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Amazon

Visitors will find that Ecuador offers the easiest access to the Amazon Rainforest, traversing the Andean peaks to the Amazonian jungle in just a few hours. The Ecuadorian Amazon has one of the highest densities of animal and plant species in the world. In this hotspot of biodiversity also exist a number of indigenous communities that have proudly retained their ancestral beliefs, traditions, and lifestyle. With this extensive biological and cultural wealth, the importance of environmental conservation, cultural preservation, and intercultural understanding become even more critical to the sustainability of this region. For this reason, Ecuador Volunteer offers a variety of projects in education, conservation, sustainable tourism, and community development in the Amazon region. Enjoy your volunteer work in the exotic Amazon jungle.

Overview

Overview

Introduction

One of the most threatened natural resources in the Amazon Rainforest is the wildlife, which can suffer from habitat destruction, unsustainable hunting, and traps set by illegal animal hunters. Orchids, parrots, monkeys, and more than 20 thousand exotic animal and plant species have distinguished Ecuador as one of the countries with the most biodiversity in the world. Imagine falling asleep to the sounds of monkeys in the trees above your head and waking up to the caws of parrots and other exotic birds. Not only is all that a reality at the Wildlife Rescue Center, but you also get to hold and play with these animals and be responsible for nursing them back to health. Who else can boast of such an experience?

Highlights

Volunteers get the opportunity to work directly in the Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation Center for endangered species from the Amazon Rainforest. . Learn about the Amazonian Kichwa culture from the indigenous family in charge of the Center. Experience life in the Amazon Rainforest that few get the opportunity to see.

Quick Facts

Location Puyo, Pastaza (Amazon Jungle)
Distance from Quito About 6 hour by bus
Meals Included 3 Breakfast, lunch, dinner included Monday-Friday
Housing Volunteer house, shared rooms with other volunteers
Do i need to speak spanish? Basic Spanish required
Age Limit At least 18 years of age, no maximum age limit.
Free-time Activities Weekends are free; Hiking, waterfalls, swimming in the river. In Puyo, access to internet, stores, and travel agencies, where you can organize whitewater rafting trips, jungle tours, and trips to indigenous communities
Volunteer Responsibilities
  • Collecting food and feeding the animals
  • Cleaning and constructing animal cages
  • Administering special foods and medicines
  • Clearing the hiking and walking paths
Weekly Budget $30 per week spending money.
Nearest Health Centre Hospitals and major health clinics are 30 minutes away in Puyo.
Project Advantages Great for:

  • Cultural and Spanish immersion.
  • Learn about the indigenous cultures of the Amazon.
  • Perfect for experience in conservation, veterinary studies, biology, environmental science, and animal care.

Background Information

Description

The Ecuadorian Amazon is an important factor in distinguishing Ecuador as one of the most bio-diverse countries in the world. Over twenty percent of its twenty-thousand exotic plant and species are endemic. Unfortunately, this same beauty and biodiversity provides the perfect resource for those involved in the illegal plant and animal trafficking market. Every year, thousands of targeted species such as monkeys, parrots, parakeets, macaws, turtles, snakes, and orchids are extracted from their natural habitat and sold alive as pets or dead as furs, skins, fangs, and bones.

The mistreatment of these animals makes their rehabilitation especially challenging. Animals that have been sold illegally as pets have difficulty adapting to domestic life. This causes them to become depressed or aggressive, and subsequently leads to neglect and/or abuse by their owners. This mistreatment includes abandoning the animals in cages or tying them up to posts. In addition, many animals fall into a habit of self-mutilation, and as a result many of them perish.

While some of the animals taken from the Amazon are sold into the black market as pets, others grow up in the captivity of their captors in order to one day be sold outside the country. These animals are malnourished, wounded, and infected with parasites. As a result of this severe abuse, about a fourth of the rescued animals die on the way to the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center. About half of the animals are incapable of survival on their own and thus spend their lives in the Center. Only about a fourth of the animals rescued from captivity are successfully rehabilitated and reintroduced into the wild.

