Christie Brooks – Care & Conservation in Ecuador High School Special
As a 16 year-old and having never having travelled alone before, I was a little nervous about embarking on this trip and had no idea of what it would be like. When I arrived at Heathrow Airport, I met some of the other volunteers whilst others joined us at airports on the way to Ecuador. I landed on Sunday after 38 hours of travelling. On our arrival, we came over the beautiful blue sea and other exotic islands, which added to my already building excitement.
We were met at the airport by a Projects Abroad staff member, who took us for a mini tour of San Cristobal, gave us a taste of Ecuadorian food and introduced us to the Projects Abroad Ecuador Country Director. All of the Projects Abroad staff made me feel very welcome, answering questions and saying that their doors were always open.
My host family in the Galapagos
Before arriving, I already knew who my host family were due to information I was given by Projects Abroad, but I never realised how much I would miss them when I left. On arrival, I found out that some other volunteers from my project would also be staying with Theresa, her husband Wilson and their granddaughter Amy. From the minute I arrived, I felt welcomed and relaxed.
Learning Spanish at GCSE had partly prepared me for living with a family who did not speak English. At first it was quite difficult, but by the end of the trip, my Spanish had improved dramatically. This was due to Wilson always having long conversations with us about everything and anything!
Every day we came home for lunch and ate together with our family and this was the same for dinner. Meal times were always interesting, as we had a different meal each time, with freshly squeezed juice that Theresa had made that morning. At the end of my two weeks, I was truly sad to say goodbye to such wonderful people, who made me feel like family and I am grateful for everything they did for me. Living with a host family was one of the most enjoyable experiences and it immerses you in the culture on the Galapagos.
My Care & Conservation placement
During our first week on the Galapagos, we helped at one of the local kindergartens, working with children between the ages of 3-5. We took different classes up to the National Park Tortoise Breeding Centre, showing them around and looking at the baby tortoises. All the children and teachers spoke just Spanish. Although I didn’t always understand what the children said, I fell in love with all of them.
We did that for the first three days and we spent the other two days building a playground. This was quite hard work as we first had to make the ground flat for playing equipment. Once all the equipment had been refurbished and painted, it was amazing to see our work bring such joy to the children. Working on the Care Project really impacted on my life in a positive way and has definitely made me want to volunteer at my local school.
For the second week, our job was to help get rid of invasive species of foliage, as they disrupt tortoise eating patterns, and taking part in animal monitoring surveys. My favourite job was weighing and counting the baby tortoises and learning about how they protect the animals on the island. The second week was tiring but very worthwhile as we could see the physical results of our work.
Weekend trip to Santa Cruz
As I was on a High School Special, Projects Abroad had organised a trip for us to Santa Cruz (another island) for the weekend. We were able to visit another Tortoise Centre but here the tortoises had different shaped shells (oval, not circular) and we travelled through volcanic caves. The next day we went to Las Grietas, which had canyons filled with clear blue water. Snorkelling in them was amazing!
Each day after volunteering we did different things in the evening. We went out for dinner on a couple of occasions and went paddle boarding on the ocean with the sunset. On Thursdays, Projects Abroad organised a Zumba class and a movie night.
Overall, I had an experience of a lifetime and travelling to the Galápagos Islands was the most beautiful, diverse and rewarding trip. I came back from a life-changing trip as a better person with new views on various aspects of life. I never could have expected how hard it would be to say goodbye, as I met some amazing people. I have memories that will stay with me forever and from this incredible experience I know I will return to the Galapagos.
This volunteer story may include references to working in or with orphanages. Find out more about Projects Abroad's current approach to volunteering in orphanages and our focus on community-based care for children.