How would you like to venture to a country where there are beautiful mountains and volcanoes, beaches, historical cities, and the most extraordinary islands in the world, which inspired Charles Darwin to write On the Origin of Species? While exploring this country, how would you like to share your good fortune and make a difference in the lives of others? According to Go Overseas 2012 Volunteer Abroad Report, Ecuador ranks 23rd in terms of monthly average searches for volunteer programs.
Ecuador is a country with volunteer opportunities just as diverse as its landscape. Programs abound for anyone with interests in teaching English, working with children and the elderly, providing support in hospitals, and performing conservation and environmental protection. You can work in the capital city Quito, with its beautiful historic district, Guayquil, Ecuador's largest city, or for a complete change of pace, head out to the famous and beautiful Galapagos Islands.
As always, it is important before going abroad to do your research. We here at Go Overseas are pleased to compile a list of 33 resources you can use in your quest to volunteer abroad in Ecuador. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but what follows can serve as a good place to begin.
Since this is the main reason you are visiting this article, we will begin with a list of several volunteer abroad programs. Some of these are specific to Ecuador, while others can offer you opportunities in other countries. It's important to note that most volunteer programs do charge their participants a fee, as they often provide airport pick-up, accommodations with host families and homestays, food, support, and organized activities. As always, find the program that suits you best.
- International Volunteer HQ: This organization has been around since 2007, and also offers opportunities in other countries. Their fees are reasonable (currently US $270 for one week, and US $2850 for six months. Their Ecuador programs focus on teaching English and working with street children, and they are based in Quito.
- Fundacion Bolivar Education: This program began through the Simon Bolivar Spanish School back in 2004, and it keeps growing. You can volunteer anywhere throughout Ecuador you choose. You can work in an animal shelter, teach, assist the elderly, the possibilities are endless. Some of their services include dancing and cooking lessons, as well as discounted Spanish lessons if you volunteer for a minimum of two weeks. Their website also provides images and information about the apartment complexes volunteers can rent, and the host families.
- Global Volunteer Network: Another excellent program that has consultative status with the United Nations. Their website is very easy to navigate. Their programs for Ecuador concentrate on day care, teaching English, health care, conservation, and a project in the Galapagos. They send their volunteers into areas outside the cities, so check them out if this is your preference.
- United Planet: Their volunteer positions are more long-term, so if you have six to twelve months you would like to spend volunteering, United Planet may be what you are looking for. They call their programs "quests," which may appeal to those with a sense of adventure. They provide education and social work volunteer opportunities.
- Love Volunteers: Love Volunteers also provides diverse volunteer opportunities. You can spend as little as one week on a project. They offer homestays and chances for Spanish lessons. Love Volunteers also offers volunteer opportunities in other countries.
- Lead Adventures: Lead Adventures specializes in volunteer programs in Ecuador and the Galapagos. They have several highly-rated projects to choose from (including childcare, teaching, sports coaching, and conservation).
- Greenheart Travel: Greenheart is a wonderful organization that focuses on cultural exchange. They offer several different types of programs in Ecuador: language schools in Quito and Cuenca, elderly care, community development, public health, and education.
- Global Works Travel: Global Works is a great volunteer abroad organization for all ages. They currently offer a summer community service trip to Ecuador as well as a language immersion program to Ecuador and Peru or the Galapagos.
Visas and Administrative Information
Most of the volunteer programs send you information regarding visas, and there are also places in their FAQ pages where you can look up a quick source. To simplify things further, here is a listing of embassies and visa information.
- Visa HQ: This site provides visa information for Canada, the US, and the UK. Information is also offered for other countries. As of now, US citizens do not require a tourist visa if they are staying in Ecuador for up to 90 days.
- British Foreign and Commonwealth Office: This government office is based in the capital city Quito. Always great for travel alerts and updates.
- Embassies of Ecuador: Any embassy, like the UK Embassy in Ecuador or the Canadian Embassy of Ecuador, are great resources for expats looking to connect with other foreigners. The Embassy of Ecuador in the US is the American website that provides information in both English and Spanish.
