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eliabroad.orgVolunteering abroad

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My husband and I went to Tanania for volunteering through ELI( We had volunteered to work in an orphange. The program we participated was disorganized, the local program coordinator was very unprofessional, and there was no defined program. We were dropped off at the orphanage on our first day and told that we can do what we wanted; the coordinator never showed up at the orphange house since. The local coordinator had no concern about our volunteer program. Instead, he was trying to set-up his own program and tried to recruit us as sponsors. He told us how bad ELI was, that they took money from volunteers and did not help the locals. Me, my husband and other volunteers were surprised and very disappointed about ELI. Also, upon ELI's recommendation, we used our local coordinator as a safari guide, but it was wasting time and money. We felt like ELI treated us volunteering as a business transaction, and their relationship with the local coordinator was a business relationship, not to help the locals in Tanzania. Under the uncomfortable situation with the coordinator, we left the guest house earlier than we planned and couldn't finish our program. ELI is supposed to be a non profit organization, but I really wonder where the money from volunteers goes? We asked ELI how they spend the money from volunteers, but we never heard any clear answer from them.


  • Gy
    gy23 May 02, 2020
    This comment was posted by
    a verified customer
    Verified customer

    ELI Abroad is not an ethical company.

    The Executive Director, Kevin O'Neill, is dishonest and deceitful.

    I submitted an application, but cancelled it within the 7-day timeframe to receive the $200 application fee refund, which falls in line with the Refund Policy on their website -- "The application fee is refundable within 7 days of the application."

    I still have not received my $200 refund.

    Kevin O'Neill tried to negotiate with me to use it for another program, which I was not interested in. Then, he said I could transfer the application to someone else to use. Later on, he changed the terms again, and said I could not transfer this application to someone else because my application was for this specific program in this country. Then, he said I could get the $200 back as a referral fee, if I find someone else to apply, but I would only get the $200 after he or she completed program.

    He kept dragging this out. When I filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau, he replied that it's just been so long that he could no longer refund me the money anymore. It's been "so long" because he has been late in my refund, but he tried to turn it on me, that is was my fault for asking about this now... I have an email that shows I requested to cancel my application and ask for a refund within 7 days after applying! I was on time in requesting the refund, ELI Abroad is late in refunding me. Kevin O'Neill is very manipulative and dishonest. To me, this is theft.

    1 Votes
  • Fi
    fili14 Jul 03, 2013

    I definitely do not recommend ELI. I was in Cape Town, South Africa earlier this summer doing an internship and I returned early because I was so disappointed with the program. The coordinator (Karin Comer) is not organized at all; I really don’t think she even knows what she is doing. Starting with day one, she left me waiting at the airport for a good 15-20 minutes. Of course I started freaking out and was convinced that ELI was a scam. She finally showed explaining that she was late because there was ”confusion” with the airlines and the arrival times. I decided to give her the benefit of the doubt, but later I found out that she will leave you waiting at the airport so she can park, pick you up, and then leave quickly so she doesn’t have to pay for parking since she was only parked for a couple of minutes (she mentioned this to another intern who happened to tell me about it). If she was planning to be late I would have liked to known ahead of time. It’s just common courtesy. Also, she wasn’t good with paying rent either. Other ELI interns (about 6 of them) had to move out of their house because Karin had not paid the owner the rent. Also, in my house my roommates were without water and electricity for a week and a half because Karin had not paid those bills. We would give Karin the money and she was supposed to pay the owner.

    Karin’s “assistant” (Ramon) was a 19-year-old kid who was completely useless. I asked him for help twice and the first time he was too busy playing a racing game (he told me this) and the second time he didn’t want to give me a ride because he was too tired. The first time I had asked him to give me a quick ride to a nearby 7eleven because I had no food and there was no one else to take me (I had only been in Cape Town less than a week and didn’t know my way around yet). The second time I had asked him if he could give me a lift to my house because my friend’s house (who was also an intern with ELI) had been robbed. My friend left quickly because she was obviously very scared and upset. I didn’t have a way to get back home and I was hoping this assistant would help me out. He instead got very upset and told me he was never helping me out again (so much for an assistant). When I had arrived in Cape Town, Karin had told me that if we ever needed anything we could call him, but apparently he thinks otherwise.

    The house I was living in was okay, my roommates were nice (I had 8 of them), but the area was not safe at all. I did not feel comfortable there and you could tell it was not the best area. I have lived in other countries (including Mexico City and Lima, Peru) therefore I know what a dangerous area looks like. One of the other interns who I became friends with lived nearby (maybe a 5 minute drive) and her house was broken into. Her area wasn’t the best either. Her house was behind a train track. The coordinator (Karin Comer) did not even bother to show up to my friend’s house after the robbery. We were with the owner and the police but no coordinator. I called her because my friend (other ELI intern living at the house) was really upset and wanted her to come. I called Karin and instead she started arguing with me and saying that she could not come because it was too far for her and there was nothing she could do about the robbery. Basically, you were on your own.

