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Join a network of global volunteers and experience the fantastic diversity and culture of Ecuador. From the Amazon to the Galapagos Islands, we have amazing opportunities for wildlife lovers of all stripes and colours! Choose between a range of community development or conservation programs (or both) - all of which give you the opportunity to explore the magnificent Ecuadorian landscape and assist in the development of impoverished communities.
Do you love spending time with kids? Can you provide hugs, smiles and quality care? Volunteers in our child care program will help with caring for children from impoverished communities situated on the outskirts of ecological reserves. Along with general duties, volunteers will assist in feeding and bathing babies, showing young children how to brush their teeth and wash their hands or help the older children with their homework. Generally, volunteers are encouraged to use their skills to develop motivating ideas to interest the children in learning.
Did you know that you have a great wealth that by sharing, others gain and you lose nothing? In the Teaching project, volunteers will be teaching English by designing interesting lessons that may include games and other fun activities. Learning English provides Ecuadorians with the ability to access the growing tourism market and opens opportunities for further education. Volunteers do not have to have a teaching background or a special qualification to participate in this project.
Are you driven to help developing communities gain access to better health care? Are you a doctor, nurse or medical student? In the Medical Project, volunteers will get the chance to get involved in work in hospitals, clinics and social centers for children and adults from impoverished communities. Please note that there is no medical program available in the Galapagos; only in the Amazon and Congol programs.
Are you a dedicated greenie? Are you keen to learn more about the dynamics of ecological conservation? In the Conservation Project, volunteers have the opportunity to get involved in the conservation efforts at four different biological stations: Amazon, Bilsa, Congal and San Cristobal (please see the Galapagos Project for details on San Cristobal). The tasks will range from reforestation, biodiversity inventories, work in the local botanical gardens, and weekly hikes to explore the surroundings. Each biological station is different and therefore the tasks will vary depending on the location of your volunteer placement.
Do you dream of following in Darwin's footsteps? The San Cristobal Biological Station is located on the Galápagos Islands, off the west coast of Ecuador. The reserve was established on a 200 hectare site in the highlands of San Cristobal Island. Volunteers will work on habitat restoration and agricultural sustainability while at the reserve. In addition it is possible to volunteer in a Day Care or Teaching project at this location.
Ecuador shares it's borders with Colombia in the north, and Peru to the East and South, and the Pacific Ocean at the Equator for which the country is named.
Ecuador is a country of many geographical contrasts, extending from the Amazon rainforest of the Oriente and the high altitude forests of the Inter-Andean region, to the forests and beaches of the northern lowlands and the Galapagos Islands. Biological reserves are located in each of these different regions, many in extremely threatened areas, where the land in the reserve is among the last remnant of an area high in biodiversity.
The principal aims of the reserves are the conservation of eco-systems and cultural diversity, environmental education, sustainable development projects, and research that promotes the improvement of the quality of life of people living in the zones of influence of its activities. The volunteer program is intended to provide practical experience for people interested in contributing to our partner's conservation activities and projects. Volunteers work on a variety of projects alongside the resident researchers, environmental education instructors, and administrative staff of each reserve.
Visitors to Ecuador will be amazed by the geographical diversity of this country.
A nature and adventure lovers delight, Ecuador offers trekking, hourseback riding, and a variety of exotic flora and fauna (and some strange insects!). If you're a culture lover you can shop for hand-woven textiles at local indigenous markets, or browse the UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Cuenca and Quito.
Global Volunteer Network has established a partnership with the Spanish school Instituto Exclusivo, which offers GVN volunteers a 5% discount off their online Spanish lessons. This is not like other courses which give you pages of web material or recordings of various phrases to repeat. You will speak to, and see your instructor as he/she is giving you a private lesson, tailored to your level of Spanish. Learn spanish before you go.
If your application is successful you will be accepted and we will then get to work organizing your placement.
You will receive a Program Guide which contains a wealth of information. You'll find everything from a broad overview of the country you are going to; project details; life on the project (accommodation, meals, what to wear etc); along with extremely helpful information and advice for preparing for your trip.
GVN provides four different options to pay your program package and secure your placement. These include:
Please note: there is a separate fee for those who wish to volunteer at multiple reserves. If you are interested in this option please note it on your application form or contact us for further information.
