Volunteering with Amigos de las Americas in rural Ecuador
This past summer I volunteered with Amigos de las Americas in rural Ecuador for seven weeks. Going into the project I did not know anyone and volunteers were only allowed to bring as much as they could carry. I was paired with one other girl and together the two of us lived in a community named Apahua Centro, which was on top of a mountain, above the cloud line. Our host family’s first language was Kichwa. Needless to say it was hard to communicate at times. Because we lived at such a high altitude, it was very cold and difficult to breathe.
While there, my partner and I taught in the village school about heath, the environment, youth empowerment, leadership, and community development. With the help of our community we planted 50 trees and painted two murals, one at the school and the other at the women’s group center.
Besides having to sleep on a cot under a mosquito net every night, not getting to change my clothes for five days at a time, and only being able to bathe every eleven days or so, I had the time of my life.
For fun my partner and I enjoyed taking hikes up the mountain and peeling potatoes with our host family. THEY ATE SO MANY POTATOES! One day, as a joke, our family dressed us up in the traditional indigenous outfit that included a falda (skirt), chalina (shawl), sombrero (hat), sinta (hair wrap), and medias (socks). Those were some funny pictures!
Every night we would take a walk to go watch the alpaca graze. Later on when the sun would set over the mountains, the clouds looked like an endless ocean.
Besides having to sleep on a cot under a mosquito net every night, not getting to change my clothes for five days at a time, and only being able to bathe every eleven days or so, I had the time of my life. Every adventure that is amazing has its challenges. I loved Ecuador and would give anything to be back there just for another week.
Now there is a huge Ecuadorian flag hanging from the ceiling in my room so that I can wake up every morning and remember what I accomplished this summer.
The Paramo is an amazing place and I highly suggest you visit it if you get the chance.
This was not my first summer volunteering with Amigos de las Americas. In 2009 I spent eight weeks in Los Santos, Panama doing the same thing. If you are interested in hearing more about the program or volunteering yourself then check out their site.