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Volunteering in Ecuador
Have you ever wanted to explore South America? Are the wonders of Ecuador calling your name? Would you like to help those in need while seeing the world? Then volunteering in Ecuador is a perfect way to achieve your goals.
Ecuador is an amazing country to travel and explore. Its capital city, Quito, is the world's second-highest capital city, home to 16th century architecture and the majestic Andes. The adventure city of Banos offers white-water rafting, bungee jumping, and rock climbing.
In Ecuador, you can take in the peace of Lake Quilotoa, nestled in the crater of a dormant volcano, or visit El Cajas National Park in Cuenca, where you'll find cloud hiking trails and scenic views.
Unfortunately, Ecuador is a poor country, with more than half of its people living in poverty. Causes are familiar among third-world countries: lack of education and infrastructure, income inequality, and lack of viable employment. Wildlife is similarly threatened, especially in the fragile Galapagos and Andean ecosystems.
Today, orphanages, schools and many local organizations working hard to serve poor communities, children and endangered animals in Ecuador desperately needs volunteers more than ever, and this is where you come in.
When you join a volunteer program in Ecuador, you can teach English in urban and rural schools, work in an orphanage or with street children in Quito, or support conservation efforts in a cloud forest in the Andes or on San Cristobal Island in the Galapagos. The opportunities to serve and make positive impacts in communities and children’s life are endless.
No matter which project you choose, you can rest assured that you’ll be making a huge difference. The teaching, orphanage and street children programs will help create brighter futures for children in need, while the conservation programs will let you make a huge difference in the health of the country’s biosphere.
Take your life in new directions while helping those in need. Request information about volunteering in Ecuador and choose a program that speaks to you!
Volunteering in Ecuador : Available Projects
IFRE has a project in Ecuador which is perfect for every volunteer. If you want to help orphaned children, teach, or dedicate yourself to the conservation of unique and fragile ecosystems, you’re sure to find a program you can get excited about.
In the last two decades, the population of Ecuador has doubled, which has led to a dramatic growth in the number of abandoned children in urban and rural areas. Due to the death of their parents, poverty, neglect, and abuse, millions of children are left in the care of orphanages where they can find the kindness and compassion they need. Since there are many orphanages and community centers in Ecuador that struggle to serve so many orphans, the need for passionate and dedicated international volunteers is always very high.
By joining IFRE’s Ecuador orphanage volunteer project, you will be helping provide orphans with the care and love they so desperately need. The goal of this volunteering program is to help these orphaned children by sharing your compassion, empathy, and skills. You will work with local staff members and participate in various skill-developing activities and change the lives of orphans and enrich your own life with memories you will cherish forever.
Nowadays, Ecuador faces the serious problems of an increase in poverty and a lack of access to quality education. More and more children are ending up on the streets, and with limited resources from the government, street children are often deprived of the necessary care, therapy, education, and support that they need in order to have a fulfilling life.
When you participate in IFRE’s volunteering opportunities in Ecuador with street children, you will be collaborating with numerous organizations located in rural and urban communities that have been helping street children and other children at risk. You will have the chance to connect with disadvantaged children that choose the streets or less desirable environments to live, offering them hope for a brighter future. Your compassion and warm enthusiasm will drastically change their lives.
The tourism industry in Ecuador is thriving, and many of the tourists who visit this spectacular country speak the English language. Therefore, having good English skills will lead young Ecuadorian children to job opportunities. However, the local public schools are lacking the resources, funds, and adequate teachers to offer such valuable classes. This is where you can make a monumental difference in the lives of the youth of Ecuador.
When you join this volunteer teaching program in Ecuador, you will share your English skills with disadvantaged Ecuadorian students, and through your efforts, many students in Ecuador will be able to shape their future and ensure a chance to work in any field where English skills are required.
Are you interested in saving the wildlife of the Amazon? Then you should consider joining IFRE’s Biological Conservation volunteer Ecuador project and help to protect and restore the fragile ecosystems of the Amazon rainforest in Ecuador. Although a very beautiful country for exploring, the status of its rich natural ecosystems is in critical condition due to the destruction and alteration of its rainforests. Threats from commercial and tourism industries along with influx of marine debris are deteriorating the environment.
