Make a difference and lend a hand to others

Eco Volunteer UP

Why choose Eco Volunteer UP ?

Eco Volunteer UP is an Ecuadorian organization recognized legally by the Ecuadorian Government. Eco Volunteer UP has opportunities to volunteer in different regions of Ecuador: Andes, Galapagos, Amazon, and Mindo. Projects involve with local indigenous culture, animals, help disadvantaged children, single mothers refuge, conservation- environment projects, alternative break abroad, volunteer & travel program, and Spanish lessons. Our programs will provide you with an unforgettable experience. Engage in any of our volunteer projects, you learn about other cultures and Ecuadorian nature. Volunteer in Ecuador would change your life and help you develop into a better person and gain lifelong experiences.



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Yes, I recommend this program

Animal rescue center

I had a very positive experience in my volunteer trip to Ecuador. I went with my girlfriend for 2 weeks into the heart of the rainforest, where we stayed at an animal rehabilitation center, which is sort of like a camp for grown-ups. Limited electricity, no hot water, bunk beds, etc. We were working directly with a diverse range of animals (monkeys, birds, tayras, kinkajous, to name a few). EcoVolunteer UP was the 'agency' that placed us, but the actual center is called Sacha Yacu. You can look them up directly, if you want.

Ecovolunteer Up is run by a nice woman named Maria. It's a small operation, run locally by her and a few other people. I was slightly reticent to commit to an organization with limited web presence and with substantially lower costs than the competition (like 80% less), and Maria refused to tell me the name of the center, which made me more uneasy. But I'm so glad I went for it, and trusted in this place, because it was a truly amazing experience. What's more, I discovered that there were several other volunteers at the center with us, who had been placed by much more expensive agencies. If you aren't familiar (I wasn't), the way these things work is you do all of your communication and payment through a company like EcoVolunteer UP or ProWorldVolunteers, etc. Some charge a lot more than others, and it's unclear what exactly you get for that price. In my experience at Sacha Yacu, there was literally no difference between the experiences of the different volunteers, but some paid a lot more than others to their respective agencies. So I would heartily recommend doing a lot of research and trying to find the exact program you want and the most reasonable agency that provides access to it. Then that agency will take care of your basic transportation, etc.

Again, the location is called Sacha Yacu. I understand why Maria wouldn't tell me the name. In theory you could circumvent the agency and go straight to the center, to save a few bucks, but I wouldn't recommend it. It's nice to have a middle-man, provided they don't charge you an obscene amount. And EcoVolunteer UP was very reasonable.

A few quick details about the experience at Sacha Yacu:

The volunteers seem to range from 19-30 years old. The family that owns/operates the place is very kind hearted and fosters a familial environment with the other volunteers. At any given time you might meet one or several members of the family. There are usually at least one or two 'long term' volunteers at the center -- people who are there for several weeks or even months, and subsequently develop some seniority there and can help run the place. The primary language that was spoken, at least in our experience was English. This was good because it bridged the gap for the various volunteers that came from all over the world. While we were there, we had about 10-12 people in the center at any given time, which was great. 9 or 10 volunteers and 2-3 members of the family. It's got a casual vibe, so there is no one there that would be called "staff." We would work about 6 hours/day, and then spend the rest of the time reading, talking, hiking, playing games, cooking, etc.

It was remarkably satisfying working closely with animals, as well as being outside all day, being active, meeting good people, and adapting to a completely new lifestyle. I lost some weight, got a nice tan, made friends, ate healthy, and disconnected from the rest of the world. I'll admit, at first I had a tough time with the fact that it's a physically challenging environment (lots of hiking, carrying, shoveling poop, etc.) and the sleeping situation isn't exactly luxurious, but the pros definitely outweigh the cons, and by the end of our stay there, I wasn't ready to leave.

So now you know everything you need to! Look it up! Sacha Yacu! It's great!

What would you improve about this program?
If I had to offer critical feedback, it would actually be related to the other programs that Maria arranged for my girlfriend, who stayed for an additional three weeks pursuing other volunteer opportunities within Quito. There were times in which she felt less safe, less 'in the know' and more alone (there were a few instances in which she was placed at locations with no other volunteers). I didn't experience these events myself, but I can't help but factor them into my overall critique of the organization. My feeling is that Maria could have been a little more candid/informative about these scenarios before they came up. She could have offered a little disclaimer like "Hey just so you know, there won't be any other volunteers at that time." Or "Here is a reliable map so you don't get lost." Yeah. But again, this was not my personal experience, so I can't really complain!
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Yes, I recommend this program

Eco Volunteer Galapagos

Great Volunteer program - we started off with a one week language course in Quito and flew ove to the Galapagos Islands after touring South America. 3 weeks ecological / environmental volunteering on San Cristobal, Galapagos Islands was very interesting, fun, we learned and experienced so many things. Great place to be, very motivated people! A must do!

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Yes, I recommend this program

An Adventure!

