Volunteers can work with an orphanage or child welfare organization in one of several locations throughout Ecuador. The children come from a variety of situations including loss of one or both parents, physical and sexual abuse, extreme poverty, and more suffering than any child should have to bear. Many of these children have been denied the chance at an education as well as the basics for survival: food and shelter. Volunteers will spend time with the children leading activities and games, helping at meal times, and teaching. The facilities are always in need of upkeep, and volunteers are welcome to assist with projects to improve the facilities as well as daily activities with the children.
In recognition of the importance of learning English, the Ecuadorian government requires English to be taught in the schools, but there are not enough qualified teachers. We work with pre-schools, primary schools, middle schools, and high schools throughout Ecuador to link the schools with international volunteers and interns to teach English and assist with other subjects such as math, science, computer skills, extra-curricular activities and sports. Volunteers will provide a much needed service as well as experience the learning opportunity of a lifetime. Working directly with Ecuadorian students will give volunteers the chance to learn about many of the issues Ecuadorians face every day and a deep understanding of Ecuadorian culture. International volunteers also provide Ecuadorian students with the unique experience of getting to know a foreigner and serve as mentors and role models to the students. Teaching opportunities are available in towns throughout the country including Quito, Mindo, Salinas, Puerto Lopez, the Galapagos, Lago Agrio, Puyo, Otavalo, Ambato, and more. In the Andes and Amazon, the school year starts in September and runs until the end of May, and on the coast and in the Galapagos, the school year starts in April and runs through December. This program requires a minimum of a one month commitment.
In the Andes and Amazon, the school year starts in September and runs until the end of May, and on the coast and in the Galapagos, the school year starts in April and runs through December. This program requires a minimum of a one month commitment and works best if interns can stay for a full school term.
The economic crisis of the late 1990s affected almost everyone in Ecuador. Today approximately 40% of Ecuadorians still live below the poverty line. We work with several governmental and non-governmental organizations in Ecuador devoted to giving small communities the tools they need to pull themselves from poverty. Possible projects include helping with infrastructure development, urban planning, educational programs, capacity building, and microfinance programs. Participants will work directly with local government office, NGOs and community members.
Volunteers are particularly needed at on-going construction projects at schools around the country. The aim is to improve the infrastructure and add amenities such as better bathrooms, refurbished lunchrooms and nicer, sturdier classrooms. Volunteers in these projects can work in Quito, in coastal communities near Puerto Lopez, or in the highlands near Ibarra. If you wish you may combine construction with teaching at the same school.
Illegally trafficking animals is a billion dollar business in Ecuador. Thousands of birds, monkeys, tortoises, bears, and other animals are caught each year and sold on the black market. The animals that are recovered need to be rehabilitated before they can be reintroduced to the wild. We work with an animal rescue center on the coast of El Oro province near Guayaquil. Participants will assist to clean enclosures, build new enclosures, feed the animals, monitor the animals' behavior, and assist with ongoing reintroduction projects.
Three species of sea turtles nest on the Ecuadorian coast and all are threatened by traditional fishing methods. Volunteers with the Sea turtle project will monitor sea turtle nesting activities, record census data, and assist with educational projects for area fishermen. Another important part of this project is to pick up litter on the beaches. The baby turtles can become disoriented by reflective pieces of litter or plastic. They can also die after eating small bits of tar or other litter.
On the Galapagos Islands, volunteers can work in one of several tortoise breeding centers. Galapagos tortoises were hunted nearly to extinction by whalers in the 19th century. In addition to the over-hunting in the 19th century, the tortoises have been forced to compete with goats introduced to the islands from the time of the whalers to the 1970s. The breeding centers are now breeding and repopulating several different subspecies of Galapagos tortoises. Volunteers will help provide care to the tortoises, clean enclosures, and make observation on the tortoise population. (Please bear in mind this is a part time project).
For those interested in veterinary medicine we can also offer a placement with the local university's vet school. Interns are invited to shadow students and doctors at the small animal teaching clinic associated with the school.
ELI works with many charitable clinics and public hospitals to create opportunities for medical, nursing, physical therapy, dental, and pre-med students to complete a supervised internship as well as volunteer opportunities for health professionals. Interns will shadow the staff at the clinic or hospital and do not have medical responsibilities. The program is designed to give interns the opportunity to observe and learn from practices in Ecuador. Volunteers assist in the clinic or hospital and are assigned tasks according to what the local staff feel is appropriate. Participants will also gain an understanding of some of the complicated issues the healthcare system in Ecuador is grappling with. Depending on the placement, participants may be able to assist the doctors and nursing staff. Please note that participants in this program must have a high intermediate to advanced level of Spanish proficiency, and knowledge of medical vocabulary will be very helpful.
Special Ed & Therapy
Volunteers can work in centers for children with disabilities in a variety of locations throughout Ecuador. As in many developing countries, most families in Ecuador with developmentally disabled children have few resources available to them. These centers provide daycare, education, therapy and vocational training so that these special kids can grow to lead productive lives. Placements are available in Quito as well as in rural locations. There is a particular need in the area of Santa Ana which has seen very high rates of children born with Down's Syndrome in recent years. Help is needed to provide these special kids with therapy and education.
Volunteers and interns with an interest or background in physical or speech therapy are especially needed.