Located 60 Kilometers northwest of Quito, this environmental conservation project welcomes dedicated and passionate volunteers like you to save 17,000 acres of wet tropical and cloud forest of Amazon. You will be working with the Biological Reserve, a nonprofit organization that depends on the hard work and contribution of volunteers like yourself. Depending on which scientific research projects are active, there will be many opportunities for you to participate in field research.
Discovered by the renowned biologist Charles Darwin, the scenic Galapagos Archipelago is a chain of islands that was never connected to the mainland and developed in complete isolation. The Galapagos is home to hundreds of plants and animals which have adapted to this very unique ecosystem, but these are currently under threat from the introduction of invasive species. Join this conservation project and contribute to maintain the beauty and natural splendor of these islands.
Volunteer in Ecuador in the Galapagos, and you will have the once-in-a-lifetime chance to participate in a conservation program working hard to save indigenous flora and fauna. The goal of this project is to introduce you to these unique islands and help protect their ecosystem. You will get to stay on the captivating island of San Cristobal. However, you must be prepared to work in a humid environment and tolerate flies and other insects while working hard to preserve this unique environment.
In addition to the above projects, IFRE also offers group programs for high school and college students, family volunteering, alternative spring breaks, and many other unique programs. Contact IFRE for further information.
Volunteering in Ecuador : Fees & Start Dates:
IFRE programs begin every Monday year-round. If you have travel constraints, you can still start your chosen program on any day of the year.
Since 2006, IFRE has been the most trusted and respected volunteer abroad organization in the world, and also the most affordable. We’re dedicated to providing the highest quality volunteer programs at the lowest fees, which make it possible for everyone, especially students, to volunteer internationally and make a positive impact in the lives of others.
We believe in 100% transparency. Rest assured, we never use middlemen. Your one-time registration fee of $299 covers our administrative costs. The low weekly fee is paid in the host country directly to your host family and project (via country coordinator), and includes housing, food, and minor expenses. IFRE is a non-profit organization, so your program fees are tax deductible.
Volunteer Program Fee (US$)
Program Fees Cover:
- Accommodation (host family)
- Food (local food 3 times a day)
- Program Orientation
- In-country support
- Personalized project
- Pre-departure information
- Certificate of completion
- Fundraising ideas and letters
- Discount for returning volunteers
Program Fees Exclude:
- Airfare Galapagos
- Personal expenses on soft drinks and foods
- Daily transportation
- Airport return transfer
- Food (if you are volunteering on the Galapagos Islands); Please allot $60-$70 a week to cover the cost of your meals
The volunteering programs in Ecuador fees will cover expenses that will begin on the first day of the program (usually the first or third Monday of the month) to the last day of the program. If you arrive before the first day of the program or you decide you stay beyond your program’s last day, you will be responsible for the additional expenses, which would typically be around $30 a day for room and meals at a hostel.
Traveling abroad can be nerve-wracking for many volunteers who might worry about safety, finding a secure place to stay, and how they will manage all of the many details that go into planning a volunteer trip in another country.
With IFRE, you don’t have to worry about a thing because we take care of all those pesky details for you. We have carefully planned your trip down to the tiniest detail and gone out of our way to ensure that everything will go smoothly for you. IFRE arranges safe and comfortable housing, healthy local meals, and offers unparalleled guidance and support by a helpful in-country staff of dedicated humanitarians.
Accommodation and food in Quito
While volunteering in Ecuador, you will stay with a welcoming host family if you choose to volunteer with orphans, street kids and teaching English. This will enhance your volunteer experience abroad, as you will have the chance to become fully immersed in the Ecuadorian culture. Host families are all carefully selected, well-educated and have experience with hosting international volunteers. You will enjoy clean, simply furnished, private (occasionally shared with other volunteers) rooms with your host family.
Accommodation in Galapagos and Biological Conservation Project
If you are volunteering in Galapagos Conservation Program, you will be staying in an ecolodge on San Cristobal Island, and if you choose to volunteer at the Biological Conservation Project, you will stay within the conservation hostel deep in the Andean cloud forest.
As one of our volunteers in Ecuador you will receive three local meals each day while volunteering with us.
IFRE requests that all volunteers requiring a specific or special diet, inform our offices before their arrival to the country. The host families will do their best to provide vegetarian meal options, however, if the meals do not fit into your diet preferences, you are welcome to buy your own food and prepare it yourself during your time in Ecuador.