Learning Spanish Tools
Despite the number of expats living in the cities, Ecuador is a predominately Spanish-speaking country. Luckily, Spanish is fairly easy language to learn and there is an abundance of programs, online classes, and apps to help you grasp the language before you arrive in Ecuador. Remember that some of your volunteer programs will provide you with Spanish lessons; certainly take them up on that!
- StudySpanish.com: This is a free site. It may not be the best for learning conversational Spanish, but there is still a wide range of resources.
- 123TeachMe.com: 123TeachMe is free, with multiple functions; you can even find a Spanish school in the country you are traveling to.
- Spanish Flashcards: Available through Google Play, this text to speech feature may not work on some devices, but there are still lots of useful expressions, as well as vocabulary. This app is also free!
- Spanish Anywhere!: This useful app costs $7.99, to be used with iPad or iPhone. There is a complaint regarding that users can only study a limited number of flashcards in My Study List at a time.
Ecuador Media Outlets
These are mostly newspapers, but some of the links that will be provided in the next section will include ways to get to TV and radio stations.
- El Universo: This newspaper based out of Guayaquil, Ecuador's largest city. It's available only in Spanish, which may prove helpful in your language development!
- El Financiero: Also in Spanish, this is the financial newspaper, based out of Guayaquil.
- Online Newspapers: A decent database filled with newspapers from the country you want to explore. They even specify what's an English edition, as well as the region where the paper in published. Be warned; some of the links are inactive.
- In Cuenca: In Cuenca, the newspaper for Cuenca, is a great source of information for travelers with a focus on local accommodations, restaurants, embassies, and more. They also run websites on the Galapagos, Guayaquil, and Quito. All three of these publications are available in English and German.
Fun Stuff and Travel in Ecuador
The volunteer programs are very good about providing their volunteers with field trips, cooking and dancing lessons, cultural experiences, and other ways to have fun in Ecuador. But if you have some time for yourself, these resources may give you the push to check some things out on your own. There are also excellent blogs that share foreigners' experiences in Ecuador, and it's always good to hear it from the source!
- Gringos Abroad!: This is a fun blog created by a Canadian family living in Cuenca, Ecuador. It's filled with loads of information, from renting houses, to looking for fun stuff. They have one child, who occasionally contributes to the blog, so it's great for kids to read too! If you're a volunteer bringing children, this might be the resources you need.
- GoBackpacking.com: An online travel guide, which also includes tips on budgeting.
- Ecuaworld.com: Available also in Spanish and German, this resource contains lots of information about different areas of Ecuador, traveling, attractions, bargains, and more.
- GalapagosIslands.com: Even if you don't volunteer on the Galapagos Islands, you should try to plan a visit. This is the authoritative on travel and tours of the Galapagos Islands. Of importance is the information about the Transit Control Card.
- Galapagos Conservancy: A great resource to read especially if you are interested in volunteering in the Galapagos Islands. Check out their information about the conservation efforts.
- Ecuador Explorer: This is a great site to find links to hotels, activities, everything.
- Hip Ecuador: Hip Ecuador is a terrific travel and information database written by native Ecuadorians, but still in English.
- Ecuador Volcano Tours: Since Ecuador is home to various volcanoes, visiting them is one of the top tourist draws.
- Ama La Vida: Ama La Vida means "love the life" in Spanish, and this channel on YouTube is all about art, nature, people, and everything that makes up Ecuador. It's all in Spanish, so again, you have another opportunity to immerse yourself in the language.
Sometimes you need a little help acquiring funds for your great volunteering adventure. These websites can provide you with information, as well as links to scholarships and grants.
- Resource from Go Overseas: This is a very helpful article about finding scholarships and the funding you need to make your dreams of going abroad come true.
- How Stuff Works: This particular article walks you through the process of applying for grants to travel abroad.
- FinAid: FinAid is an awesome site that focuses on helping volunteers find scholarships for their community service projects.
As stated, this is by no means a complete list of all the amazing resources out there. Hopefully, these will help you get started. If you find other links and resources, feel free to pass them along!