Why the Project Needs Volunteers

Volunteers are crucial to the wildlife rescue, rehabilitation of these animals and the maintenance of the Center. The Ecuadorian government offers no support for the rehabilitation of these animals and as a result the volunteers are the life-line of the Center. Volunteers not only provide a consistent source of help, but also help to spread awareness of the grave dangers facing the animals of the Ecuadorian Amazon. Through this experience, volunteers can learn and better understand the root of the problems and share their stories with a passion that encourages others to join our cause of reducing the trade and mistreatment of wild animals.

Activities

  • Feeding the animals
  • Cleaning the animal cages
  • Administering special foods and medicines
  • Clearing the Centers’ hiking and walking paths
  • Collecting fruits (bananas, papaya, and others)
  • Contributing to current construction projects
  • Administrative work

Life in the Project

Accommodations

The Wildlife Rescue Center offers volunteers accommodation in a Volunteer House, which includes shared bathrooms with a shower, toilet, and running water. Volunteers can wash clothes by hand or pay for laundry service in the town.

Meals

At the project site, volunteers are provided with 3 meals per day from Monday to Friday. On the weekends, volunteers are free to eat in the town of Puyo or buy and cook their own meals. Strict dietary needs may not be possible as the Center serves a lot of local food with local ingredients. Please check with Ecuador Volunteer if your dietary needs could be met at the Center.

Schedule

We recommend a commitment of at least 1 week, although volunteers are welcome to stay as long as they can. Volunteers will work about 30 hours per week. Working hours are generally 08:00 am – 4:00 p.m., Monday to Friday.

Free Time Activities

Volunteers can travel to nearby communities during weekends and holidays, hiking and exploring the exotic biodiversity of the area, and visiting the nearby city of Puyo. In Puyo, volunteers have access to internet, stores, and travel agencies, where they can also organize whitewater rafting trips, jungle tours, and trips to indigenous communities.

Location

Local Area

The Wildlife Rescue Center resides in the province of Pastaza in indigenous Kichwa territory. The Kichwas of the Amazon share their linguistic tradition and culture with the Kichwa of the Sierra region. The residents of the Center speak two languages: Kichwa (their native language) and Spanish. Volunteers are generally able to communicate comfortably in Spanish with those at the Center.

Despite Western influence, the community has retained their indigenous cosmovision, traditional medicinal practices, customs, and Kichwa as the primary language within the community. Despite having lost some expressions of cultural identity such as traditional dress, maintaining these aspects of their culture has given the community a strong sense of cultural identity.

The main spirit of the rainforest is Amasanga, also known as Sacha Runa. The wife of Amasanga is Nunghuí, the mother of the chacra (small farm) or the huerto (orchard or vegetable garden). These two spirits transfer the knowledge of plants and forest to the men and women who live there. Another important spirit is Shunghuí, the spirit of the water.

Regional Facts

Ecuador is a very diverse and multicultural country. Various indigenous nationalities live in the Ecuadorian Amazon in addition to colonists (migrants), which consist primarily of indigenous people from the Sierra region. Until the 1950s, the Amazon was inhabited primarily by indigenous communities. Today, the indigenous population in this region is only 30% of the total regional population. The other 70% of the population is made up of colonists from other parts of the country.

The indigenous people that live in the Amazon have characteristics that distinguish them from the indigenous people in other parts of Ecuador. They primarily live off of hunting, gathering, fishing, and subsistence agriculture. The rainforest is the basis of their existence. They use and exploit the forest according to a philosophy of coexistence and unity between man and nature. As a result, the preservation of the rainforest and animals is also the preservation of life.

The main indigenous nationalities in the Ecuadorian Amazon are the Siona, Cofan Dureno, Secoya San Pablo, Huaorani, Záparo, Quichuas, Achuar, y Shuar. These nationalities all live in territories in which they maintain their ancestral customs and practices.

