Volunteer in Ecuador from US$285

By UBELONG   Reviews (43)   96% Rating

UBELONG offers 1-week to 6-month volunteering opportunities in 5 Ecuador locations: Quito, Amazon and Galapagos. There are over 20 projects in different fields, including: agriculture, caregiving, education, health and the environment.

Highlights

  • Affordable: Without compromising quality, the world's most affordable international volunteering opportunities.
  • Flexibility: Pick from 100+ projects across Africa, Asia and South America. Volunteer 1 week to 6 months. Start any week.
  • Support: Work one-on-one with a UBELONG Mentor throughout your volunteer experience.
  • Comfort: Housing and meals included, as well as 24/7 field support.
  • Network: UBELONG is based in Washington, DC, the capital of international volunteering.
  • Impact: UBELONG is a social venture led by international volunteers and university professors drive

Program Info

Location: 
  • EcuadorAmazon
  • EcuadorGalapagos
  • EcuadorQuito
Program Length: 
1-2 weeks
2-4 weeks
1-3 months
3-6 months
Cost: 
$500 - $2,000 (USD)
See site for details.
See Additional Information
Cost Description: 

Without compromising safety or impact, UBELONG offers the world's most affordable 1-week to 6-month international volunteering opportunities.

Fees vary by location and placement duration. They start from US$150 for one week. Fees include:

-Airport pick-up

-Housing and meals

-24/7 in-country support

-Continual one-on-one mentorship from a UBELONG Mentor (including written materials and a phone/Skype Briefing Meeting)

-Peace of mind from joining the leading short-term international volunteering program, which is based in Washington, DC

-Networking opportunities through the powerful UBELONG community

*The UBELONG Campus Leaders program offers scholarships to university students. Contact us for more information.

Languages: 
English
Spanish
Housing: 
Volunteer House
Application: 
Online Application

Videos

Program Reviews (43)

96%
Positive
Leave a Review
  • Impact
    89%
  • Support
    95%
  • Fun
    94%
  • Value
    95%
  • Safety
    93%
  • Jackson Wyers
    Age: 19-24
    Male
    Galveston, Texas
    Texas A&M University
    August 2014 Experience in the Galapagos Island
    02/12/2015

    I feel that UBELONG is an excellent organization to volunteer for. Before the trip began my meeting with the UBELONG mentor made sure that I had everything I needed to make my trip happen and for it to go smoothly. I felt like they had done a good job in planning transportation to and from the airport to the destinations. Most of the work that comes with traveling to places to volunteer had been taken care of by UBELONG. Once at the volunteer station I felt like the work we were doing was actually making a positive difference on the surrounding area and that we were never just assigned busy work. I also felt like the amount of food was plentiful for a hard days work. They also knew how to have fun at the volunteer station and made sure we had plenty of free time to relax and explore the beautiful destination that we were in.

    How could this program be improved?

    My only recommendation would be that UBELONG set up a service so that people who are about to go on a trip could talk with those who had already been on the trip in order to get a better perspective on exactly what they would need and would be doing once there.

    Was this review...?
    Useful: 2 Inspiring: 0
  • Veronica Knowlton
    Age: 25-30
    Female
    Indianapolis
    Other
    Amazing organization perfect for any volunteer
    01/27/2015

    UBELONG is a first-rate organization for anyone looking for a no-frills volunteer opportunity. This organization provides amazing alternatives around the world for a very low cost and helps give you all the tools you need to succeed within each community. I'm very much looking forward to my next project with UBELONG in the future!

    Photos:
    The views of Quito, Ecuador are so beautiful.
    Working with the children was such a rewarding experience.
    Not only are you able to give back to the community, you are given once in a lifetime opportunities to see the world.
    Was this review...?
    Useful: 0 Inspiring: 0
  • Jennifer Cooper
    Age: 19-24
    Female
    London
    Royal Holloway, University of London
    Teaching in Quito
    01/22/2015

    I spent 1 month Quito, working at a local primary school and staying with Goevanna and her family. It was the most incredible experience of my life and I would give anything to go back there. My host family were lovely and made me feel so welcome, I truly felt like another member of their family! At the weekends I travelled with other volunteers and had some amazing experiences, especially the cloud forest in Mindo and climbing Cotopaxi volcano. The children at the school loved learning English with us and always wanted to play with us at break time and after school. I felt like I'd been working at the school for a year! Ecuador is a culturally enriching experience and I highly recommend it to anyone who is thinking of going!

    How could this program be improved?

    Some more information could be given regarding about the town and family as I was definitely scared before going as I didn't feel like I knew much. However, once I realised I realised that I was perfectly safe.

    Photos:
    Karl Marx School
    Parents day at school!
    Cotopaxi Volcano
    Was this review...?
    Useful: 0 Inspiring: 0
  • Eddie Manteca
    Age: 25-30
    Male
    Phoenix Arizona
    Arizona State University
    Volunteering in Ecuador
    12/15/2014

    My days were filled with so much appreciation and love for my ability to be present. Waking up to a homemade breakfast and coffee before getting the day started was something that really made the day begin just right. After my breakfast and morning rituals, I would walk to my location. The walk to the facility was as important as anything else in my day. It gave me time to focus on my intentions, and recognize how grateful I was to be in such a position. The view of Quito in the morning was a gift in itself.