Placements longer than 8 weeks are available, please contact us or apply online for details.
*Based on an 8 week placement
Flights, insurance, visas, vaccinations, accommodation in Quito before the program starts, bus transport to the reserve and departure from the program.
We recommend you allow a weekly budget of US $35 for your other expenses such as bottled water, personal items, beverages, transportation, and entertainment.
Apply now for the Ecuador Program:
Start Date: Start dates are flexible with volunteers able to start anytime of the month, however all volunteers need to attend an orientation session in Quito before traveling to their reserve of choice. Orientation sessions take place on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays only.
Length: For the Conservation project: 2 weeks to 24 weeks; For Day Care, Teaching and Medical: 4 weeks to 24 weeks;
Please note: A special visa is required to remain in Ecuador for more than 90 days. Volunteers are expected to work 22 days per month. Eight vacation days per month can be used upon approval by project coordinator. Volunteers are expected to work an average of 6 to 8 hours per day, depending on the activities they carry out.
We have compiled a list of frequently asked questions which we receive at the GVN inbox. This is a great place to start if you have questions about Global Volunteer Network and our placement process. This information should answer the majority of questions you may have.
Ecuador is bordered by Colombia, Peru, and the Pacific Ocean. There are three distinct zones: the Sierra or uplands of the Andes, the Costa, a coastal plain between the Andes and the Pacific with plantations of bananas, cacao, coffee, and sugar; and the Oriente, the upper Amazon basin to the east, consisting of tropical jungles threaded by rivers. Quito, the capital city, is in a setting of great natural beauty, overshadowed by the volcano Pichinca with its twin peaks of Ruca and Guagua. For more information we suggest you purchase the Lonely Planet’s guide to Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands.
The Ecuadorian climate is extremely diverse and because each reserve is located in varying altitudes and geographic zones, they all have different climatic factors to be considered. The temperature in Quito averages 14 degrees celsius throughout the year; June through to September is the driest period, while April often has torrential downpours during the afternoon.
Volunteers can participate in research assistance, education, community service, station maintenance, plant conservation, and agro-forestry activities carried out by the Amazon, Bilsa, Congal, and San Cristobal biological stations.
You can be involved in:
Conservation: collecting seeds, reforestation, medicinal plant garden development, nursery work, and clearing areas of invasive species, implementation of sustainable agriculture and aquaculture projects, crafts, and agro-forestry, implementation of sustainable agriculture and aquaculture projects, crafts, and agro-forestry, assisting in collecting data for local research, monitoring projects with birds and bears.
Community Work: teaching English in local schools, childcare, and work in healthcare.
The program is open all year round. Nevertheless, during Semana Santa (Easter) in March/early April the whole country shuts down for 5 days.
After you have joined the program, you will be sent the program guide with more details about the program and your Program Specialist will begin making arrangements for your placement. Once you’ve confirmed your placement, you’ll be put in touch with our partner organization who will provide you with more specific details.
There are four different reserves located around Ecuador, and volunteers may choose which reserve they would like to volunteer at. Please see the program page for more detailed descriptions of the specific reserves.
It is possible to take part in research projects, although these will often require specialist knowledge. The reserves with ongoing research projects that volunteers may be able to assist with are Bilsa and Congal. If you have the relevant background and experience it may also be possible to design your own research project and work on it while at a reserve, but this will require you to work independently and you may need to bring your own equipment. For an independent project, ideally you would submit a proposal beforehand so that it can be approved by the reserve.
Teaching programs are only available to volunteers staying longer than 2 months in one project. Please see this timetable for more details.
Spanish is the predominant language, and basic Spanish is a requirement for volunteering on this program. If you have no Spanish we will provide you with links to several Spanish schools in Quito, should you wish to arrange lessons before you begin the program.
As in many countries, foreigners are perceived as wealthy in Ecuador. Although the people are generally warm and friendly towards foreigners, as well as appreciative of the work done by volunteers, not every individual is the same. We work extremely hard to ensure you are placed in safe environments while volunteering and security policies are in place to achieve this. However, as in any situation at home or abroad, there is no way to erase all potential threats. There is lower risk of crime at the volunteer placements in Ecuador, due to their remote locations. It is still important, however, to be wary of thieves and pick pocketing, especially in cities and crowded areas. You should also avoid extremely remote areas where you will be alone. You should also be aware that there are active volcanoes in Ecuador and minor earthquakes are relatively common. Volunteers will be given further safety advice, including for the case of natural disasters, in their orientation session.
