Join us for an exciting opportunity to connect with communities and contribute to their projects in highland Ecuador. We will work with the La Joya School for children with special needs and with indigenous communities high in the mountains, making friends, learning from each other, and helping dreams become reality. No special skills are required, just a willingness to learn, help, and have fun.
Get your hands dirty, working alongside community members to paint their community center. Work with children and help improve the facilities at the La Joya School. Be ready to pitch in with whatever projects are happening in the local community.
Even when you are not having fun working with a community, you will have a chance to immerse yourself in the local culture and soak up breathtaking scenery. You may visit the famous Otavalo market, take a cooking class at Kawsaymi Cooking School, hike to natural wonders, and meet local craftspeople.
After days filled with work and exploring, relax and socialize with your fellow volunteers at a comfortable inn in Otavalo.
Cost: $1,300 double occupancy, $150 additional for single occupancy. The trip fee covers all the basic expenses (food, lodging, transportation, activities) from when you land at the Quito airport until we drop you off there. (We provide one airport pickup on the first evening, and one bus back to the airport, on the last night. If your plans require different pickups or drop-offs, you will need to cover those on your own). Airfare is not included, and you'll want to bring extra money for personal expenses.
Sample Itinerary for Spring Volunteer Venture:
Arrive in the evening and settle in. We provide one bus to pick up the group from the airport and bring you to Otavalo.
Have orientation and visit the world-famous Otavalo market.
Work at La Joya School installing a new roof on one of the classrooms. Also take time to help the children eat and learn how to do household tasks using their educational furniture. In the afternoon, visit the Otavalango museum to learn more about local culture.
Continue the project at La Joya School and work with students in their school garden. In the afternoon, participate in a cooking class and learn about the plants cultivated by local families.
Beautify a community by helping to paint its newly-constructed community center. In the afternoon, learn about medicinal plants and enjoy a Pachamanka, a traditional dinner cooked in the earth.
Take an excursion to El Juncal, an Afro-Ecuadorian community to experience a culture very different from those of the communities we have already worked with. Visit a fruit farm and learn about the arts, history, and business efforts of this community.
Help community members clean the roadside drainage ditch that keeps access to their homes open. Have a celebratory dinner, then head back to the airport and fly out at night.
In Ecuador, we work primarily in communities of the Quichinche parish, Otavalo canton, in the Ecuadorian Sierra. Just outside the market center of Otavalo, this area is only 2 hours by bus from Quito but offers a rural tranquility and connection to the land very different from life in the capital.
The father and mother volcanoes, Imbabura and Cotacachi, stand guard over the valleys and hills where indigenous Otaveleño and mestizo families grow their sustenance. Diverse in their customs, residents are united by their need to work together to improve their communities. They farm corn, potatoes, beans, and other crops, weave textiles and baskets, and commute to Otavalo for secondary education or formal-sector jobs. The Otavaleño are one of Ecuador's indigenous groups most successful at preserving their cultural identity and traditions. Speaking both Kichwa and Spanish, they have learned to negotiate the power structures of their nation while retaining pride in their indigenous heritage. The people of Quichinche work hard and also love to celebrate. In general, they are very welcoming to visitors and enjoy sharing food, joking around, and discussing their culture with guests. The landscape that surrounds their home, meanwhile, offers high lakes, waterfalls, and volcanic peaks to inspire a sense of nature's grandeur. The region's 9000-ft. elevation and proximity to the equator combine to give it consistently comfortable temperatures (50's to 80's) all year round.
Scroll down through the story map below to learn about the communities we partner with and see their locations on a map.
Spring Volunteer Venture Frequently Asked Questions
Do I need vaccinations to go on this trip?
The CDC recommends vaccinations against Hepatitis A, typhoid, tetanus-diphtheria and measles. Yellow fever is recommended for other parts of Ecuador but not necessary in the mountains where we work. Vaccinations are up to your own discretion.
I've heard about the Zika virus. Should I be concerned for my health?
The Zika virus is carried by mosquitoes that generally live below 1200 meters, but Tandana works at much higher elevations--typically above 2000 meters. So the chances of encountering a Zika-carrying mosquito while with Tandana is quite low. Moreover, the main concern for Zika is the damage it can do to fetuses if the mother contracts the virus; for others, the clinical symptoms are mild. Nevertheless, if you plan to travel in lower elevations before or after your time with us, you might want to take precautions with an insect repellant approved by the EPA.
What are the accommodations like?