Requirements

Skills

Volunteers are not required to have experience in veterinary care, though they are preferred. It is essential that volunteers have a love for animals, have a strong work ethic, have an interest in working in nature, and should not be afraid to get dirty. Volunteers with an interest in the environment and conservation are ideal, and they must be prepared for hard work and a “roughing it” lifestyle.

Age

Because volunteers work directly with wild animals, volunteers must be at least 18 years of age. There is no maximum age limit.

Language

An intermediate level of Spanish is required to be able to make a significant contribution to the project.

Vaccinations

Hepatitis A & B, tetanus, typhoid, diphtheria, Yellow Fever, rabies (optional), and malaria pills

Insurance

Travel insurance is required of ALL volunteers and must cover: 1) transportation in case of emergency, and 2) repatriation in case of death.

Travel Information

Airport

Volunteers should fly into the Quito Mariscal International Airport (airport code UIO) and plan for 2 business days in Quito before going to their project site. For volunteers under 18 years of age, it is important they have a Minor Consent Form signed by their parents to permit them to fly internationally.

Arrival Information

Ecuador Volunteer will meet volunteers at the airport in Quito to transfer them to their accommodations in Quito. We will also assist the volunteers in arranging accommodations (host families, volunteer apartment, or hostel). On the following business day, volunteers will have an Orientation (safety and security, travel information, and cultural orientation) before heading to their project site.

Visa

For a stay of less than 90 days, volunteers from most North American, Asian, and European countries can enter without a visa (indicate the purpose of your stay as “tourism” at immigration). An extended tourist visa may be issued to volunteers for 90 to 180 days (for the purpose of “tourism”). For volunteers staying for more than 180 days, Ecuador Volunteer can help them attain a volunteer visa. If you are unsure of visa requirements for citizens of your country, please contact the nearest Ecuadorian Consulate or Embassy.

Safety and Insurance

Insurance

Travel insurance is required of ALL volunteers for the entirety of their stay and must cover: 1) transportation in case of emergency, and 2) repatriation in case of death. No exceptions will be made, and volunteers must leave their insurance information with Ecuador Volunteer in case of an emergency.

Health Center

Ecuador’s large cities have hospitals and clinics equipped with the latest in medical technologies, while smaller and medium-sized cities have hospitals and clinics equipped to handle basic medical emergencies. Smaller towns often have local clinics to handle basic healthcare, but volunteers will have to travel to the nearest city if there is a major health problem. Ecuador Volunteer has an Emergency Response Plan in place to handle medical emergencies. It is important that volunteers disclose all relevant health conditions so that project coordinators are prepared for any sudden health problems.

Vaccinations

Highly recommended for all volunteers: Hepatitis A & B, tetanus, typhoid, diphtheria. For projects located in the Amazon Rainforest region, we also recommend the Yellow Fever Vaccination and malaria pills. For the Wildlife Rescue Center, the volunteer may want to receive a rabies vaccination as well.

Language & Training

Language Skills

Ecuador Volunteer offers language programs to improve a volunteer’s Spanish speaking abilities and/or to learn Ecuador’s largest indigenous language, Quichua. These language programs are intensive and one-to-one, allowing volunteers to learn quickly and efficiently. Volunteers also have the opportunity to take a TESOL course to learn how to teach English as a second language, which may also help volunteers who are planning to teach English as a part of their volunteer program. Ecuador Volunteer works alongside the Equinox Language Academy, which specializes in professional, intensive one-to-one and small group courses, guaranteeing the efficiency of each and every one of its language programs.

The intensive Spanish and Quichua language classes include 4 hours of intensive studies for 5 days (Monday through Friday) and cost $140 USD per week (5 days, 20 hours total). The class schedule is flexible, allowing students the ability to begin classes when they want.

Volunteers interested in the TESOL program should sign up before the dates specified on the Equinox website. Each program includes one month of intensive classes. If a volunteer is interested in the TESOL program, please contact us.

