Volunteer Work, Community Work
Flexible start and end dates, year-round.
Arrival in Quito on the weekend is recommended to meet our coordinators for introduction on Monday morning, before travelling to the project site.
This project is located about three hours north of Quito and 20 minutes from the pretty colonial town of Otavalo in the Cotacachi Valley, a volcanically active area in Ecuador. Due to past volcanic activities, the land is very fertile and there are beautiful lakes nestled between the volcanoes. The population in this region is 90% indigenous. Their main language is Kichwa, and their second language is Spanish.
On both a local and international level, the people of Imbabura and Otavalo are very well known in South America due to their traditional handicrafts and animal markets held every Saturday. This region’s market is the biggest indigenous public market in South America and is the place where women from different communities sell their famous handicrafts.
As a volunteer, you will live in one of these communities and help with the production of traditional Ecuadorian handicrafts and art. In most of these communities, the families’ principal income is dependent on the women’s craftwork and agricultural activities.
Volunteers that are not particularly gifted for tasks related to crafts will help on the local farms to support the agricultural production. The families use the goods produced on the farm for personal consumption, and the remaining stock is sold at local markets.
As a volunteer for this project, your activities are all about helping and supporting your local host family. Daily work schedules vary on a week-to-week basis and may also depend on external factors, such as weather and season. One of your main responsibilities as a volunteer is helping the local women make typical Ecuadorian handicrafts. You will learn a lot about different techniques, traditions, and local culture. You will experience the local indigenous communities on a personal level, by living and sharing their traditional lifestyle.
This is a unique opportunity to immerse yourself in the culture of Ecuadorian indigenous families and learn to work with and appreciate the simple beauties of Earth. Agriculture is another key area where you will help with daily tasks and activities. Most of the local families are able to self-sustain themselves with the products from their small farms. The agricultural production that is not utilized for personal consumption is oftentimes sold at local markets.
If your main interest, however, is working with the children of local communities, please let us know beforehand. We can provide opportunities to carry out different activities at local schools where you can assist the teachers with daily classes or help the children with their homework.
Please always keep in mind that the families work very hard to provide and obtain their daily living, and that your support, as a volunteer, is greatly appreciated and essential to their daily schedules. You can also offer to teach your host community some important skills that you know, which will help in the local community’s development!
Note: The tasks may vary. They depend on factors such as number of volunteers, weather, season, current needs of the project, as well as self-motivation. Not every volunteer may be fully involved in all these tasks.
A top priority of this volunteer program in Ecuador is full cultural immersion. The best way to learn about Ecuadorian culture and customs, and practice your Spanish skills, is to live in a homestay.
Our volunteers will live with one of the families of the indigenous community of Cotacachi.
You are provided with a room (single or shared with other volunteers) and three meals per day. Bathrooms are usually shared. The family’s houses are simple, but still fulfill a basic standard of living. You will live within the family’s house or in an extra guesthouse that is located close to the family’s house. Do not miss out on this unique opportunity to learn about ancient Ecuadorian traditions and indigenous lifestyle!
Our partner families live in the Cotacachi Valley, around 3 hours north of Quito, 20 minutes away from the city of Otavalo, at around 2400 meters. As typical for the Andes, the climate there is dry from January to August (summer/dry season), while from September to December it is rainy (winter/rainy season).
The Cotacachí Valley is a beautiful mix of natural landscapes and cultivated land, nice and green, and the rugged Andean peaks are always in view, especially the Cotacachi volcano. Small towns alternate with the fields of subsistence farmers and their houses.
The surrounding area offers beautiful hiking trails through the hills, to viewpoints and around lagoons. The region can also be explored on horseback. Right in the city of Otavalo there is a hidden treasure: the beautiful Cascada Peguche waterfall and right around the corner, you will find "Parque Condor", a protection and research project for birds of prey that is open to visitors. Volunteering in an indigenous community offers you deep immersion in a new culture as well as in a beautiful natural setting.
If you want a little big city bustle in between, you can easily spend a weekend in Quito, which is very well accessible by bus.
Spanish at communication level. For optimal preparation for your volunteer work in Ecuador, we advise you to take a Spanish course before the program starts. This gives you the opportunity to slowly get used to the language, culture and mentality.
Pre-departure and in-country support
Before arrival, our experienced team will be at your disposal to assist you throughout the booking process and travel planning. With the booking confirmation you will receive our 24-hour emergency number, so that you can reach us 24/7 in case of emergency.
In addition to the assistance given by our office staff you will be supported by the program coordinators based in Quito in Ecuador.
Depending on the day of arrival in Quito, the program includes one to three nights in Quito in a single room with a host family (including half board).
Before you leave for the project site, you will take part in an orientation talk with our colleagues there.
Costs & Services
Our volunteer project in Community Work with Indigenous Families in Ecuador includes:
- Single or shared room (as available)
- Full board
- Professional English-speaking advice
- Translation of your application documents
- Volunteer Work Placement in Ecuador
- English-speaking in-country support
- On-site introduction
- Handbook Ecuador
- 24/7 emergency number
- Information about suitable travel insurance
- Certificate of participation
Application fee: US$ 120
Placement fee: US$ 790 (minimum stay 2 weeks)
Extra week: US$ 185
Additionally, you can book:
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Find valuable information about volunteering abroad in our program guides. Find out about all the benefits, possibilities and challenges, that a stay abroad offers you. Read more about the great opportunities that South America Inside has at your disposal.