Henrietta Bell - General Teaching Projects in Ecuador
Arriving in the Galapagos
I arrived to be picked up from the airport on San Cristobal by another volunteer and an employee of Projects abroad, to be taken to our various host families. I was nervous and excited about my three month adventure; I had been travelling for two days to get there from London. Everyone was incredibly welcoming, smiling at us with a friendly ‘Hola’ or ‘Buenos Dias’. I had arrived on the Galapagos with three other volunteers, one Dutch, two Germans and an American family who had come to teach music for six months.
We were all shown around the port (Malacon) to the bank, chemist and hospital etc, where we were living. Sea lions were everywhere and I even saw a blue footed booby on my first day.
My host family
My host family, Trudy and Ivan Garcia had prepared a delicious supper for my first day. Trudy cooked all my meals, and we would all sit together for every meal. I would try my Spanish and they would try their English. At first it was like a game of charades with a lot of hand signs and drawing to make myself understood. They were always patient and enjoyed teaching me Spanish and telling me many stories about their childhood and life on the Galapagos. I was always made to feel part of the family.
The next day we reported to the office to find out about our volunteering projects. My first was to learn Spanish, and dear Consuelo (my teacher) tried her hardest, I was a complete beginner. Then two weeks later I helped to take art classes for the children.
Volunteering as a teacher
My second placement was being a teaching assistant for 20 very energetic five year olds. I tried teaching them nursery rhymes (in English) with mixed success. Maybe a few children on San Cristobal can still remember Hickory dickory dock! They just loved the stickers I had brought with me, and if anyone is thinking of volunteering with children, bring lots of stickers with you. School started at 7.15 and finished at 12.00. This meant I could swim or just meet friends on the many wonderful beaches in the afternoons.
I had chosen the Galapagos as it was so unique and as a woman on my own I wanted somewhere safe (at no point did I feel unsafe or threatened). It is truly unique and I made lifelong friends with the family hosting me and I will definitely return. I travelled to other islands on guided trips in between the volunteering projects or at weekends, Santa Cruz, Isabella and Floriana, swimming, snorkelling and hiking and feel I came back with a real knowledge and understanding of the wonderful Islands in the middle of the Pacific.
My job in London is to organise projects for school children to work with their local charities, so it was interesting to see how volunteering was run by Projects Abroad. Ecuador is using volunteering to help encourage the young to connect with the Galapagos, help with teaching languages, particularly English, teaching sport and conservation. Projects Abroad is just one organisation helping coordinate volunteers.
I returned to England for the chaos of Christmas, back to reality after the simple, quiet and incredibly friendly life on the other side of the world. I thoroughly enjoyed my experience, and would advise anyone thinking of taking a career break or just a long holiday to go ahead and book it.