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.
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.
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.
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.