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Cross-Cultural Solutions (CCS) is a non-profit organization, founded in 1995, as a way to foster international understanding and integration as well as local community development. CCS was built on three main ideas: the concept of a shared humanity between people of different cultures, the need to respect local customs and knowledge, and the importance of professional and transparent volunteer programs that will support and build up the community in which they are based. CCS is now widely recognized as an expert in its field, partnering with respected international organizations such as, International Volunteer Programs Association (IVPA), Building Bridges Coalition, the United Nations, and CARE International. It is a non-profit organization dedicated to the safest and most fulfilling volunteer experience.

The Beginnings of CCS

In 1994, Steve Rosenthal took the money he had saved as an engineer at AT&T and bought a one-way ticket to Nepal. Having never left North America before, he was motivated to see the world and come to a better understanding of people in other cultures. After traveling throughout Nepal, he continued on to visit India, Thailand, Indonesia, Uganda, Egypt, Kenya, Jordan, and Israel. Along the way, he met hundreds of people and began to learn of their lives, their struggles and their successes.
Above all the other experiences during his travels, one week in Kenya remained in his thoughts and weighed on his heart. While in Kenya, he and an old friend, who was volunteering with the Peace Corps, traveled to a small village in the Turkana region. His friend had been working in the village helping the community build a medical clinic. For little more than a week, Steve lived and worked in this village, helping with the clinic and befriending many of the local children for whom the clinic would benefit.

 Returning Home
When he returned home to the United States, Steve told friends about the places he had visited and the scope of his travels. The more he told, the more he realized the true value of his time in Kenya. It was as if, for one week, he was no longer just a tourist, but rather an inhabitant of the small village. The sense of accomplishment that came along with not only learning, but working on a project with social impact, helped him feel at home there. For the villagers, the benefits were obvious; more hands meant the clinic would be built more quickly, while for Steve, the rewards didn't become clear until his return to the U.S.

 In Kenya, Steve had the unique opportunity usually only available to people who have committed years to volunteering. The more he thought about his time in Kenya, the more he wondered if it was possible to organize this type of experience for others. He knew that creating an organization capable of providing this kind of experience would take more than just one person. Although it was Kenya that originally inspired him, there was a vibrant community of grass-roots organizations in India that he believed would be open to his ideas.

Getting Set Up
After only a few months back in the U.S., Steve left for Delhi. There, he brought together a number of local development experts who were capable of finding the areas in which volunteers would be the most helpful. Some talked about the need for better schools, while others talked about health care. Among the most enthusiastic of the group was long-time community organizer, Bela Singh. Bela's work with mentally challenged children in India had brought her in touch with hundreds of volunteers and dozens of communities for which volunteers were needed. Together the two decided to create Project India.
Project India (which was soon re-named Cross-Cultural Solutions) provided a framework in which volunteers from around the world could take part in ongoing work within local communities in Delhi. One of the primary goals of the organization was to follow the lead of local organizers and provide them a helping hand without imposing outside ideas. At the heart of their philosophy was a respect for these communities. This meant creating a Cross-Cultural Solutions experience in which volunteers could integrate smoothly into the lives of local community residents who live and work there year-round. Project India's focus would be the facilitation of meaningful, sustainable community development that is locally designed and driven, while providing a safe and comfortable environment in which volunteers could get to know the country.

They began by setting up a Home-Base for the volunteers that would be appropriate for the cultural norms of the country. They recruited local staff that could guide volunteers through Indian life and give them greater access to the cultural resources available, and partner organizations interested in accommodating short-term volunteers. Before long, everything was in place and Steve returned to the U.S. to begin the second stage of the project, recruiting volunteers.

Launching the Program
At first it was slow, but Steve and Bela pushed forward, knowing that people would eventually recognize the true value of a locally driven volunteer program. After nearly a year in which only a few volunteers were sent, word began to get out. Those who had gone were amazed at the depth of such a short experience, and began to tell friends. With the success stories of each new volunteer, it became clear that this unique approach to volunteering was filling a valuable niche. By 1997, only three years after Steve had left on his initial trip to Nepal, programs in India were filling up with volunteers.

