Experienced History in Santa Elena, Ecuador

Impact: 5
Support: 5
Fun: 4
Value: 4
Safety: 5

I volunteered for two weeks in Santa Elena, Ecuador with Volunteer Connection Ecuador (VCE), via IVHQ. My experience was definitely unique to say the least. The first week I was there, the President made a political decision which set the entire country in an uproar; resulting in nationwide protests, road closures and bus shutdowns. Feel free to look it up if you're interested. It was the removal of the subsidy for diesel fuel. I believe it's been resolved.

Nevertheless, being that Santa Elena is along the coast, which was away from the majority of the protests, I never felt unsafe. In fact, being from New York, I'm used to protests and people being upset over something a government official has done. So it didn't really phase me much. I mentioned this mainly to suggest that you research the political climate for anywhere you travel in the world, just to prepare yourself for what to possibly expect.

However, regarding my volunteer experience; it was great! I initially signed up for the Environmental Education project. But due to the buses being shut down, I couldn't go to that after the 1st two days. This actually turned out to be for the best, as my local program manager, Gina, was able to adapt quickly to finding alternate ways for us to serve the community. We ended up painting a mural for a local school, which turned into multiple people in the community asking us to do the same for other locations that the local kids used for either playing or learning. This ended up being a great way for us to serve the community, due to the direct impact it had. So many people were grateful for the work we did, that they even posted it in the community Whatsapp and Facebook pages. We'd be sitting in a local restaurant and people would come up to us to say thank you and say jokingly how we were now "famous" in the area.

Along with painting, we also did some beach cleanups. It's not until you're 5 large trash bags in, that you realize how much of a mess we humans make to our environments. I definitely recommend anyone to volunteer with IVHQ and taking a chance on Santa Elena, Ecuador. You'll spend on average $3.00 USD per meal, the people are friendly and beaches are really nice. If you go in the summer, June-Sept., you might even get to see turtles coming on shore to give birth. My advice is keep an open mind and be adaptable.

Would you recommend this program?
Yes, I would
Year Completed