Since 2004, the Fundación Bolívar has been helping foreigners, both resident and visiting the country, to share their time, their talents, and their experience with people in Ecuador who can benefit.
The non-profit group is active in Quito, Cuenca, the jungle, the Galápagos, and on the coast. Their efforts are focused on education and environmental conservation.
“It’s important to learn at least a little Spanish before you start working in the local community where you decide to volunteer,” explains Mónica Montes, representative for the foundation.
“That’s why we start every volunteer experience with language classes.”
The programs are highly customizable. You can volunteer on your own, with your family, or with a group of friends. You could organize a two-week program to include your children or grandchildren over one of their school breaks, for example.
Some programs include home stays with local families, with indigenous families in the north of the country, for example, where you could spend a couple of weeks helping them to manage their farms or other activities related to generating a livelihood.
You could volunteer in a woman’s shelter, maybe helping to teach the children of the women staying there while they regroup on where to go and what to do next. You could volunteer as a teacher’s aid or even a teacher in a village school.
“It’s not necessary that volunteers have experience or any special qualifications,” Mónica says. “It’s very difficult for these remote schools to find teachers. Someone coming to us from North America or Europe, for example, with all of that education and life experience, would be very welcome to teach primary-age children.
“And the children will love you. To them, you’ll be like a figure out of a fairy tale.”
The Fundación Bolívar offers 24/7 support for its volunteers. If you’re coming to Ecuador specifically to participate in a Fundación Bolívar program, you’ll be met at the airport and delivered to accommodation for your getting-acquainted/language-study transition period.
Then you’ll be transferred to wherever in the country you’ll be contributing your time, either with a local host family or in volunteer housing (maybe an apartment that you share with other volunteers). All of this is included in the program fee, which depends on the location and duration of your volunteer adventure.
Remember, this is a not-for-profit operation. The fee in each case goes to cover the direct costs associated with each volunteer activity.
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