Volunteering and Working in Ecuador
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Working in Ecuador
Many foreigners considering working abroad decide to teach English. If teaching English is what you want to do you are in luck for English teachers are continually in demand. However, with a little creativity, assertiveness and luck it’s possible to land any of a number of other jobs that your friends back home will certainly envy.
Notice boards in cafes, laundromats and hostals are always good starting places for finding work. The South American Explorers Club also posts job listings. Basic jobs such as bartending, retail, hotel positions, charitable work and volunteering are regularly advertised, especially around the high-season months of June, July and August, and again during the winter holidays. September is the hardest month to find work, except for last minute teaching positions.
You need a visa issued from the Ecuadorian consulate in your home country in order to work legally in Ecuador. However, many people obtain visas once in Ecuador with the help of their employers and most working travelers find work paid cash-in-hand, which circumvents the need for legal documents.
There is a moderate demand for English teachers in Quito, so many native-speakers find work teaching in language schools. The top schools, such as the Academia Cotopaxi, the Fulbright Insitute, la Universidad Catolica, la Universidad de San Francisco de Quito, The Experiment in International Living, and Key Language Services, pay between USD 3 and USD 7 per hour (the upper end of that figure being rare) but they usually require native speakers who have appropriate degrees and experience. This may not seem like a lot but it’s enough to live comfortably on while you are in Quito.
There are plenty of schools in Quito, Cuenca, and Guayaquil that do not require degrees or experience but they pay much less than the schools named above; expect to earn about USD 2.50 to USD 5/hour. Schools in this second tier include Andean Institute, English First, and the Polytechnic University (Fepon). If your timing is right or if you can take advantage of a connection you can sometimes circumvent the requirements of the better schools as well. Supply and demand. Due to the current economic crisis experience is almost never the determining factor, so aim high.
Stop by English schools in person a few days before classes start, even if you were turned-down previously, because teachers inevitably bail at the last minute or schools “under-hire” and need teachers in a jiffy. Also, it helps enormously if you are able to get an introduction from someone already working at a school. We should not need to mention this but wear professional attire when you go to interviews and when you are checking on job availability. Appearance is everything. One last suggestion: secure your salary in writing beforehand, as there have been instances of delayed or refused payment with these schools, as well as those of the top tier.
If English is your mother tongue, you can also find well-paid work teaching private lessons or proofing translations. Check the notice boards and/or put an ad up offering your services. Additionally, although the demand is far less, jobs may also be obtained teaching French and German.
If you are planning to stay in Quito for an extended period of time and have teaching credentials or experience, you may be able to find long-term work with one of the international high schools in Quito. There are regular advertisements in the newspapers looking for language, science and humanities teachers for Colegio Americano, Cotopaxi Academy, and other private international schools. The majority of job ads appear in the weekend and Monday editions. Also consider contacting one of the many organizations that match qualified teachers with open teaching positions in schools worldwide, although be aware that these organizations often charge hefty fees for their services.
Second to teaching English, jobs in the tourism industry are relatively easy to come by. Pick a city and hit the pavement passing by the popular tourist establishments. More than likely something will pop up, whether it be bartending, hotel receptionist, managing a hotel, waiting tables, bike mechanic, or working at a travel agency. Anywhere where there are lots of tourists there are jobs for foreigners. Often all that is required is the ability to speak English, an amiable personality and good timing. The turn-over rate with foreign employees is high, so it’s feasible to quickly land a job for just a few months or even a few weeks.
If you have the proper credentials, relevant experience and language ability it is also possible to be hired as a guide. Adventure tourism is big business in Ecuador, so there are a number of interesting guiding possibilities, including birding, rainforest naturalist, Galapagos naturalist, climbing, whitewater rafting and kayaking, scuba diving, trekking, mountain biking, and paragliding positions.
It is possible to guide on a freelance basis as well as get hired by a specific agency. Working with an agency will likely solve your visa problems, as they will sponsor you to stay and work in Ecuador (a prerequisite to getting a work visa). These arrangements can be made before coming to Ecuador or after you have arrived. Getting a job guiding in the Galapagos is more difficult than obtaining positions elsewhere in Ecuador for there are many restrictions and you must pass an official guiding course which is held no more than twice a year and will set you back about USD 500. You must also speak at least three languages. Prerequisites for all other guiding positions are much more flexible.
If you have your heart set on doing some good there is no better place to do it than Ecuador. The people of this beautiful country are some of the friendliest in the world, though you will surely wonder how they remain so kind in the face of all the hardships they face. Volunteer opportunities abound throughout Ecuador. From orphanages to rainforest preserves the organizations that help keep this small South American country together are severely understaffed.
We list a few volunteer possibilities below and in our classifieds page, though the best way to find a position that will reward Ecuador and you is simply to come to Quito and ask around. You will find something within a few days.