For all the Ecuador programs, you need to fly into Mariscal Sucre International airport in Quito. While in Quito, you need to attend an orientation session, which take place on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, before heading out to your reserve. You will need to make your own way to our partner’s office, details for which will be supplied after you have signed up for the program. You will therefore have to arrange for a couple of nights accommodation while in Quito. After you have signed up for the program we will provide you with some recommended options for accommodation in Quito. Please note that the airport in Quito was relocated in early 2013.
Most reserves have two or three days of each week where volunteers may travel out to the reserve. This means that it is possible to start at any time during the month. We will send you details of the starting days for your reserve once you have confirmed your placement.
When volunteers arrive in Quito, they will need to spend at least one night in a hostel (we would recommend staying two nights) - GVN will provide names of suitable hostels in the resource guide. The area of New Quito is very safe. The hostel can arrange a taxi to meet you at the airport, and to take you to your accommodation. While you are in Quito, you will need to attend an orientation session - during this session you are given detailed instructions on how to travel to the reserve.
Yes, we’re happy to place you in the reserve of your choice as long as there is space available.
You will take a bus from Quito (no more than US $10). Directions are given during the orientation session.
These are rare but do affect people in poorer communities that you may not even come into contact with:
Some of these can be taken in oral form so please do discuss all options with your doctor to see what is best for you. Some people can be affected quite differently than others by medication.
Please note that our medical recommendations should not replace the advice of your doctor, as they know your medical history and have the most up to date information.
When you first arrive in Quito, where your international flight will land, you should plan to spend at least one night in a hostel before travelling to the reserve. During placement lodging is provided in cabins, which are shared with other volunteers and reserve staff.
It is possible to bring your family to some of the larger and more accessible reserves, such as Amazon or Congal, as long as there is space available. If you have young children we would strongly recommend that two adults travel with the family, so that they are adequately supervised.
Please indicate any dietary restrictions on your application form. Vegetarians can be catered for but you need to let us know beforehand.
You must be 18 years or older to volunteer. There is no upper limit for volunteers; we only require that volunteers are in good health.
Each GVN program has different criteria depending on our partner's requirements. Every application is reviewed to ensure that the minimum requirements (as set out on the program page) are met. Next we look to see what skills or experience you have that relate specifically to the program. We are also interested in any previous volunteer experience you may have (either local or international), travel experience, and your particular interest in the program.
After reviewing your application, should we require any further information from you, we will email you to request this.
Typically, volunteers are expected to work 22 days per month. Eight vacation days per month can be used upon approval by project coordinator. Volunteers are expected to work an average of 6 to 8 hours per day, depending on the activities they carry out. Volunteers work from 7:30 to 12:30, and from 14:00 to 17:00 from Monday to Friday. There are occasions when volunteers do work half days on Saturdays.
During Semana Santa (Holy Week/Easter) the whole of the country shuts down for 5 days. This takes place in late March/early April and you should take this into account when traveling.
You can arrange this for before or after the program, but not during, due to the isolated nature of some of the reserves.
Yes, you get eight days off each month, and you are free to do as you please during this time. There are often other volunteers who want to go trekking or see the local sights. You will, however, need to have money for this time according to what you plan to do. You may want to spend some time in Ecuador before or after volunteering to see more of the country. You can survive on as little as US$7 a day in Ecuador. You can also spend much more if you want a bit of luxury.
Light, cotton clothing that covers most of the body helps to protect against sun and being bitten by insects. You should also bring work clothes that can get dirty: at least two long-sleeved and two short-sleeved light shirts that are easy to dry. Make sure you have a supply of both warm and cool outfits as the climate can change quickly within a day.
The program costs cover accommodation and all meals. If you plan on arriving early or staying on, then you will need to have spare money for this time. Also some money may be required for your days off depending on what you intend on doing. Other costs include buying bottled water, visa (only required in staying longer than 90 days), departure tax, and any shopping you will do personally. All visitors to Ecuador are required to pay a US $31.60 departure fee in cash at Quito airport when they leave. There are also additional costs for the Galapagos Project - volunteers on this project will need to pay for the flight to the islands and a US $100 park fee upon arrival.