What’s Included

Included

  • Airport pick-up service from the airport to accommodations in Quito (one way).
  • In-country informational workshop to highlight aspects of the project(s).
  • In-country workshop upon arrival on safety and security tips and information, and a cultural introduction to Ecuador to help volunteers with the effects of culture shock.
  • 24 / 7 contact in case of emergencies, health problems, or similar problems.
  • Monitoring and regular check-ins during the volunteer program.
  • Training Workshop and Orientation (mandatory for all volunteers).
  • International phone call in our office in Quito to contact family.
  • International phone calls and Internet service in our office in Quito in case of emergency.
  • Local phone calls to landline numbers from our office in Quito.
  • Pre-arrival information about activities around the country for the volunteer during his/her free time.
  • Certificate of Participation when the volunteer has completed his/her volunteer program (upon request).
  • Accommodation and food that is included in the program costs, 1-3 meals per day from Monday to Friday (depending on project and accommodation).

Not Included

  • International Airline tickets or fees related to travel.
  • Visa costs and expenses related to the necessary paper work.
  • Travel insurance (a travel insurance that includes repatriation in case of emergency or death is required of ALL volunteers).
  • Costs associated with vaccinations and personal medications.
  • Meals or food outside of the program, including weekends (depending on project and accommodation).
  • Land or air transportation within the country (in Quito, from Quito to project site, etc).
  • Expenses related with cultural and/or tourist activities during free time.
  • Airport drop-off service to go back to home country.
  • Personal expenses / Items for personal use (such as laundry service, medicine, daily internet use, or phone calls).

How to apply

Follow the Four C’s

  1. Confirm your interest in a project(s).
  2. Choose your participation dates.
  3. Check you meet the project requirements.
  4. Complete the Registration Form.

After you apply

Next Steps

1. Once accepted, pay your minimum deposit ($250) to officially reserve your spot. This must be completed 60 days prior to your arrival.

2. Read and sign EVF’s Terms and Conditions.

3. Book your flight to Quito.

4. Turn in a digital copy of your passport, flight itinerary, and travel insurance.

5. If necessary, get the necessary paperwork or visa to travel to Ecuador.

6. Be sure to complete your payment for your program costs by 30 days before your arrival.

7. Read the pre-arrival information sent by EVF to prepare for your trip.

8. Get excited for the experience of a lifetime!

Costs & Dates

Costs & Dates

Program Fee

1 week: 175 USD

2 weeks: 350 USD

4 weeks: 700 USD

6 weeks: 1050 USD

8 weeks: 1400 USD

10 weeks: 1750 USD

Additional week: 140 USD

Note: In addition to the program fee, there is a 50 USD application fee due upon your being accepted into a project and a 200 USD contribution fee to support Ecuador Volunteer SCHOLARSHIP FUND.

  • Your Application fee permits us to cover training, advertising, program promotion, and office expenses. Your contribution fee permits us to cover our philanthropic causes.
  • Our Dates & Cost calculator includes application fee, bank transfer cost and Paypal fee. For this reason the final cost is different.

Select your Date

You can start your program in the following dates:

Months Start Days
November 2013 3rd o 17th
December 2013 8th o 22nd
January 2014 5th o 19th
February 2014 2nd o 16th
March 2014 2nd o 16th
April 2014 6th o 20th
May 2014 4th o 18th
June 2014 1st o 15th
July 2014 6th o 20th
August 2014 3rd o 24th
September 2014 7th o 21st
October 2014 5th o 19th
November 2014 2nd o 16th
December 2014 7th o 21st

Project FAQs

Project FAQs

1. Will there be other volunteers there when I go?

As in all of our projects, Ecuador Volunteer cannot guarantee there will be other volunteers at the Wildlife Rescue Center during your same volunteer dates. You can check around 4 weeks before to see if anyone else has signed up, but keep in mind people do sign up at the last minute some of the time. Do not let this be the deciding factor; remember you will be with a family with a lot of activities to keep you busy.

2. Can I take time from the project to travel?

All of our projects are flexible and understanding of your interest in traveling and seeing different parts of Ecuador. If you would like to take a few extra days for a long weekend once a month, just let the family know and there should not be any problem. Please keep in mind that your primary concern should be your volunteer project, so do not take a long weekend every week.

