Our group had an excellent time staying with Michael and his family while in Sri Lanka. Five members of our group stayed at Michael's house while five others stayed with his daughter. We stayed two weeks all together learning about the language and culture of Sri Lanka and volunteering.
Michael is very knowledgeable and was able to share with us a great deal of history on Sri Lanka and help us speak useful phrases.
At all times, whenever our group needed anything, Michael was always quick to respond. He helped us make changes in our volunteer schedule as needed, move students around in the two houses, and was very attuned to our needs. I want to thank Michael for all of the work that he and his family did to help us feel welcome in his home and in Sri Lanka.
I wish our experience with the IFRE office was as great as it was on the ground with Michael. I understand that they are a large organization in many countries, but we had significant issues dealing with them. In the week leading up to the program, our main office contact went on medical leave. As the new person took over communication, they made changes to the total cost we agreed on, then the payment was demanded upfront (before we had agreed to pre-pay half and then pay half at the end). After months of planning, we were told that the program would be canceled unless we met these stipulations.
We were worried about how the experience would be when we began because of our experience with their office, but as soon as we met Michael, his willingness to work with us gave us confidence that it would be a good trip.
I don't believe that IFRE is a bad organization, and perhaps our experience with the office was unique. I recommend being very clear early on about payments especially if volunteering with a large group.