is a great way
to get to know people and become more involved in local life.
A volunteer program, internship or voluntary work allows you
to get off
trail and understand more about Ecuador's culture.
Volunteer work in a developing country is not a soft option
prepared for a challenge.
Some are simply unskilled manual labour,
others specialist voluntary roles where professional skills
experience can make a great impact. Decide what you
want to gain from your volunteering and what you have to
give. Are you taking your brain off the hook for a
fortnight's volunteer labour in the fresh air as a change
your office job? Or dedicating three months to change your
gain experience and improve your career prospects? Or taking
to complete your studies? Think
what you type into a search engine - the difference between "volunteer
vacations" or "volunteer jobs" may help you to understand whether your
priority is to volunteer abroad for the travel opportunities or to do
some charity work abroad with the focus more on the work aspect.
take a while to settle in - you are likely
to 'take' more than you 'give' for the first few
unless you have very specialist skills (e.g. surgeons), or are doing
very simple manual tasks, or are slotting into an existing work
structure such as nursing or data collection.
such as Ecuador, good job opportunities are limited, especially for
those with little education. Try to ensure
your fun volunteering experience is not depriving local people of work.
Look for sustainable volunteer programs, i.e.
bring skills or knowledge not available locally and you train a local
person to continue your work, or you help develop a marketing plan /
website / organic agriculture system, etc. which will have a lasting
Some are charities wanting help with worthwhile
community-based projects. Others are commercial
enterprises profiting from your good intentions, though they may be
more professional and organised than some of the smaller charities.
Some volunteer programs offer genuine opportunities to
your skills, others just exploit paying tourists to get work
done for free. It's
your decision, but do ask questions first.
Find out where your money will go and what support
been doubts about some "scientific" type volunteer vacations,
which charge a high price to participate in
surveys of wildlife in beautiful overseas locations, recording animal
tracks in the forest or counting marine life off a beach.
volunteers have found they are simply repeating the work of previous
tourists. A few gap-year volunteer opportunities have also
turned out to be
"manufactured", building schools for which no teachers are available or
working on spurious projects in which local communities to do not want
participate. There are stories that some pharmaceutical
are using unwitting volunteer researchers to extract samples of
biological materials from the rainforest so that they can take out
patents and deprive native people of any rights on potential cancer
cures or other medicines. Do your research carefully before
will probably have to
volunteer abroad. If not, ask yourself why the organisation
subsidising you rather than employing a local person. Is this
really best for Ecuador? Most volunteer programs in
will require you to cover the cost of your board and lodging.
This is usually
at least $20-$35 a day - which is still probably less than it would
stay at home! Volunteering at this level costs about the same
as independent travel in Ecuador, i.e. around $20 a day on a shoestring
budget and staying in shared dorms, and more like $30 - $40 if you want
own room and more variety in meals. For higher quality
accomodation, nicer restaurants, and to be able to hire a birding guide
or do activities like ziplining or horseriding, you'd need a travel
budget of perhaps $40 to $50 a day. Volunteering in the
Islands will cost more, because costs there are much higher, so a
reasonable contribution there would be perhaps $50 - $80 a day.
By volunteering, you get
local contacts and introductions, and your supervisors are likely to be
just as knowledgeable about the local area as a guide would be.
Some organizations charge a fee for
organising volunteer jobs, others ask you to do some
fundraising before you
arrive. Charities might use volunteer fees to help
cover project operating costs.
may be more secure with an organised working holiday program from a
organisation, even though these are often rather stage-managed and have
limited benefit for local communities. Older volunteers with
life experience and professional skills may prefer more authentic but
less structured voluntary work with a small local charity or NGO,
with genuine challenges and the often frustrating reality of daily life
in a developing country.
volunteers with little
work experience can boost their C.V with a well-chosen working holiday.
Choose a volunteer vacation in the same
field as your planned career, e.g. conservation, education or
business; or charity work using relevant skills, such as
web design or carpentry. Volunteering in Ecuador is a chance
practise speaking Spanish. Be
realistic - you won't change the world in a week, especially with no
language skills or work experience. Give
yourself enough time, be open to new experiences, stay enthusiastic and
positive and treat it all as a learning opportunity.
a reasonable amount of Spanish to be
useful and to get the most from volunteering in Ecuador.
This may be less important for environmental volunteers.
Be cautious about any agency or
organisation which tells you you
not need to speak Spanish to volunteer in Ecuador, unless your
volunteer work does not involve local people or the project offers a
coordinator or interpreter. If you are
able to communicate with local people, either directly or through a
enjoyment, if not your input to the project, will be limited.
I suggest you either
Spanish (at least the basics) or
volunteer opportunity in an English-speaking country.
group usually spend most of the time speaking their own
language and socialising with other volunteers. It
fun, but interaction with local people is limited.
Solo volunteering is a tougher challenge but you will develop
language skills faster and
see more of the real Ecuador. Only you know which
volunteer experience is right for you.
learn some Spanish,
bear in mind your unique
requirements and abilities as a volunteer and research potential
voluntary work opportunities with care. See more specific
abroad as a volunteer and volunteer
work on wildlife
then choose the best volunteer
program for you and
for the communities and
ecosystems of Ecuador.
Ecuador can usually
travel on a tourist
visa, providing they are not
being paid for their
work. The free tourist visa issued to visitors from
most countries on arrival lasts
to 90 days. For 91 to 180 days (i.e. approximately 3 to 6
months), you probably need a 12-IX (Actos de Comercio) visa, stating
"tourism" as your reason for travel, from the Ecuador Consulate in your
home country - check with them for the latest information.
than 6 months
involves the organisation
are volunteering with in a costly and time-consuming application
process which includes guaranteeing to pay your costs. They
unlikely to be willing to do this unless they know you well, and they
will need a "RUOS" (a relatively new, special tax number), which many
charities do not
yet have. Ecuador
Spanish) from the Ecuadorian government.
work in Ecuador
Tips for international volunteers, information & advice for
voluntary work in
Ecuador. Working holidays, volunteer programs, volunteer
and how to get the most from volunteering abroad. No
can be taken for the content of external websites. Assess
potential volunteer opportunities carefully, based on your unique
requirements, before making your decision. Contact your local
consulate for appropriate and up to date visa information.