Desirae Fisher - 2015 Program Participant

Shopping at Caupichu market outside Quito, Ecuador

A group photo on Desi’s last day at Caupichu market outside Quito

Why did you decide to volunteer abroad? 

I wanted to take a year off before college and thought that volunteering abroad would be an extremely important way to spend my year. I’ve always been really interested in the volunteer community since I was young. I did some volunteering in my city growing up, and even though everywhere in the world needs volunteers or some sort of assistance developing, I decided to take the leap and venture somewhere outside of what I knew so well.

Throughout the year before, I had a lot of trouble deciding whether or not I was going to take a year off between high school and college. When my final decision of taking a year off was in full swing, I had to find a cheap program fast, due to the fact I had about two months before I would leave. Not the best way to plan six months of my life, but it worked out better than I could have ever imagined. I found IVHQ and then I found Ecuador!

What made you choose Ecuador as a destination?

I definitely wanted a Spanish speaking country, so that really narrowed down my options. I looked deep into every program and I was able to eliminate multiple countries because they didn’t have host family options, which was definitely another desire on my wish list. I liked the size of the IVHQ program in Ecuador, it was smaller than a lot of the others, and I liked the idea of knowing less people, but on a deeper level.

Volunteers with host mother in Ecuador

Desi’s host mom and "host sisters" (from Minnesota and Vietnam)

Why did you select IVHQ over other organizations?

Well since it was such a last minute decision I needed something that was cheap and still available, and IVHQ popped up on Google. I knew it was a reliable organization because I had heard of other people doing it. Also, some of my friends were headed to Guatemala and Costa Rica, so I figured it would be cool to compare experiences at the end. It was really funny because three volunteers from my program headed to Guatemala to volunteer with IVHQ after and ended up meeting my friend. One of the guys I spent nine weeks living with in Quito lived with my friend for seven weeks, and I even got to meet up with him when I visited her! Small world that’s for sure.

What was your favorite part about Quito?

Everything! I felt like Quito became my home so fast. There were so many friendly people, the children were lovely, the food was cheap, it was an outlet to get anywhere you wanted to go in the country, and they spoke slow so it was easy to understand the language.

What was your homestay like? What did you like best about living with a local family?

I lived with a host mom, who was absolutely darling and super hilarious; she once trapped a bird under the sink for a solid three days. I lived with two other girls for my whole time there and five other people came in and out during that time. I got to know them all very well, especially the two girls. I think the best part about it all was getting to know my “host” sisters and knowing they will be lifelong friends. Also, the fact that my host mom thought my name was Josef.

What makes IVHQ’s program in Quito unique? 

I don't know if this is how it always was, but all of the volunteers knew each other and we would make an effort to try and get the whole crew to do stuff. The staff at the program is also really into getting everyone together as well, for things like Halloween, festivals in Quito, and more.

Local children at the Caupichu market in Quito, Ecuador

A group of kids at the Caupichu market

What advice would you give to others interested in volunteering in Ecuador? 

DO IT! You don't need to know Spanish, but make an effort to practice or learn a lot while you are there.

What are the top reasons you'd want to go back? 

Everything, it was definitely one of the best years of my life. I miss the kids, my host mom, the staff at UBECI (the volunteer organization on site), and everything about Quito so much. If I had the time and the funds to go there tomorrow, I would drop everything to see everyone again.