It’s a lazy Friday morning in Quito and the whole country is in a good mood, due to Ecuador’s exciting victory in last night’s football match. A classic Ecuadorian “pop up” national holiday has conveniently ensured that the nation has the day off to recover from their hangovers, allowing volunteers to also take advantage of the long weekend. (Even Reggie, the neighbor’s vivacious rooster, is quieter than usual, avoiding the morning’s usual death threats).
After breakfast the volunteer house slowly empties, as groups of newly-made friends head off on excursions to explore gorgeous places such as the Galapagos, the Amazon, Los Baños, Mindo, or the beaches of Montañita. Volunteering in Ecuador is held Tuesday through Friday (full days, or half days on the project if you’re also taking Spanish lessons), so there is always plenty of time during the weekend (Saturday through Monday) to travel further afield and see more of Ecuador. Monday is always reserved for incoming volunteers to take part in orientation activities, otherwise volunteers are welcome to join the local staff in planning for the week’s upcoming activities.
The IVHQ Ecuador program is studious and structured, with excellent opportunity to study Spanish (all lessons are private) and gain insight into working with a local non-profit, NGO organization. As the only IVHQ program destination in Latin America that currently offers an NGO Support project, there is great “hands-on” opportunity here for any students or qualified professionals in the fields of international development and relations, social work, communications, IT, or skills in second languages. However anybody with an interest in learning and gaining experience is welcome to chip in and get their feet wet – your attitude, perhaps more so than your talent, will ultimately influence the experience that you walk away with, and the impact of your participation.
In addition to being the only IVHQ NGO Support project offered in Latin America, it’s also the most flexible of our NGO Support program options. The minimum program participation requirement here is just one week, in comparison to the NGO Support projects offered in Cambodia (5 week minimum), Italy (4 week minimum) and Vietnam, Hanoi (8 week minimum).
Specific tasks that volunteers can get involved with on the Ecuador NGO Support project can include (but may not be limited to) grant seeking applications, campaign work, individual donor focus, translations, social media promotion, international outreach, image development, statistics and record keeping. Volunteers additionally spend one day per week on the Street Children project, which complements their understanding of the NGO’s goals and operations.
I read Quito described as “a wonderfully sprawling, sooty, Diesel-filled city”. And it is… or at least parts of it. But it’s also a city of incredible contrasts. As a UNESCO World Heritage site, Quito is home to the most well preserved and least-altered historic center in Latin America. Founded on the ruins of an Incan city, both indigenous and colonial culture co-exists. Add to your weekend sightseeing “to do” list:
- The expansive neo-Gothic cathedral, Basilica del Voto Nacional
- Plaza de la Independencia/Plaza Grande
- Iglesia de Santo Domingo
- La Compania de Jesus (a 400 year old Jesuit church, with the entire interior painted in stunning gold leaf. The mind boggles).
- Plaza San Francisco (and pop into the nearby, pristinely renovated, Casa Gangotena luxury hotel for a drink. You will feel so swanky for doing so).
- Teleferico Quito cable car is the best, yet secretly terrifying (if you’re afraid of heights) way to check out the wonderfully sprawlingness of Quito.
- Calle La Ronda – the best place to stroll on Friday and Saturday nights for great food, live music, shopping, and entertainment. A safe and family friendly vibe, mixed with enjoyable nightlife. Make sure that if you order an “empanada de aire” that someone’s around to help you eat it).
- El Panecillo… this is the big hill where the “Virgen de Quito” (a.k.a. Virgin of the Apocalypse/Winged Virgin of Quito/Dancing Madonna) keeps an eye over the city. Standing on the head of a dragon. That she’s casually holding on a leash. You can climb an interior staircase inside the virgin, until you’re somewhere inside her head, absorbing delightful views of Quito.
… to name just a few inner city attractions! Yet cruise out of the city for a day or two, and you could be soaking away your non-existent worries in natural mountain hot-springs at Papallacta, surrounded by 360° of cloud-forest, in no time. Easy does it!
Interested to know more? Find out how you can become a volunteer in NGO Support in Ecuador with IVHQ.