Alternative Spring Break in the Andes

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Alternative Spring Break Programs
  • Overview
  • Background
  • Life in the Project
  • Location
  • Requirements
  • Travel Info
  • Safety
  • Language Training
  • Whats Included?
  • How to Apply?
  • After You Apply
  • Testimonials
  • Cost and Dates
  • Project FAQs
  • General FAQs

Alternative Spring Break “Traversing the Andes”

If you love to work with children and are interested in making a difference during your Spring Break, join Ecuador Volunteer’s Alternative Spring Break Program, Traversing the Andes. This program introduces you to Ecuadorian culture, takes you to unforgettable places, and opens your heart to the love and warmth of the children. Whether you are studying education or childcare, you want to get to know local children, or you hope to make a difference in the lives of disadvantaged children, this is your chance for the Spring Break of a lifetime!

Quick Information

Alternative Spring Break Name: Traversing the Andes

Dates: March 9-15, March 23-29 (ASB 2014)

Location: Quito, Ecuador

Cost: $674 for 7 days (see itinerary below)

Program Itinerary*

*This itinerary is not finalized and is subject to change.

Day 1 Arrival in Quito Airport (UIO) and transfer to hotel.
Day 2 Morning: Short introduction to Ecuador and Project, then visit Childcare Center.
Afternoon: City Activity 1 (City Bus Tour).
Day 3 Morning: Project activities at the Volunteer Project – Childcare Center.
Afternoon: City Activity 2 (Middle of the Earth Monument and Intiñan Museum).
Day 4 Morning: Project activities at the Volunteer Project – Childcare Center.
Afternoon: City Activity 3 (Teleferico to Mt. Pichincha).
Day 5 Morning: Project activities at the Volunteer Project – Childcare Center.
Afternoon: City Activity 4 (Guayasamin Museum, Banco Central Museum).
Day 6 Morning/Afternoon: Project activities at the Volunteer Project – Childcare Center.
Evening: City Activity 5 (Panecillo, Church of the Company of Jesus).
Day 7 Morning: Leave for Day Trip, Otavalo Market, Condor Park, and Lake Cuicocha.
Evening: Return to Quito.
Flight home (usually early in the morning or later in the evening).

Background Information

About the Project

The condition of the education system in Ecuador is dramatically lacking, particularly in the most impoverished regions of the country. The persistent rates of illiteracy result from low education levels, high repetition rates and desertion rates, poor quality of education, and lack of educational structure and learning material.

These problems continue to affect the youngest members of impoverished families, and the work that must be done to reverse these problems begins with the youngest children through childcare centers. For this reason, we need the support of volunteers like you to serve in our Alternative Spring Break as an inspiration to the children, youth, and adults in the most disadvantaged communities. This Alternative Spring Break Program connects enthusiastic volunteers with eager young children at childcare centers in Ecuador’s capital city, Quito.

Many people from the rural areas of Ecuador come to the capital city of Quito in search of abundant employment opportunities rumored to exist in the metropolis. However, many of these migrants soon realize that the only abundant jobs are those in the informal sector and the most vulnerable jobs on the streets. Making matters worse, many migrants come to the city from rural areas and have a hard time adjusting to the harsh realities of city life. Many of these dangers directly affect their children, some of whom are abused or neglected at home. Due to the high costs of childcare, many mothers must take the youngest of children with them when they work on the streets, posing many dangers to these children such as accidents and kidnapping. The Semillas Childcare Center is a free community-sponsored center that offers families a safe alternative for their children. Semillas cares for children of all ages, providing them with the love and support many, unfortunately, do not receive at home. Volunteers help Semillas, which has a few untrained teachers and very limited resources, by playing with the children, helping the younger children develop their motor schools, helping teach the older children, teaching the children good hygiene and eating etiquette, and a variety of other tasks.

Project Activities

The Centers divide the children into age groups (6 months-2 years, 2-3 years, 3-4 years, and 4-5 years) to focus on specific developmental skills. Volunteers are able to choose one age group or rotate between groups to have the opportunity to work with the ages they prefer. General educational and recreational activities for all age groups include:

  • Care for children between the ages of 6 months and 5 years
  • For babies, practice basic motor skills and functions, early stimulation exercises
  • Teach basic math, counting, and English to children
  • Older children, organize activities in arts, music, crafts, reading, etc.
  • Plan educational and recreational activities for the children
  • Help prepare meals to ensure children receive a balanced diet
  • Teach children good manners and behavior

Life in the Project

Food & Accommodation

The Ecuador Volunteer Foundation will manage your accommodation and food during the dates specified in the volunteer program. For accommodations, you have two options: stay in the Volunteer Apartment or stay with a local host family. The volunteer’s meals and diet will depend on the housing that he/she chooses.

