Ecuador & Galapagos

Ecuador & Galapagos
PROGRAM DESCRIPTION 

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. 

Welcomed Service

Projects in Ecuador are a blend of adobe and masonry construction. VISIONS primary partner is El Patronato, a local organization that addresses 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, a museum addition, greenhouses, and more. Each workday you will choose from two or three projects, including running a summer camp for local kids. During our stay in the Galápagos, some time is carved out to assist the community with a service project.

Full Immersion

Patate is a small town with welcoming community members. Picturesque 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, food markets, music, and catching up with friends. You also will spend time with families during a few dinner stays, attend workshops with artisans, learn to make quimbolitos from our cook, and get into spontaneous games such as street soccer with neighbor kids. You will discover the universal appeal of Ecuador, while also practicing your Spanish and getting to know folks personally.

"I will never forget the people I met in Patate and the Galápagos. It was an amazing summer."

Taylor Mustapich – Old Brookville, New York
Our Home Base 
Patate and San Cristóbal
We live in the picturesque Andean town of Patate, home to about 15,000 people in central Ecuador's Tungurahua Province. The region's rich soils yield a diversity of crops that coin it the “bread basket of Ecuador.” Our first days will unfold on the Galápagos island of San Cristóbal.
We started our work in Ecuador in 2004 under the guidance of a VISIONS director who had lived in Ecuador as a Fulbright Scholar and who forged relationships with unique individuals in the capital city and small villages alike. As with all VISIONS programs, we settle down in our host community for most of our time in Ecuador. Unique to other sites, however, we spend the last four days in another location—the island of San Cristóbal in the Galápagos Islands.
Explore Ecuador

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.

Daily Life

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, does 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.

Itinerary

First Day
Last Day
Arrivals to Quito & Hotel Overnight
Fly to Galápagos & Afternoon Beach Time
Boat Trip & Snorkeling
Turtle Reserve, Island Tour, and BBQ
Depart Galápagos to Quito. Drive to Patate and Welcome!
Orientation & Town Tour
Day Stay with Local Families
Baños Hot Spring Town
Family Visits & Market Day
Andes Hike
Patate Goodbye Dinner
Drive to Quito & Tour the Colonial Zone
Departures from Quito
  • Teens enjoying nature in the foothills of the Andes mountains
  • Our host communities become our family; we live, work, and play together.
  • Excursions include exploring the history and architecture and having an underwater adventure
  • Participants take a rest and savor the views from above.
  • After work, we have plenty of time to relax and enjoy the beach
  • Meet new people from around the world in a fun and inclusive environment
  • Highschool students ride in the back of public transportation on their way to a hot spring adventure.
  • Wander the hills of rural villages where life moves a bit slower and the culture is rich.

More Details

Summer leaders meet each high school volunteer upon arrival at the Quito airport. We stay the first night at a hotel in Quito and drive to our home in Patate the next morning. Leaders also see each participant off from the airport at the end of the progra
Parents receive a phone call or email once their child is met by VISIONS leaders at the airport. After that, phone calls home are generally limited to once a week.
We live together as a group in a community center, and boys and girls sleep in separate areas. A bunk bed awaits each person, and participants bring their own pillow and sleeping bag.
VISIONS has a 1 to 4 or 5 leader to student ratio, one of the best ratios among summer programs. The maximum group size is 25, and programs are gender-balanced. Most participants attend alone, and no more than two friends may attend a program together.
We emphasize an inclusive group dynamic. Things like age and grade become less important on a VISIONS program. We eat most meals and do most activities as a large group, and we break into small rotating groups for workdays.
Details such as a packing list, travel notes, and health forms are provided upon enrollment through login web pages. The process is straightforward and we are here to help. VISIONS travel agent books flights, which are not included with tuition.
Airfare to/from Galápagos is included with tuition.
80 community service hours are awarded on successful completion of the program.
Prerequisite: One year studying Spanish, whether high school or middle school Spanish. This is VISIONS one full-length Spanish program that has a one-year prerequisite instead of two-year.
Program Director
Ecuador & Galápagos

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