 As interest in short-term volunteering grew, the organization grew with it. Steve began his search for a second location, and with Besa Amenuvor, a Ghanian community leader, they created a second program in Ghana. There they partnered with organizations working on sustainable community development projects. With the success of this program came the realization that the Cross-Cultural Solutions' approach was one capable of crossing many borders, and a third program was opened in Peru. Soon there were multiple programs, each locally run, which allowed Cross-Cultural Solutions an even greater opportunity to build on its mission of bringing people together to work and learn, fostering cultural understanding.

In the Present
Today, 25,000 volunteers have participated in Cross-Cultural Solutions programs around the world, and each volunteer has had the opportunity to work closely with local people and experience volunteering in a new way. They have become part of a movement of volunteers who work and learn together, benefiting local communities through their efforts and gaining a new perspective of the world as well as a new-found knowledge of another country. For Steven Rosenthal, it has been the opportunity to give others a chance to experience what he experienced in Kenya.
Steven Rosenthal founded CCS on a specific philosophy, which remains the focus of the organization's volunteer work today. This philosophy consists of a vision, a mission by which CCS can achieve that vision, and a set of core values that define how CCS approachs everything they do: 
 Their Vision is of a world where people value cultures different from their own, are aware of global issues, and are empowered to effect positive change.
Their Mission is to operate volunteer programs around the world in partnership with sustainable community initiatives, bringing people together to work side-by-side while sharing perspectives and fostering cultural understanding. CCS is an international not-for-profit organization with no political or religious affiliations.
Their Values are:
  • Shared Humanity
    When people of different cultures have an opportunity to connect, there comes an understanding of our shared humanity.
  • Respect
    We accept, appreciate and respect that people know and understand what is appropriate for their own communities.
  • Integrity
    We commit to ensuring the safety, flexibility, professionalism, transparency and excellence of our programs.

CCS in Kilimanjaro, Tanzania

Kilimanjaro is dominated both geographically and spiritually by Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain on the African continent and the highest free-standing mountain in the world. The volunteer program in Kilimanjaro is based in Moshi, recently declared the cleanest town in the country. Waterfalls, coffee plantations, and banana fields also add to its incredibly beautiful landscape. The area is an active region for tourism — local people from all over the region can be found selling and buying their goods in the large markets. Volunteering in Kilimanjaro provides a unique opportunity to get to know the local people as you live and work near the base of one of the most beautiful mountains in the world.

Volunteers will be placed in one of two home-bases, either in the town of Moshi or in Karanga, a semi-rural area about 5 kilometers away from Moshi. There is frequent daladala service (local transport) between the two. Both Home-Bases have clean, modest accommodations with shared occupancy rooms for four to six volunteers. Volunteers are assigned to a Home-Base based on their chosen start date. Each Home-Base in Kilimanjaro has their own Director and full-time staff, including housekeepers, drivers, house guards, and cooks. CCS staff is always from the region in which they operate—they provide a local perspective, help you learn the local language, and guide you in what to do in your free time.
Often, during free time, volunteers can choose to go on safari to one the many national parks in the area or visit Mount Kilimanjaro, with its gleaming glaciers and beautiful waterfalls. The town of Moshi contains plenty of attractions and activities, such as sporting events, restaurants, religious worship and visiting with members of the community.

Most importantly, CCS volunteers will help support a variety of local initiatives, which will address issues that directly affect life in Kilimanjaro. Some of these issues include a lack of resources (which affects the availability of facilities for education, and healthcare, and translates to an even deeper need for human support networks to fill in the gaps), effects from the remnants of colonialism, and the ongoing impact of HIV/AIDS (which is disproportionately affecting people of working age in this region, and impedes progress for the community-at-large). Volunteers will have the opportunity to use many personal attributes, including creativity, enthusiasm, and a sense of humor in different community organizations offering services in: Caregiving, Teaching, Community Development, and Healthcare.

To build on the overall experience, and to help better understand the community, volunteers in Kilimanjaro will participate in cultural & learning activities. These activities may include discussions about the traditions of the Chagga people and their history and about international development with guest speakers, or a visit by a local nurse to discuss the rampant HIV/AIDS epidemic. Trips to historical sites, local museums and markets in the area, as well as classes for those interested in learning Swahili, are also included.