Why did you choose this program?
Honestly, it was being in the right place at the right time and sheer curiosity. I was going to BCIT for upgrading - having little success - and saw the poster.
I had dreamed about doing something such as a volunteer trip for years so took the first opportunity I had. The volunteer program was best suited for me because I have no desire to get into the medical field, so it was a bonus that HL&D offered both.
I also liked the fact that there were multiple options as far as dates went, where you could go for longer or shorter lengths of time. My need to go to South America was also fulfilled.
What did your program provider assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?
I did the fundraising on my own; however, that is because of where I live. The group and designated leader for the area would have meetings every so often and he was there to assist should anyone need help. I did touch base every so often.
You have to book a flight yourself, and just forward the itinerary to the company, but otherwise accommodation and scheduling is all taken care of.
What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?
Live every moment, savor every moment, give it your all. If you are doing the volunteer program, work hard... it's worth it!
I guess I could say a schedule may have been nice ahead of time - but due to the earthquake that had happened in April, understandably things were a little touch and go. One also has to remember how many programs, dates, and people are all going on at the same time. Besides it's a vacation, an adventure, so expect the unexpected - challenge it and embrace it!
If you are thinking of going abroad - GO! Do pack according to your needs, snacks, band aids and a dry change of clothes always help.
What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?
Volunteer Week: early wake up, breakfast, work, lunch, nap (heat break), work, dinner. After this you'll be tired and dirty so take a shower and head to bed. Might I add this is the good type of tired, satisfied, content and you'll need to restore energy for the next shift.
You also take time to get to know those in the community as the rule "work hard, play hard" is followed to a "T".
Adventure Week: Each day is different. You travel Ecuador to different destinations and tourist attractions on the photo bus (too cool to be a tour bus, but legal so not a party bus - a happy medium). You'll see everything from cities and marketplaces, to jungles and coast. Each stop is different from the next.
Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it and/or how did your views on the issue change?
My biggest fear was the uncertainty of getting left at the airport in a strange country with foreign language upon arrival.
How did I overcome it? I accepted the fact I was overtired, took into acknowledgement the amount of coming and going HL&D had going on, and was relieved when a personal taxi - fee covered - was sent to make up for the situation.
A couple of the excursions made me push myself. I just had to remember that I was in Ecuador, with amazing people and ask myself how many more times I would get the opportunity to do this.
If you are dead set on not doing something, I was a little chicken of a rope swing, it's ok. You don't have to! And, you won't be excluded or made fun of.
Is there anything else you'd like to share with prospective volunteers regarding your experience in Ecuador?
I know I wouldn't have changed a thing! I also know that if I could still be there shoveling cement - I would be.
If you want to do something to help, this is it. If you want to go somewhere and learn, not just in a classroom, but about culture and people, this is it.
If you want to go somewhere and discover new things, and learn to appreciate the diversity of the world, this is it.
You're able to do all of this, and so much more - have fun, make friends and memories, build connections, and houses. If you can, go! Money is a just number (though the cost is reasonable in relation to the experience), the feeling an EcuaExpeience will leave you with, is priceless.