A lot of changes occurred within this program before and during my time in Machala. The negative experiences I had with this program were mainly teething programs with changes to the program and the false expectations I had of the program communicated to me though Lead Adventures website (as a 3rd party representative since this program is designed by the El Oro government), my interview and orientation. This information has since been updated and amended .
Daily I was picked up from my house (we stayed with host families not in a hotel) by a driver from the port authority and driven to school. Usually drivers arrived on time but being South America it wasn't a surprise if they didn't. My school was an all boys school until 2010 and so I taught classes from first grade to seventh grade of up to 40, mostly boys. Scary at first but once I got used to their craziness and boisterousness and they got used to me it was difficult for me to leave. These kids have a lot of love to give. The drivers then picked us up from school and took us to the port authority for an always tasty and substantial lunch. Depending on our schedule (some worked mornings, others afternoons and others a mix) we had either the morning or afternoon free. I spent this time with the other volunteers or my gorgeous host family, studying Spanish, planning classes, helping my host sister with her English, chilling out in Machala or Jambeli (on my days off) or going to free aerobics at the stadium. Some of us also helped out at the Instituto de Idiomas for university students. We worked between 20 and 25 hours per week.
Other difficulties I had were communication with the volunteer coordinator in Machala who worked for the government and was extremely busy, we were at the bottom of his to do list. Another problem for me was the amount of male attention I got in the streets. But any female volunteering for an extended period of time in Latin America needs to toughen up and deal with this.
All in all, I think this program has great potential. There are more organised programs in Ecuador and nicer places to be based for extended periods of time. During my time in the program I improved my Spanish, made amazing friends, had the opportunity to travel on weekends and had an exceptionally rewarding experience teaching the children at my school. The benefits outweigh the negatives.