ELI is excited to offer a brand new program in Ecuador! Volunteers and interns are invited to join the efforts of a government funded social program designed to increase access to healthy food, provide knowledge of nutrition and improve food security among excluded or marginalized populations. Poor nutrition, which can lead to malnutrition, obesity, diabetes, anemia and other serious illnesses, has been identified as a major public health issue in Ecuador. Participants with conversational Spanish and a background in nutrition are needed to provide outreach, workshops and education on healthy eating habits, especially among children and the elderly.
Human Rights & Legal
Human Rights is one of the foremost issues in Ecuadorian politics today. ELI works with governmental and non-governmental organizations devoted to promoting human rights for different marginalized groups. Interns in this program can work in the fields of indigenous rights, women's rights, children's rights, and legal aid. The organizations we work with have both policy oriented placements and fieldwork oriented placements. In a policy oriented placement, interns will work in an office in Quito assisting with tasks such as research, grant writing, helping with web development, and preparing materials for legislators. Legal interns will work with advocates, lawyers and judges that provide assistance to marginalized communities and people that otherwise would not be able to afford legal counsel. In a field work position, participants will assist with capacity building projects in rural areas of Ecuador. Please note that these internships require at least an 8 week commitment because the organizations put a lot of energy into training interns.
ELI works with several media outlets based in Quito and on the Galapagos Islands to create unique internship opportunities. Writers can gain experience with a daily newspaper, human interest magazine, or one of the most innovative internet journalism outlets in Latin America. Internships with a television station are also a possibility.Photographers wanting to add to their portfolios and gain professional level experience can work either with a sports magazine in Quito or on the Galapagos Islands. The sports magazine specializes in soccer but also places a large emphasis on extreme sports such as rafting, mountain climbing, and mountain biking. Participants looking to gain experience with documentary film, printed materials such as brochures, and other communications methods can work with the Parque Nacional on the Galapagos Islands. The park has ongoing wildlife documentary projects and is always working on improving interpretive materials. Interns are welcome to contribute. For an example of a final internship project, please see Restless Isabela. All photography interns must have a demonstrated interest in photography and be able to submit a portfolio as part of their application.
The media internships require an advanced level of Spanish proficiency since all publications are printed only in Spanish.
Do you have a group that would like to travel together to Ecuador and volunteer? We can customize your program to fit your group's needs! ELI has worked with many groups over the years. The following is a sample itinerary of a one to two week program for groups of up to 10 people. If you're interested in setting something up for your club or group, let us know!
Day 1 Arrival: Airport pick-up, volunteers settle in with host families
Day 2 Morning visit historic Old Town, Lunch in the afternoon,Visit the modern part of the city, Back home for dinner, Visit La Ronda in the evening
Day 3 Tour to Otavalo, a beautiful indigenous town 2 hours north of Quito, Visit one of South America’s most famous markets at the Plaza de los Ponchos,
Afternoon activities: San Pablo Lake, Peguche waterfall, Cotacachi Village famous for its leather goods, Cuicocha Lake, boat ride
Day 4 Breakfast with host family, Visit Mitad del Mundo and the equator at latitude 0º
Ride on the teleferico cable car as it climbs from 2850 to 4050 meters. Stunning views!
Days 5 – 8
The group may choose from the following options:
Community Development Projects
Volunteers on this project will assist with construction projects in the coastal community of Puerto Viejo, or in Otavalo. Volunteers should be ready for physical labor on this project! No special skills are required.
This project focuses on social welfare in marginalized and impoverished communities. Volunteers will visit rural families in the surrounding villages of Quito, bringing donations of food, clothing and medical supplies, and contribute to ongoing community projects.
Orphanage & day care
ELI partners with many orphanages, children’s homes and daycares throughout the city. Volunteers with an interest in working with these amazing kids are needed to teach English, music, sports, art and generally provide attention and affection. Many of the children come from tough backgrounds so patience and compassion are a must!
**One week program finishes here**
Day 9 Volunteer half of the day, take an overnight bus to Lago Agrio for Amazon tour (about 8 hours)
Trip to Amazon
This part of the excursion is organized by professional Ecuadorian guides. Please note that all volunteers must be in good health and reasonably fit to participate.
The main objective of the tour is to promote the conservation of the Amazon ecological system. This is a forest flooded with black water, with a huge diversity of flora and fauna. Ramble through waterways and jungles teaming with life, much of it unchanged for the past million years! Our silent approach by hand-carved canoe, as natural to the animal eye as a floating log, guarantees us intimate contact with all aspects of this astonishing environment.
- Accommodation at Cuyabeno River Lodge (double cabins)
- Three meals a day
- All equipment including rubber boots and rain ponchos
- Guided walks through the forest with knowledgeable local guides
- An introduction to the flora and fauna in the area, opportunity to learn about the plants and their medicinal properties
- Night walks to look for nocturnal monkeys, spiders, birds, frogs, snakes, and alligators
- Fishing for piranhas
- Visit to the Lakes of Cuyabeno in motorized canoe, viewing monkeys and other wildlife along the waterways
- Paddle up river and float back to the camp with a life jacket in the Cuyabeno River
NOTE: The guide may change parts of the trip depending on the weather conditions.
Day 13 Return to Quito in time for dinner with host family
Day 14 Breakfast with host family, any last minute shopping
Lunch with families, afternoon coffee at Guapulo
Day 15 Departure