    Although I was eager to "do" so much during my volunteering, being present and lending a whole heart to each individual is all that I needed to be a part of.

    Every day that I was there I was asked to do something different but not unfamiliar. I have had the privilege of working many jobs throughout my life so far. Being asked to do another task was more than fine with me. I really appreciate new experiences and learning from others who do things differently.

    How could this program be improved?

    Creating a more specific participation with the nunnery. Although I understand it is somewhat of a privilege to be able to participate with the nunnery, a lot more could have been done. I believe that when someone decides to volunteer their time, they expect to be made use of in many ways. We are young and innovative, and ready to do so much. Take advantage.

    Photos:
    Hanging out with some of the elderly women in the courtyard.
    lunch time.
    My final day with my host family and volunteers.
    Was this review...?
    Useful: 0 Inspiring: 0
  • Rachel R.
    Age: 19-24
    Female
    College Station, TX
    Texas A&M University
    Great experience
    11/03/2014

    Ubelong is a wonderful organization. I have nothing but good things to say about the way that they are organized and run. My host family was super generous and very knowledgeable, and they did a great job making sure that I was prepared and ready for the trip. Barbara made even my panicked mother comfortable. My experience with UBELONG was nothing but positive and I would definitely go on another trip with them if I decide that more international service is in my future.

    How could this program be improved?

    I went during their summer break, so the kids were on their summer break, too. The "teaching" became more babysitting and we weren't able to teach much English, but the kids were fantastic and the volunteers were still very necessary at the school.

    Photos:
    Canyoning in Banos, Ecuador (the entrance to the Amazon rainforest) on my free weekend!
    Cartwheeling over the Equator, which is about 45 minutes away.
    My best friend Shindy and I at the top of Teleferiqo. We took a gondola up here and hiked, rode horses, and took pictures with alpacas, all with a beautiful view of all of Quito!
    Was this review...?
    Useful: 0 Inspiring: 0
  • Rachel
    Age: 19-24
    Female
    I am from Placerville, CA but live in Eugene, OR.
    University of Oregon
    Review of UBELONG
    10/22/2014

    I had a great experience with UBLONG. THe application and preparation processes were very straightforward and my mentor was an extraordinary source of knowledge. My time spent volunteering abroad was a month that I will treasure forever. UBLEONG helped me give my travel to the South America a meaning other than tourism. While there, I saw sites from a different lens, and I got to assist in sustaining the famously unique environment of the Galapagos Islands.

    How could this program be improved?

    Everyone should be aware that the banks on the Galapagos are very unreliable and that they should be ready to bring cash to fund all of their adventures.

    Photos:
    Puerto Chino was a beautiful beach full of sea lions, blue footed boobies, sea turtles, and Darwin's finches.
    One of the many Giant Tortoises I got to see while working at the Galapaguera on San Cristobal
    While working, I was from head to toe to avoid getting bitten the mosquitos and carmelitos!
    Was this review...?
    Useful: 0 Inspiring: 0
  • Jeev Selvarajah
    Age: 31-50
    Female
    Toronto, Ontario
    Other
    I felt like I belong
    10/13/2014

    UBELONG was exactly what I had in mind when I was looking up organizations that would help me accomplish my dream of traveling while trying to make a difference. There prices are affordable, start dates are flexible and the minimum time commitment required will work with anyone's travel schedules. I did not expect to have FREE Wi-Fi at my volunteer house so that was a wonderful perk.
    From the folks at the UBELONG headquarters to their local team at the volunteer projects, you are quickly made to feel welcome and that "you belong". I was truly blessed to have been surrounded by loving and caring host family and fellow UBELONG volunteers. They make me miss my life in Tumbaco. I was surprised with a birthday party with cake, beverages, decorations and entertainment when I wasn't even expecting anything to be honest. Thank you, UBELONG.

    How could this program be improved?

    There wasn't a requirement to know Spanish but if there had been some sort of requirement like a basic understanding of the language, then I would have taken some lessons before my trip. Beginner lessons would have come in extremely handy because majority of the students did not speak English and communication was challenging at times. There were UBELONG volunteers who were fluent in Spanish and they definitely made things much easier. Thank you girls!

    Photos:
    Pictionary with the students
    Last day of school for the students
    Students receive friendship bracelets made by fellow UBELONG volunteer Leigh
    Was this review...?
    Useful: 0 Inspiring: 0
  • Kai Lin
    Age: 25-30
    Female
    Toronto, Canada
    York University
    Amazing Galapago
    10/10/2014

    UBELONG made what is a nervous experience of traveling to a new country very seamless for me. Adriana was wondering with checking in and ready to answer any questions needed. Very proud to have been a UBELONG Volunteer.

