Emily Locke - General Care Projects in Ecuador
My arrival in Ecuador
On my arrival in Ecuador, we were collected from the airport by a friendly Projects Abroad staff member. There were a lot of volunteers all arriving at the same time, so it was nice to know that you weren’t the only newbie.
I felt very disorientated when we arrived and I wasn’t really sure what time it was, but our host family was very welcoming and understanding; they allowed us to settle into everything in our own time. As we arrived in the afternoon, we had the evening to explore the town ahead of our induction in the morning. Everyone was reassuring and willing to answer the thousands of questions I had!
The next morning, we were given a tour of the town and got a talk from Projects Abroad Ecuador Country Director. He gave us a bit of background of the island and told us about island life, which was all very reassuring. At the same time, all of the new volunteers got a chance to meet and get to know each other, which was lovely.
My host family
I lived with a wonderful host family which consisted of a mum, dad and their teenage son. They were all very patient with my terrible (but improving) Spanish and were always there when I needed any help. Our host mum was the most incredible cook and always cooked the best meals! Sometimes we got fresh fish that our host dad had caught that day.
Before I left for the Galapagos, I was worried about what I was going to eat because I’m vegetarian, but our host family was so accommodating and made sure I had more than enough to eat. Our host mum was also a baker for a living, so we got to make all the other volunteers jealous with all the delicious cakes we got to eat.
We had other volunteers in the same host family as us, and it was nice to be able to have other volunteers in the same house. One of the other volunteers in my host family became a really good friend and we got to spend most of our days together as we were working in the same class.
My Care placement
I worked at a placement with children aged 3 – 4. It was their first year of school/nursery outside of day care. I was so nervous on my first day and had absolutely no idea what to expect, but the teacher I was working with was so lovely and I immediately felt like an important part of the class.
Even if the children started out as a little wary of me, they soon warmed up to me. They were so much fun to be around and I was very sad to leave them at the end of my four weeks. It was amazing to see the progress the children made over the month that I was there. They are so young but they learn so much, so quickly and it was such a great feeling knowing that I had been able to help them. Initially it was a little difficult to keep up with the kids who spoke very fast Spanish, but at the end of my time at my placement, my Spanish had improved a lot! By this point I was able to properly interact with the kids.
My days were spent helping the kids learn about different colours, numbers, animals and shapes. There were a lot of creative activities and I enjoyed helping the teacher organise exercises for the children to do that day. I got on very well with the teacher, who was so lovely, and it was nice to be able to chat during break time (improving my Spanish at the same time).
As you’re working with children who have no idea that Spanish may not be your first language, I think it is important that you feel confident in your level of Spanish speaking ability. All of the members of staff and host families are all patient with you and will help you as much as possible to better your Spanish. When you’re speaking to the kids, it is all about confidence; you’re their teacher too after all!
My volunteering experience
I had a great experience out in the Galapagos, I met so many lovely volunteers from all over the world who I hope to keep in contact with and visit them as soon as possible. As I was working in the nursery school, I had the afternoons free and I spent most of them getting to know other volunteers, swimming, exploring the island, or reading my book on the beach. Despite it being a small island, there are so many things you can do with other volunteers!
I was travelling with my boyfriend, who did the Galapagos Island Conservation Project; we had a great time together and there is no problem with travelling with a friend. However, most people came alone and everyone was so lovely so you made friends very quickly. Considering my boyfriend and I were doing different projects, we got to know different people through them.
Travelling around the Galapagos
You’re free to explore the other islands during the weekends, and it is encouraged by host families and staff members as there is so much to see! I took two weekend trips because I wanted to see as much as possible. A group of us volunteers went to Isabella Island where we did a few day-tours or snorkelling and hiking. It was so nice that there was a big group of volunteers that got on so well, we had a wonderful time together! Travel between the islands can be a little awkward as boats only run between certain islands at certain times, but it is more than worth it in the end!
My overall experience
I can’t recommend the experience enough; I had so much fun and would so love to go back. Regardless of where you go, Projects Abroad is a great experience and I feel that I’ve been given a different perspective on life after my time in the Galapagos. The Galapagos is an amazing and unique place and I would definitely take the opportunity to visit the islands again.
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.