International Student Volunteers
International Student Volunteers (ISV) is a voluntourism not-for-profit organization based in Yorba Linda, California. It provides educational volunteer and travel adventure programs to university students and youth internationally. ISV has offices in London and each ISV host country. ISV is also established in Australia as International Student Volunteers Pty Ltd with a head office in Sydney.
Founded in 1982 by Randy Sykes under the name ‘Youth in Action’, ISV has been offering volunteer and adventure programs since 2002. Since 2002 over 21,000 students have traveled with ISV and contributed nearly two million hours of volunteer service to projects in Australia, New Zealand, Costa Rica, The Dominican Republic, Romania, Croatia, Bosnia, the USA, Thailand, Ecuador and South Africa. It has been selected as one of the top ten volunteer organizations by the International Voluntary Service Task Force, part of the US Center for Citizen Diplomacy. In 2011 also received the prestigious award for "Outstanding Project of the Year" by the World Youth Student and Travel Confederation (WYSTC) in Barcelona.
Most of ISV’s participants are university students in the USA, Canada, the UK, Australia and New Zealand. The ISV program is open to all interested individuals 18 and over (i.e. not limited to students), is offered during the summer months (both Northern and Southern Hemisphere summers), and is composed of a two or four week program in selected countries. ISV also offers 3-week high school programs for students in Costa Rica, Thailand, The Dominican Republic and New Zealand.
Participants spend their first two weeks in groups of about 10 plus an ISV leader/instructor, doing hands-on volunteer activities directly with selected partner host organizations. These are generally small, grass-roots organizations working to improve their local environment and/or the lives of the local community members. Some of the more internationally recognizable host organizations that ISV works with include: Habitat for Humanity, Conservation International and Conservation Volunteers Australia. ISV also runs several of its own grassroots volunteer projects internationally. ISV personally assesses each project that they choose for safety and sustainability, among other areas.
Projects may be conservation, humanitarian (social community development) or a mixture of both. Past projects have included children’s education programs, bush land regeneration, sea turtle conservation, working at Elephant Nature Park, teaching English, house building projects, sustainable development and education projects and wildlife surveys and data collection. International Student Volunteers forms long-term relationships with many of the host organizations, such as with the Wild Mountains Trust, a non-profit organization in Australia focused on environmental education where ISV volunteers have been working for 8 years.
The second component of the program consists of two weeks of travel, exploration, discovery and adventure in the host country. Tour group sizes are generally larger, bringing together multiple project groups to meet and interact on the tour component. The tour is run and operated by ISV with an ISV tour leader. Participants travel extensively throughout their host country and learn about the environment and culture of the country, while they partake in activities such as white water rafting, city tours, horseback riding, snorkeling, glacier treks, waterfall rappelling, cultural shows, etc.
In 2009, 143 Universities offered academic credit through independent study. In addition to the option of independent study, since 2002 various Universities within the USA, UK and Australia have offered academic credit in accordance with the ISV Program Syllabus which has been approved by the accrediting institutions. The educational focus of the program is in the area of Natural Resource Management and Sustainable Development, capitalising on the program's many opportunities for experiential education in an international volunteer setting.
However, it is an educational program for all participants regardless of whether or not they are earning credit. The program incorporates group discussions, daily journaling, guest speakers, etc., to facilitate and encourage participants to gain as much from their experience as possible.
Other points of interest
Because ISV is a California-based non-profit public benefit corporation 501(c), students residing in the USA may also raise funds for the program thorough tax deductible sponsorship donations. ISV is registered as a non-profit organization with the IRS in Yorba Linda, California. This is also where their United States office is located. As of March 2011, International Student Volunteers holds a Better Business Bureau rating of 'A-' and has been accredited on their website since 1998.
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