    How could this program be improved?

    More information about packing list and perhaps add in ability to connect with previous volunteers.

    Was this review...?
    Useful: 1 Inspiring: 0
  • Julia
    Age: 31-50
    Female
    Boston, MA
    Lawrence University
    A unique adventure
    10/07/2014

    Volunteering on the Galapagos Islands was an adventure in every sense. It took me out of my comfort zone - I was on my own, without the Western comforts I'm used to, in a culture I didn't know. At the same time, I was supported by an excellent local team (who were patient with my basic Spanish skills!) and the friendliest fellow volunteers. It was an incredible opportunity to see and give back to one of the most unique places on the planet.

    How could this program be improved?

    Both leaders of the volunteer organization were not present during my volunteer

    Photos:
    Was this review...?
    Useful: 2 Inspiring: 0
  • Luke Sutton
    Age: 19-24
    Male
    London, England.
    Royal Holloway, University of London
    Teaching and living in Quito, Ecuador.
    09/17/2014

    With the UBELONG project there was always been active communication to ensure that my experience was one of enjoyment, worth and comfort even after the project finished. The in-country team were always so attentive and approachable should you need to discuss anything - be it project related or just a casual conversation - in a way that gave you the space and security to really explore opportunities of your new environment yourself. The project itself along with living and working with surprisingly (or not so) like minded volunteers is really indescribable without using those cliched 'travel terms' like "phenomenal", "brilliant" and "incredible" - except that they really do describe the experience i had with UBELONG.

    How could this program be improved?

    Not just being polite and courteous but it is hard to fault my experience by way of UBELONG, their projects and staff on them - you just have to be aware of what travelling and living abroad is likely to involve and potential problems that may arise - remaining open and level headed and you'll unlikely encounter any problems.

    Was this review...?
    Useful: 0 Inspiring: 0
  • Tina Morgan
    Age: 19-24
    Female
    New Jersey
    Georgian Court University
    UBELONG Ecuadorian Amazon
    08/19/2014

    UBELONG made it possible for me to afford a volunteer abroad opportunity dealing with forest conservation. I was able to meet unforgettable people in a safe and caring environment. Overall, this was an amazing experience!

    How could this program be improved?

    I would have rather have gone straight to the reservation at Jatun Sacha instead of staying two nights in Quito. The preparation book was very thorough but missed out on important information such as finding the bus station in Tena. The other volunteers and I traveled to Jatun Sacha on different days and we all had issues finding the bus station in Tena. Being in a different country knowing their language minimally made asking for clear directions difficult. Other than that, the actual program at Jatun Sacha was incredible and I could not complain about anything there!

    Was this review...?
    Useful: 2 Inspiring: 0
  • Rachel Larson
    Age: 19-24
    Female
    Eagan, Minnesota
    University of Wisconsin
    Galapagos Program Review
    08/02/2014

    After volunteering with UBELONG in Cusco, Peru, I knew I wanted to work with the organization again. I was thrilled to be able to plan a volunteer trip to the Galapagos through UBELONG. UBELONG prepared me very well for the trip. My mentor was extremely helpful in answering my questions and providing information about the project so that I felt confident and prepared when I left. Volunteering with UBELONG is a great and affordable way to see the world while helping others or the environment. I hope to volunteer with UBELONG again soon!

    Was this review...?
    Useful: 0 Inspiring: 0
  • Tara
    Age: 19-24
    Female
    West Lafayette, IN
    Purdue University
    Great experience at a great price!
    05/16/2014

    I had been planning on participating in a long term volunteer project for a while and was looking for a safe program with a good price. Most programs I came upon were too expensive and seemed more like vacations rather than volunteer work. Then I saw UBELONG. The price was affordable and there was a lot for the volunteers to do. Before departure, all of my questions were answered, and I had a lot. I chose education in Quito and I loved it! The family was very welcoming and made us feel as if we were part of their family. They included us in their trips and their parties and made sure that we were comfortable. I taught an English class everyday to children, and seeing how much they progressed was truly amazing! This is a program that I truly recommend and plan on participating in again in the future!

    Was this review...?
    Useful: 0 Inspiring: 0
  • Brian Wright
    Age: 18 or younger
    Male
    United States
    Indiana University–Bloomington
    Quito 2014
    04/04/2014

    My first experience with UBELONG was during my the Spring Break of my freshman year of college. After speaking with my group's mentor prior to departing for Quito, I realized how prepared I was to go and make a difference during my time abroad. What I did not know was that I was going to leave with such unforgettable experiences. UBELONG paired my volunteer group with a wonderful host family, and although I only had the opportunity to stay in Quito for one week, I realized how much UBELONG did in order to make sure everyone who volunteers for them has the best experiences of their lives. I was incredibly impressed by how much my Mentor helped my group to prepare, and UBELONG made sure that we were in an environment where we would thrive and be comfortable. This volunteer experience was unlike any other I have had in the past, and it truly was the best volunteer experience I've had to this day. I hope to have this opportunity again in the future, so that I can make even more incredible memories and friendships.

