2 Clinton Place New Rochelle, NY 10801 United States
Cross Cultural Solutions provides an amazing opportunity to be of service and to engage in cultural exchange at the same time. I have just returned from one week in Salvador, Brazil where I volunteerd in a community based day care center for very poor children ages 0-7. CCS partners with local community based chartitable initiatives and as a volunteer you work side by side with the local partners helping them in whatever it is that needs to be done. Sometimes its manual labor. Sometimes it's doing what I did - being a teaching assistant in the daycare, helping the staff teachers play with the children, engage in playful and educational activities, helping with breakfast and lunch, and just caring for the children. Cross Cultural Solutions is a great way to volunteer because they have so many options in terms of where they serve and how long you can serve. I chose the insight abroad program for one week because I have never done anything like this before, and especially have never worked with children. Cross Cultural Solutions is a good program because from the moment you express an interest in volunteering to the moment your plane touched down at your destination you are supported. The staff both in the US and in Salvador were wonderful, and I knew what to expect. Living communally was fun, something I have not done in a long time, and th Volunteer house was clean, safe and had an atmosphere which helped the diverse group of volunteers bond very quickly. The friendly staff make you feel right at home. Every morning you are driven to your volunteer assignment and then picked up by a staff member. One the first day of your assignment, a CCS staff member usually accompanies you to introduce you to the local partners and get you settled. In my case, I was introduced to Tia Mira,the director of Frutos de Maes Daycare, then my local teachers Maria and Rosa and 20 2-year old children. I learned very quickly that crayons, stickers and a lot of love and attention were my best friends. I worked with another CCS volunteer and each day we would plan out an activity for the kids to participate in, a craft they could do. Since both Father's Day and Brazilian Folklore Day were coming up, we had the kids color something for each of those days and then made a gigantic wall mural for them. We borrowed some sheets from the volunteer house and made little forts and tents for the kids to play in. We had the kids color for us one more time, and then Lacy and I made a good bye card in two languages, surrounded by the drawings that the kids had done. The kids and the teachers also had a farewell gift for us two - a card in the shape of a heart with the kids thumbprints on it. I have it hanging on my wall at home now. There was a lot of hugging and playing, there was also alot of drying of tears, especially on the day when the national health service came to examine the children and give them immunizations. I was touched that although these kids come from abject poverty, with many of their homes not equipped with electricity or running water, they still had a capacity for joy and playfulness. In preparation for the trip, I took some Portuguese classes which I recommend to anyone going to Brazil, and while i am not fluent, I was able to make myself understood to both the children and the local teachers. I also prepared myself by learning as much as I could about Salvador and Bahia, and its culture, as it is very unique that the rest of Brazil. CCS provides a lot of information before you land in-country and there are plenty of opportunities to experience the culture first hand with lectures and classes at the volunteer house, and a city tour during the first week of the stay. The CCS staff in Salvador were very helpful in providing information on activities to do in the city, and there was plenty of free time to explore, go to the Beach, and meet the people of Salvador. It was a unique and life-changing experience for me, a 43 year old man. I could have stayed three or four weeks working with those children. If you are considering a volunteer abroad experience, I highly recommend and endorse Cross Cultural Solutions. CCS has been recognized as a leader in its field by the United Nations, CARE (one of the worlds largest humanitarian organizations)and the Brookings Institution. If you are looking to do something different with your vacation time, if you are looking to make a difference, Cross Cultural Solutions what you are looking for.
My experience in Thailand with Cross-Cultural Solutions was amazing. I was very impressed with the professionalism of the organization every step of the way. They fully prepared me before I left on my trip, and the in-country staff were phenomenal. I cannot rave enough about how great they were to each and every volunteer. I really think they are what made the program so special. I felt fully immersed into the Thai culture, and I learned so much about the country that I would not have if I were just a tourist. Cross-Cultural Solutions also matched me up with the perfect volunteer placement. I worked in a daycare and the kids were just adorable. The teachers at the placement were so friendly and eager to learn English. I made great friends in Thailand, and I really couldn't have asked for more. I now recommmend Cross-Cultural Solutions to all of my friends and family!
I spent a month i Moshi, Tanzania with CCS and I must say, it was an amazing experience. The staff was incredibly supportive and really helped me plan a life changing trip. I worked with children at an orphanage in the area and also had the chance to work at a clinic performing home visits to the ill.The in country staff is warm and friendly and the housing is fantastic! I can't even explain how delicious the food is - you are very much so taken care of with CCS. I plan to return to CSS in 2011 and cannot wait - if you are searching for a company that will give you a satisfying abroad experience, one that is safe, trustworthy and all around fun, CCS is it. They are professional and can truly be counted on - you can reach the home office from the country of your placement and they make everything extremely easy for you - I highly recommend CCS for anyone looking to make a difference abroad!
