Volunteer in Ecuador

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Ecuador is home to breathtaking volcanic lakes, the Andes' mountainous terrain, the Amazon jungle, sunny beaches, and friendly people. The country’s world-famous Galapagos Islands are extremely unique and incredibly beautiful. You'll just have to visit to know what we're talking about!

Ecuador is always looking for volunteers to help with projects to assist local communities, especially in the Galapagos Islands where conservation projects to help the depleting natural environment are especially needed. When the hard work is done, take time to explore the environment and community you are volunteering with.

Photo credits: Simon Matzinger.

In Ecuador's mainland and the Galapagos area, there are a number of different volunteer vacation opportunities available. Group trips, as well as individual travelers, are welcome to take part in any adventure they desire.

Environmental Conservation

Volunteer in Ecuador to save the environment! Get your hands dirty and make a difference in the lives of Ecuador's ecosystems. Ecuador was named one of 17 megadiverse countries by Conservation International because of its high number of diverse plant and animal species.

You will find volunteer opportunities in the tropical rainforest region or in the Galapagos Islands. No experience required for the programs, however, biology and conservation experience is a valuable asset. Examples of possible volunteer activities include: data collection, reforestation, trail maintenance, environmental education, agricultural activities, and more.

Wildlife Conservation

Love animals? Volunteer in Ecuador to eliminate wildlife mistreatment and abuse through rescue and rehabilitation. Assist in releasing animals back into the wild or provide sanctuary for those animals that have been badly treated and are unable to be released. No experience required for the wildlife volunteer programs, however, having a biology background and experience working with animals is helpful. Volunteer activities at animal welfare centers, found in Ecuador's mainland, may include: cleaning, feeding, monitoring behavior, maintaining crops, building animal enclosures, assisting local veterinarian.

Health

It’s possible to find opportunities to volunteer at medical rehabilitation centers in Ecuador, especially in the city of Quito. Availability depends on the time of year. The role of the volunteer is based on his/her medical experience. The volunteer experience may include: assisting doctors in prostheses laboratory and with rehabilitation, language therapy, patient information, and special projects.

Youth Support

In Ecuador, day care centers and programs have been developed for children who accompany their parents to work on the street each day. There are volunteer opportunities at these centers, and the placement depends upon availability and length of the participants' stay. There are also opportunities to provide volunteer support within schools as well. Some of the duties of these programs may include: ensuring and improving proper hygiene, planning activities, helping with assignments and homework, aiding teachers, supervising children, and organizing snack and meal time.

Other Volunteer Opportunities

Teach English in Ecuador at local community schools or be a live-in teacher with an Ecuadorian family. Some experience may be required, depending on the program you choose. Work in local daycare centres or teach your favourite sport to local children in the community. Experience the satisfaction of helping Ecuador's locals. Travel while growing your career. Marketing internships in Ecuador are available, particularly in Quito. Build your resume with international work experience.

Volunteering Tips

Volunteer Support: If you are volunteering with an organization, they will have support systems already in place. Don't hesitate to ask any questions, as Ecuadorian people always want to help make your experience a memorable one. If you need further support, contact your local embassy in Quito, Ecuador's capital.

NGOs/Nonprofit/Volunteer History in Ecuador: Ecuador has a number of NGOs and non-profit organizations. Listings of NGOs in Ecuador can be found on Ecuador Explorer.

Know Before You Go: Although there are some English-speaking people in Ecuador, it is highly recommended to know basic Spanish before you visit Ecuador to make your experience easier and more enjoyable. Another very important thing to know about Ecuador, as with many South American countries, the water pipes are not as advanced as in other countries, therefore, toilet paper is not flushed down toilets. It is discarded in the trash cans, found in every washroom. No matter what you are doing, it is important to keep an open mind when volunteering within Ecuador.

How Volunteering in Ecuador Will Help Your Future: Being totally immersed in a new culture is a life-changing experience. You will improve your Spanish, gain a new perspective on life, and learn so much from the friendly people in Ecuador - no matter what you're planning to do. The connections you make will be ever-lasting.

How to Save Money While Volunteering: Consider all of your options when on a budget and what you feel most comfortable doing. Taking public transportation/buses is more economical than taking a taxi. As well, try local markets for food, instead of large shopping centers. If you're with a volunteer organization, many of them may pay for accommodations and some meals, which gives you more opportunity to spend your money on other things.

Best Places to Volunteer: Quito (the capital), Galapagos Islands, Puyo, Ibarra, Tena, Machala and many more!

Questions to Ask: What do I need to bring with me? How much Spanish do I need to know? What are the accommodations like? What type of transportation will I need to take? What is the average cost of meals?

Health and Safety of Volunteers in Ecuador

Traveling to Ecuador typically requires a few vaccinations as a precaution. Visit MD Travel Health for a listing of the required vaccinations for Ecuador travelers. Medications for the prevention of malaria are also important for all areas except the cities of Guayaquil and Quito, the Galapagos Islands, and altitudes greater than 1500m (4921 ft.) Highest risk areas are in Esmeraldas, El Oro and Manabi. For a map of the risk areas, go to the Pan American Health Organization.

Travelers' diarrhea in Ecuador can be common. It is suggested to bring pain relievers and stomach/diarrhea medications. Drink bottled water and stick to restaurants instead of street vendors for enjoying Ecuador's delicious foods.

As with many countries, theft, robberies, and reckless driving can be common. Foreigners are obvious targets to criminals, so make sure to keep a close eye on your belongings and be aware of your surroundings. Public transportation can sometimes be dangerous, due to improper upkeep of road conditions.

Visas for Volunteering in Ecuador

All tourists need a valid passport. Citizens of Canada, UK and USA do not need to obtain a Visa for stays up to 90 days in Ecuador. If you are a different nationality, you need to contact your local Ecuadorian Embassy. For stays longer than 90 days, you must obtain a 6-month Tourist Visa. More information on business and other visas can be found at VISA HQ.

Contributed by Shawna Fagundes and the Lead Adventures Team

Programs

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