Volunteering Solutions Review - Eighteen in Ecuador
Submitted by Maren Burling - Monroe, CT Bucknell University | December 24, 2015
The first time I left the United States I was 17 and traveling alone. During my third year of secondary school I began to look for opportunities to volunteer abroad, and I found Volunteering Solutions. That summer I spent 3 weeks in Cusco, Peru working with a kindergarten in a small marketplace. During my stay, I grew close with not only the children in my class, but also my host family and other volunteers from around the world. The experience was unforgettable.
So, the following summer I decided to volunteer again. Since I had such a great time with Volunteering Solutions the year before, I ventured onto their website to see what other opportunities I could find. As a young student, money is tight, but I was able to find many programs that were affordable. I chose to volunteer in a pediatric hospital in Quito, Ecuador.
Each week day during my stay I woke up early to work in the hospital from 9 in the morning to 1 in the afternoon. The program I signed up for was not medical, but rather included more childcare responsibilities. Personally, I love working with children. The workday flew by as I assisted the staff in accommodating families and playing with their kids. Some of the children were extremely ill, and though it hard to see them in such pain, it warmed my heart to know that the other volunteers and I could make them smile.
The staff I worked with was kind. I found that I was able to practice my Spanish not only by talking with patients and their families, but also by understanding requests made by the women in charge. I would recommend that those considering this program have a background in the Spanish language. Although the staff is patient and willing to work with the volunteers, language barriers make it difficult to attend to the children in a timely manner. Also, being able to casually converse with the parents or older family members lightens the mood and can relieve anxieties.
There are two housing options with this program. You can either stay with a host family or in the student house. Since I already had the experience living with a host family in Peru, I chose to stay in the student house. This was also more affordable. Living in the student house was great because not only was it right across from the Volunteering Solution offices, but it also allowed me to meet so many other wonderful travelers. I will say most of the students living in the house were young, though everyone got along regardless of age. We all had something in common. We all loved to help others and travel the world.
After work, my friends and I would explore the city. On the weekends, we would make longer excursions to different places around the country. The offices directly across the street helped us book these trips and set up transportation. These trips were not included in the program, but they were not expensive. The little extra spent was well worth the memories we made. We climbed Cotopaxi, the world's largest active volcano. We visited the Quilotoa Lagoon. We even spent one weekend on the beaches of Montañita. If I had more time I would've visited the city of Baños de Agua Santa for a weekend of hot-springs, hang gliding, mountain biking, hiking, rafting, and more.
Beyond what I have mentioned, there are tons of breathtaking sites in Ecuador that I never got the chance to experience. But that is why I want to continue to volunteer abroad. Volunteering Solutions is a safe, affordable, and truly amazing organization that allows travelers like myself to see the world while lending a hand to those who need it. I have met the most wonderful people, both those who live in the countries I have visited, and those who live across the world. Through Volunteering Solutions, I have learned that we are all humans, and regardless of social or economic divisions, what brings us together is our shared ability to love.
A fun video of my experience: https://youtu.be/z1bgzan1Y1o
For more information: https://www.volunteeringsolutions.com