Teen volunteers participating in the Ecuador & Galápagos program will spend time in the South American Andean village of Patate, where they will have the opportunity to practice Spanish with local partners while working on projects that involve learning how to build with adobe, block and mortar. A visit to the Galápagos will give time to take in the beautiful environment, learn about invasive species, snorkel and swim with sea lions.
Projects in Ecuador are a blend of adobe and masonry construction. VISIONS works closely with the local municipality, schools and other local organizations that address social welfare and housing in Patate. Teen volunteers have completed significant renovations on La Casa de Ancianos, an elders’ center for people who otherwise did not have a place to live. Students also have built modest homes, kiosks for artisans to sell their wares, school additions and bathrooms, greenhouses, and more. Each workday you will choose from two or three projects, including helping at a small daycare for young kids. During our stay in the Galápagos, some time is carved out for environmental projects.
One of our partners: The Parque Nacional Galápagos aims to protect the islands’ wildlife and ecological systems. The islands are a UNESCO site, and in 2007 were added to the list of World Heritage Sites in Danger. While in the Galápagos, VISIONS teens help to remove invasive plant species that threaten native habitat.
Patate is a small town with welcoming community members. Farms and hillsides roll into the Andes, and townspeople as well as rural families want to get to know you. Plaza Central is a common place to gather for games, markets, music, and seeing friends. You also will spend time with families during a few dinner stays, attend workshops with artisans, learn to make quimbolitos and other Ecuadorian food from our cook, and get into spontaneous games such as street soccer with neighbor kids. You will discover the universal appeal of Ecuador, and our area of Patate, which is aptly known as the Valley of Eternal Spring.
"I will never forget the people I met in Patate and the Galápagos. It was an amazing summer."
Weekend summer adventures include hiking to a breathtaking Andean vista and visits to the popular mountain town of Baños, where we tour the markets and soak in natural hot springs. During our time in the Galápagos, we go snorkeling at incredible reefs, swim with sea lions, and get close up to blue-footed boobies and giant tortoises. Before the program ends, we even have time to visit Quito’s ancient cathedrals and colonial zone, UNESCO’s first World Heritage Site.
We live in a community center not too far from Patate’s Plaza Central. There are bathrooms and showers, a kitchen and comedor, communal space, and a bunk bed awaiting each person.
Our service projects take place five days a week and usually end by mid-afternoon. Most days you get to choose your worksite from a range of physical work and some social projects. Once a week, you will be on “homebase crew” with a few other participants and a leader. The crew makes breakfast and lunch, goes to the town’s marketplaces to buy food for the next meals, drop off laundry, helps our dinner cook with preparations, and simply enjoys a “day in the life.”
Afternoons after work tend toward cultural activities and nearby excursions. It’s time to get to know our neighbors, visit mountain farms, play games with local kids, participate in several artisan workshops, practice Spanish, and sometimes just have a break before dinner.
As with all VISIONS programs, we work hard and we also play hard in Ecuador. In addition to afternoon activities, some days are for travel and full-day excursions.
Meals include Ecuadorian and American cuisine, and always with enough for seconds. Vegetarian and meat options are always available, and there are healthy snacks available during the day. A few nights a week after dinner, we meet as a group to talk through the volunteer and immersion experience.
VISIONS is not a teen tour with a day-to-day travel itinerary. Instead we settle in to our home base and are part of daily life. The itinerary provides some of the highlights of our time in Ecuador.