Each reserve has its own emergency plan. If the ailment or injury can not be treated locally, for example in a clinic, the volunteer will be taken to the nearest hospital. If the accident or illness is serious, the family members of the volunteer will be contacted.
This can vary between 2 and 45 each month on any one reserve. Amazon and Bilsa are able to take the most volunteers. The reserves are busiest between June and August.
Our partner was established in July 1989, by the government of Ecuador. It is private, non-profit Ecuadorian foundation. Besides protecting ecologically important forest habitats, the foundation’s biological stations are nationally and internationally recognized as leaders in the development of innovative and concrete programs in community agro-forestry and environmental education.
While you are in Quito (where your international flight will land) you are required to attend an orientation session at the volunteer offices. These take place on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays at 3pm. It is a short session, no more than half an hour, on the rules of the reserve. You will be given more detailed directions on how to get to the reserve, and you should use this opportunity to ask any questions you may have. Once you arrive at the reserve you will be given a more detailed orientation on the work required, safety procedures, and work schedules.
If you need one, you will need to organize your visa through your travel agent before you leave for Ecuador. The information pack includes links to Ecuadorian Embassies through out the world.
All GVN Volunteers must have insurance. You are free to take out insurance cover through any provider of your choice. However, as some policies do not cover volunteering, we recommend you check you are covered during your volunteer placement.
For your convenience we have arranged a comprehensive package specially designed for volunteering. It includes excellent medical and accident coverage as well as “loss of deposits” cover which covers fees paid to GVN, airlines etc. If you would like to learn more, please click here.
Your program fee is payable to Global Volunteer Network 10 weeks prior to the 1st of the month you wish to volunteer. Please note, your placement is not confirmed (ie secured) until your program fee has been received. Please note that all charges incurred by the payment of the program fee are at the volunteer’s expense, e.g. if a bank transfer incurs a bank fee at the point of origin, that is at the expense of the volunteer.
Seventy percent (70%) of the program fee is refundable until two calendar months before the 1st of the month you are due to begin your program. For example a volunteer with 15 July 2012 as their start date would need to submit their refund request form by the last day of April 2012 to be eligible for a refund. Refer to GVN's legal terms of service for full details.
Saturday, June 02nd, 2012
I am getting on the plane TOMORROW night to finally fly out to Quito, which is the capital city of Ecuador and where I will be staying two days for my orientation meeting before I leave for the rainforest! I have to say that it only started hitting me now that I’m actually going, not that [click here to read more]
Thursday, November 10th, 2011
In the Zone Cafetera of beautiful Colombia, the hills are fertile and support fine quality coffee, bamboo for building, eucalyptus for paper and plantains for food. But in the main town of the region, Armenia, lots of people earn a living from selling mobile phone minutes to those with no access to a phone and [click here to read more]
Wednesday, October 26th, 2011
The capital of Ecuador lies north to south at the foot of a volcano, one of the 17 which there are in the country, 7 of which are active in some way. One has just shown signs of eruption quite nearby at Banos. On the bus journey to get here we tried to see as [click here to read more]
Please visit journals.globalvolunteernetwork.org for more journals and feedback from past volunteers
*Although there are no restrictions on the nationality of volunteers that wish to participate in this program, you need to be able to obtain your entry visa independent of the volunteer organisation.
Your application process is free and seamless, and if you are successful we will provide you with a choice of application fee payment options that include a secure online service. We also are one of the few organisations that allow you to transfer your application fee to another program at no extra cost.
Communication & Support:
Throughout the process, we are committed to working with you to answer any of your questions or concerns. During your placement we are also available as a form of support to you as a volunteer and will email you while in country to discuss how the program is going.
The Islands and the reserve are absolutely beautiful. Experiencing the Galapagos from a volunteer perspective is amazing because you get to do and see things that regular tourists cannot.
- Carmen, San Cristobal
The staff at Bilsa were fantastic. Even with our limited Spanish Carlos managed to get loads of stuff through to us, although I wont pretend it wasn't a relief when Juliet came back from leave as she speaks fluent English. Becasue of the remoteness of Bilsa there is no real option during free time but to spend it together, staff and volunteers. They went out of their way to make us feel welcome, especially once it became apparent that Conor could play the guitar!