Eco-Volunteer UP has ton of different programs, and I participated in two of them. Basically, Maria is the coordinator/communicator. She has contacts all across the country, and she sends volunteers to whatever program interests them. Maria and Freddy picked me up from the airport and dropped me off with a host family in Conocoto, a suburb of Quito. I spent a week there taking Spanish lessons and volunteering in a daycare. Then Maria drove some other volunteers and I to a bus station to ride 10 hours away into Pastaza, another province, where we stayed with host families in an indigenous community called Shiwakucha. I was told there were different volunteer positions in the community- those working in the school, those working in the nursery, those working in the fields, and those in the forest. It turned out that we all worked together on whatever the community wanted to us accomplish that day, accompanied by a local who taught us what to do. On Tuesdays the entire community gets together and all works on the same project- it might be a new building, or a huge fishing trip. I loved my time in the community. Once I was there, I didn't really need anything from Maria and was on my own. While I was in Conocoto, Maria was very kind, available and flexible. I'd definitely recommend this program, especially if you can handle being very adventurous and self-driven. Ask Maria for the contact information of someone who did the programs you're interested in, because that will probably get you a lot more detail than the website or Maria herself, even.

What would you improve about this program?
I wrote some ideas up above:)
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Yes, I recommend this program

Hospital and Childcare volunteer

I traveled to Ecuador in Summer, 2012 to volunteer with Eco Volunteer Up for 4 weeks. I enrolled in this program before I started graduate school in clinical/health psychology, so I was interested in working in a medical environment and improving my Spanish. I was very fortunate in that I was able to experience a number of different situations. Maria was very responsive to my needs/interests.

For the first week, I assisted a doctor in internal medicine at a hospital in Sangolqui, taking blood pressures, transcribing prescriptions, and practicing some medical terms in Spanish. We also did rounds of the inpatient unit and the emergency room. The second week, I observed a psychologist (my primary field of interest), which gave me a lot of insight about cultural differences in healthcare. The third week, I worked at a daycare. For my final week, I assisted in the emergency room at the local Centro de salud (in Conocoto), which was very close to my homestay. While there, I was also able to spend time in vaccines, learning about policies, etc. All of these were great experiences, and I only regret that I feel that I was getting more out of them than I could put into them. In all cases, I would say it was extremely helpful to be able to speak Spanish, but everyone was willing to work with meto improve my Spanish and practice speaking.

My homestay family was great, and I was in a really great location - close to bus stops, walking distance to the Centro de salud, and I felt very safe in the neighborhood. I was not in the city of Quito, but rather in a "suburb" called Conocoto, which I preferred. It was easy to catch a bus or cab ($10-12) downtown, from which you can take a bus to go on other adventures (e.g., climb Cotopaxi, visit Mindo, etc). I highly recommend hiking Cotopaxi!

The staff at Eco Ecuador Up were very helpful and responsive to questions/concerns I had. Maria took a lot of time giving me directions, how to ride the bus, and helping me transition to other positions (e.g., the daycare center) just because I expressed an interest. She was very flexible with my travel schedule as well, and it was great to have a ride from the airport so I didn't have to figure out how to take a shuttle/bus to my homestay family after a long day of travel.

What would you improve about this program?
Knowing more about the experience going in would have been helpful. Ask to speak with previous volunteers (I have since spoken to people who were going to the hospital in Sangolqui), and perhaps a better description of the day-to-day happenings/needs of your chosen volunteer location.
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Yes, I recommend this program

A brilliant adventure!

Overall, I had a fantastic time away in Ecuador. I spent 6 months mostly on the Amazon volunteer program but I also took some time out to travel and volunteer in the Cloud Forest and the Galapagos Islands, also with Eco Volunteer.
The best bit was definitely the friendliness and welcoming of the community and I was lucky to adapt and immerse myself in their culture which is truly fascinating.
I went over without being able to speak Spanish which was extremely challenging. I would definitely recommend either having a previous knowledge of the Spanish language or to plan starting your trip with a couple of weeks in the city to take language lessons. It is very affordable, completely worthwhile and a good way of getting some city site seeing in too!
I would highly recommend volunteering with Eco Volunteer and making some memories and creating a brilliant experience for yourself!

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Alumni Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with verified alumni.

Bethan Crisp

Bethan Crisp is a 21 year old female currently studying a degree in Anthropology at Brunel University in West London. She grew up in Somerset in the south of England and spent ten months volunteering at a Primary School and an orphanage in Tanzania upon finishing college and before beginning her studies at Brunel. Alongside studying for her degree, Bethan is on the board of directors for The Small Things non-profit. She is also an Anthropology mentor for new students and plays an active part in the Anthropology Society as well as providing support as a Link Up buddy for students with disabilities at Brunel.

Why did you decide to volunteer abroad with Eco Volunteer UP Foundation program in Ecuador?

I have always watched documentaries on The Amazon Rain forest and loved reading books about societies and cultures around the world. Since I was very young, it was a dream of mine to go and experience the jungle for myself. I study Anthropology at University and for my first placement it seemed like the perfect opportunity for me to go to a place I have always longed to visit.

