Alternative Spring Break in the Amazon

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Alternative Spring Braek in the Amazon
  • 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 “Wild Amazon Experience”

Looking for a Spring Break experience that you will never forget? Ever wanted to live in the Amazon Rainforest and see first-hand the exotic animals it holds? Join Ecuador Volunteer for the Wild Amazon Experience, turning your spring vacation into the adventure of a lifetime!

Quick Information

Alternative Spring Break Name: Wild Amazon Experience

Dates: March 2-8, March 15-23, (ASB 2014)

Location: Puyo, 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: Orientation and introduction to Ecuador and project.
Afternoon: Leave for Project Site in the Amazon.
Day 3 Morning: Project activities at the Animal Rescue & Rehabilitation Center.
Afternoon: Learn the traditional art of making indigenous pottery and jewelry.
Day 4 Morning: Project activities at the Animal Rescue & Rehabilitation Center.
Afternoon: Learn how to harvest cocoa beans, then discover how the beans are turned into chocolate.
Day 5 Morning: Project activities at the Animal Rescue & Rehabilitation Center.
Afternoon: Hike through the rainforest and visit some of the region’s beautiful waterfalls.
Day 6 Morning: Project activities at the Animal Rescue & Rehabilitation Center.
Afternoon: Travel to Banos and enjoy the waterfalls, tarabita (cable cars), and the Volcano Tungurahua at night.
Day 7 Morning/Afternoon: Optional horseback riding in Banos. Free time for the rest of the day.
Evening: Return to Quito.
Flight home (usually early morning or late evening)

Program Information

About the Project

The Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation Center located in the Pastaza province, just a short trip from the city of Puyo, is a center dedicated to the care and health of wild and endangered animals. Most of the animals in the Center are either rescued by the Ecuadorian government from the illegal animal trade or are turned in by people who (illegally) bought these animals only to find they are not able to care for a wild animal. Some of these animals have been abused by their owners or were taken as young animals and therefore are often incapable of or unfit to survive on their own in the rainforest. A quarter of the animals that arrive at the Center die within the first few days, and some remain permanently at the Center. Most arrive malnourished, injured, and with parasites. The Center takes care of these animals in the hopes that they can return to nature once their health has been restored. Volunteers help the Center care for and play with the animals, clean their cages, monitor their health conditions, and help identify their health problems.

Project 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

Life in the Program

Accommodations

The Ecuador Volunteer Foundation will manage your accommodation, food and supervision while you work in the project. Each volunteer house houses up to 16 people, with comfortable rooms that may be shared by up to 4 people. Each room has beds, sheets, and mosquito nets in good condition for each person. However, we suggest volunteers bring a light sleeping bag for a hot climate, if possible. The volunteer house has electricity until 8 pm, and its bathrooms are equipped with a flushable toilet, sink, and shower with hot water. There is no laundry service, so volunteers will be able to wash their clothes in the river or wait until the weekends to bring their clothes to a laundromat in a nearby to the city of Puyo.

Meals

The meals of the volunteers are included during their stay, though volunteers are expected to prepare their own meals either individually or as a group. The volunteer house has a fully equipped kitchen, and volunteers meet in a communal dining hall for meals. For meals, the volunteers may take turns cooking, washing dishes, and cleaning up, so that everyone contributes to the meals and/or cleaning process.

We frequently have volunteers who are vegetarians, and it is not difficult to cook vegetarian meals at the Center. However, it is important to note that special dietary substitutes (such as vitamins, soy products, gluten-free products, etc.) may be difficult to get since the project is located in a rural area. Additionally, it can be difficult for strict vegetarians or vegans to participate in this project. While it may be possible to get foods without meat, it may be difficult to find products completely free of animal products. It is important that volunteers adapt to the local conditions, if possible. If this is a problem for you, it may be better to consider a different volunteer program.

Cultural and Tourist Activities

The Ecuadorian Amazon is one of the most biologically diverse areas in the world. Its countless animal, plant, and insect species make it the perfect for anyone interested in nature, animals, or the environment. Volunteers have the chance to explore the wealth of natural treasures that surround the Animal Rescue Center as well as the opportunity to interact personally and daily with exotic and endangered species. The Amazon is also culturally diverse for its indigenous populations which live independently in the rainforest. Volunteers will have the opportunity to see parts of these unique cultures by participating in indigenous activities such as artisan crafts like making jewelry and pottery and making organic chocolate from cocoa beans. Finally, volunteers will visit Baños, an incredible opportunity for volunteers to experience the lively ecotourism industry of Ecuador while relaxing in the city’s hot springs or exploring the area’s countless waterfalls.

Location

About the Area: Puyo

The Animal 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.

 

About the Region: The Ecuadorian Amazon

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 Sumaco-Napo Galeras National Park and Yasuní National Park have been declared Biosphere Reserves by UNESCO for their natural beauty and biological diversity. The Amazon rainforest is known for its numerous medicinal plants that are still used by the local indigenous communities that inhabit the jungle. The importance of the rainforest to the indigenous communities as well as the natural wealth held in the Ecuadorian Amazon make the conservation and preservation of the jungle a necessary initiative

Skills & Requirements

Volunteers should be at least 18 years old to participate in this project. If you are under 18 years and interested in the program, you will need several extra forms signed by your parent/guardian. Most importantly, volunteers should be mature and understand the importance and meaning of their work at the Center. Men and women may apply. No experience is necessary, but experience in veterinary medicine and passion for working in the environment and conservation is ideal.

No professional experience is necessary. However, volunteers should:

  • Have a love for animals and for nature conservation in general.
  • Preferably have studied or experience in veterinary medicine, animal care, environmental science, or similar subjects.
  • Have the ability to work in a team and maintain good working relationships.
  • Be creative and eager to help in nature-oriented and environmentally friendly work.
  • 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. Responsibilities carried out will depend on the level of experience of individual volunteers, his/her skills and the positions available at the time. Should the volunteer have professional experience in a specific field, it may be possible to organize other activities at the Center.

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 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. 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 & Training

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)
  • 3 meals per day (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 (only available in Quito before or after program dates)
  • Any other expenses related with project and additional trips/activities not listed in the itinerary

How to Apply:

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.

After You Apply

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 2-9 (arrive March 2, leave March 9)

March 16-23 (arrive March 16, leave March 23)

 

The cost for this 8-day program is $649, 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 2 or on March 16, then leaving either March 9 or March 26. 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 2-9 and March 16-23 are the defined dates for Spring 2013. There are alternative dates for our other Spring Break Program, Traversing the Andes, 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 Amazon 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. At the project site, the fresh water has been tested by experts and designated as pure water, which means it is safe to drink. 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.

mindful of volunteer’s selflessness.

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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