Tandana's gardening volunteer vacation participants are provided lodging at a wonderful facililty right in Otavalo, Ecuador: Casa Latitud. Rooms all have private baths, comfortable beds, and outlets with the same electricity as the U.S. Wi-fi is available in the common area. Breakfast each day is a treat that offers fresh local fruits and juices, excellent coffee and a selection of hot breakfast items to start your day off right. The garden and patio area are an oasis with a view of 2 inactive volcanos. And the location is perfect for market shopping just 4 blocks away.
Will my electronic devices work in Ecuador?
Yes, Ecuador uses the same electrical currents and plugs as the United States does, so you don't need a special adapter.
What kind of clothing, etc. should I pack?
We will send you a "welcome" packet about a month before your departure, which includes a suggested packing list.
What if I don't speak Spanish?
It's not necessary to speak Spanish in order to do good work and have a good time on this trip. You'll learn the important basics during orientation, and Tandana staff will be able to translate for you.
Who leads the groups of volunteers? Who do I turn to when I need help?
All of Tandana's volunteer programs are led by a team of Program Coordinators who have first-hand knowledge of the region, speak both Spanish and English, have expertise in experiential education and group leadership, hold WFA (Wilderness First Aid) or other certifications that have prepared them to handle emergencies, and are caring and capable individuals. Our permanent local staff is always on hand to help with translation, activities, logistics, and anything else to make sure the volunteers' experience is the best it can possibly be. See here for bios of some Program Coordinators.
What if I can't find the answer to my question on the FAQ page?
Please email your question to us at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we'll answer it as quickly as we can.
Ash Varma: A passionate Tandana supporter and patron of education
The Tandana Foundation is immensely grateful to the many individuals who support its efforts in a myriad of ways. The following post tells the story of Dr. Ash B. Varma, M.D., one of Tandana’s earliest supporters, who has given his time, ideas, and financial resources to assist the organization in achieving its goals in Ecuador … Continue reading "Ash Varma: A passionate Tandana supporter and patron of education"
As a public health professional, I have always been interested in health care systems in Latin America, specifically with a focus on health disparities. I have volunteered most of my life, while working full-time. I enjoy volunteering and have done so for many years. I had stopped for a while to reflect on my next … Continue reading "Healthcare in Otavalo Canton, Ecuador"
On April 10, The Tandana Foundation will be hosting a virtual venture exploring Dogon dancing and drumming in the Bandiagara district of Mali. Carol Peddie, Kelly McCosh, and Marilyn and Jack Krueger had the chance to experience the warm embrace of Dogon culture firsthand during Tandana’s 2012 trip to visit the villages of Kansongo and … Continue reading "Dogon dancing: an unforgettable experience"
Looking back on my unforgettable volunteer trip with Tandana – two years later
In 2019, Emily Piwowarski participated in a volunteer trip to Ecuador organized by The Tandana Foundation with her high school classmates from Arendell Parrott Academy. Now a sophomore studying chemistry and marine science at North Carolina State University, she took time to reflect on her memorable experience with Tandana in Ecuador. Español Français Warm, sweet … Continue reading "Looking back on my unforgettable volunteer trip with Tandana – two years later"
A shared philosophy of mutual support and learning
All program coordinators dedicated to social justice and civic engagement are faced with the challenges of community engagement and community building due to the pandemic’s social distancing requirements. How do you connect with others and make substantive change in your community without being able to interact with others or physically enter into a community? My … Continue reading "A shared philosophy of mutual support and learning"
Tandana’s program coordinator conducts important research into supporting Latinx college students study abroad
As part of her master’s in international education, Nicole Melendez, one of The Tandana Foundation’s program coordinators in Ecuador, completed a research project called “Supporting Latinx College Students Study Abroad.” Melendez specifically looked at U.S. students who identify as Latinx who are studying at post-secondary institutions across America. Español Français Through using surveys and conducting … Continue reading "Tandana’s program coordinator conducts important research into supporting Latinx college students study abroad"
On the fruits of intercultural friendship: a story of Northeastern students in the Gualapuro community
As part of the Northeastern University Alliance of Civically Engaged Students (NU|ACES), a group of students visited the community of Gualapuro, Ecuador for a week-long service trip with The Tandana Foundation. I spoke with many members of the group about their experience on the trip and how the trip inspired them to launch several different … Continue reading "On the fruits of intercultural friendship: a story of Northeastern students in the Gualapuro community"