If you need more food other than the three meals served by your host family, you are able to purchase snacks and meals at local restaurants and grocery stores. You will be sharing the house, kitchen and bathrooms with the family members while volunteering in Ecuador, getting a real glimpse at what life is like in this country. Many houses in Ecuador do not have hot water and you might need to do your own laundry in the house, or the host family may offer to do it for you.
While you are at Ecolodge in Galapagos you will have private room with an attached bathroom. Meanwhile, at the Biological Conservation Project the accommodation includes several single and double rooms, as well as a small dormitory. A spacious propane-powered kitchen serves proper meals and there are social/meeting areas surrounding the kitchen and sleeping blocks, complete with large tables and benches. There is a gas-heated shower building with a wonderful view and the reserve uses external composting toilets.
Our local staff members will maintain contact with you throughout your stay. We visit our volunteers every 2 weeks and you will always be welcome at our local office. We recommend volunteers stop by the office once a week if they are in the local area to let us know how they are doing with their accommodations and project. If your project is very far, then our local staff members will maintain communication via email and/or phone.
Spanish Language Training
Are you hoping to brush up on your Spanish skills to enhance your time volunteering in South America? Then we have you covered.
IFRE offers highly affordable Spanish language classes in Ecuador. These classes are exclusive to IFRE volunteers participating in our Ecuador volunteer experience program. We collaborate with a highly recommended Spanish school and you will be under the tutelage of qualified and experienced Spanish teachers who will offer the most intensive and effective Spanish courses available.
This program is structured so that volunteers may work at their projects and learn Spanish simultaneously. Volunteers can take Spanish classes from 9:00 AM to 11:00 AM (before lunch) followed by volunteering activities at their individual projects. Alternatively, volunteers can take Spanish classes from 3:00 PM to 4:00 PM (after a day of volunteer work). Most of the projects are located close to the Spanish school, so it is possible for volunteers to create their own schedule.
IFRE invites you to improve your Ecuador experience by learning or improving your Spanish skills.
Volunteering in Ecuador : Free Time
You are probably eager to experience Ecuador, take some tours, travel around, and make the most of your time abroad. You’ll have plenty of time to do this, since Ecuador volunteers are only working at their service projects on average 4-6 hours a day during the week. This leaves your evenings and weekends free to explore!
Most of our Ecuador projects are located in the capital city of Quito, which has an emerging street art scene, incredible food, mountain views, and a rich history. As a big bonus, Quito is blessed with pleasant and wonderful weather year-round, making it an ideal travel destination no matter when you arrive.
A fascinating blend of old and new, Quito is also perfectly located to allow for day trips on your weekends off from your Ecuador volunteer project. This is a great chance for you to get a taste of what else Ecuador has in store for you. The famous Andes mountains loom around the city, and within two hours you can be climbing an icy volcano or rushing down a river raft in the beautiful cloud forest.
If you opt to volunteer at our Galapagos Island project, you will already be stationed in a location many travelers can only dream of visiting! San Cristobal Island where you’ll be based is a treasure trove of amazing experiences. You can go hiking, explore secluded beaches, and go snorkeling and scuba diving where you might glimpse marine iguanas, sea turtles, and the spectacular hammer head sharks!
Wildlife viewing abounds, with massive tortoises, sea lions, and a dizzying array of animals that have adapted specially to life on this unique island archipelago. You can also easily take day trips to the nearby islands to make the most of your free time from volunteering in Ecuador.
Safety and In-country Support
Your safety is IFRE’s number one priority at all times, and you can have peace of mind knowing we will do everything possible to ensure you have a safe and secure experience volunteering in Ecuador. We offer pre-trip support, reliable and comprehensive travel insurance, airport pick-up, and availability to guidance and support by an experienced in-country staff that is right there on the ground to help you every step of the way.
As soon as you arrive in Ecuador, you will have the support of an experienced team of in-country field staff. The team is comprised of mature, educated, socially respected individuals who are dedicated humanitarians highly experienced in working with international volunteers.