Minadores de Sueños – Quito We are a grassroots organization based in the south of Quito in one the most underserved communities. We fight for the integral development of the children. We offer them a place where they can find what their environment does not provide for: school support, basic rules of hygiene, healthy and warm lunches and a place to play. We need the support from international volunteers to give English classes, to teach basic reading and counting and to bring them all the attention they need and much more.
Volunteering in coastal Ecuador teaching English to elementary aged children near Mompiche, Ecuador. Other possiblities may be to help increase productivitiy in organic cocoa farms. Lodging provided with kitchen, but food not inlcuded. We are looking for 1-2 people to fill this position. For more info please contact: Tom Quesenberry at email@example.com
Volunteer position in the Yasuni National Park – We need a volunteer. The volunteer must be a biologist or a naturalist and be able to make a one year commitment. The volunteer position would be able to stay part of the time at El Monte Sustainable Lodge, www.ecuadorcloudforest.com in the cloud forest of Mindo and will go into Yasuni National Park when there are tours going in with Otobo’s Amazon Safari, www.rainforestcamping.com The volunteer will be working in Yasuni National Park helping a Huaorani family clan in eco-tourism.
Charitable and non-profit organizations in your home country may operate programs in Ecuador. Most of these programs are volunteer-based, although paid positions for foreigners are occasionally available. There are also a number of Ecuadorian institutions who accept foreigners in paid and non-paid capacities. (Getting a paid position has as much to do with who you know and when you apply, as it does with what you know.) It is usually easier to arrange a volunteer position or internship with organizations based in Ecuador (as opposed to those in the States or Europe).
Below is a list of organizations to contact. With volunteer and internship programs it is important to obtain clear information regarding the length of commitment expected, how much you will be expected to pay for room and board (if applicable), and what kind of qualifications or experience you need in order to be a successful volunteer.
The following organizations have ongoing volunteer programs. Visit linked websites for more information. Many organizations accept qualified volunteers on the spot, so don’t be shy about contacting the relevant person while in Ecuador.
For a comprehensive list of NGOs working in Ecuador, in-depth descriptions of the projects they spearhead, and their contact information for would-be volunteers, please check out our Ecuador NGO guide.
Study Spanish at Simon Bolivar Spanish School Ecuador – The best Spanish learning experience in Quito, Cuenca, Amazon or Coast. The superb quality of its services and the professional and extensive experience of its teachers provide the right combination for a unique language-learning program. Since its foundation 15 years ago, Simon Bolivar Spanish School has been the leader in the market, being one of the oldest, largest and most successful Spanish schools in the region.
Handmade Recycled Paper from Ecuador – Ecopapel is handmade recycled paper stationery individually decorated with wildflowers. Buy Recycled paper invitations, recycled business cards and environmentaly friendly gifts in Ecuador. It is made in Ecuador, South America as part of a community development project.
Volunteering and internship with Andean Global Studies Foundation. AGS following its mission to contribute to the betterment of Ecuadorian society encourages its students to participate in diverse volunteer programs and internships. Spanish lessons could be arranged before, through or after volunteer or internship commitment. Humanitarian projects available include the following: street children care, medical assistance, orphanage help, elderly assistance, among others. Ecology programs are held in natural protected areas outside of the city. Students would stay in the reserves and offer assistance in different areas related to the conservation, reforestation and ecology education outgoing in the area.
Charles Darwin Station – research station based on Santa Cruz island working to conserve Galapagos flora and fauna through education, research and fieldwork. Volunteer opportunities (some with room and board).
Otavalo Spanish Institute – Otavalo Spanish Institute is the only School that is interested in projects with poor schools located in rural mountain areas in Otavalo. Volunteers who are interested in this program will have the opportunity to work in the Andean Indigenous culture, close to the beautiful market town of Otavalo, surrounded by beautiful mountains, which allows the volunteers to immerse and improve their Spanish skills.
Río Muchacho Organic Farm – Rio Muchacho is an organic farm on the coast of Ecuador, deep in the montubio culture It is a model farm for the coast and practices permaculture, organic farming and reforestation etc. A community environmental school has also been developed close to the farm. Volunteers participate in the farm activities or in the school in the morning and develop their own projects in the afternoon. Wednesday afternoon is cultural afternoon where volunteers do different activities eg, making chocolate, fishing river shrimp, excursion up river on horseback to see howler monkeys. A one month commitment is requested. For more information see www.riomuchacho.com firstname.lastname@example.org.
www. volunteering ecuador .org – We work for children and youngsters. Our little ones are poor: healthy or ill ones. Our contribution is at day-cares, grammar and primary schools; orphanages; retention, street children and health centres; public hospitals, etc. We are a non-governmental, non-profit organisation, where no one gets any salary, we are all volunteers, Our mission is to enhance the well being of Ecuadorian children by working with them to solve their most pressing health, educational and environmental problems. We offer numerous short and long-term volunteer-learning Spanish opportunities. Please visit our web site, above. Contact: email@example.com.