almost a month on the islands researching the renewable energy portfolio goals for the Galapagos. We attempted to help inform and learn from the people of Galapagos how the potential changes in energy generation would affect them. We studied the existing wind and solar installations as well as the plans for future expansion. We were lucky enough to spend some time with school children as well and teach and learn from them. Galapagos ICE was instrumental in every aspect of the project. There were amazing to work with and made the trip truly something I will never forget.
I was a volunteer with Galapagos ICE last December of 2009 as a part of my graduate school project. We were able to teach the school children of Santa Rosa about renewable energy as a part of some of the island's initiatives to implement more renewable energy. It was an absolutely fantastic experience and I would highly recommend this organization to anyone looking for an enriching opportunity. I hope to return to the Galapagos soon and follow up on some of the work that has been started.
If you would like more information about our work please go to my blog of the project.
About two years ago I went travelling in South America. I had always wanted to go to the Galapagos Islands as well as volunteer with a help organisation which was why Galapagosice was exactly what I was looking for. Unlike many other organisations you only have to pay for accommodation and food. I stayed with an Ecuadorian family and was very happy there, not only because they were lovely and fed me well, but also because I improved my Spanish a lot. Emily who runs Galapagosice was great, really helpful and keen to make sure that you get out what you want from the volunteering experience. The fact that it is such a small organisation run essentially by Emily and her brother means it is very personal. Definitely one of the best things I've done where I not only improved Spanish and got a taste for non profit work but also made close friends I am still in touch with.
Review from Guidestar
I was involved with Galapagos ICE a couple of summers ago when I decided to take the summer off to get involved in a volunteer project. I had come across the website online and contacted Emily to see if she had any projects that I could make a contribution to. Emily was more than helpful in placing me in an environment I was comfortable working in and in finding living quarters that I would be calling home for the next three months. My experience in the islands far exceeded what I set out to do. I had the opportunity to really commit myself to working in the hospital administering basic first aid all while having the chance to perfect my Spanish. I met locals and made friends that I will keep for a long time. The organization really helped me with any concerns that I had throughout my stay. I will always remember the time I spent in the Galapagos and recommend this organization to anyone interested in getting involved in volunteerism.
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.
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.
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.
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 organizationÂ´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.
Review from Guidestar
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.