Your main point of contact will be the in-country coordinator. They will select your Ecuador volunteering project placement, make all the arrangements for your airport transfer, accommodations, and food, give you an orientation which covers culture, safety, and your service work, introduce you to your host family and project staff, and make periodic visits and calls to check up on your progress. You can reach out to the coordinator at any time with any questions, issues, or to ask for advice and they will be happy to assist you.
Volunteering in Ecuador : FAQ- Frequently Asked Questions
You have probably done quite a bit of research since you decided you might like to volunteer abroad, but you are bound to have a long list of questions you are still wondering about. IFRE knows it can be hard to find all the information you are searching for, so we have put together a comprehensive list all in one place of questions volunteers often ask and provided you with all the answers you need to know. This will help you prepare for your big adventure making a difference abroad!
Which airport do I need to fly?
You need to fly to Quito International Airport. But if you are participating Galapagos program you MUST have connecting flight to San Cristóbal domestic airport in San Cristobal.
Do you organize airport pick-up services?
Yes, we organize airport pick-up services for our international volunteers. A local representative of IFRE will be waiting at the airport arrival terminal for you upon your landing in Quito International Airport. All of the airport pick-up details will be provided to you before your flight to Ecuador.
What will happen if I miss my flight or arrive late?
If you miss your flight or arrive late to Quito International Airport, then you must inform us immediately either by contacting our in-country coordinator or getting in touch with our office staff via email or telephone. It is crucial that you keep us informed about your travel plans and flight details at all times, so that unnecessary problems can be avoided. Once you inform us of your change in plans, we will arrange a new pick-up time for you.
How can I get to my accommodations from the airport, if I did not get in touch with IFRE’s local representative at the airport?
We make sure to provide the details of our office location and address before the start of any volunteering program in Ecuador. So, if you are not in contact with our local representative, you can simply take a cab at the airport and tell the driver to take you to our office address. If you have booked a hotel room and are arriving early, be sure to have the address handy and have the taxi bring you there, instead.
Who will come to pick me up? How will I recognize this person at the airport?
A local representative of IFRE will come to pick you up at the Quito International Airport before the start of your volunteer placement. IFRE will provide you with all contact details of our representative before your flight to Ecuador, so that once you have landed you can contact them directly. You can recognize our representative by a white signboard with your name written on it.
If my volunteer placement begins on Monday, when should I arrive? If I want to arrive earlier, where will I stay and who will organize the accommodations? Will it cost me extra?
Arriving a day early is always a nice way to start your trip in Ecuador, as this will give you time relax and prepare for your volunteer experience. You should always try to come to Ecuador on Sunday, if your volunteer program begins on Monday. Keep in mind you will have to pay for an extra night of accommodations. Let our in-country coordinator know of your plans, and if you need help making arrangements, they can assist you with that.
Who will bring me to the airport for my departure after completing my volunteer work in Ecuador?
IFRE does not provide departure services upon the completion of your volunteer project. However, the in-country coordinator and the local staff can help you find a taxi or a bus to take you to the airport. You will be responsible for paying for this, so make sure you budget accordingly.
What do I need to do prior to my departure from my home country?
You will need to obtain travel insurance, research and apply for your visa, buy your flight tickets and provide your itinerary to our in-country coordinator, and meet with your doctor and get up to date on needed vaccines. IFRE recommends that you research the country ahead of time to learn about the customs and culture, and learning at least a few key Spanish phrases can really help make your trip go more smoothly.
You need to pack your passport, visa, travel insurance, adapters, clothes, walking shoes, camera, water bottle, portable phone charger, towel, map, sunscreen, underwear, socks, first aid kit, deodorant, moisturizer, insect repellent, toothbrush, shaver, sunglasses, flashlight, backpack, and books. You should also bring medicines prescribed by your doctor, as you might not be able to buy them in Ecuador.
Where are the projects located?
IFRE’s Ecuador volunteer programs are located in Quito and the Galapagos Islands. Located at 2800 meters above sea level, Quito stands out with its emerging street art scenes, incredible food, mountain views, and rich history. Quito has pleasant weather all year long and is perfect for volunteers wanting to get involved in various humanitarian projects.
On the other hand, the Galapagos Island is naturally quaint and largely undisturbed. This allows it to be the best place for international volunteers to take part in all sorts of conservation activities. Each island found within the Galapagos has its own unique landscape, ranging from barren black volcanic rocks to a chain of white sand beaches.
