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Ecuador Volunteering - A Comprehensive Guide


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A Comprehensive Guide to find Volunteer Opportunities in Ecuador. It includes some of the best organizations and their programs to start volunteering with.

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Ecuador Volunteering - A Comprehensive Guide

  1. 1. Travellers Quest Volunteer in Ecuador A Comprehensive Guide to Volunteer in Ecuador Opportunities
  2. 2. Table of Contents Chapter 1: Getting started - volunteer in Ecuador Welcome to Ecuador Why you should volunteer in Ecuador What are some popular volunteer projects available in Ecuador? Where are some popular places to volunteer in Ecuador? Which is the best season to volunteer in Ecuador? 3 4 5 6 6 Chapter 2: Choosing your Ecuador volunteer program Which organizations offer the best volunteer opportunities in Ecuador? How you can select the best organization to volunteer with 7 9 Chapter 3: Getting ready to volunteer in Ecuador Visa, passport Vaccinations Air ticket Raising funds Suggested books to read Packing advice and tips Gifts for projects 12 12 13 13 13 14 14 Chapter 4: Information you must know about the project Project details What to expect when volunteering in Ecuador Learn about your host family Local support Make the final call 15 15 15 16 16 Chapter 5: Arriving and Volunteering in Ecuador How to make your volunteer in Ecuador experience rewarding Safety while volunteering in Ecuador Do’s and don’t in Ecuador Culture shock Things to do in Ecuador 17 18 19 20 20 Chapter 6: Completion of project & follow up 21 Chapter 7: Most frequently asked questions from volunteers 22
  3. 3. 3 CHAPTER 1: Getting Started – Volunteer in Ecuador Welcome to Ecuador If you have ever met an Ecuadorian you will know that they are very proud of their country and its culture, and once you get there you will see why. Ecuador may be a small country, but from the heights of the Andes to the depths of the amazon jungle and the UNESCO Herit- age Site of Galapagos, Ecuador has something for everyone. It’s a country rich in history and natural resources, activities and adventures, cultures and traditions and warm welcoming locals. It’s a country ready and waiting for you to discover. Volunteering in Ecuador will be a journey full of adventure, discovery and learning opportuni- ties. Ecuador is a developing country, in need of volunteers help. A Volunteering experience in Ecuador will open your eyes, heart and soul to sights, senses and atmosphere of the country and the Ecuadorian communities who will wel- come you like part of their family. Whether you are have skills in conservation, construction, medicine, education or human services your helping hand and compassion will be welcomed and greatly appreciated in Ecuador. Photo Credit: Volunteering Solutions
  4. 4. 4 Why you should volunteer in ECUADOR Volunteering in Ecuador will provide you with many life long memories and experiences. Not only will you get to experience the beauty of the countries landscapes, immerse yourself in the culture and make lifelong friends, but you will be assisting in the sustainability and devel- opment of a country in need. Here are a few reasons why you should volun- teer in Ecuador. Diverse Landscapes: Whether you are looking for a city, beach, mountain, jungle or nature and wildlife adven- ture you will find it in Ecuador. As a volunteer you will have the chance to explore everything from the highlands of the Andes and unique and rare wildlife of the Galapagos, to the beauti- ful beaches and coastal towns, World Cultural Heritage Sites and vibrant cities. Experience Ecuadorian Hospitality: With friend- ly, honest and welcoming locals you will find it hard not to enjoy the warmth and genuine hos- pitality of the Ecuadorian people. Ecuadorians will go out of their way to look after you and ensure you enjoy your stay. Create your Adventure: Ecuador offers great landscapes and weather plus many adventure activities to be enjoyed year round. Whether it is hiking volcanoes, trek- king jungles, rafting, horseback riding, snorke- ling and swimming, chilling at a beach, enjoying the food, absorbing yourself in the rich history or exploring the city; Ecuador has something for everyone. Impact other’s lives: Ecuador is a country with an unstable economic structure, and around fifty percent of the popu- lation is affected by poverty, poor living condi- tions, unemployment, plus low education and health standards. Your time volunteering in Ecuador will have a positive impact on the lives of many Ecuadorian people and communities Cultural experiences: There is something very satisfying in learning about the cultures and traditions of another country. Ecuador is rich in cultural heritage, with over 20 different ethnic groups co-existing together and staying with a host family and working with locals during your volunteer work in Ecuador will provide endless opportunities for immersing yourself into the Ecuadorian lifestyle. In some parts of the Andes and Amazon areas you will find communities that continue to live their lives like their ances- tors did. Working in those areas, so far removed from the modern world provides you a rich and life changing cultural experience. Learn Spanish: While volunteering in Ecuador you will have many opportunities to learn Spanish or practice your speaking skills. Learning another language will not only enrich your volunteer placement, but will also help you get to know the real es- sence of Ecuador, and be useful for future South American endeavors. What are some popular volunteer projects avail- able in ECUADOR? Ecuador is a popular country for volunteering abroad. Ranges from children to nature con- servation, variety of volunteer experiences are available in Ecuador. Here are few project very popular among volunteers. Orphanage The Orphanage project aims to provide support the lives of children living in orphanages, mak- ing sure they receive genuine care and assis- tance while helping them develop skills for them to realize their potential in life. As a volunteer