    Was this review...?
    Useful: 1 Inspiring: 1
  • Kristen Van
    Age: 25-30
    Female
    Washington, D.C.
    Saint Mary's College
    A Great Program
    04/01/2014

    UBELONG provides affordable, flexible volunteer opportunities abroad. The staff of both UBELONG and the local team were incredibly helpful during my preparation and stay on the island. The time I spent volunteering on the Galapagos was a truly once-in-a-lifetime experience: I was able to bond with volunteers from around the world while making a difference. It was wonderful to have the opportunity to give back to this magical place. I can't recommend UBELONG highly enough.

    How could this program be improved?

    The station is run by Jatun Sacha, which has volunteers from many different organizations. I would have liked to have been able to communicate with these volunteers before I reached the island, though I don't know if that's possible.

    Was this review...?
    Useful: 0 Inspiring: 0

Alumni Interviews

  • Rachel: There were many factors that led me to choose to volunteer through UBELONG, primarily my past experience with the organization. I volunteered through UBELONG in Cusco, Peru and I had a great experience. I felt prepared when I left because of all the information the UBELONG staff provided. I also enjoyed staying in a volunteer house in Cusco and meeting other volunteers from around the world.

    My trip to the Galapagos was another incredible experience. Like before, I was assigned a UBELONG mentor who was extremely helpful in answering my questions. She also provided a lot of information about the location and project. The project leader in the Galapagos was also very helpful. He picked our group up at the airport, taught us about the project and the environment, and showed us around the island.

    Planting Pineapple
    Here I am (left) working with another volunteer in the garden at the reserve. We are planting pineapple. Other days we would use machetes to remove invasive blackberry plants. We also built a fence around the garden.

    I also value UBELONG's commitment to engaging the local communities and their emphasis on the volunteering aspect, rather than the tourism aspect of the trip. Therefore, I knew that volunteering through UBELONG would maximize my impact and my experience.

    What was the one moment of the trip you will never forget?

    Rachel: One of the most memorable moments was seeing how much of an impact volunteers have had, and will have, on the reserve. The leader at the reserve where we worked showed us a large area of land that was completely covered by trees and other native plants.

    He then explained that the entire area used to be covered by the invasive blackberry bushes that we were removing in other areas of the reserve. Although the work can seem tedious, this showed me the importance of what we were doing and how each volunteer plays a role in achieving large-scale change.

    What was the most interesting cultural difference you encountered?

    Rachel: The Galapagos Islands had a very interesting cultural dynamic, due to the large presence of the tourism industry. The majority of the people seemed to be tourists and towns were primarily comprised of tour agencies, souvenir shops, and restaurants. Although I had known that tourism was the prominent industry in the Galapagos, I had not expected it to be so evident.

    The fact that many of the local peoples' livelihoods revolve around tourism also gave me a different perspective on the work we were doing at the nature reserve. This trip had initially appealed to me because of my love for nature and belief that the environment should be protected for its innate value.

    Galapagos Wildlife
    In the Galapagos volunteers have the opportunity to see and learn about a variety of wildlife unique to the islands.

    However, seeing how reliant the people of the Galapagos are on tourism, I understood that the preservation of the island was vital for the economic stability of the islands and their inhabitants.

    Talking to some of the locals about the work we were doing gave me a more personal understanding of the impact tourism has on the locals and the importance of preserving the unique environment.

    Was it difficult to navigate around language barriers?

    Rachel: I do not speak Spanish, however the language barrier was not a significant issue during my trip. The project leader at the reserve where I volunteered spoke English but many of the natives who lived in the towns did not.

    Overtime, it became easier to communicate with the locals using gestures and a combination of English and Spanish words I learned. I specifically wanted to volunteer in a country where I did not speak the language because it's a great and valuable experience to learn how to communicate with others who speak a different language.

    What would you do differently? What would you definitely do again?

    Rachel: Something that I wish I had done before my trip was learn more about Ecuador in general. I think that having a better understanding of the history, politics, and culture would have enhanced my trip by adding more background and context.

    Since I would be working on an environmental project, I had researched the Galapagos ecosystem before leaving. However, learning more about the other aspects of the country would have provided me with a broader understanding of and appreciation for Ecuador.

    As with any experience abroad, it is hard to know what to expect before you arrive. Therefore, I made sure to keep an open mind prior to and during my trip. Realizing that things may not go as planned or I how I had imagined, allowed me make the most out of my trip. I accepted unexpected events as a part of the experience.

    This is definitely something I would do again. The conditions we were working in and the physical work was much different from anything I had experienced before, but I thoroughly enjoyed the project. Therefore, I believe that being open to new experiences is the best way learn and grow from a trip abroad.

  • Spend time with the wildlife and the environment in Ecuador
    Caryn went up close with the wildlife

    Morning: A typical morning involved waking up between 6:30-7:00 a.m., dressing, and heading to the dining area where meals were served family style. I ate a lot more at breakfast than I normally do, but I don't usually do as much physical labor as I did in Galapagos.

