Ecuador has a population of 15.74 million. Of those, five million live in poverty, and a substantial number of citizens are only slightly above the poverty line. The country’s social and political challenges are daunting, to say the least: there is widespread illiteracy, and a high rate of juvenile delinquency. Other issues facing the country include environmental preservation, which includes species conservation, and for the tribal communities in Ecuador’s Amazon, the preservation of a cultural identity.
Ecuador has long depended on non-governmental organizations – NGOs – as well as church-sponsored charities, to alleviate its social problems. Those who plan to participate in volunteer tourism in Quito do not necessarily need to know Spanish, and many NGOs offer an opportunity to practice the language in exchange for a donation of money and effort. In addition, many Ecuadorians want their children to learn English so are happy to have an English-speaking volunteer teach them.
Here are some of the best NGOs to get in touch with if you’d like to volunteer your time.
The Yanapuma Foundation is a non-profit NGO, and one of the most respected in the world. Its goal is to work “together with local and international partners to bring about lasting change for the marginalized and indigenous people of Ecuador.” They offer programs both inside and outside of Quito. Within Quito, volunteers can work with disabled children or with the elderly.
With a home office in one of Quito’s poorest neighborhoods, CENIT works with urban youth and adolescents in everything from health to counseling to education. They have programs for volunteers with various levels of Spanish.
The Fundación Bolivar Education provides a broad spectrum of volunteer opportunities, from working in daycares to animal rescue to conservation in the rainforests outside Quito.
Created by singer Michael Sample of the Metropolitan Opera Guild, Project Creo introduces economically disenfranchised children to the world of artistic expression, which includes painting and theater, giving boy and girls from poor neighborhoods in Quito and other parts of Ecuador an opportunity to redeem the struggles of their lives through art.
The Ecuador Animal Protection Foundation, established in 1984 and located in the Mariscal district of Quito, rescues and cares for owner-less dogs and cats that live on the streets of Quito. A volunteer’s duties range from care of the animals to education of the general public about animal welfare.