My husband and I volunteered for 8 weeks in Cartago, Costa Rica. We worked for 7 weeks in a family run orphanage and 1 week in a nursing home. In the orphanage we did whatever needed to be done. The children were out of school almost all of our time there because it was coffee picking time for ones living in rural areas. We took some of the children to the park, played games in their home, bathed and dressed one child, helped in the kitchen, swept and cleaned, had conversational English lessons once a week with pictures from US calendars with points of interest, my husband did science experiments which were a big hit; and a big portion of the time was in the large laundry room hanging clothes and then taking them down and folding. In the nursing home we fed several clients, played games with them, helped the attendants with nail care, made beds and ironed and sorted clothes in the laundry. Both experiences were extremely rewarding to us. We are looking forward to our 4 weeks of volunteering in Salvador, Brazil in December, 2010.
Cross Cultural Solutions is a wonderful organization. I thoroughly enjoyed my time in India. It is such a different country than the U.S. and CCS prepared me well and also, while I was there, helped me to learn about the people and the culture. Keeping my safety in mind, they encouraged me to explore on my own and not to miss the "important sites" like the Taj. I felt my volunteer work was important and especially enjoyed working with the children of Mobile Creches in New Delhi. I am a contact person for CCS and several volunteers have contacted me as they considered CCS for their volunteer travel. I can't wait to travel again.
In February 2009 at age 66 I made my first trip to Africa and luckily, I chose to partner with Cross Cultural Solutions. I can say without reservation that it was, indeed, a peak experience and the best 3 week 'vacation' of my adult life. It was a perfect combination of living in a college dorm, being at camp and experiencing a new culture with its many challenges and immeasurable rewards. The accommodations at the Moshi homebase were more than adequate, including an endless supply of bottled water. Better than a college dorm or camp, our room was cleaned daily, all meals included fresh fruits and vegetables and a hot dish, and the staff were friendly and responsive. Aside from helping with transportation and adjustments to the volunteer placement, they were available to give directions into town, help in connecting with reliable taxi drivers, ensuring personal safety in many ways and just to chat about whatever was on my mind. It was delightful to spend time with the younger generation. They kept my mind and my body active and inspired me with their dedication to volunteer service. My roommates shared their hairdryers and other essentials wit me, invited me to join them during social occasions, acquainted me with the internet cafes and encouraged me on the long day hike up Kilimanjaro. During my placement with Mawenzi Regional Hospital, I was paired with a young nurse from Canada. It was nice on our walks home to stop for coffee and debrief about the almost overwhelming differences in medical delivery and resources available in Tanzania. We became friends through this experience and still keep in touch today. After our morning placements, the group gathered for Swahili lessons or other cultural experiences arranged by the staff. In the late afternoons and evenings, we were free to relax or enjoy an opportunity of playing with kids at a local orphanage. This was definitely a highlight for me as well as many others. The infectious smiles of the children and the sense of family at the orphanage just grabbed my heart. You could not help but fall in love with them. As you can tell, I am crazy about this program. So much so that I will be returning in December 2010. While I know it cannot be a repeat of my first experience, I am confident that it will be equally memorable.
It was a very rewarding experience working in Salvador with the Catholic Church there to provide poor children 1-3 years old with social inter-action and basic necessities that their working poor parents could not provide. Rewarding as well. was teaching basic English to children ages 13-14 and adults who were so willing to learn and in return helped me to learn basic Portuguese phrases. CCS does wonderful work there!
My experience in Lima, Peru was nothing less than life changing. I had hoped to find the answers to many questions I had been asking myself, regarding the direction I am best suited to take in my career and personal endeavors, as they relate to our community and world. From the first day of my CCS experience, I was fortunate to see for myself the limits and lengths of my abilities and skills. In addition, the feedback I received from co-volunteers was priceless to me, because these individuals all represent various walks of life and professionalism, age and experience. Their genuine, unbiased insights were invaluable to me as I realized many of my goals. My placement with a volunteer partner in the community was phenomenal. I worked with a group of 2-3 year olds, and I grew particularly close with one little boy whose mother had recently died. On my first day, the little boy was non-verbal and non-responsive, and when I approached him, he would kick me or spit at me. Each day he seemed to be gradually observing me more and more, without engaging me, and soon he allowed me to interact with him, though he remained non verbal. By the third day, we began going on special walks together, spending quality time just enjoying the outdoors and waving to other children. On the day I was to leave, he had broken through his shell, smiling, laughing waving, and even calling me by the nickname I had called him all week, 'Buddy.' This child was extremely special to me in his bravery and courage. I was most fortunate to have a chance to meet him. Due to my language limitations, I did not have conversations with the local people of Peru, but our communication seemed to transcend the limits of language anyway. I enjoyed their company a great deal and was very touched by their gratitude and hospitality. Through their smiles, hugs and kind gestures, they represent such dignity and grace, and I learned so much from being in their presence. The people of Peru express a natural warmth, joy for living, and welcoming nature. The In-Country staff in Lima, Peru is incredible as well. They literally make us feel at home the second we arrive. The home base has such a feeling of warmth and comfort, it is like being at a family reunion from the moment we arrive. Laughter, support, good cheer, and learning were a constant in the house. I miss it every day! At the home base in Lima, I was surrounded by extremely loving, caring, compassionate and capable volunteers who were dedicated to making a positive impact in the short time we were in country. I made several friends who I anticipate will be life long friends I will cherish.Upon my experience and reflections in Peru, I received the confirmation that I should apply my education and professional skills to contribute to community development, so I resigned from my corporate communications job when I arrived back in the U.S. I was most fortunate in that the next day, I received three opportunities for community-related journalism, all of which will enable me to clearly make a positive difference in the local and international realms. Prior to my CCS trip, I had applied for these rewarding positions, and was unsure if I should leave behind my corporate job in this tough economy to pursue these community endeavors. However, while in Peru, I had no doubt it was my responsibility to remove salary from the equation, especially in light of seeing the high quality of life of Peruvians, despite limited income. I was inspired and motivated. I know I made the right decision because I feel free, confident and spirited, as I had several years ago. I have been home for 3 weeks, and each night I am still dreaming that I am in Peru! This refreshing experience through CCS gave me the strength to reposition my goals to help others. For that, I will be forever grateful.