    Breakfast often included fruit, hot or cold cereal, bread & butter, and lots of fresh fruit juice. At 8:00 a.m. the group met, received instructions about the day's plans, and then either walked or was driven to the work area. We worked till ten-ish, then took a break (which also included a snack).

    Afternoon: Lunch was served at noon, and then there was another hour or so of free time until we went back to work. The work included various tasks while I was there: slashing down invasive blackberry ("mora") with a machete; planting coffee, collecting fruit, and collecting yucca for replanting. We also picked coffee beans, washed and hulled them, and prepared them for drying.

    Everyone was invited to sign up for kitchen duty, which excused him/her from working in the field for that part of the day. Kitchen duties included preparing fruits and vegetables for meals, squeezing juice, washing & drying dishes, and serving. There was always plenty of food. Yadira, the cook, was wonderful to work with--she was very good-natured and a lot of fun to speak Spanish with.

    Volunteering leads to exposure to wildlife
    Caryn enjoyed volunteering in Ecuador

    Evening: A typical evening (for me, but not for most) was spent having dinner, cleaning up, and then retreating to the balcony to read, write in my journal, or socialize with other volunteers. Neighbors have set up an informal bar about 15 minutes away and it was a popular spot. There's a pool table there, and lots of room to dance. The night I went I played cards and enjoyed myself... but it wasn't part of my nightly routine. I went to sleep fairly early because I was pretty beat by the end of the day.

    Highlights: The highlight of my trip was meeting a lot of good people, both in Quito and in San Cristobal. In Quito, I spent about one week with a family whose daughter works for Jatun Satcha. They were wonderful: very warm and welcoming, helpful, and generous. I would not have enjoyed Quito and Otavalo as much had I not been staying with Geovanna's family.

    The other highlight was seeing the giaint tortoises. I work in a national park and see a fair amount of wildlife. But being able to see the tortoises as close up as I did was amazing. There were other animals I was excited to see: pelicans, sea lions, blue-footed boobies, crabs... but somehow the tortoises really made the trip seem over the top.

  • Why did you decide to volunteer abroad with UBELONG in the Galapagos?

    Heather: My decision to go to the Galapagos with UBELONG was pretty last-minute. I was originally planning to volunteer in South Africa with another volunteer company when I got a Facebook message from UBELONG's co-founder telling me he saw I liked another page for international volunteering, a little about his new company and recommending I check it out. Initially, I just wrote him back and said "no thanks," but I looked at their prices anyway and saw that program costs for similar projects and similar lengths of time were almost 4 times cheaper than what I was about to pay for South Africa. I mapped out a potential trip in South America with UBELONG that mirrored what I would do in South Africa with another company and all-in, I ended up saving a few thousand dollars.

    Aside from the cost, I admittedly was skeptical because UBELONG was just starting out whereas the other company had more than 20 years of experience. But after some careful research and countless emails exchanged with both UBELONG founders (they were very quick to respond, thorough, and patient with all my questions) I decided to volunteer in the Galapagos for 4 weeks and in Cusco for 3 weeks through UBELONG.

    Volunteer outdoors in the Galapagos Islands with UBELONG
    Volunteer outdoors in the Galapagos Islands with UBELONG

    Describe your day to day activities as a volunteer.

    Heather: I was doing environmental conservation work. Breakfast was at 7, we'd start working around 8 or 8:30, have a break around 10 or 10:30, lunch at noon, work again 2-4, dinner at 6, and the rest of the night off. We spent a lot of time chopping down mora (berry bush with long, thin, thorny stems that grow and spread like wildfire and are seriously damaging to the islands.) After clearing as much land as possible, we would plant native plant species like Galapagos coffee in place of the mora. We raised those plants in the nursery until they were big enough to be transplanted. On Thursdays we would go to the national park's nursery and help out there with seeding, weeding, and general maintenance, usually followed by a trip to the tortoise sanctuary and/or the beach. We got weekends off so we would work or go for a hike from the station Friday morning, eat lunch at the station then take taxis into town. We had the weekend to relax, visit the different beaches, go for hikes, go to the internet cafe, and really anything else we wanted. We'd head back to the station Sunday before dinner.

    Visit the beautiful Galapagos and volunteer with UBELONG
    Visit the beautiful Galapagos and volunteer with UBELONG

    How has this experience helped you grow personally and professionally?

    Heather: Volunteering abroad was one of the greatest decisions of my life. I did things that I never could have imagined I'd be capable of. I showered in sometimes ice-cold water, I had at least 15 mosquito bites at any given time, I used a machete on a daily basis, and I connected with children whose language I didn't speak. I stepped outside of my comfort zone and was a lot more successful than I expected. I am more willing in my everyday life to take similar chances and try something new, without being afraid of failure. I met some of the most outgoing, open-minded, good-willed, spontaneous, thoughtful, and downright interesting people from every corner of the world. I feel confident in my ability to travel alone and I am prepared to see as much of the world as I can. I feel like I've gathered an overall awareness and understanding of being a global citizen which seems to be an impending requirement for my generation. I think I have a more well-rounded and wholesome outlook on life and I couldn't and wouldn't trade these experiences for anything.