3. Will I be bored at the project?

Although you will be staying away from the city and may not be able to go out as much as you want, there are always ways to keep yourself busy on the farm. Do your best to reach out to and interact with the Coordinator. It is also a good idea to bring some books, a deck of cards, games, or other things with you for down time in the evenings.

4. Is there clean drinking water at the project?

The host families and project coordinator at the project know how important it is that volunteers have clean drinking water, so they will not offer you tap or unboiled water to drink. In most cases, the family or coordinator has purified water on hand for you to drink. If this is not the case, they will be sure to boil all water well before serving it to you. If you prefer, you can also buy large bottles of water in the town on weekends to have purified drinking water on hand.

General FAQs

1. What is the principle function of the Ecuador Volunteer Foundation?

The Ecuador Volunteer Foundation is a non-profit organization whose principle function is to select and train volunteers and create a bridge between them and local community projects throughout Ecuador.

2. Is the Ecuador Volunteer Foundation authorized to operate?

The Ecuador Volunteer Foundation has been legally authorized in Ecuador, as recognized by Ministerial Resolution Nº 0350 and is one of the few volunteer organizations in Ecuador authorized by the government to select national and international volunteers.

3. How long should I be in Quito before I begin volunteer work?

Volunteers should be in Quito for about two or three days before beginning any work. This allows enough time for the volunteer to obtain all necessary information about their project, important guidelines about safety and travel, and useful advice about the culture, and challenges of the project to prepare him or her for culture shock. If the volunteer needs to buy any personal items, sort out any paperwork, or take care of any last minute arrangements, this would be the ideal time.

4. When should I travel?

The majority of the projects are available year-round, but it is still very important to plan your trip at least one month in advance. Most volunteers travel in the late spring and early to mid-summer (April to July), but be aware these are also the most expensive times travel.

5. Why do I have to pay to volunteer?

As a non-profit and non-government entity in Ecuador, the Ecuador Volunteer Foundation does not receive financial support from any public or private organization. The Ecuadorian government offers little to no grants for non-governmental organizations, so Ecuador Volunteer relies on volunteer contributions in the form of Registration and Support fees to allow the organization to carry out the functions and services provided to volunteers.
Furthermore, the daily project costs are essential for projects to be able to host volunteers. Nearly all our projects take place in communities with limited economic resources, so in most cases supporting a volunteer for free is not possible and would only cause more strain for the communities we support.

6. Where do my volunteer funds go?

Funds paid by the volunteers principally serve as a cover for administrative costs for the foundation, volunteer transportation from the airport to their accommodations in Quito, informational material, and website promotion to make our foundation as accessible as possible for future volunteers. The daily project costs go directly to the project coordinators and/or host families to allow them to buy food for volunteers and project materials to be able to complete the necessary activities.

7. Why are the project costs so low?

Our main focus is to improve the quality of life for the communities we support through intercultural exchange and sustainable development. We coordinate our efforts in order to allow volunteers to work towards those goals through daily interaction and exchanging ideas and knowledge. We do not want communities to rely on the financial support of volunteers, but rather the cultural and interpersonal support they bring. This is how we distinguish ourselves from other organizations– by looking into all alternatives in order to find the best possible way to allow volunteers to live comfortably in Ecuador, while always being mindful of volunteer’s selflessness.

8. How and when can I pay my program fees to Ecuador Volunteer?

At the moment, you can pay via bank transfer, Western Union, or check (only in the US). We ask you to complete your payment in full before your arrival in Ecuador. For more information to complete your payments, email info@ecuadorvolunteer.org.

9. What is Ecuador Volunteer’s refund policy?

Ecuador Volunteer operates on a strict no-refund policy, with certain exceptions made in cases of emergency. It is important that volunteers make concrete plans before committing, otherwise they should be prepared to lose the unused funds. If a volunteer is not sure about their exact travel or volunteer dates, they should commit to a minimum number of weeks or months, then pay the remaining balance if they decide to volunteer longer.