Bilsa isn't as remote as it sounds! Well, it is far from any town but there is a timy hamlet of houses - the most important of which sells beers and rum! It's a good 20 minute walk when it's dry but as we had been told we would be near nowhere it came as a welcome surprise. The locals up there were quite often up for a game of football with the staff and volunteers for anyone interested. We were also lucky to catch a fiesta in La Y which was a good laugh. The trip to the community was another brilliant experience that I will never forget.
- Wendy, Bilsa
Bilsa was amazing - I saw so many different types of birds (hummingbirds, toucans, umbrellabirds..), wacky bugs & butterflies, agoutis, armadillos, groups of howler monkeys, and even had a boa constrictor sleep under the house! It was fascinating going out with the scientists & learning about their projects and going on hikes over hill & dale and through river & waterfall! Helping out with the reforestation effort (collecting seeds, planting and watering) as well as work around the station was a great experience too. It's great to be able to put something back in but also sad when you see how much is still being lost...
- Jasmin, Bilsa
Thank you so much everyone for making this such a fantastic experience! I came here with no idea what to expect, and I am leaving after 8 weeks that were better than I could have ever imagined. This is such a incredible place and the work being done is truly inspiring. I think I'll start a little garden of my own when I get home. Keep up the good work and hopefully I'll visit again one day! Muchas Gracias!
Isabelle Clarks - La Hesperia
I got back from Bilsa last night. I had an amazing time, the staff were wonderful. Julietta and Carlos were totally professional and lots of fun, in fact all the staff were lovely and so helpful despite the poor Spanish they had to put up with!
I did a personal project on ferns and the insects on them. I recognised quite a few genera from New Zealand (I was suprised how many) so we collected 60 insect samples using beating sheets from three of the main trails there and I have all the data in my diary.
I told Julietta I would write it up properly in between volunteering stints and do some basic statistics on it as well. We took some digital photos of the ferns, in case anyone wants to check my plant IDs. Not having seen any of the species before was a little difficult when they had no spores but the overall characteristics for the genera were pretty recogniseable.
- Charlotte, Bilsa
Ecuador may be considered a "hotspot," but the tagline doesn't refer to a Spring Break destination. Ecuador is one of the leading countries in the world at risk of losing its biodiversity, and with it the livelihoods, culture and identity of many Ecuadorians. Due mainly to the shrimp aquaculture industry, Ecuador's precious mangroves are being...
As the world becomes ever reliant on oil, and as oil becomes increasingly scarce, more and more untouched and once-protected areas are being opened up to oil exploration. GVN's Megan Tady interviewed Paula Palmer, executive director of Global Response, to discuss the environmental and social impacts of oil exploration in Ecuador, and how GVN...
At GVN we align with the idea of 'local solutions to local problems', so we work with local community organisations in each country. What this means for our volunteers is that they receive a unique and genuine cultural experience whilst being immersed in a local community.
Volunteering abroad could be the very thing for YOU!
If you're looking for something worthwhile to do volunteering will give you the opportunity to travel whilst making a difference in the community you are based in.
Did you know taking a Gap Year can improve your college admission chances and success rate during your studies?
"Harvard College encourages admitted students to defer enrolment for one year to travel, pursue a special project or activity, work, or spend time in another meaningful way" – Harvard College Office of Admissions, 2010.
International volunteering is a great way to gain experience living in a developing country, learning about another culture and experiencing a different way of life. It is a fantastic way to grow as a person, to develop life skills, self-confidence and self-esteem, and is a tool for self discovery and identity formation.
Other personal benefits include, developing international friendships and networks, social awareness, and building independence.
Volunteering can increase your employability, help you to gain valuable work experience and enhance your CV/resume.
"Going to a foreign country for a volunteer experience is a huge boost on a resume. Employers love to see a person that can think outside the box and work past their comfort zone. The added benefits of teamwork, foreign language knowledge, and plain old hard work also add polish to the volunteer candidate. Since business now happens on a global scale, the volunteer is armed with useful, and potentially actionable, information." – USA Today, 2010.
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