  • Why did you decide to volunteer abroad with UBELONG in Ecuador?

    Max: I decided to volunteer with UBELONG for a number of reasons. I originally heard about UBELONG through my brother who found out about them while living in the D.C. area. One of the founders of UBELONG knew I wanted to go abroad so he told me about UBELONG, and the affordability, a key factor in my decision.

    I was in a funk during my first year of college and needed excitement to look towards. As a result, I took his consideration of UBELONG and began to research. I'm an environmentalist with a desire to explore tropical landscapes and help underdeveloped communities. I contacted UBELONG and got a response the next day with vital information. He listened to my interests and suggested the "Coastal Forest" program in Ecuador. I was more than enthused! I looked at the pictures on UBELONG's website, all the information I needed was there--living conditions, cost, and most importantly, information about the project.

    I truly decided to volunteer with UBELONG because it really was trying to make a difference in underdeveloped communities. They had an environmental project in Ecuador, something that really caught my eye. Furthermore, the website was easy to understand, all staff members were extremely helpful in guiding me through options and any questions I might have had.

    Max with locals during his volunteer trip to Ecuador
    Max with locals during his volunteer trip to Ecuador

    Describe your day to day activities as a volunteer.

    Max: As a volunteer, we traveled to different rural communities to help with different projects. My day to day activities as a volunteer were exciting--never the same day.

    Going through a typical day, however, I would wake up around 7:30 in the morning, walk down the stairs of the fortress (I swear, the "volunteer house" in the "Coastal Forest" program was like a tree-fort, a hut...a humble, jungle abode...it was awesome). Traditional breakfast would be cooked while I chatted with fellow volunteers. Then, 8:00 a.m. came and it was time to work!

    The volunteer project ranged from helping the local farmers in the area plant cacao seeds, build fences, build recycling and trash bins or clean up the beach, etc. I could go on. So the work was beneficial not only to the local community, but to myself. It helped we grow physically and mentally. In Ecuador, the people are so strong, I had to keep up, it was a challenge. About noon, we would all meet for a great lunch (chicken, rice, beans, typically) all cooked to perfection. After an hours break of work, we would go back out, partaking in a different activity.

    Weekends were free time for the volunteers. I would hitch a ride into town, (attempt to) talk with the locals, head to the beach, surf a little (I rented the lifeguard's surfboard for a dollar) and/or relax in the little park of Muisne. Or we could take the many available buses to other towns in close proximity. Some weekends I would just relax and read at the reserve, something that is hard to do in the busy life back home. The gentle nights with a cool breeze provided a perfect situation while I drifted in the many available hammocks reading myself to sleep.

    Max volunteering in Ecuador
    Max volunteering in Ecuador

    How has this experience helped you grow personally and professionally?

    Max: Personally, I had a lot of time to reflect on our riches back home in the U.S. and how unnecessary some were. Many of the kids I met in Ecuador (preschoolers and my age alike) seemed very content and happy with how little they had. I brought some of that humbleness back home here in the States. The experience helped me professionally by submerging me into a whole new city, (Quito was beautiful by the way) full of culture and energy. I was forced to speak Spanish (even though there were English speakers), bettering my social skills. Having to work with a whole new culture and people from all over the world--Germany, California, Norway and, of course, Ecuador--undoubtedly benefited me. The examples are genuine.

    I would like to encourage people to volunteer with UBELONG. They are flexible, affordable and extremely helpful. They seek to make a positive impact. I do feel that people need excitement and something new in their lives, an international volunteer program in Ecuador will serve any person splendid. If you have a question, email Cedric and Raul and they will respond within days. I felt I really made a difference through the program in Ecuador. I now have friends in a new country, in a new continent, and we all keep in touch through the wonders of technology. I plan on returning and volunteering in the future with UBELONG; I highly recommend them as not only an organization, but as a friend.

  • Volunteer in Ecuador with UBELONG
    Volunteer in Ecuador with UBELONG

    Why did you decide to volunteer with UBELONG in Ecuador?

    Denisse: I learned about UBELONG from a classmate at Johns Hopkins-SAIS. I researched the organization online, attended a happy hour and was very much pleased with the detailed information provided including program costs. I chose Quito, Ecuador as my destination because of the programs offered and because of its location in the Andes.

    Describe your day to day activities as a volunteer.

    Denisse: I would spend the first half of the day helping the English teacher at a local school and in the afternoon, I would go to Santa Isabel, a small town in the outskirts of Quito and assist the local teacher in an after-school program. The schedule was flexible. However, people depended on your help and support. You're also looked up by the children.

    What made this experience unique and special?

    Denisse: The whole experience was unique and special. I met really great local people and I made really good friends with other volunteers. Volunteering in Quito was very fulfilling. I was very happy being there.