I spent days and hours looking online for volunteering projects in the Amazon and was so excited when I came across the website for Eco Volunteer UP. The Amazon community project in Shiwakucha was just what I wanted to do and despite not knowing what to expect, I just knew I was going to have the time of my life!

After contacting Maria and Freddy, I felt confident and trusting in their organization. They responded to my questions very quickly and sent me any information I required. Once I had found this project with Eco Volunteer UP Foundation, I stopped searching for anything else and started packing and preparing for my adventure!

What made this volunteer abroad experience unique and special?

The Amazon community project sounded brilliant. There didn't seem to be many other projects, if any, quite like this one. The website, the previous volunteer testimonials, the variety of projects that they offered and their prices were all such a contrast to the other websites I had looked at.

I really got to experience the everyday life of this amazing community. It was unique in so many ways but it was particularly special in the fact that I was living with a host family and really got to feel like a part of their family. The community were so welcoming and friendly and everybody was so easy to get along with.

The experience was unique because it didn’t just feel like I was volunteering. I was immersing myself into their Quichua culture and their livelihoods and I loved it. It is truly fascinating. Being able to expose myself to such a different viewpoint has certainly been an eye opener and a life experience.

If you could go back and do something different, what would it be?

If I could go back and do something different, I would have decided to use my first few weeks to take Spanish lessons in the city. As a short term volunteer of two or three weeks, my lack of Spanish could have sufficed.

However, I was going to Ecuador with the intention of staying for up to six months so it was invaluable to me to learn the language and get as much out of the experience as I possibly could, especially due to the fact that I wanted to study from an Anthropological perspective.

There was such a difference with the amount I was learning about the Quichua culture once I could speak some Spanish. Planning my trip and booking the flights had been quite rushed so I didn't necessarily think my plans through sufficiently.

I went to the community for a few weeks, realized how difficult the language barriers would be on my own (once the other volunteers had left) and then decided to take two weeks of lessons in Quito before returning to the community again. Better planning was necessary!

What do you miss the most about Ecuador or your experience?

I miss the community of Shiwakucha the most. I miss waking up to the sounds of the jungle and going to sleep to the sounds of the frogs in the stream outside the house! I miss the heavy rainfalls and trying hopelessly to be taught by the children how to climb a tree!

I miss going out in search of fresh jungle fruits and trying new foods. I miss going on short ‘camping’ trips further into the denseness of the Amazon, where the men would go out to work and hunt whilst I would stay back to go fishing and to cook over a fire with my host mother and sister.

I miss swinging in the hammocks whilst writing up my field notes and being able to bathe in the river under the heat of the jungle sun. I miss the unpredictability of what the next day would bring but knowing that any day is going to be an exciting day!

Has your worldview changed as a result of your trip?

My worldview hasn't necessarily changed but it has expanded immensely. I have previously been exposed to different ways of life and different cultures through traveling with my family from a young age as well as on my own as I reached the age of eighteen.

What I experienced in Ecuador was far better than any book I've read or any documentary I have watched. I was there, living life in a Quichua community, somewhere in the vastness of the Amazon rain forest. I experienced excitement, apprehension, tragedy, sadness, happiness, love, contentment and bliss. It was truly incredible and I would highly recommend volunteering on this project with Eco Volunteer UP. The longer you can stay the better!

Staff Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with program leaders.

Maria Viteri

Job Title
Co-Founder and Manager at Eco Volunteer UP

What are the core principles that Eco Volunteer UP strives to achieve?

To support local projects in developing skills to make volunteering a fulfilling and rewarding experience for both the projects and the volunteers. To inspire everyone to become involved and make the best contribution they can through volunteering. To provide volunteers an opportunity to help children and communities and to conserve the Ecuadorian forest.

What position do you hold at Eco Volunteer UP? What has your career path been like so far?

I am the manager in Eco Volunteer UP and I have worked in an Ecuadorian Reserve for six months as assistant of the Ecoturism department. I've worked and owner in a Traditional Ecuadorian food for 3 years, I've been a guide at a lodge for 2 years in cloud forest, I've been for 10 years manager and I´m one of the founders of Eco Volunteer UP.

What separates Eco Volunteer UP from other volunteer providers?

Eco Volunteer UP is composed of a group of Ecuadorians who work through volunteers to conserve the forests of Ecuador, to improve the communities’ economies and to give Ecuadorian children a better life. We offer volunteers real immersion in the various Ecuadorian ecosystems, and real opportunities for learning and sharing Ecuadorian cultures, customs and traditions, all the while helping different projects promote their development and changing lives through a better place to live.

As Ecuadorians we know the reality of local´s lives, we know personally the people that we are working with, we always have meetings and not just by email as other volunteer providers do. We really have interaction with the directors or coordinators of each project, the same as with volunteers. We also provide a free night including breakfast and dinner for the first night when they arrive in Quito.

What does the future hold for Eco Volunteer UP?

Eco Volunteer UP wants to help other local families, community and keep saving the forest.