  5. 5. 5 in Ecuador orphanage project you will be re- sponsible for providing general care and sup- port to the children, helping with daily chores, and assisting the children in their learning and development. Teaching Teaching English project in Ecuador provides English language skills to both primary, high school and university students and adults across Ecuador, through community classes. Volunteers will help with the preparation and presentation of lessons and offer classroom support. Medical Project Medical project in Ecuador aims to provide quality medical assistance and patient. In this project, volunteers will have the opportunity to assist doctors and nurses in tasks like monitor- ing patients and undertaking general check-ups, taking temperatures and blood pressure read- ings and helping with the general care of all patients. Some more advanced medical tasks may be undertaken dependent on your experi- ence. Volunteers with a good command of the Spanish language may be responsible for provid- ing presentations or talks on areas of health and hygiene. Conservation Project The conservation volunteer project in Ecuador is dedicated to the protection and conservation of the ecosystems and natural resources of Ecua- dor. A range of different projects are offered in rural areas, focusing on: reforestation, commu- nity development, education based on environ- mental issues, research assignments based on flora, fauna and wildlife and the protection and sustainability of the environment. Volunteers will undertake a range of activities including, education, research and data collection, con- struction, planting trees and general mainte- nance and community assistance. Coastal and Marine Conservation The Coastal and Marine conservation program cares for the diverse marine life and ecosystem of Ecuador through projects focused on: tur- tles, marine birds and environmental education. Volunteers will be involved in contributing hands on and research based assistance in the protec- tion, monitoring and development of marine life conservation in Ecuador. Galapagos Conservation Project The Galapagos Conservation project aims to pro- tect the natural habit and indigenous species of Ecuador, and to identify and minimize any issues or threats from new species which could put these in danger. Volunteers can undertake work in the areas of reforestation, maintenance or construction and agriculture. Where are popular places to volunteer in ECUADOR? Volunteer projects are available in several re- gions of Ecuador, but some of the most destina- tions are: Quito: the capital of Ecuador, located high up in the Andean highlands, this city is home to two million inhabitants Volunteering in Quito will give you a chance to experience a life of a mod- ern city with a vibrant and bustling atmosphere, great food and nightlife, lively markets and shopping opportunities, which exist comfortably alongside the Old Town - a UNESCO World Herit- age Site home to colonial monuments and 17th- century façades and architecture. Popular volunteer placements in Quito are in the fields of: teaching and education, childcare and assistance, health and medicine, construction and environmental protection. Galapagos: A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Galapagos is an island off the mainland of Ec-
  6. 6. 6 uador and is home to a diverse, incredible and rare species of wildlife. Volunteer in Galapagos and experience the wonder of the landscapes and wildlife. Learn of the history and geol- ogy which has created the island, snorkel with marine iguanas, green sea turtles and sea-lions, climb a volcano, get up close to rare species and experience a volunteer placement like no other. Popular volunteer placements in Galapagos are: environmental protection, conservation and sustainable farming. Cuenca: Located in the highlands of Ecuador, the city of Cuenca has the feel of a European city with its beautiful architecture and parks. Cuenca is a great base for exploring the natural beauty of the surrounding rivers and mountains. Popular volunteer placements in Cuenca are in the areas of: education, working with at risk children and families and environmental pro- jects. Guayaquil: The largest city in Ecuador and home to the largest sea port, Guayaquil is a city home to historic monuments and museums, a vibrant nightlife, the River Guayas and modern waterfront promenades featuring shopping com- plexes, restaurants and bars. Take time out to explore the city and its neighborhoods. Popular volunteer placements in Guayaquil are: community management, conservation, health- care, teaching and childcare. Which is the best season to volunteer in ECUADOR Ecuador’s weather varies throughout the country as it has four different climatic zones, (Andes, Pacific, Oriente, and Galapagos). The best time to volunteer in Ecuador is likely to depend on the region and type of project you will be par- ticipating in. June –August and December to January are the months when most tourists visit Ecuador. For more information on seasons and the cli- mates of the different regions please see the website below ecuador-13554.html
  7. 7. 7 CHAPTER 2 : Choosing Your Ecuador Volunteer Program Photo Credit: Whether it is working in conservation, childcare, construction or health and medicine, Ecua- dor needs your help in protecting its natural resources and developing its living standards, healthcare and education systems. A volunteer placement in Ecuador is bound to be an exciting experience, but with so many different projects to choose from it can be hard to make a deci- sion. Work out what skills and attributes you can contribute, what you want to get out of the placement, and where in Ecuador you can see yourself working, and use these as a guideline for finding your ideal Ecuadorian volunteer pro- ject. Who are some of the best volunteer or- ganizations in ECUADOR Many volunteer abroad organizations run volun- teer program in Ecuador. However, all volunteer organizations running Ecuador program are not equally ethical, affordable, and popular. There- fore, we have selected few organizations based on their price, reputation, history, program quality. Here are few best and inexpensive vol- unteer organizations. IFRE Volunteers Since being established in 2006, US based com- pany IFRE Volunteers has placed 17,000 vol- unteers on projects in18 countries around the world. In Ecuador IFRE Volunteers offer orphan- age, street children and English teaching place- ments in Quito, and conservation projects in San