My 2 week trip to Xi'an, China with Cross Cultural Solutions exemplified all of the reasons why I travel. I was able to participate in something larger than myself, build lasting relationships with people from around the world, and experience a culture first hand rather than via the typical tourist traps. The whole experience provided just the right balance of volunteering, cultural activities, personal time, and opportunities to explore other parts of the country. The country staff worked relentlessly to ensure every participant's personal goals were reached. In addition to addressing our logistical needs, they also proved to be an invaluable sounding board when I returned from my daily volunteer experiences. The other participants were exceptional, passionate, and fun individuals' I gained friends for a life time. I'm already planning my next trip with CCS, and I highly recommend it to anyone of any age or background.
I had a very enjoyable and educational experience in Ayacucho. The CCS staff was great from top to bottom, and the whole program was very well organized. I also enjoyed spending a couple weeks with the other volunteers, who were from all over the world and proved to be a great group overall. My placements at local schools were both challenging and rewarding. The whole experience gave me a much deeper perpective of life outside of the USA. I highly recommend the Ayacucho program and CSS.
I had a truly life-altering experience with Cross-Cultural Solutions in Tanzania. My placement was at a co-op for young artists who had pooled their resources into a collaborative project and work-space. I taught English to these artists so that they would be better equipped to speak with tourists and sell their paintings and sculptures. It was a great challenge and I found that at the end of each day I looked forward to discussing my teaching experiences with my fellow volunteers at the CCS Home-Base. I learned so much from my students - including how to paint in the traditional style of that region. Being immersed in another culture was a fascinating experience. I will never forget the many friendly faces and happy smiles of the people in Moshi! I also enjoyed the diverse programming provided by CCS - especially the Swahili lessons and the visits to cultural and historic sites. My time in Tanzania was one full of hard work, rewarding moments and cultural exploration and I loved every minute of it - I would whole-heartedly recommend this program to anyone who is looking to experience a new culture and challenge themselves in new ways.
My two son's are now young adults so I decided to do something 'life-changing' for myself and started looking into volunteering abroad. I found CCS on the internet and they appeared to offer the most comprehensive and safe environment which something I needed (as a first-time traveller). I worked at Christ Shalom in Hohoe assisting the teachers with the day to day activities of the Kindergarten 1 & 2 classes. It was without doubt the fulfilling experience in my entire life, and I would recommend it to anyone of any age. It's a 'MUST DO' so put in on your 'bucket list'. I will never forget the Christ Shalom children, teachers, parents and also the beautiful CCS staff at the CCS home where all our needs were met every day with love and kindness.
I had always wanted to visit West Africa and CCS seemed like a safe way to visit while being more than a tourist. I spent a month at the more rural Woe site and for my project recorded oral histories from elders of the community about changes in the area in the past 70 years. Once I adjusted to the slower pace of life there I enjoyed spending time getting to know my fellow volunteers and the staff and community around the site. Those 4 weeks will always stick out in my mind. I have particular memories of bargaining at the market and riding the public taxis called tro-tros. . . things I never would have done as a tourist. I also enjoyed the opportunity to travel and see interesting sites in the country. This experience was the reason I went back last Spring to study for the semester in Ghana. I'm hoping for the opportunity to volunteer with CCS again soon.
I participated as a volunteer in the CCS Cartago program which was nothing short of amazing. The staff in Cartago has every detail of the program buttoned-up from my pick-up at the airport to my room to my volunteer placement to our day trips to the incredible sights of Costa Rica. Everything was perfect and with such a fun group of fellow volunteers. I had a great time. I worked with the elderly in the mornings, leading them in excercises, playing cards, and talking to them. I also made a vegetable garden for them and a bird house which we all painted and hung up. They really appreciated that I was there and we got to be good friends. It was tough leaving - for both of us. Free time in Cartago was great. If you go, make sure you take a weekend trip to Manuel Antonio where the jungle meets the beach and you are sure to see monkeys and sloths. The water is a balmy 80+ degrees. See my pix on facebook. Anthony LoFrisco, Jr.
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