I enjoy traveling best when I am most involved with the communities that I am visiting. Ecuador Eco Volunteer provided a great opportunity for this and I felt very fortunate to have met him and his family and friends.
Really they went above and beyond for me in terms of hospitality. It was such a welcoming experience, especially traveling on my own, I felt as if I had a family there.
I have vounteered in the past, where I wasn’t sure what I was doing was really helping out the community but I really felt I alpaca04got to see, first hand how the community was benefitting. I volunteered at the Andes Alpaca Ranch near Chimborazo, teaching English to a wonderful group of children and I will always cherish the memories I had there among many other things.
If you have any questions for me feel free to get my email through Wlady and I would be more than happy to go into further detail about this awesome experience. Thanks Wlady and to your family as well…por favor mande saludas para mi.
My impressions and suggestions about volunteering in the Shiwiar community of Juyuintza (along the Rio Cunambo very close to the Peruvian border. – Eli Pivnick Feb-March 2013
Experience. I do not think you will ever regret going to this community. It is a fascinating experience. The Shiwiar people are very friendly and welcoming. They are getting used to outsiders and most of them have been in Puyo once or many times. Eight community members (and a few other Shiwiar) were involved in a film made by a Spanish film company in 2012 which documented their way of life (embellished slightly by foregoing some of the modern conveniences that they have started to use over the last few years). Five of these same community members subsequently were treated to a trip to Spain for a month where there were subjected to all kinds of new experiences (including scuba diving and skydiving). They loved it although they were not crazy about a lot of the food.
Getting used to the food is a little difficult as it is mostly boiled plantain (platano) and cassava (yuca) and wild meat (boiled and smoked) as well as a lot of chica (boiled, mashed and fermented yuca and water; fermenting is started by the woman (chichi is exclusively a woman’s activity) chewing and spitting the yuca mash back into the tub in which they mash it. A special treat is palm tree grubs (live, boiled or fried).
Other treats are: sugar cane, quila, pineapple, angowara, naranjilla, and lemons. My recommendation is NOT to bring food with you (except a little bit of whatever is your comfort food). When you are hungry, everything tastes good and it is easier to get used to new food. Always accept chicha when offered but only take a little bit if you do not want much. The food is all local except for salt.
You will hopefully have a chance to go out hunting, fishing and gathering. The highlight is watching local men hunt with the bodoquera, their blow gun, which is amazingly precise and works at distances up to 30-40 m on birds, monkeys, and even peccaries. People here use true dugout canoes. You can learn a lot by watching how people here interact. It is the way people are meant to interact. Laugh lots. If you good at football or volleyball you will be appreciated. If you are a musician, share!
Language. All community members speak Spanish although mostly they speak Shiwiar and you will feel out of the loop some of the time. You may be asked to translate English to Spanish if there are non-Spanish speaking tourists. It will be appreciated if you can teach English to the school students (best for the Grades 3-6 and College students (beyond Grade 6), and to interested adults, as well as to help in community work details (mingas) and community construction projects. Other than that it depends on your talents and interests. It is a pretty laid back life style.
Energy. The community does have a generator which they use to light up the community for evening events including workshops (occasionally) and “church” on Sunday evenings which mostly sermonizing by a member of the community in a Christian eva ngelical style. When the generator is on, you could take the opportunity to charge batteries if you have a charger.
Health issues. Take malaria medication. Try to avoid February and March, the rainiest part of the year, and when theshiwiar03-700×525 mosquitoes and other biting flies are at their worst. Personally I am used to and not bothered by large numbers of mosquitoes in my country (Canada) but the bites here tended to become really swollen, itchy and often infected. In the rainy season, when your clothes are often wet, the sores heal VERY slowly. So I would be aggressive at least at first in staying covered up, using repellent (including under your clothes) and using anti-itch creams where bitten. It goes without saying, that the equatorial will burn you in minutes if your skin is fair, so act appropriately.
Things you might want to bring:
Toilet paper (locals use leaves and/or water)
Water Filter or Purification tablets, water bottle
Mosquito repellent, Anti-itch lotion
Band-aids and Antibiotic ointment
Sun hat and sun block
Long sleeved shirts, t shirts, long pants, swim suit
Head lamp and extra batteries
Machete (big one)
25 lb fishing line, hooks and sinkers
Nylon cord (clothes line)
Camera (and spare battery and charger)
Day pack, rain cover
A few plastic bags of various sizes
US Cash in $5, $10, $20 to buy handicrafts or to pay for an ayahuasca ceremony if interested (Ask around; Hernan will do the latter)
You may want to leave behind a few of the above as gifts if you will not need them after your visit.
Speaking of gifts, I would bring some to give out soon after arrival or possibly later in your visit.
Here are some of the things that will definitely be appreciated as gifts:
Rubber boots (leave yours)
Batteries (D, AAA)
Notebooks, pencils, coloured pencils
Ear protection (for use with chain saws)
Reading glasses´(medium strength: for locals over 40)
Flashlights or head lamps (good quality)
2 1/2” nails
Painkillers: Aspirin, Acetaminophen, Ibuprofen
I spent 2 months volunteering at the Animal Rescue Center in Ecuadors Amazon rainforest and had the most amazing time there. Its hard to put into words how magical the place is. When i first arrived i was picked up in Puyo by the owner named Merdardo, who was very friendly and chatty and it was easy to see that he was very passionate about the animals which he looked after.