  8. 8. 8 Cristobal, Galapagos and Los Cedros Biological Reserve. Prices for the Quito and Los Cedros projects start from $595 for a one week place- ment, while fees for the Galapagos project starts from $835 for a one week project. Ubelong Established in 2009 in the USA, Ubelong are committed to designing meaningful programs for both the communities involved and their vol- unteers. In Ecuador they offer projects in gen- eral care, construction, education and health projects in Quito, environment conservation in Napo Province and the Galapagos conservation project in San Cristobal. Program fees start from $505 for a one week placement. Cross Continental Established in 2010, Cross Continental are de- voted to creating volunteer opportunities and projects which encourage and support cross cultural programs which have a positive impact on the global community. In Ecuador they offer community development, healthcare, teaching and care giving projects in Quito, and conserva- tion projects in the Galapagos. Program fees for a one week volunteer placement start at $470. International Volunteer HQ – (IVHQ) Since being established in 2007 in New Zealand, International Volunteers have served 42,000 volunteers and have worked with community projects in 30 countries around the globe that are in need of development and support. In Ecuador they offer kindergarten, school support and administration support projects in the city of Quito. Prices for a one week placement start from $550. Geo Vision Geo Vision is a USA based company who began in 2001. They are committed to designing authen- tic experiences for their volunteers where they can not only give their support to a community but they can also grow professionally and per- sonally. Geo Vison offer a 4 week teaching Eng- lish placement in Quito, Ecuador. Program fees start at $1,529. COINED COINED is a Latin American based company which has been sending volunteers to the re- gion since 1971. They are committed to provid- ing culturally rich immersion programs to their volunteers while supporting the development of delivery quality of life in Latin America. Their Ecuador projects are based in Quito in the areas of: childcare, elderly care, disabled care and education. Project fees start from $775 for a one week placement. Frontier Photo Credit:
  9. 9. 9 Dedicated to supporting and developing the lives of communities in low income areas and having an impact on minimizing environmental issues, Frontier has been in the volunteering industry since 1989. In Ecuador they provide projects in sustainable agriculture, teaching and childcare in Quito, where a two week placement starts from $1,290. They also offer a two week community building project in the Andes Region, and a two Week Amazon sanctuary project. Pro- gram fees for these projects start from $1,295. A 4 week Galapagos Conservation Project is also offered, with fees starting at $2,095. Travellers Worldwide A UK based company established in 1994, Trav- ellers Worldwide now offer 300 projects in 20 countries around the world. They are committed to providing volunteers with invaluable experi- ences while supporting local communities in need. Some of the projects that they offer in Ecuador are: childcare (Quito), a wildlife rescue project in the Ecuadorian Rainforest (Puyo) and a Galapagos conservation project. Program fees for a one week placement start from $982 for the Quito program, $1,351 for the Rainforest and $1,880 for Galapagos. Projects Abroad Established in 1992 in the UK, Projects Abroad has worked with 60,000 volunteers in 28 coun- tries across the globe. They are dedicated to creating a community of volunteers who are passionate about sustaining the environment fa- cilitating the growth of individuals and commu- nities in need. In Ecuador they offer a range of programs throughout San Cristobal, Galapagos. Projects include teaching English, after school sports, and creative arts. Program fees for a 2 week placement in these areas start from $2,215, while the Galapagos Island conservation project starts from $3,090 for a 2 week place- ment. A 4 week General Care project is also available, and prices for this start from $2,705. Eco Volunteer UP Foundation Established in 2006, Eco Volunteer Up is a non- profit organization based in Ecuador, which spe- cializes in working with communities and fami- lies in rural areas across Ecuador. They provide volunteers with a full immersion experience on projects which improve living conditions of people in need. Projects are available in several categories, including: childcare, health, teach- ing and working with special needs children, (all in Quito). A one week volunteer placement in starts from just $140. Plus, teaching English and reforestation projects are available in Galapa- gos, and these start from $200 for a one week program. How can I select the best organization Your volunteering experience may be a once in a life time opportunity, which makes it really im- portant that you choose the best organization to Photo Credit:
