Mayou Desjardins - General Care Projects in Ecuador
Arriving in Ecuador
After just turning 16 years old, and it being my first independent trip, I didn’t have any expectations for my upcoming humanitarian mission and I had no idea, at that moment, that the upcoming month would completely change my life.
I arrived in the Galapagos Islands, filled with the desire to experience something new. I was ready to put my heart and soul into this lifetime experience I was given. After 35 hours of travelling from Canada, I finally arrived at Puerto Baquerizo Moreno’s airport, impatient to begin my adventure.
On my arrival, I got welcomed by Jonathan and Dario, two staff members of Project Abroad, who both immediately made me feel welcomed. They introduced me to William Puga, the Projects Abroad country director for Ecuador, who answered any questions I had and reassured me that his door was always open for anything I needed.
My Host Family in the Galapagos
After a few minor changes in plans, I lived with not only one family, but switched halfway to another. Although I was told that I was going to be living with 2 parents and their daughter, I was surprisingly welcomed at my arrival by most of the family (cousins, aunt, uncle, grandparents) and many of the family’s friends.
Living with a family who doesn’t speak the same language as me, was quite overwhelming at first, but I simply jumped into the situation and looked at the perks of learning a new language. I got the chance to share many delicious meals with the whole family where I took the opportunity to improve my Spanish.
My second host family really made me feel at home the second I walked into their home. I had two lovely host parents and a host sister with whom I got along with very well. Overall, both my host families made me appreciate my experience in the Galapagos even more and I feel blessed to have crossed paths with such beautiful people.
My Care Project in San Cristobal
For four weeks I volunteered at the Care project in San Cristobal and assisted a teacher in classes with children between the ages of 3-5 years old. The kids, along with the teacher, only spoke Spanish. In my opinion, to fully benefit from volunteering at a Care project, I strongly recommend having a good basic foundation of the Spanish language, or even speak Spanish fluently.
Although I absolutely loved working with the kids and fell in love with each of them, I often felt in the way due to my poor Spanish and the lack of understanding between the children, the teacher and I. It was challenging to understand what the teacher wanted me to do.
All in all, I enjoyed every bit of my volunteering experience at the Care project and often find myself, back at home; missing the hugs and the lovely smiles I’d get on a daily basis from those sweet children. Shortly after coming back to Canada, I realised, and can definitely say, that working at the Care placement changed my life in a very positive way. I also enjoyed ‘Dirty Day’, where all the volunteers and I had a blast re-painting a high school, despite the fact that we might of gotten more paint on ourselves than on the walls.
Weekends in Ecuador
During my free time, I enjoyed spending time with all the wonderful people I met, not only with the volunteers, but also with many of the locals. What really blew me away, was the impressive wildlife and vegetation found all over San Cristobal.
Many volunteers and I often found ourselves meeting up after lunch at Playa Mann, where we spent many evenings getting to know each other better. One of the many great memories I have, is when two of my good local friends took me on a biking expedition from El Progreso all the way to the Mirador.
I recommend Las TIjeretas for amazing snorkelling and Puerto Chino, which is about a 40 minute taxi drive from the office, for surfing. There was also a great night life, where we all got the chance to play pool with the locals at ‘El Barquero’, and finally showed off some of our best dance moves at the local discotheque, ‘The Island’.
Overall, my experience in the Galapagos was life-changing. Not only did it change my view on many aspects of life, but it also made me grow as a person.
Leaving San Cristobal and saying goodbye to all the amazing people I met was very hard, but I promised myself I’d be back. I created memories that will stay with me forever and I will always be really thankful to have had such an amazing experience.
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.