    How has this experience impacted your future?

    Denisse: At a personal level, volunteering is a very enriching experience. Volunteering in a developing country is definitely a reality check. Often, as human beings, we get so immersed in our daily lives and assume that the world is only made up by people in our surroundings and forget of those who encounter poverty. At a professional level, it helped me decide to further pursue my studies in Economic Development. I was so pleased with the volunteering experience that the following year I decided to do it again in a different country.

  • Story time with Elizabeth
    Story time with Elizabeth

    Highlights: The highlight of my volunteer experience was definitely working with local children. The children that UBECI serves work with their parents in the public markets around the city. They start working almost as soon as they can walk by helping peel vegetables or walk around the market looking for buyers. They are busy trying to help their families survive, so it is often difficult for them to have time to just act like kids. UBECI's main focus is to help these children enter into and thrive in the public education system, but they also try to create a safe space for the kids to come and just act like kids. The children are so grateful and happy when they see volunteers, it is really an amazing feeling. I volunteered for 8 weeks, and although it went really fast it was enough time to begin to get to know a lot of the children. I will forget their faces each morning that they would see our UBECI tent, books, puzzles, and toys.

    Morning: I would wake up around 7:30am, get ready for volunteering, and then eat breakfast with my host mother. Breakfast always consisted of coffee or tea and bread. Lunch is the big meal there, so if you are used to a big breakfast, you might want to bring snacks to get you through. It is also really easy to buy fresh fruit and vegetables around town. (Just be careful to wash them with purified or bottled water.)

    After breakfast, I walked about 20 minutes to the UBECI office. (UBECI is one of the local organizations that UBELONG partners with in Ecuador.) All the volunteers would meet at the UBECI office and travel to the projects together via city buses. United States currency is used in Ecuador, so it is a good idea to have a large supply of quarters (for the public transportation) and small dollar bills.

    Afternoon: My afternoons were spent volunteering at an after-school program near one of the public markets just north of the city's historical center. When I first started I worked mainly with the younger children (about 2-5 years old). Along with another volunteer, we would read to the kids and play with them. After about an hour or so, one of the UBECI staff members would do a short lesson or arts and crafts project with them. After I had been volunteering for about a week, I started working more with the older children (7-11 years old). I would help them with homework and then teach short (30-45 minute) English lessons.

    Evening: I would leave the after-school center around 4:30pm to go home. I walked 15 minutes to a bus stop and then took a bus about 25 minutes to my host family's home. I would hang out and talk with my host family during the time before dinner. That time was also good to use the Internet and walk around the neighborhood. It was not safe to walk around my neighborhood after sundown, so I would have to be inside by 6:30 or 7 at the latest. Dinner was usually around 7:30 and always consisted of soup and then a second course of meat (pork, chicken, or beef), rice, and beans or a salad. It was a really nice time to sit around with my host family and talk.

  • Why did you decide to volunteer with UBELONG in Ecuador?

    Nick Tycom - UBELONG Volunteer in Ecuador

    Nick: I saw the program in Quito as an opportunity to make a substantial difference in the health and well-being of children there while, also being able to immerse myself in the Ecuadorean culture and landscape. Even though I did not have a large amount of experience in the field of public health research (the specific project I volunteered in), I knew that with concerted effort I could be successfully make a change in the health of the markets I was working in and also gain experience in the healthcare/public health field.

    Describe your day to day activities as a volunteer.

    Nick: The daily volunteering experience was fantastic! Three meals were provided from our home stay mom, so the day began with a breakfast of bread and butter with tea around 7:30. We would then take a bus to the home office of UBELONG's partner organization in Quito, and would meet up with all the other volunteers and workers. We would then depart as a group to whichever market we were working in that day since we worked in a different outdoor market each day. One thing every volunteer becomes proficient in is using the public transportation system!

    Once we arrived in the market we would set up our play area for the children's program and would go our into the market to get the kids. Most of the children we worked with we're the kids of vendors who work in the market, and were generally in the age range of 1-14. We would then do different activities with the children, ranging from playing games, to reading and learning english, to drawing and working on math.

    My specific project with UBELONG was to conduct a preliminary health assessment in the markets and conduct a research project on creating health education programs for the children in the markets, so I spent much of my time conducting interviews and making observations. A majority of the volunteers would do all the activities with the children in the morning, then go to lunch either back at their home or at a nearby restaurant, and then come back to work with the children again in the afternoon. We would normally return home for the night at around 5:30 or 6 and would have dinner with our family and then relax (or for me personally, work on my research paper).

    I also loved being able to travel on the weekends! I was able to go to the rainforest, mountain bike and raft through the Andes, climb the tallest active volcano in the world, go to the largest market in Ecuador, stand on the equator, and much more in my short 4 week stay! The life of a volunteer is never boring.

    How has this experience impacted your future?