  10. 10. 10 book your Ecuador volunteer program through. With so many companies offering placements it is not always easy to work out which is the best; however there are some features that a good or- ganization will definitely offer. Here are some things to look for and consider when choosing the best organization. Reasonable and affordable program fees: the cost of volunteer programs vary greatly, so rather than focusing on the total dollar cost look instead at what the fees include, (say - accom- modation, food, local transportation between your room and the project, insurance, training and support), and whether you think this equals value for money. You may also wish to find out how much of your program fee is allocated for your project and host family. Financially honest: Many companies only distrib- ute a small portion of your program fee to your host family. It is important to know that your host family is being looked after and supported financially, after all they are providing a service to you, so look for a company that allows di- rect payment of fees to your host family and/or project. Committed to helping communities: If you are thinking about embarking on a volunteer place- ment than it is normally because you have a desire to have an impact on the lives of those in need. This makes it important to find a company that is dedicated and passionate about support- ing the local communities in which they work, rather than just being interested in the money making side of the business. Look for a not-for- profit organization, or one that obviously cares about supporting communities. Positive Reviews: A good company will have worked with many volunteers so positive feed- back, experiences and reviews from previous participants should not be hard to find. Read Photo Credit: these carefully and use them as a guide when choosing an organization. Professional Website: First impressions are important. Look for a website which is easy to navigate. Check the information and details are up to date, and that company logos and contact details are visible. Project information should be clear and concise, with fees –and what they include - clearly stated. Finally, there should be photos. reviews and testimonials for you to look at. Quality Customer Service: Knowing that your company will be there to support you from the beginning right through to the completion of
  11. 11. 11 your project it essential. Call the organization or send them an email to check how willing they are to assist you with any questions and con- cerns regarding the way they work, the destina- tion you have chosen and the project you are interested in. If they provide late or inadequate answers you may experience the same thing in an emergency situation. Filling out application: Once you have decided on your project and you are ready to apply for a volunteering position in Ecuador than it is im- portant that you know the process involved is clear and straightforward. Most websites have online application forms, but is there any online help or a phone number available to help or answer any queries you may have? Is the content of the application form relevant to the posi- tion?
  12. 12. 12 CHAPTER 3 : Getting Ready to Volunteer in Ecuador Once you have been accepted onto your vol- unteer placement in Ecuador it’s time to think about the important things you need to organize and get together before you leave. Here are a few tips to help you out. Visa Be aware that Ecuador’s visa rules change quite often, e fore it is vital that you contact the embassy or consulate in your home country for details of the current situation. Passport All visitors to Ecuador must hold a valid passport with at least six months left to run on it from date of entry and at least one empty page. Ad- ditionally, they need to show proof of a return or onward ticket and proof of funds to support themselves for a 90 day period. Vaccinations When travelling abroad it’s wise to protect your- self against potential (avoidable) health risks. Before travelling to Ecuador it is recommended you have any required vaccinations at least four weeks prior to departure. Consult your health care provider for advice, as you may already have antibodies against some diseases and only need boosters for some others. Tetanus, polio, mumps/measles and rubella shots are standard, along with yellow fever if you intend to visit the Amazon, coastal or rural areas, and malaria tablets, typhoid and hepatitis A and B vaccina- tions may also be recommended to help protect you against unwanted infections, illnesses and Photo Credit:
  13. 13. 13 disease while in Ecuador. For more information on health, vaccinations and medications recommended when visiting Ecuador check out the site below. traveler/none/ecuador Air ticket When you have been accepted into your volun- teer placement in Ecuador it is time to purchase your airfare, however searching for one with a bargain price ticket attached is never easy. Here are a few tips to help you find the best deal pos- sible. ▪▪ Talk to some travel agents. They may be con- sidered a little old fashioned these days as so much of the travel industry operates online, but this makes those still in business quite competitive. Register your details with them and ask to be notified if any deals come up. ▪▪ Check booking engine sites such as skyscan- that do multiple airline searches and make it easy for you to compare fares. ▪▪ Check if there are any promotional codes available. Sometimes airline release specials where you can input a code to receive a dis- count on a fare. ▪▪ If your placement is on the mainland of Ec- uador check which of the two international airports is closest to your project, as prices may vary between them. ▪▪ Allow time to get settled in Ecuador before starting your volunteer work. This lets you be flexible with your travel dates, which may lead to a cheaper flight. Raising funds Funding your Ecuador volunteer experience doesn’t mean you have to break the bank. Many volunteers these days pay all or part of their fees by receiving donations via an online cam- paign for support. This is an effective way for you to tell your friends, family and local com- munity about the project you will be embarking on, and receive financial support from those who believe in what you are doing and are inter- ested in helping you help people in need. Online campaigns are relatively easy to set up, promote, maintain and monitor. Check out these sites for more details on how to go about setting up your campaign and get those funds rolling in. https:// Suggested books to read Before travelling to Ecuador it is a good idea to get to know the country a little, and a good guide book will definitely come in useful when you are in country too. Some suggested guide books for Ecuador are: Insight Guides – Ecuador & Galapagos Rough Guide – The Rough Guide to Ecuador Moon Hardbooks – Ecuador and Galapagos Islands Some other suggested reading is: Cultureshock Ecuador - A Survival Guide to Cus- toms & Etiquette by Nicholas Crowder (2009) This is a useful guide to the customs and culture of Ecuador. The book gives an insightful view of the people of Ecuador and provides useful infor- mation, etiquette, dos & don’ts and language tips. Packing advice Packing for a volunteer based trip is really pretty similar to packing for a regular vacation – you need to consider the length of your stay, access to laundry facilities while away, airline ticket weight restrictions, any cultural or reli- gious considerations, the destination’s climate