Volunteer Apartment: If you want to live with some independence during your volunteer project, this is the best option. The volunteer apartment is located in a residential area of Quito and has an impressive view of the city. The apartment has two shared bedrooms, each of which comfortably fits 2 people. Each room has a private bathroom and all of the basic services (shower, sink, hot water, etc).

This housing option includes breakfast but not lunch or dinner. The apartment’s kitchen is fully equipped and available to volunteers who wish to buy and prepare their own lunch and dinner, or volunteers may choose to try the variety of cuisines offered in local restaurants. Choosing to live in the volunteer apartment is recommended for people with special dietary needs, strict vegetarians, and vegans since each volunteer is responsible for preparing his/her own foods.

If you want to live with other people like yourself and manage your own time and independence, this is the best housing option for you. This living situation will help you relate to other people your own age and organize group activities and trips.

Host Families: The option of living with a host family is an excellent opportunity for volunteers that are interested in learning more about the lifestyle in Ecuador. This type of experience invites you to observe Ecuadorian culture first-hand from the relations you create and the daily interactions you have with your host family. Living in a family environment assures that you will receive the necessary attention and support you may need to feel safe and comfortable during your stay in Ecuador.

The host families in Quito have been carefully selected by our organization. The rooms of the volunteers are private and spacious, with either a private or shared bathroom. All houses have all of the basic services (sink, shower, hot water, etc). Almost all of the families have a washing machine for you to do laundry.

When living with a host family, volunteers are provided 3 meals per day, which will be shared with the host families. You will also have the option of learning Ecuadorian cooking and sharing your own cooking secrets. Some families have experience hosting volunteers who are vegetarians or who have special dietary restrictions. We will do the best to accommodate these needs, but please let us know of such needs as soon as possible.

 

Cultural and Tourist Activities

Quito has a rich and well-preserved colonial history centered in the city’s Old Town and intermixed with modern attractions, such as the Teleferico that brings visitors to the top of the mountains surrounding the city, and indigenous influence, such as the Museo Intiñan, the Incan version of Mitad del Mundo (Middle of the World). Day trips also offer incredible opportunities to learn about the numerous faces of Ecuador: in Otavalo, students will see indigenous and artisan art, clothes, and other goods, while in Mindo, students will explore the region’s incredible and unique flora and fauna and witness examples new conservation efforts and sustainable ecotourism.

Location

About the Region: Andes Mountains

Along the “Avenue of the Volcanoes” rests Mt. Cotopaxi, the tallest active volcano in the world, among numerous snow-capped volcanoes and mountain peaks dating back to ancient times. The Andes Mountain region is also known for the “El Angel” Reserve and Mindo-Nambillo protective cloud forest, where biodiversity and unique species abound, and for its local indigenous populations and local artisan markets. Ecuador’s capital city of Quito is located in a valley of the Andes region, where it encompasses the international aspects of being a growing metropolis while simultaneously preserving its historic colonial district, designated a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site.

 

About the City: Quito

Quito, the capital city of Ecuador, is considered one of the most beautiful cities in Latin America. It is located at the foot of the volcano Pichincha and surrounded by grandiose mountains. The streets and houses of Quito are both colonial and modern, and the people are proud to conserve their traditions and history.

As in any metropolitan city, Quito is home to great cultural diversity. Although the volunteers will work within the environment that surrounds them in the childcare centers in the south of the city, they will develop their private life in the residential areas located at the north end of the city. In the north of Quito, most of the families are middle and upper class with access to technology, internet, and a better quality of food, education, and multicultural knowledge. This enables the day-to-day activities and lifestyle of volunteers to be comfortable and minimizes the effects of culture shock during their time in Ecuador.

Like any large city, there are people of different nationalities living in Quito. In different parts of the city, you may see stores and restaurants that reflect different cultures and countries. There is a Bohemian sector called Guapalo in the east of the city, and the Mariscal sector in the center of the city has a mixture of Middle Eastern, British, and American food as well as the heart of Quito’s nightlife in the Plaza Foch. This variety makes Quito a diverse and fun place to live, so be sure to take advantage of all the city has to offer!

Requirements

There is no minimum or maximum age required to join this program, although volunteers should be mature and understand the importance and meaning of their work for the community. No experience is necessary, but experience working with children is ideal.

Note: If a volunteer is under the age of 18, he/she will need to supply both a parental consent letter and volunteer application signed by a parent or legal guardian giving his/her consent for his/her child to volunteer.

Volunteers should:

  • Have a love of children and the patience to work with children of pre-school age.
  • Be team-oriented and have the ability to show leadership skills.
  • Be creative and able to manage groups of children.
  • Have an intermediate level of Spanish (recommended, but not necessary).

This project requires flexibility on the part of volunteers and is open to whoever applies, giving preference to those who have studied education and/or have work experience with pre-school infants and children. Responsibilities carried out will depend on the level of experience of individual volunteers, his/her skills and the positions available at the time.

