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NGO Management - The Day-to-Day running of a small NGO

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Experience

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Community Impact

    10

  • Health and Safety

    10

  • Social Life

    10

Being busy with my volunteer position helped me feel at home fast

Before coming to the Dominican Republic I was very nervous. I was worried how life would be here and what kind of conditions I would find. I was scared for my safety and thought there would be danger everywhere. What I found was the opposite of every preconceived notion I had in my mind.
Manfred made everything really easy for me when I arrived. I knew Marcos would pick me up at the airport, and I would not have to worry about the language barrier because he speaks English and he would buy my bus ticket. Arriving is Samana was so easy for me. This helped put me at ease even before I arrived in the country.
Initially, when I booked my placement, I booked a private apartment. I am so glad that I did not end up staying there. I ended up living in the cooperative living apartment and I loved it. Being with two girls from two different countries was so much fun and made living here an amazing time! I never felt any culture shock. I quickly became comfortable with my living situation and the culture because of this. Having other people to do everything with makes adjusting much easier. We also did things on our own and that was ok too. There was mutual respect between everyone.
Another important aspect is diving right into the culture. Immediately I went to the beach, ate the food, explored the town, this made me feel more comfortable with my environment. Another easy way to adjust is practicing Spanish, even if you are not fluent. While we do have Spanish classes, the best way to practice Spanish is talking with people. Soon people began to recognize me around town and would speak to me. Everyone was quite friendly and patient. They are interested in you just as you are interested in them!
Being busy with my volunteer position helped me feel at home fast as well. Being NGO management I was included in many activities with Manfred. I was able to visit a prison with a doctor hoping to start a clinic, go to a cooperative producing coconut oil, attend meetings with different local residents, and have a better understanding of the running of an NGO. By having these different experiences, I kept busy and was able to see a more intimate look into a culture I knew very little about.
Overall, I was impressed with the amount of programs the organization offers. I think it is wonderful that you can become involved in any area you choose, either to apply your skills or gain more. I hope Manfred continues to expand the programs. I think this is a great opportunity for an individual, a group or friends, or even a family to come experience the culture, a beautiful country, and do some hands on work that will benefit a community that deserves it! No matter what age, or from what country you come, you will have an amazing experience here.

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Social Life

    10

  • Health and Safety

    10

  • Community Impact

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Volunteer Experience

    10

It turned out to be exactly what I was pursuing, I was right at the center of the organization

Hi, I’m Tim from Germany. In order to gain practical experience in the field of Management I started considering different options globally and decided to go for NGO-Management with Aldeas de Paz in the Dominican Republic. Within my studies at university I was already able to gain useful theoretical experience which I wanted to put into active use.
And let me just say this, it turned out to be exactly what I was pursuing, I was right at the center of the organization and could experience the restructuring of the organization first hand. As most of you probably already read, the organization had to move from Venezuela to the Dominican Republic in early 2015, and building up all the structures proves to be a long progress. Many things are already done and set up, specifically the school and housing structure, but other parts need further improvement.

Working within the Administration means working with human resources, financials, school and program administration and generally everything regarding the organization. Right from the very beginning there was a need to structure every single day, but I soon got into it and after a few days of work I looked forward to every new day and the new challenges.
Apart from the work, there was also more than enough time to plan trips around the peninsula of Samana for the weekends and other fun activities in or near the City of Santa Barbara de Samana, which could be done after work during the week. It is surely amazing, how many different things you can explore right where you live, right where you feel like you know every corner after living there for a week. This is something, that I can recommend everyone to do, no matter where you are, there is not always a need to travel far away.

But back to the work experience: as I’ve said, I was part of the NGO-Management program, so I’ve surely had another point of view on the programs. But from organizing and overviewing the different programs and the volunteers working in it, I can already tell that there is so much to do and every single person can have such an impact within the community. It is amazing to see, how a person new to a country, a culture or maybe even the language can be integrated, the general spirit of this peninsula and the country overall is to welcome everyone and work together – always tranquilo, but steadily – on developing and executing the ideas for the different programs. Plus, they are always open for new programs, but be prepared for a nice bit of discussion, that is something that most people are very good at! But then again, this just boosts your language skills furthermore, learning by doing just is the best way to learn!

In general I can recommend everyone that’s interested to go volunteering and for sure, Aldeas de Paz was exactly the right choice to learn about the management of a small grass-root NGO trying to find its path in new territory. If you are specifically looking for a small NGO, that focusses on bringing one particular community forward, this is the place to go to. If you are looking to experience volunteering first hand, but want to be in a safe environment to learn how it works, this is the place to go. And if you have the chance, stay longer than the one month that I was only able to stay there, because I’ve just been getting started when I had to leave. If you are willing to dive into a different culture with all the misunderstandings and different work ethics, you will find a place, where every bit of work that you do is highly appreciated, as every single step is a step forward!