  14. 14. 14 and what you plan to do while away. Here are a few handy tips for helping you pack for your Ecuador volunteer placement. ▪▪ Check with your airline about their baggage policy, including weight restrictions and how many pieces of luggage you may take. ▪▪ Try to pack clothes you can layer rather than bulky single items. ▪▪ Check out the typical weather conditions for the season and region(s) you plan to volun- teer in or visit while there. ▪▪ Pack a swimsuit and a lightweight jacket that will protect you from the wind if you plan to visit the Galapagos. ▪▪ If heading to the Amazon you will need light weight, fast drying clothes and a rain jacket. It is also worth packing a couple of sweaters as the evening temperatures in the jungle can drop rapidly. ▪▪ Temperatures in the Andes region can also be quite cool, so be sure to pack some winter woollies - especially for the evenings. ▪▪ Coastal areas tend to be hot all year, but you may need a light jacket for the evenings. If Other things to pack: ▪▪ Travel documents: passport, itinerary, tick- ets, travel insurance information, ▪▪ Vaccination card: (with proof of yellow fever vaccination - this may be needed upon entry back into your home country, especially if you have been in areas like the Amazon jun- gle or coastal areas where yellow fever can be contracted). ▪▪ Medication: bring a supply of any you need or use regularly; along with anti-malaria meds f you plan to visit coastal areas or the Amazon region. ▪▪ Credit cards and cash: Ecuador uses the US dollar so there’s no need to change money at the airport, but be sure to have plenty of (clean) dollar bills, as higher denomina- tions can be harder to change and use. Apart from Euros it is difficult or near impossible to change foreign currency in Ecuador so stock upon US dollars, regardless of your national- ity. ▪▪ Chargers and cables for any electrical de- vices. ▪▪ Torch or head lamp. ▪▪ Towel and any toiletries you need. (Remem- ber to take insect repellant too.) ▪▪ Camera and any accessories. ▪▪ Day pack and waterproof sack or cover for your bag. Check out Ecuador Explorer for more handy tips and hints for packing – especially for differing regions and climates in Ecuador. ing.html Gifts for projects: Packing a small gift for your project and your host family is always a nice thing to do, and Ecuadorian people will appreciate your kind ges- ture. If you are working with children then small gifts such as toys, games, stationery or learning resources will be especially welcome.
  15. 15. 15 CHAPTER 4 : Information you must know about your project So you have signed up for your placement and are eager to head off on your exciting jour- ney, but before you go it is important to make sure you know exactly what will be required of you, and that you have all the vital information needed to get off to a good start. Here you will find some helpful hints to help you be fully prepared for your volunteer placement in Ecuador. Project details: Find out key information about your project placement. You should know what’s included in your fee, project location, about any rules and expectations, who you will be working with, hours of work, how to get from your accommo- dation to your volunteer project and if there is anything in particular you should bring. What to expect when volunteering in Ecuador: Read reviews written by previous volunteers on relevant networking sites for first hand experi- ences, and talk to your organization about what you can expect from your particular volunteer project and host family. Blogs and travel guides are also useful sources of general information about Ecuador. Learn about your host family: Ecuadorians are warm welcoming people and it is likely that they will embrace you as part Photo Credit:
  16. 16. 16 of their family. Before you go find out as much as you can about them so you have a sense of familiarity when you arrive. See if you can get photos, find out who you will be living with, their names and ages, what they do and their interests. Also check if there are any house rules you need to abide by, to avoid any unintended upsets. Local Support: It’s reassuring to know that there’s support available just in case you have any problems or issues with your volunteer project or host fam- ily, or you need some advice and guidance. Be- fore you go contact your organization to get the contact details (phone numbers/emails) for any local support and get in touch before you leave. Establishing a connection will give you peace of mind that they will be there to help if you need them. Make the final call: Before embarking on your exciting Ecuador volunteer placement it is important that you make a final call to your organization to ensure everything is in place for a positive volunteer- ing experience. Make sure you have notified the organization of all your contact details, and confirmed that they have all your correct flight details. There is nothing worse than arriving at an international airport and not knowing where you have to go, so ask your organization to con- firm your meeting location and the name of the person that will be greeting you at the airport. This final call is also a great opportunity to ask any questions that you still feel need answering.