    Nick: Volunteering abroad was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. I definitely gained much more than I was able to give during my stay. Firstly, to be able to be immersed in the culture and live with a family was such a wonderful way to experience a country. Seeing all of the difficulties the families and children we worked with face on a daily basis has left me extremely grateful for all that I have been blessed with and passionate to give back in any way I can. My experience also showed me that it does not take a professional degree or fancy job title to be able to make a big difference abroad - all it takes is a commitment to help and a willingness to put forth your best effort while you are there! Professionally, I can honestly say that this was very influential in opening my eyes to the potential the field of healthcare and public health holds, and has given me in the field experience of how healthcare effects people's lives daily. My time in Ecuador also helped shape my long term goal of running a nonprofit focused on bettering the health of the most vulnerable abroad.

  • Why did you decide to volunteer with UBELONG in Ecuador?

    Stephen: This past summer I spent around two months in the Congal Coastal Forest Reserve in Esmeraldas, Ecuador. I learned about UBELONG through my global health professor at my university. As part of my minor's field experience requirement, I had to choose a program for eight weeks which included a health project component. I found these qualities and much more in the program offered in the Coastal Forest Reserve. I admittedly, had my reservations about the being one of the first health volunteers to work through the UBELONG program here, but went with an open-mind and that was all I needed.

    Describe your day to day activities as a volunteer.

    Stephen: Living and working on the northern coast of Ecuador was a significant lifestyle change compared to my usual summers at home in New Jersey. I shared a small biological reserve station bordering shrimp farms and an estuary with a few volunteers and local workers in the province of Esmeraldas on the Northern Coast of Ecuador. Our work activities were extremely varied from day to day. I assisted three days a week at the local hospital in a few departments including triage, outpatient, emergency services, laboratory, and in the delivery room.

    I usually shadowed one or two doctors who were in their last year of residency, which in Ecuador are usually spent in rural settings, or in the lab. I also witnessed three live births in the delivery room. With the two other days left in my week, I worked alongside the other volunteers and local farmers to promote environmentally friendly community practices. We assisted in cocoa harvesting, clearing land with machetes, planting corn, building fences, herding cattle, milking cows, and constructing trash cans.

    In addition to these projects, I assisted a Peace Corps volunteer with implementing three sets of sexual education workshops within the community for teenagers in order to discuss the social and physical repercussions of being sexually active.

    Overall, my experience in Ecuador was one which I will always remember fondly. In addition to solidifying my passion for volunteerism, it was exciting to explore the many beautifully diverse places within Ecuador and eventually Peru, and my appreciation of Native South American cultures has grown immensely.

    Volunteer and get to know local culture in Ecuador
    Volunteer and get to know local culture in Ecuador

    How has this experience impacted your future?

    Stephen: I was coming from my life at school where everything is so busy and fast-paced. I thought I could make an impact right away. But I learned that making a difference in Ecuador, or anywhere for that matter, takes time. You need to listen and be patient. You need to slow down and work with the local people and can't just impose on their culture.

    First, I learned to be patient. It's a different place and I needed to let myself adapt. In another country, it was important to remember that cultural norms and pace of life are very dissimilar than back home. I simply had to persevere and not become frustrated if things did not work out as expected.

    Second, I learned invaluable skills and information from other people. From my fellow volunteers to the locals, I met so many amazing people with a variety of backgrounds that I never was at a loss for company or discussion. There were a few German and Norwegian volunteers, as well as people from all walks of life at my station including even a college professor from Iowa. I also loved going on trips to explore the surrounding areas/towns and enjoyed meeting local people. I was really curious and intent on speaking with them, and I think that helped make my experience such a good one.

    Third, I tried my best to learn Spanish. Even though I only needed the basics to get by, it was worthwhile to be able to speak with the locals in their language so I pushed myself. It was wonderful to be invited by the locals to watch soccer games and go to bonfires with them, and I thought if I could speak better Spanish that I'll enhance my trip so much more. Practicing was a daily hardship that I eventually became familiar with and as time passed my conversational skills picked up.

    Overall, I became much more independent as well as motivated from this trip. I developed more confidence in my decisions and had to adapt to situations in which I had little to no familiarity. I became more of a self-starter in both my health projects and daily life. I enjoyed leading excursions to different parts of the coast on the weekends with volunteers and seized any opportunities to do new work for the reserve. Through this experience, I matured a great deal and developed self-confidence and the ability to step out of my comfort zone and succeed.

About the provider

UBELONG is the most affordable, professional and supportive international volunteering organization in the world.

Volunteer abroad in Africa, Asia and Latin America from 1 week to 6 months.

WHAT can you do?

For one week to six months, live in a community and volunteer on a community or environmental project.

WHERE can you go?
Asia: India, Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos
Latin America: Mexico, Costa Rica, Ecuador and Peru
Africa: Ghana, Morocco

WHEN can you go?
Projects run year-round and you can join from one week to six months.

HOW much do you pay?
Costs start as low as US$350 for a 1 week placement.

Among other world-class services, you work 1 on 1 with a UBELONG Mentor and receive a Preparation Booklet, in-country orientation, housing, meals, project supervision and 24/7 support.