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Volunteer in Ecuador with Love Volunteers
Jim Little (33) was born and raised in Calgary, Canada, where he graduated from the University of Calgary with degrees in Geography and Computer Science. He is currently a software developer, an active volunteer with the Calgary Public Library, and enjoys a variety of sports in his spare time.
GO: Why did you decide to volunteer abroad with Love Volunteers in Equador?
Jim: I chose to work with the Love Volunteers in Equador based on the recommendations and research of a friend with whom I was travelling. She looked into numerous organizations and chose Love Volunteers based on their reputation and the variety of unique and interesting opportunities they offer, such as the one we chose in the Galapagos Islands. We were at the station from April 24 to May 4, 2012.
GO: Describe your day to day activities as a volunteer:
Jim: The main goal of the station I was working with (Jatun Sacha on San Cristobal) is to lower the impact of invasive plant species on the island and to focus on reforestation projects. Our main tasks in this involved removing invasive species from the station and local surrounding farms, then planting native/endemic species in their place, as well as helping prepare coffee plants for distribution to local farmers at a greenhouse in the highlands. Other less-frequent but interesting tasks were mixed in as well, ranging from picking fruit in the jungle to helping the National Parks department prepare for a marathon hosted on the island.
GO: What made this volunteer abroad experience unique and special? What advice do you have for future volunteers?
Jim: For volunteers specifically interested in working with Love Volunteers on the Galapagos, I would recommend a few things to make the experience and travel more enjoyable. Definitely bring lots of insect repellent and a mosquito net hat. Also be sure to have some long-sleeved, light-colored clothing: the insects are feisty in the jungle highlands, but with these precautions one shouldn't have too many concerns. The station has a huge collection of rubber boots to borrow, so if you don't want to have to pack these on your travels you can likely find a pair to make use of. The only way to guarantee that you'll have a pair that fits comfortably is to bring your own, but if I had to do the trip again I would have just borrowed from the station and saved the room in my backpack. Otherwise my only advice is to be ready for hot, humid conditions with some hard work mixed in for a few of the days, but it's all for a good cause and an ultimately rewarding and unique experience.
GO: How has this experience impacted your future?
Jim: This was really the best trip I have ever taken for two main reasons. Firstly, the people involved were all extremely friendly, helpful, and informative. This applies to the staff with Love Volunteers as well as the staff and other volunteers at our placement on the Galapagos. If you enjoy meeting and working with good people, as well as learning a lot about the people and the islands themselves, this is definitely an opportunity I highly recommend. Secondly, the scenery and wildlife on the Galapagos islands are fascinating and beautiful. Literally every day had me saying "Wow" out loud to something I was seeing or experiencing. It's an absolutely beautiful and unique place on Earth to explore, and doing so as a volunteer offers some opportunities that you would not ordinarily get to experience as a regular tourist to the islands.
Edward Chien, age 22, resident of Wisconsin. Math teacher and foreign language learner. Traveled to Ecuador in June-August 2011.
GO: Why did you decide to volunteer abroad with Love Volunteers in Ecuador?
Edward: Two main things appealed to me about this particular volunteer opportunity as opposed to others: 1) It was not obscenely expensive. 2) There were more volunteer opportunities than just teaching English! I chose to work at a domestic violence shelter in Quito.
GO: Describe your day to day activities as a volunteer.
Edward: At the shelter, I spent most of my time doing activities with the children. We played games, did educational activities, went to the park a couple times, etc. It was challenging not only due to the emotional sensitivity of the children, but also the fact that the ages of the children varied widely and they were all gathered together in one smallish room. However, it was plain to see that what I was doing was valuable, which is a luxurious consolation not always to be had when doing difficult work. I can also say that I formed real friendships with the children. It was hard to leave.
GO: What was the highlight of your trip?
Edward: With the caveat that this is only *one* highlight out of many great experiences in Ecuador, one Friday morning at a bus station I happened to meet the president of an NGO focused on community development. We spoke a bit, and I learned that he was en route at that moment to a small Shuar community in the Amazon jungle. He was going to spend the weekend there discussing a possible free-range chicken project which would give the community a source of income. At the time, the community had no income whatsoever, which greatly limited the educational and other opportunities that its members had access to. This NGO president ended up inviting me to accompany him into the jungle and offer any ideas I had about how to make the project work. So, I abandoned my original travel plans, bought a new bus ticket*, and had an absolutely amazing weekend.
GO: How has this experience impacted your future?
Edward: Going to Ecuador made me aware of how remarkable travel is. When I came back to the US, my first thought was, "I'm doing this again as soon as possible." Spending time in a different culture, speaking a different language, visiting beautiful places, and meeting really cool people (including fellow travelers) are all experiences worth a lot of trouble to make them happen.
About Love Volunteers
We are just a handful of passionate people working hard to help volunteers and local communities around the world. We don't have huge overheads - no company cars, no downtown office - we're just volunteers who thought we could do a better job. We work with local organisations wherever we can to keep administration costs to a minimum and also to return as much money and skills to the local communities where we operate. We can offer the lowest possible fees, but also ensure that you are immersed in the local culture and are actually making a difference!