  17. 17. 17 CHAPTER 5 : Arriving and Volunteering in Ecuador Photo Credit: When you arrive in Ecuador you will experi- ence a range of different feelings, senses and emotions. Alongside beautiful landscapes and vibrant cities complemented by the warm hospi- tality of the Ecuadorian people you will also be faced with poverty. You will see city slums, and homeless people of all ages, disabled citizens, low health and hygiene standards and people and communities that are in desperate need of love, care, support, facilities and resources. Whether you are working with people, animals, the environment or developing facilities and structures for the community your volunteer work and time in Ecuador will have a great impact on the Ecuadorian people you meet and work with. How to make your volunteer Ecuador experience rewarding Caring for, protecting and supporting those in need, and knowing that you are having a posi- tive impact on the world can be a gratifying experience, especially when you can see the positive impact that it is having on others. Here are a few tips to help make your time as a volunteer as rewarding an experience as possi- ble. Believe in project: If you truly believe in the benefits and goals your volunteer project offers then even the smallest achievements pr positive changes that you see will make it worthwhile. Stay positive and appreciate the experience: With an unstable economic situation, poor housing conditions, low education and health
  18. 18. 18 standards and a completely different way of liv- ing than you are accustomed to; it’s inevitable you’ll have periods of feeling homesick, or that your help and experience are not as beneficial to the people and communities as you expected they would be. At these times it is important to remain posi- tive and know that although significant devel- opments from your help may not be obvious, it is the small things that matter and you should learn to appreciate and embrace these. Provid- ing love and support for an orphaned child or elderly citizen, teaching someone a new skill, providing medical assistance, or providing a nu- tritious meal for the homeless, helping maintain the environment or planting a tree are things you may regard as only a small gestures of help, but the impact they have on the people of Ecua- dor is huge Embrace the culture: Living in a foreign country is often hard, especially when you are exposed to new traditions, languages, cuisines and living conditions, but learning to adapt and embrace a new culture can be a rewarding experience. Spend time getting to know your host family and local project staff, and learn as much as you can from them about all things Ecuador while prac- ticing your Spanish language skills. Ecuadorians are friendly, welcoming to visitors and proud of their country, and will find great pleasure in sharing their knowledge and stories with you. Discover the country: With its varied land- scapes, rich history, unique culture and action and adventure opportunities, whether you are volunteering in the city or the countryside you will find something to do. Get out and explore your surrounding area and other regions, cities and towns to really appreciate all that Ecuador has to offer. Set your goals: Before you leave, write a list of goals for yourself that you hope to achieve through both your volunteer project and your general experience in Ecuador. These could be things like: make new friends, make a child smile, teach someone a new skill, try new foods, participate in a new activity, enhance your Spanish skills, learn and embrace a new culture, or have a positive impact on your pro- ject. Safety while volunteering in ECUADOR Although generally speaking Ecuadorians are kind and hospitable people, petty theft, credit card fraud and violent crimes do exist through- out the country. It is a poor country and some people are looking for money or valuable items to sell so they can survive. Like traveling to any other country, it is vitally important to be aware of the potential dangers and threats which may occur in Ecuador so you can take steps and pre- caution to help minimize the risk of something happening to you. • Read up on current news events, safety is- sues and concerns in Ecuador • Make sure you have purchased a good travel insurance policy before you leave your home country • Do not carry your original passport around with you. Make a photocopy of your photo page and Ecuador arrival stamp page and carry these with you at all times. • Make a note of how to contact local emer- gency services • Register your travel details with your em- bassy and inform family and friends of your travel plans. • Don’t take any unnecessary valuable items with you. • Always be conscious and aware of your sur- rounding and who might be watching you, especially when using ATMS, taking out your wallet or using your phone. • Respect the culture and dress appropriately to avoid unwanted attention.