Travel Information

Airport

Volunteers should fly into the Quito Mariscal International Airport (airport code UIO) on the first date indicated in the program. 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 includes a bus transfer from Quito’s main airport to the old airport, where our staff will meet you to transfer you to your hotel in Quito (a trip of approximately 2 hours). The bus transfer is run by the airport and is safe and relatively convenient. However, if you prefer to have a taxi ready and waiting to take you from the airport directly to your hotel in less than 90 minutes, we can make those arrangements for your arrival (an additional charge of $30 will be added to your total program costs for this service).  We will also assist you in arranging accommodations for the duration of your program. If you arrive before the first day or stays after the last day indicated in the program, you will be responsible for airport and hotel arrangements for those extra days.

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), so you most likely will not need a visa to participate in this Spring Break Program. If you are from a different region not included above or are unsure of visa requirements for citizens of your country, please contact the nearest Ecuadorian Consulate or Embassy.

Safety & 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. Although the Animal Rescue Center is not located in a high risk area for malaria or Yellow Fever, volunteers may choose to get the Yellow Fever Vaccination and malaria pills to be sure. For projects that involve work with animals, the volunteer may want to receive a rabies vaccination as well.

Language Classes

Although Spanish is not necessary for this Spring Break Program, it is recommended that volunteers have a basic or intermediate level of Spanish to maximize their time in the program. If a volunteer would like, he/she may take Spanish lessons with our organization in Quito before or after the Spring Break Program (contact us to find out what options are available).

What’s Included?

Included:

  • In-country orientation
  • Airport pick-up and drop-off (bus transfer, see “Travel Information”)
  • Accommodation during the project (see “Life in the Project” for more information)
  • 1-3 meals per day (based on housing arrangement, between1-3 meals are included. See “Life in the Project” for more information)
  • Contributions to the local volunteer project
  • 24/7 in-country regular and emergency support
  • Thoroughly researched and personalized projects
  • Pre-departure information
  • Internet, safe box, and other basic necessities
  • Cultural and tourist activities detailed in the itinerary, including transportation

Not Included:

  • Airfare, any Visa costs, Airport fees
  • Any personal expenses and cultural activities in Quito
  • Tourist trips not indicated in the itinerary (both group and individual trips)
  • Free time activities not listed as “included” in final itinerary
  • Mineral water and soft drinks
  • Laundry, Telephone, Immunizations
  • Travel Insurance (required of ALL volunteers; must include repatriation in case of death)
  • Spanish Lessons (optional, can be taken in lieu of afternoon cultural activities or before/after volunteer program for an additional cost)
  • Any other expenses related with project and additional trips/activities not listed in the itinerary

Follow the Four Cs

1. Confirm your interest in a project(s) and participation dates.

2. Check you meet the project requirements.

3. CV, Cover Letter, and Police Report to Volunteer Coordinator.

4. Complete the Registration Form.

Simply complete the following steps to finalize your volunteer program plans:

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!

Testimonials

Coming Soon!

Costs and Dates

The 2013 program dates are:*

March 9-17 (arrive March 9, leave March 17)

March 23-31 (arrive March 23, leave March 31)

 

The cost for this 8-day program is $599, including all activities listed in the itinerary, housing, meals, and in-country transportation. Additional activities or meals as well as extra days before/after the program dates are the responsibility of the volunteer.

*Additional program date options may be available for larger groups (at least 6)

Frequently Asked Questions

Project FAQs

1. What dates should I fly into and out of Quito?

The first and final dates of the program indicate the dates you should book you flight to arrive and leave. This means, for the 2013 dates, you will either be flying into Quito (airport code UIO) on March 9 or on March 23, then leaving either March 17 or March 31. If you arrive before this date or leave after the date for any reason, you will be responsible for arranging a hotel, transportation from the airport to the hotel, etc.

2. Are these the only dates available for the Wild Amazon Experience program?

March 9-17 and March 23-31 are the defined dates for Spring 2013. There are alternative dates for our other Spring Break Program, Wild Amazon Experience, that may fit your schedule. If you have a group of at least 6 people, it is possible to organize a program with alternative dates for your group. If you have your heart set on the Quito program and cannot change dates, please let us know anyway at h.hutchison@ecuadorvolunteer.org (it is possible that a lot of demand will lead us to change the dates).

3. 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. What do I get for my participation in an EVF program?

Upon completion of a volunteer program with Ecuador Volunteer, you will receive a certificate confirming your participation in the program and possible references in the future. Furthermore, ex-volunteers have the chance to continue working with Ecuador Volunteer as an Ecuador Volunteer Ambassador, as well as the possibility of returning to Ecuador at a discounted rate!

4. 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.

5. 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.

6. 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.

This post is also available in: Spanish

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