Hi Guys, in addition to Global Crossroads, I strongly suggest NOT volunteering for GLOBAL ADVENTURES operated by Peter McHendry. Whilst not strictly a scam (you will do some volunteer work), Peter McHendry has a very dubious background and has recently been acused of fraud and apparently there's a warrant for his arrest in a few countries (google his name for the blog). I paid $US 2500 for 3 months and spent most of the time sitting around in an isolated bush camp (in cheap tents), eating pasta with veges and doing nothing - the new employee and I were left by Peter, without a car, fuel or any resources or networks to do a project. Whilst the website looks good, it contains an extraordinary level of false and misleading information.
Here's the full story:
I saw an ad in Lusaka for Global Adventures (www.globaladventures.co.za) and went about calling the CEO (“Dr” Peter McHendry, aged 56 years) on skype to see how I could join the program. He sounded friendly, helpful and very enthusiastic to have me volunteer, particularly as I had a background in science and could do a project on wildfire management. I paid the upfront fee of $US 2,500.00, to volunteer for 3 months (with the possibility of a 3-month extension at no charge). I was encouraged to look at the website to get background information (and maybe to see how great the company was!).
Things started off well enough. He and his new employee (Justin) met me in Katima Mulilo, where we drove to the Western Province of Zambia. We spent about two weeks getting adjusted and planning the work, staying at Sioma Camp, a mid-range safari camp run by an always-friendly guy named Hans. Then Peter left for South Africa, to run errands for his other business interests. Justin and I found ourselves stranded.
A few days after Peter’s departure, we transferred ourselves to the nearby ‘volunteer base camp’, using Hans’ resources (note that Hans has no connection to Global Adventures). The camp consisted of a few cheap camping tents and a couple of thatched sheds for storing things. The elaborate descriptions of typical accommodations on the website, such as luxurious chalets, are completely false; they do not exist. Perhaps they exist as a grand plan, but they do not exist at present.
On our own, Justin and I spent about a month at the base camp, twiddling our thumbs. Without the necessary resources to carrying out a project, we were unable to leave the confines of the camp. We had no vehicle, fuel or technical equipment (like a GPS) to undertake a field project on wildfire management. One day I walked 10 km (return) to see a potential colleague, only to find he was not in the office. I had planned field work on one of Peter’s blocks of land nearby, but I backed out later, having the belief he did not own this land.
We ate very basic food, which was disappointing given the money I spent to be there. A typical day would be porridge and an apple for breakfast, and pasta with pumpkin and tinned fish for lunch / dinner. I lost about 7 kg and I wasn’t overweight to start with!
On a positive note, I did manage to have a meeting with a community action group (on natural resource management issues), gave a talk to some high school students in Sioma, identified lots of plants (including a new record for Zambia) and developed a plant trail for Hans at Sioma Camp. After several weeks bored out bush, Justin and I went to Livingstone and had a great week, de-stressing from our issues (accommodation here was provided free as part of the program, though I think it’s doubtful the accommodation provider will actually be paid by Global Adventures). Peter eventually returned to Zambia and partly made up for his absence by arranging a free bungy jump over Victoria Falls.
As the weeks went on, I started to get very suspicious of Peter and his business activities, in that a lot of things just didn’t add up or make sense. For example, for someone with a PhD (like me!), his spelling and grammar is atrocious. We kept hearing lots of stories about how many cars he owns, though only ever saw one, which doesn’t seem to be his anyway! It was in this environment and nightmares of spending more time alone out bush eating pasta, that I broke ties and came back to Australia a month early.
Given my first-hand experience of Global Adventures, I strongly suggest NOT volunteering for this company. The website (www.globaladventures.co.za) provides an extraordinary level of false or misleading information. Here are some truths: at least one of the testimonials (“Justin”) was written by Peter without Justin’s knowledge (and the others seem to be written by him too, although they may be real people); many or all of the previous volunteers weren’t genuine volunteers at all – they typically stayed for just a few weeks, apparently on Peter’s invitation and at the expense of his investors for other businesses like bio-fuels production; the number of previous ‘volunteers’ for this company is very low (perhaps < 5) and there are no current volunteers; the company has not been operating volunteer programs for “20 years”, the true figure is more likely 1-2 years, with very few ‘volunteers’ having participated; Peter’s PhD is apparently in Theology from a non-accredited university (i.e. online tuition); accommodation at the base camps does not exist as Chalets, nor is there a ‘liquor bar’ – accommodation is merely cheap tents and BYO alcohol.
In addition, at least once during my time with Peter, I saw a young, good looking woman feeling uncomfortable with his flirting, which was not ideal for her in an isolated area of a foreign country.
Upon my return, I discovered a blog accusing Peter of business fraud and ‘crimes of deception. His replies appear to indicate the site is some kind of smear against him. However, it’s not just one person who has made comments on the blog.
If you want to volunteer in Africa, I suggest going it alone with a specific skills-set, such as in Education, Medicine or Social Work. Go to Africa and when on the ground, find local NGOs or Government Departments, speak to them in person, and see how you can help. I have spoken to people who have also done other organised volunteer programs (e.g. African Impact operating out of Livingstone, Zambia), and many have also been extremely disappointed with the activities and management of the organisation. There’s no reason to pay for the privilege of volunteering in a poor country.
Hope this helps someone!!