  19. 19. 19 • Always carry your wallet and bags at the front of you, keep an eye on them at all times and never leave them unattended in public places. To keep up to date with safety issues when traveling to Ecuador be sure to check this U.S Passport and International Travel site before you go. english/country/ecuador.html Do’s and don’ts in ECUADOR DO • Talk to and get to know the Ecuadorian peo- ple • Try Ecuadorian cuisines and beverages • Embrace and respect their culture • Explore the natural surroundings • Jump on opportunities to practice your Span- ish skills • Be respectful and polite, acknowledge the people and shake hands at your first meeting • Take a small gift of appreciation if invited to an Ecuadorians home, and dress well as this is a sign of respect • Always eat your food with utensils and leave a small amount of food on your plate as a sign of respect • Be aware of crossing the road at all times. Pedestrians do not have right of way DON’T • Expect to find everything that you would find at home (foods, toiletries, supplies) • Bring unwanted attention to yourself – con- ceal valuables and dress appropriately • Use unregistered taxis and always negotiate the fare before getting in • Drink tap water, and only drink juices which are 100% fruit juice • Show any disrespect for the hospitality or service of the Ecuadorian people • Miss any opportunities to embrace the cul- ture of Ecuador. • Miss out on the cheap shopping and fiesta atmosphere of the markets. Cultural shock New environments, sights and sensations will all be part of volunteering in Ecuador. What you see, hear and encounter can all be contributing factors to experiencing culture shock. Here are a few things to consider to help you minimize any negative effects that culture shock may have on your placement. Research: Before you go do enough research on the country to give you an idea of the things that you may experience while in Ecuador. Familiarize yourself with its customs, history, economic situation and laws. Understand the living conditions, education and health systems and environment in which you will be living. Although you can never be fully prepared you will gain useful insights which will help you un- derstand the country and its people before you leave. Embrace you Host Family: Your Ecuadorian host family is not only there to provide you with food and accommodation - they offer an excellent support network too. Spend time with them, get to know them and learn as much as you can from them about Ecuador, the way of living and of course the Spanish language. Observe: Part of integrating into a new country involves becoming familiar with what is around you. Obviously be careful not to wander into any dangerous areas, but it is recommended that you take time to explore your town or city and get to know it and its residents. Observe all your surroundings, look at the houses, visit the stores, find local hangouts, participate in local activities, people watch and observe their at- titudes, behaviors and ways in which they inter- act with others, and open your mind to a differ- ent way of living. Network: When you are away from home and in a country that is very different from the one
  20. 20. 20 you come from, there will probably be times when you feel lost or lonely. The majority of other volunteers on your project will experience (or have experienced) similar feelings at some point, so taking the time to get to know them, and spending time with them both inside and outside of your placement will help you create a strong support network.. They will provide some essential sense of familiarity, especially if they are from the same country or speak the same language as you. Things to do in Ecuador Whether you are looking for good food, shop- ping, history, cultural immersion, action, adven- ture or relaxation you will not need to look far to find it in Ecuador. From vibrant cities to the high peaks of the mountains, the depths of the jungle and the beauty of the beaches, as well as diverse wildlife, rich cultures and history and UNESCO World Heritage sites, Ecuador has some- thing to offer everyone. During your volunteer work in Ecuador make sure you take the time to discover the many wonders of Ecuador. Here are a few places in Ecuador which you should definitely add to your list of things to see and do. Galapagos: Declared as an UNESCO World Herit- age site, the Galapagos archipelago is made up of a volcanic chain of islands with an incredible biodiversity and geological history. It is a place like no other – one where you can encounter rare species of wildlife up close and snorkel with playful sea lions and turtles. Otavalo Market: 3 hours north of Quito you will find the bustling market of Otavalo which has been running for hundreds of years and is now one of the largest markets in all of South Ameri- ca. Here you will find traditional arts and crafts, souvenirs, trinkets, clothes, produce and more. You may also see many Ecuadorians in tradi- tional dress and experience the vibrant colours, culture and customs of Ecuador. Banos: If you are looking for action and adven- ture then you must visit Banos. Located in the central highlands and surrounded by mountains, waterfalls, lush jungles and thermal springs, Ba- nos offers adventure for everyone. While there hike Tungurahua Volcano, go cannoning, rafting, mountain biking or paragliding, or for something lower key visit the magnificent waterfalls or relax and take it easy in the thermal springs. Devil’s Nose Train Ride: If you are looking for a hair raising rollercoaster road through natural scenery than a visit to the town of Riobamba and a ride on the Devils Nose Train will not dis- appoint. The train ride runs between Riobamba and Sibambe and works its way around a zig- zagging cliff face. Mitad del Mundo: (Middle of the World). Lo- cated just outside the city of Quito you will find the equatorial line, and what is believed to be the centre of the earth. Here you can stand with one foot on either side of the equator, or visit a museum and planetarium. Amazon: If you love nature, creepy crawlies, bird watching, and all types of wildlife then a visit to the Amazon should be high on your list. Here you will find a diverse range of wildlife, flora and fauna which is not found anywhere else in the world. This is a real adventure expe- rience and you may even encounter indigenous communities that live deep in the jungle and who continue to live life, like they have done for centuries, away from any modern influences.