    The internship was the only thing I liked. It was also located in an unsafe are, actually it was a horrible area. There were homeless people walking around everywhere. It was horrible. I have no idea why this internship would be placed there (it was an advertising agency). I felt so uncomfortable and so unsafe. Plus, I had to take public transportation to get there and I felt even worse. If the internship would have been paid I would have stayed, but in the end it was not worth it. I was not comfortable in my house or at my internship. I felt so unsafe and after the robbery I had it. I was out of there.

    If ELI would just get a new coordinator who was organized, dependable, and empathetic I think the program would be fine. But again, the program was cheap… so I guess you get what you paid for.

    1 Votes
  • La
    laurar5 Aug 23, 2012

    Hello, I also didn't have a great experience with ELI. They wanted to charge me an extra $200 for "staying an extra week." They changed my program dates without notifying me and expect me to pay. I haven't paid. Upon my arrival to Costa Rica they picked me up at the airport and took me to a local family's home (the family was very nice) The next couple days they finally "shipped" me on a bus to my actually host family. The program is unorganized and inattentive. I did the medical program and when I arrived at the clinic it was like a scavenger hunt to try to figure out what my actual tasks where. The coordinator rarely checked up on me. I spoke with my host family and they said they received about $200 (american dollars) out of the $900.00 they charged me. Definitely not fair and I think it was just a rip-off. So much for nom-profit huh? I would have rather gave the $900 to the family personally then through ELI. I won't recommend this program.

    2 Votes
  • St
    stopo049 Dec 30, 2010
    This comment was posted by
    a verified customer
    Verified customer

    I also had a horrible experience volunteering with ELI.

    I just came back from volunteering in Inganga, Uganda through ELI. Initially, I was supposed to volunteer in an orphanage for 6 months from October to April. It wasn't until I arrived in Uganda, that my program coordinator informed me that the orphanages and schools are closed in Iganga for the months of December, January and part of February for holidays.

    The program coordinator suggested I volunteer at the hospital during the school's closure. However, I have no medical background and my options were drastically limited.

    I chose to volunteer in an orphanage for very specific purposes. I intended on applying to Teacher's College this Spring and wanted to obtain as much teaching experience as possible. Secondly, I raised over a thousand dollars worth of funds to be distributed to the orphanage. I wanted to work closely with the orphanage director to lead projects and utilize the funds I raised.

    Since I couldn't do any of that, I decided to come home early. I only stayed in Iganga for 1 month. My options were limited. I was going to have no placement for over two months - 1/3 of my trip - and I had no desire to volunteer at the hospital. Afterall, I came specifically to volunteer at the school. I had a plan.

    Once I got home, I asked ELI for a partial refund. I felt it was highly unfair they witheld information from me. They did not inform me that the schools would be closed for a large duration of my time in Uganda. Of course, they denied my refund. Kevin O'Neill, the director of ELI, said the failure of my trip is entirely my fault and he does not believe ELI to be AT ALL responsible for the failure of my volunteer placement. He said it's not about the person volunteering, it's about the community. He said if the orphanage was closed, I should have volunteered in another area. I find that comment extremely ignorant. Of course volunteering is about helping the community, but be realistic. It's about a mutual benefit - to the community and the person volunteering.

    I think ELI lacks serious integrity and professionalism. If ELI had disclosed what they chose to withold, I would have planned my trip at a different time - when the schools and orphanages are open !!! Needless to say, ELI ruined my trip - something I had been planning for 2 years after my first trip to Africa.

    I wouldn't recommend ELI to anyone. Money grabbers.

    3 Votes
  • Fe
    Felippe Sep 13, 2010

    I am sorry you had such a bad experience, but I had a completely different experience with ELI. I spent my summer volunteering at a clinic in Quito, Ecuador and had an amazing experience. ELI treated me well from the first time I ever sent them an email regarding placement positions in Ecuador. They found the perfect clinic for me to work at...I had mentioned to them that I would love to work with a pediatrician and that I also liked more surgical procedures, so they placed me in a clinic where I could shadow a pediatrician in the afternoons as well as work in the ER in the mornings. The host family they placed me with was amazing, I truly felt like it was a home away from home. My host mom even walked me to the hospital I was placed in the first week that I had to go just so that I would feel comfortable on how to get there. I too was "dropped off" at my placement position, but I believe if you are planning on going abroad to volunteer, then you should have the passion and motivation to help people that you don't need someone to guide you the whole way. I was able to connect with the staff in the hospital in a way that would not have been possible if I had a strict schedule to follow, and at first I didn't speak in spanish all that well, so even if perfect communication isn't possible, I still think an impact can be made on the volunteer position. The ELI coordinators in Quito were also extremely helpful to me. She would always call to check on me and would even call to simply invite me to get some coffee in the best parts of town so I could get to know the city of Quito a little better. I never once felt like anyone in ELI treated volunteering as strictly a business transaction, but I truly felt they had a passion in getting people to volunteer. Please do not take the previous person's comment to make up your mind about volunteering abroad. Every person's experience abroad is different, so while one person could perceive an experience as uncomfortable, another person could perceive the same experience as being eye-oppening.

    2 Votes

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