After a quick trip to the supermarket we went to the Animal Sanctuary in the jungle where i was welcomed by an amazing group of other volunteers all willing to show me around and let me know what there was to do on a day to day basis.
There was a big mix of animals at the sanctuary, all of which were on their own journey to being rehabilitated back into the wild. I was fortunate that whilst i was there a little 3 year old spider monkey had been rescued from the black market in animal trafficking and i was lucky enough to be appointed the “mother” of this adorable little monkey.
I got to spend my days with her in the cage building up her trust so i could then let her out of her cage daily for her to roam around the jungle as she wished before returning with me to the cage. This was so very rewarding knowing that id helped her become more volunteer in amazon animal sanctuaryconfident not to be scared of the outdoors (as she was previously a pet kept indoors!) I also feel i need to mention Lucero, Merdardos wife who is the kindest person i have ever met and works so hard to keep everything going, and is always around if you need help for any reason.
The Animal Sanctuary is in a beautiful place in the Amazon surrounded by animals and amazing rivers to wash in and i would class it as a very tranquil experience. After finishing my 6 month travels through all of South America this was by far the high light of my trip and i would hope to one day return.
It is, indeed, a challenge to write a unique entry about the time I had. I struggle to think about what to write, without repeating previous entry’s by saying,’ I did [this], and I loved it’. That, of course, is not a bad thing. Seeing that everyone did something and ‘loved it’ just goes to show how such a diverse selection of people can share the same love, joy and experience.
Ok, introduction over, here is my entry:
I have taken many (literally hundreds) of pictures whilst I have been here. However, amongst the endless amount of smiles and laughter, there is just something about this place that can’t be captured by a camera. What makes this place so special? The animals? This would be the obvious answer.
However, from my experience, it’s the people; Lucero (the mother) is one of the kindest, sweetest types of person I have met. Her love and care for the animals and plants is inspiring. The world could defiantly do with more Luceros.
Medardo (the father) is fantastic. He is one of those people who you cant be around without big smiles and much laughter being present. His passion for bambi is what is needed to help these astonishing animals stay with us on this planet.
David (the son) is brilliant. I often wonder why I get on with kids as good as I do. The conclusion I usually come to is simply; because I am one. This being said, I also have a phone he liked to play on. I will always remember David. He is fearless, funny and a pleasure to be around.arc06
‘What about the animals?!’ I so desperately hear you cry. Well, what is great about the animals is that they all have their own quirks and characters. I could list them all but I simply don’t have the space, time or vocabulary.
I hope the videos I made will, in some way, bring more money to this precious sanctuary. I will truly miss this place and I have no doubt I shall return with better spanish, more people and some good old ‘can-do’ attitude!!
Until next time…
I spent a weekend in the beautiful Community of Nizag, as we do all the time to have feedbacks from volunteers and check if all is all right when our programs host volunteers, and it was fantastic.
Nizag is really a beautiful community, with beautiful people who kept their traditional language “kichwa” as first language, situated Communidad Nizagnear Alausi. The days can be with organic agriculture and the animals, they know a lot about medicinal plants and culture of traditional plants. You can also give english classes to the local people that are crazy about learning new things or just spending time with the children. You can go with them to the train station of “Narriz del Diablo” where they are dancing and selling “home made” crafts. They have ancestral way of living, and live in a beautiful valley that needs to be discovered, actually you’ll be submerged into their culture. And you can also just chill in the mountains with an incredible view, guided by them.
More pictures in our Facebook page and more informations about the program here.
On my first day of volunteering at the indigenous community of Nizag, I shucked corn while sitting on the side of the mountain, rode a donkey, and learned about the different crops in the Nariz del Diablo valley. I returned to the Casa de Turismo after spending a full day with Margarita—tired, dusty and excited to see what the next day would bring.
I spent two weeks in Nizag hosted by a different family each day, including the weekend. I helped herd the animals up and down the mountains, learned about and assisted with crops—corn, lentils, potatoes, just to name a few—and, most importantly, learned about the lives of the people living in Nizag. I had hoped to teach English, but because of long working days, I never was able to. After spending the day with a family (and very excited children), I would return to the Casa de Turismo to read and indulge in a warm electric shower. I had all my meals with the families who tried to accommodate my vegetarianism and make foods I enjoyed. Most times, my meals consisted of soup, rice, vegetables, potatoes, and eggs. There was a kitchen at my disposal, but I felt no need to use it given the large helpings I was offered.
Everywhere I went, I was cheerfully greeted and offered kindness and generosity. Many were curious about life in the U.S, since most people in Nizag had at least one family member abroad in the U.S. or Spain. I explained the outrageous price of organic avocados in the U.S. ($2 for one), airfare between New York and Quito, and life in the U.S. As a twenty-three unmarried woman, I was considered quite the “old maid” in Nizag, where many women get married before they are eighteen.
Still, each day was an opportunity to improve my Spanish, learn a few words of Kichwa, and experience the daily life in Nizag. nizag07I was satisfied with my volunteer experience, especially because the people were very open, friendly, and patient with me. I would recommend this experience to others who really want to get to know and understand the lifestyle, hardships, and customs of indigenous people in a small community in Ecuador. It was an experience I won’t easily forget.