  21. 21. 21 CHAPTER 6 : Completion of project & follow up Photo Credit: Your Ecuador volunteer placement will be an experience that you will never forget. Try to take lots of photos of the places you visit, your host family and people you work with so you can show them to friends and family when you return. You will also find keeping in touch with people you met as a volunteer is a great way to reminisce on your shared experience and the impact it had on your life Taking the time to write an honest review of your program and volunteer organization is im- portant to both your provider and future volun- teers. Nothing can beat first-hand insights into an experience, while any constructive feedback you may have will help your provider create an even better program in the future. When you return from Ecuador why not continue to support your cause and project? Discuss ways you could do this with your volunteer organiza- tion or directly with program staff.
  22. 22. 22 CHAPTER 7 : Most Frequently Asked Questions From Volunteers How will I get from the airport to my host family/volunteer house? Your organization will arrange meet and greet and transportation to your accommodation in Ecua- dor for you. Be sure to inform them of your flight times, and find out where you will meet. Will there be support from staff in country? Yes, in most instances in-country support is available for you once in Ecuador. Double check this with your organization and obtain all contact details for them. How many other volunteers will be participating with me? Numbers of volunteers vary from project to project and the season you volunteer in, although in general programs running over the summer months are the most popular. For more information check with your organization or project. If I volunteer with my friend can we be placed in the project and housed together? Photo Credit:
  23. 23. 23 In most circumstance there should be no problem for you and your friend to be placed in the same project and accommodation facilities. If you are wanting to share with a friend than it is recom- mend that you advise your organization well in advance so that appropriate arrangements can be made. Are meals and housing provided? Most volunteer program fees for Ecuador will include accommodation and 3 meals a day, although some may only provide 2 meals a day. Check with your program to see exactly what is provided. I am a vegetarian will that be a problem? Your host family in Ecuador will want to look after you as best they can and will usually be more than happy to work around dietary requirements. It is best however to advise your organization and host family before arriving so they are aware of the situation and can prepare accordingly. Will my host family be able to speak English? Most host families in Ecuador will speak some English, however you are visiting their country and living with them so it is the perfect opportunity for you to try and communicate as much as possi- ble in Spanish. Can I travel to other cities during my days off? Yes, while volunteering in Ecuador it is recommended that you visit and explore as many destina- tions as you can. Do I have to bring my own bedding and mosquito nets? If placed in a host family than bedding will be provided for you. If volunteering in areas which experience high humidity, such as the coast or Amazon region, than it is recommended you take a mosquito net just in case. Those mosquitoes can be quite annoying during the night! What if I don’t speak the native language? If you don’t speak the native language than you should still be able to get by. It is however recom- mended that you learn at least some common phrases before you go, or enroll in some lessons. However be sure to check with your organization and project before you go as some placements will require you to have a certain level of proficiency in Spanish. How will I get to my project every day? How you get to and from your project will depend on the placement you have chosen. For some you may be able to walk, while on others you may need to use public transport. Check with your project to see if they offer any transportation help, and if not find out the best way to get there. Can I speak with a volunteer who has gone? Check your organization’s website or call them to see if they have any networking opportunities for
  24. 24. 24 This free eBook is just written to help volunteers. So please use this book just as a general reference or source of information. We cannot guarantee the validity of information as changes in the field can be sudden. As it is impossible to provide a definite or authoritative guide it is vital you verify information directly with a relevant and up to date source. We cannot be held liable in any way for damages caused should you choose to overlook this advice. previous and potential volunteers. If you are unable to make contact with any then use volunteer reviews as a useful guide. Where will I be working? This will depend on the type of project that you have signed up to do. In Ecuador there are volun- teer opportunities all over the country, from rural villages and jungles to beach towns and cities. Check with your organization and project for your possible options in each region. What kind of food will I eat while I’m there? When staying with a host family you will most likely be offered traditional dishes from Ecuador. Dishes vary from region to region so it’s best to ask your organization for more information when you know where you will be going. How many hours per day will I be volunteering? The exact hours expected will vary from placement to placement, however most will require you to work between 4-6 hours during the day. Some placements may involve early mornings or late nights instead, so be sure to check with your organization for the exact details of your project. How much money do I need to bring? This depends on how you want to experience Ecuador. If you like to eat out, or are planning on doing a lot of traveling within the country, trying some adventure activities, visiting museums or doing a lot of shopping than you will need to take this into consideration when budgeting for your trip. While volunteering your accommodation and meals will be provided, so you should only have to worry about any personal expenses.