Now go and see it yourself and join us in our mission to make this world a little better day by day!

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Experience

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Community Impact

    10

  • Health and Safety

    10

  • Social Life

    10

A ground-breaking, exciting, and wonderful experience!

Finding out my weaknesses, strengths, and goals for my future life was the main ambition for my Latin American trip. After high school I wanted to get out and discover both myself and the world. I wanted to expand my horizons, to escape from societal structures, and, as the saying goes, to “think outside the box”. I experienced all of these things in Samana in the Dominican Republic in my five weeks as a volunteer in the fundacion Aldeas de Paz.

Samana is a great place to get closer to the Dominican culture and in my opinion also a suitable place to start a foundation. I say this as it is a fantastic location, where the special feeling of Caribbean life with endless white beaches on the peninsula of Samana cannot be missed. Samana has approximately 40 000 inhabitants, where the roaring, energetic life takes you over. I had to get used to it in the first week, but I learned quickly to deal with the new circumstances and to become more open-minded. My boss and my fellow volunteers helped me a great deal with this first step. The feeling of isolation never came to me because someone was always close at hand whenever problems arose. The security in Samana and the friendliness towards tourists was especially noticeable and it has to be emphasized, because this is not the case in Latin America as a whole.

The foundation Aldeas de Paz is currently under construction in the Dominican Republic, because it has had to move from the political situation of Venezuela. This played straight into my hands, because therefore I had more freedom in my volunteer program and job scope, and nobody could put me in pre-defined structures (as I had hoped). The freedom of the working situation was increased by the horizontal management consciously exercised by my boss, so that each and every volunteer could participate as they wanted and were able to. This gave me the satisfaction of learning more about myself, making a difference, taking part in a development, and growing with progressively difficult tasks. I could not expect to make a big impact with some of my work, because volunteer work is often associated with a long development process. This was something I had to learn in the beginning. Because of the short duration of my volunteering, I operated in many different sectors, e.g. working with children with learning difficulties, or social media marketing. Through it I found some new interests and I was able to make sense of my future plans, which brought me a little bit closer to my goals.

Overall those five weeks in Aldeas de Paz were a ground-breaking, exciting, and wonderful experience, which I would have no hesitation in recommending to any high school graduate who wishes to expand his or her horizons and is exuberant.

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Experience

    9

  • Program Administration

    8

  • Living Situation

    9

  • Community Impact

    9

  • Health and Safety

    8

  • Social Life

    10

Four months, I will never forget

I had three important criteria’s before I decided to go to Aldeas de Paz in Santa Elena de Uairen in Venezuela. First of all I wanted to get practical experience in management, specifically in a multicultural environment. Second of all I wanted to learn Spanish, because I always wanted to know a third language well. My final criteria were that I wanted to go to South America, because I wanted to explore the continent.
I decided to use four months in the foundation, because this was the first place that was totally open to give me the responsibility I wanted, that not just offered Spanish classes, but encourages people to learn as much as possible as fast as possible. That the NGO is located in Venezuela only gave me more motivation, because I wanted to go a place where they actually need my help, and a place where I could get a culture shock, but in the most positive way.
After a long journey from Denmark to Caracas, and 24 hours in the bus to Santa Elena de Uairen, I was more than tired when I arrived. I was picked up by Kelvis the director in Aldeas de Paz, who with a big smile, tried to explain me in Spanish that they were glad I was here, asked me if I was ok, and showed me the way to the car that would bring me to our house on the top of mountain right by the village. When I arrived, I met the founder of the place, Manfred, who had dinner and a room ready for me.
The time after that went faster than I would ever had imagined! Every week I got more responsibility, and before I knew it I was standing with the responsibility that I asked for. Sometimes it was also hard, because as a manager at the foundation, I had to always be on top on was going on, and what people needed. When people live close together on a mountain you gain so much trust and friendship with the others very quickly, but it also means that sometimes there is communication problems and culture differences, which has to be dealt with. Every weekend was free, and we often used the time to see different waterfalls in the area, to explore the Gran Sabana or hang out in the village. I also went with some volunteers to see the Angel Falls, and do the Roraima trek as well. These two places, I will never be able to forget as well.
Aldeas de Paz promised me I could get as much responsibility as I wanted, that I would learn Spanish, I would have a great cultural experience and that I would have opportunity to do and see all the sights I also dreamt of. They delivered all of it and even more! I loved knowing what we really did for the kids, the community and how we as volunteers were there for each other. I loved my relaxed life there, and will never regret that I choose to spend my time in the foundation.
I will strongly recommend this place, for someone who wants to try a different lifestyle, wants to help others, and who wants to be in control of what, when and how much work they want to do. I would recommend it to a person who would love working outside in the shade, while looking at all the mountains in the horizon, and hearing the Spanish tones playing from the radio in the kitchen.
To who ever, that is reading this; I hope you will love this place, as much as I did.