You are about to discover a new culture, accomplish something unforgettable, and explore what Ecuador has to offer!
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.
I had the most unbelievable experience. It was hard work but hugely rewarding and after 6 weeks I didn't want it to end. I met so many great people and learnt so much about the environment. By the end it felt like my home; an experience I will never forget and recommend to everyone.
Catriona | Ecuador Volunteer
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 | Ecuador Volunteer
Just Choose a Project and Apply!
You have a unique opportunity to learn a different way of living in a new culture, and to experience the traditional Ecuadorian diet. Accommodation in cabins on one of the four biological reserves have been selected to ensure volunteer well-being and comfort, to maintain safety and security, and to guarantee you get the most out of your time in Ecuador.
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.
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 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.
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 Congal programs.
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.
Our vision is to connect people with communities in need, with a particular focus on vulnerable women and children. We do this by supporting the work of local community organizations in countries through the placement of international volunteers.
We are excited to get your placement under way where you will:
Be a part of GVN's efforts to inspire learning, innovation and action to unlock the potential of vulnerable communities around the world. Work with exceptional grassroots projects in community development, conservation and wildlife, personal development, fundraising and physical challenges.
Have the 24/7 support of a non profit with 12 years experience in placing 19565 volunteers that will provide you with an affordable and rewarding placement.
Volunteer with a world-class organization which is recommended by Bill Gates and CNN.
Be a part of progressive non profit that has raised over $2 million to help women and children in need.
Have the comfort of knowing that GVN staff have collectively flown over 1 million miles to ensure you get a quality placement.
Make a long-term impact in your community of choice - it's not just a vacation.
How GVN works...
The first step is to fill out an application to see if we have a place for you. Then if your application is successful you will be accepted and we will then get to work organizing your placement.
GVN is a registered Charitable Trust, so volunteers finance themselves, or can fundraise online with our unique GVN platform, with US donors receiving tax receipts. The Program Package provides you with all that is listed below, along with personalized support from our expert staff and the knowledge that you'll be working with a reputable and registered charity with over 12 years experience in the field.
At the heart of our work is the communities our volunteers work to support - we ensure that these communities truly benefit from your time in Ecuador and that the Program Package fully supports you financially while you're volunteering.
The Program Package also includes a project donation, which supports the work the GVN Foundation does in addressing nutrition, education and healthcare needs, as well as supporting longer-term development approaches, including income generation activities and microfinance.
Your program package includes:
Personal support from your Program Specialist throughout the preparation process.
Your Program Guide, with all the details on Ecuador and your placement.
Fundraising strategies and access to our crowd funding platform where you can raise up to 100% of the cost your trip, with tax receipts for your US based donors.
Access to Your Own Online Journal: which helps you to communicate effectively and easily with your family and friends back home.
Opportunities for Preferred Pricing and Personalized Service when booking Airfares: through our travel partner GYT Flight Centre who go the extra mile to support GVN volunteers.
Accommodation: Volunteer house or shared cabins.
Meals: 3 meals daily.
Training: In-country orientation.
Supervision: In-country staff supervision.
Support: Pre-departure personal support from your volunteer coordinator, 24/7 in-country support from partner, and 24hr emergency line.
Extra: Please be aware that what you pay to stay at the station is not only for your room and board, but also goes towards the salaries of the forest guards, purchase of land, and to pay land tax.
An opportunity to debrief and provide feedback
Free access to GVN Changemakers program which alerts you to future internship/job opportunities at GVN.
A Letter of Completion in Volunteer Service.
The opportunity to stay connected with your project.
Global advocacy and fundraising campaigns to continue your part of the movement for social change with an international non-profit that has granted over $2 million to our partner organizations.
The program package does not include: Flights to Ecuador, flights to San Cristobal if doing the Galapagos program - approx US$600, 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.
Your Program Package
Calculate the price of your individualised program package. Details on longer placements may be available on request.
Select A Project
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Your Program Package
For those securing far enough in advance, there is a possible US$300 discount. Confirming your placement early on allows us and our partner communities the ability to plan in advance with confidence in terms of volunteer numbers and funding for the months ahead.
Tell me more about Ecuador?
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.
What is the climate like in Ecuador?
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.
What kinds of volunteer work are available?
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.
Is the program available year round?
The program is open all year round. Nevertheless, during Semana Santa (Easter) in March/early April the whole country shuts down for 5 days.
When will I know specific details about my placement?
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.
Where will I be located?
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.
Tell me more about the research projects
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.
When can I teach?
Teaching programs are only available to volunteers staying longer than 2 months in one project. Please see this timetable for more details.
What languages do I need to be able to speak to become a volunteer?
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.
How safe is it to volunteer in Ecuador?
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.
Tell me more about flying into Ecuador.
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.
Are there any specific starting dates for each project?
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.
What happens once I arrive in Quito?
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.
May I choose which reserve to volunteer in?
Yes, we’re happy to place you in the reserve of your choice as long as there is space available.
May I volunteer in a combination of reserves?
You’re welcome to volunteer in a combination of reserves, although you should bear in mind that it’s more valuable to the reserve if you stay in one place and gather expertise. However, volunteering in different reserves is a great way to experience Ecuador’s diverse range of habitats.
How do I get to the project?
You will take a bus from Quito (no more than US $10). Directions are given during the orientation session.
What immunisations/vaccines will I need?
Diphtheria and tetanus
Hepatitis A & B
These are rare but do affect people in poorer communities that you may not even come into contact with:
Yellow fever - you will need a certificate to say you have had this vaccination to be presented on arrival if you are from Africa or South America. In addition, the vaccination is highly recommended if you are travelling to the Amazon reserve.
Malaria (needs to be closely discussed with doctor) Quito itself is free of Malaria. Bilsa reserve highly recommends immunisation as Malaria is present in some of the towns you may visit, even though it’s not on the reserve itself.
Cholera outbreaks can occur in poorer areas of Ecuador; however vaccinations can become resistant to the disease so your doctor may say it is not needed. If you show any signs of violent vomiting and extremely watery diarrhoea see a doctor straight away for medication that can help treat you.
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.
What are the living arrangements when volunteering?
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.
Can I bring my family/children to this program with me?
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.
Can you accommodate specific dietary requirements?
Please indicate any dietary restrictions on your application form. Vegetarians can be catered for but you need to let us know beforehand.
What age do you have to be to volunteer?
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.
How does GVN choose volunteers for this program?
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.
What hours am I expected to take part in the program?
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.
Are there holidays or festivals I should be aware of when traveling?
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.
Is there opportunity to take classes such as language or cultural activities while on the program?
You can arrange this for before or after the program, but not during, due to the isolated nature of some of the reserves.
Are we able to do any sightseeing while volunteering?
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.
What clothing is appropriate for the program?
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.
Are there more expenses once I arrive?
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.
What happens if I get sick or have an accident while I'm at one of the reserves?
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.
How many volunteers are there on site at any one time?
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.
Can you tell me more about your partner in Ecuador?
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.
What is the course content of the training?
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.
Who organizes my visa for my volunteer placement?
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.
Do I need travel insurance?
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.
How do I pay my fees?
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.
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.
What else can I do in Ecuador?
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.
Online Spanish Lessons
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.