Is there any minimum or maximum length for my stay?
Our volunteer programs run in duration from one to twelve weeks long.
Can I extend my stay if I choose to do so?
Yes, you can extend your stay in Ecuador if you like. You are allowed to participate in an extended assignment or simply join another project of your choice. IFRE will assist you in that process so inquire with your in-country coordinator regarding this option and discuss any possible needed extension of your visa in order to do so.
Will I have enough time to travel after work and on weekends?
You will have plenty of free time to travel in the evenings and on the weekends. IFRE’s volunteer work in Ecuador are designed flexibly to give you ample time for leisure and excursion, as well as giving back and making a difference. You will get many opportunities to explore Ecuador’s culture and sights.
Who will guide or support me in my volunteer project?
All of our projects are managed by a competent and experienced in-country coordinator. The in-country coordinator looks after you and provides constant support and guidance on a daily basis. You can ask assistance from our in-country coordinator in case of emergency and can always rely on him/her to solve your problems during your time abroad.
Can I change my project if I do not like the one I chose?
Yes, it is possible for you to change your projects before and after your arrival to Ecuador. IFRE always tries to satisfy your every need, and our volunteers have a 99% satisfaction rate and very rarely seek to switch projects. Get in touch with our in-country coordinator to discuss an alternate placement, and one will be found based on availability.
Can I work in more than one volunteer program at a time?
Yes, you can participate and work in more than one volunteering project in Ecuador at a time. All it takes is a simple process of documentation and authentication of credentials. However, it can be physically and mentally exhausting, so we do not advise it. You will work a minimum of four hours at each project, and sometimes more. If you choose to take this on contact your in-country coordinator, but you must be fully aware that it is going to be a challenge. A more manageable option might be volunteering at one project for the first half of your trip, and another for the second half.
How old should I be to take part in these projects?
You have to be at least 18 years old to participate in our programs. However, there are times when we will accept minor volunteers with a proof of consent from their legal guardians. Minors can also volunteer alongside their parents.
Who manages the volunteering program in Ecuador?
IFRE’s programs are managed by an in-country coordinator based in Ecuador. The in-country coordinator is experienced and highly prepared to look after you during your time abroad. If there is any issue regarding the project, you can discuss it with the in-country coordinator to find a solution and continue your work.
Will I receive any training before the start of the project?
Yes, you will receive a training class before the start of your volunteer placement. The training session will let you get familiar with the norms and customs of Ecuador and its people, along with your schedule and the work you will be doing at your project. You will also learn how to stay safe and avoid potential security threats while traveling in South America.
Is there a dress code for the project?
There are no specific dress codes to follow in Ecuador. You can wear casual clothes and what feels comfortable to you, however, IFRE asks that you dress in a modest and conservative manner.
Why do I have to pay to volunteer abroad?
IFRE is an American based non-profit volunteer organization that needs money to run its safe and life-changing programs. IFRE does not receive any funding from the government and is completely dependent on its volunteer program fees for the operation and management of its programs. Money paid by volunteers like you helps IFRE to cover its expenses such as utility bills, rent, advertisement, salaries of the staff, and taxes of the company. All of this cannot be covered unless IFRE charges a small volunteer program fee.
In addition, the fee you pay covers many expenses for your trip including housing, food, training, supervision, and a donation made directly to your project.
Why are IFRE’s fees so much more affordable than the fees of other volunteer organizations?
IFRE serves as a non-profit volunteer organization and aims to provide affordable and meaningful volunteer opportunities abroad. Profit is not a motivating factor for IFRE to run its programs. The project fees are just enough to sustain and run the projects without any additional profit, which allows us to charge a much lower fee than other organizations.
Can I get a tax deduction for my volunteer program in Ecuador?
Yes, you can get a tax deduction for all of our programs since we are a non-profit American 501©3 volunteer organization which collaborates with many local institutions and NGOs in Ecuador.
Can I get help with raising funds?
Yes, IFRE can help you raise funds for your volunteer abroad trip. Contact us to learn more about how we can help.
Is it safe to travel to Ecuador?
Yes, it is very safe to travel and volunteer in Ecuador. There are no travel risks or warnings for visiting Ecuador. Your safety is our primary concern, and IFRE provides a full 24/7 support to its volunteers from their arrival until the end of the project.
What safety measures should I take during my volunteer trip in Ecuador?
We make sure that you get safely transported to your accommodations from the Quito International Airport. We then have an orientation session between you and the in-country coordinator responsible for the projects. We advise you to learn about all the safety hazards of traveling abroad before coming to Ecuador. As you would anywhere, you will need to take normal safety precautions, staying aware of your surroundings, not walking alone in dangerous areas or at night, carrying minimal cash on your person, etc.
What will happen if I get sick in Ecuador?
If you get sick during your volunteer placement, then you will be taken to a nearby local hospital or clinic, depending on the severity of their health condition. Our local staff and in-country coordinator will do everything possible to keep you healthy. However, our volunteers must always keep our staff informed about their health condition, so that the staff can arrange for a quick check-up before things get worse. Be sure to bring along your passport and a copy of your insurance to present to the physician.
Why must I get travel insurance before beginning my volunteer trip?
It is required for you to purchase travel insurance before joining our volunteer projects in Ecuador to cover you in the event of illness, injury or emergency during your time abroad. If you need assistance in obtaining appropriate coverage, IFRE can assist you in providing an affordable, reliable, and comprehensive policy.
What vaccination do I need to have?
It is vital to understand what vaccinations you need to have for volunteering abroad. For people traveling in Ecuador, the CDC recommends vaccinations for hepatitis A, hepatitis B, typhoid. You can learn more about these vaccinations here:
Do I need a visa to volunteer and travel in Ecuador?
Yes, the government of Ecuador requires any foreign individuals entering the country to obtain a tourist visa from its immigration department. You can learn more about Ecuador’s visa and immigration policies here:
How do I apply for a visa?
You can apply for an Ecuadorian tourist visa by visiting the official Embassy of Ecuador located in your home country. You should bring your original passport, an ID photo for the visa application form, and any other supporting documentation that is requested of you. You may be able to obtain a visa upon arrival. You will need to do your own research online to make yourself aware of the requirements to obtain a visa based on your home country.
Can I extend my visa while I am in the country? Can you help me with this?
Yes, you can extend your Ecuadorian tourist visa for an extra 90 days through the Immigration Department in Ecuador. You must extend their visas before the expiration of their authorized stay, or else you will have to pay extra. If you need advice regarding this matter, reach out to our in-country coordinator.
How do I contact IFRE’s local coordinator during my volunteer work in Ecuador?
We provide you contact details of our local coordinator, so getting in touch will not be a problem. You can either call them or email them to ask questions and they will be available to help you if you need any assistance or advice.
How can I communicate with my family from Ecuador?
You can use the free Wi-Fi to talk to your family and friends via Skype, Facebook or Gmail. You can also use the local phones or buy a local SIM card and contact them in this way at any time you choose.
Can I use my phone?
Yes, you can use your mobile phone. However, you need to reach out to your current provider prior to travel to ensure your phone will work while you are traveling abroad. International roaming charges may apply, and these can be quite expensive.
Can I buy a SIM card in Ecuador?
Yes, you can buy a local SIM card in Ecuador at the local shops near your accommodations and project sites. You will need to have your original passport and one ID photo for documentation. Again, check with your provider before leaving to be sure your phone will function with the foreign SIM.
How can I get internet services?
To purchase internet services, you must buy a local SIM card and ask the SIM card vendor to activate the internet services you select. Visitor TIM is the most popular SIM card in Ecuador for foreign volunteers and travelers.
Are internet services available everywhere?
Yes, internet services are available everywhere in Ecuador. Even where you cannot find free Wi-Fi, you can easily access the web with a mobile phone that has any of the local SIM cards.
What do I need to bring?
You need to bring your passport, visa, flight tickets, travel insurance, clothes, hiking boots, shoes, rain jacket, credit/debit cards, insect repellent, camera, laptop, water bottle, backpack, hand sanitizer, adapter/convertor, flash light, pocket knife, first-aid kit, sunscreen cream, USB drive, books, masks, towel, and toiletries. IFRE provides bedding, but you may feel a sleeping bag is needed and you are welcome to bring it along.
We hope we have answered all of your questions, and that you are feeling better informed and prepared for a volunteer trip abroad. To learn more about volunteering in Ecuador, contact IFRE today!