Cultural Exchange Creation Ecuador
As a centre of cultural exchange and social innovation, we are working to bring together local Ecuadorians and people from around the world through sustainable tourism, culture, education and ecology - to create a more meaningful, sustainable and prosperous world. We are in the early stages - starting in July 2021 - but we have big ambitions! We aspire to regenerate local ecosystems, build pride in indigenous culture, provide dignified employment opportunities, offer a wide variety of unique eco and community tourism experiences, and provide volunteers like you with a meaningful experience. Tourism activities will be run as a socially-oriented enterprise, and we are also setting up a foundation for our community impact initiatives. In the morning, come and help us on our property to build the café, training spaces, tourist accommodation and Permaculture gardens that will be used to help provide employment and educational opportunities for local people. In the afternoon, deliver a personal project or art, sports, cooking or English classes for the local community.
The project is on a hillside in the village of Atandahua, just outside of the quaint colonial town of Guaranda in the province of Bolivar in central Ecuador. The project is nestled in a valley surrounded by traditional farmland and indigenous communities, with a spectacular view of the majestic Chimborazo Volcano (the point on earth closest to the sun!). Although stunningly beautiful, Bolivar is one of Ecuador’s poorest provinces. There is a high rate of malnutrition, illiteracy and poverty. With few employment opportunities, many high-school graduates quickly leave to the larger cities, and the indigenous language and culture is under threat.
El Terreno is run by the founder, Joshua (UK) and his partner Karina (Ecuador), as well as members from the local community and volunteer coordinators who are passionate about growing the project. “My name is Joshua; I’m 34 and from the UK. I first came as a backpacker to Ecuador in 2013 and fell in love with the place - the people, the culture, the biodiversity and of course, with Karina, my Ecuadorian partner. In 2017, I returned on a one-way ticket and after spending 3 years searching the country looking for land, we found the perfect spot to begin building the vision that we have nurtured for many years. We also became parents to our son, Liam, in May 2022!” We’re delighted to receive your valued contribution to our mission of creating a more prosperous and meaningful world, while trying to make your stay as warm and welcoming as possible.
The Programme (our ultimate vision is to host three programmes):
- ‘Terreno Volunteers’ who work exclusively in the cultural centre (e.g. kitchen, gardens, hospitality) in exchange for bed and board
- ‘Community Volunteers’ who pay to work exclusively within the community with high-impact projects such as teaching classes and installing smokeless stoves
- ‘Academic interns’ who live in family homestays and work on a personalised internship to both benefit the community and develop their resume.
Until we have the resources to launch all three projects, we have developed a joint Terreno-Community programme in which you work 3 hours a day developing the centre infrastructure and 2 hours delivering activities to the community, Monday to Thursday. In exchange, we will provide you with lunch on your workdays and shared volunteer accommodation to build bonds with other international volunteers. You have free use of the kitchen to prepare other meals and 3 days a week to explore some of the unique activities the region has in store.
Cultural Centre Tasks:
- Build key infrastructure such as roads, fencing and water systems
- Help restore a 150-year old farmhouse to host a café, training room, office and living space for Joshua’s family
- Cook shared meals & clean communal spaces
- Deliver weekly English, art, sports and cooking classes with the local community
Personal Projects: As a popular project with big ambitions, we're looking for volunteers who can turn their professional skills to help us realise our vision. So if you have skills that would add value to our project - we'd love to hear from you!
Skills of particular priority for us currently are:
- Art, cooking, sports and English teaching skills
- Volunteer coordination
- Business development and fundraising (public, private, crowdfunding)
- Film making & marketing
- Building, carpentry and maintenance
- Community engagement
- Gardening, reforestation and landscaping
- Systems thinking & spiral dynamics
The local community has generously offered the ‘Casa Comunal’ (village hall) as the volunteers’ living quarters. As it is a community building which often receives visitors, we ask for it to be kept clean and tidy - for which volunteers are responsible. There are two dormitories with a total of 8 beds, bathroom (with hot water) and a kitchen used exclusively for volunteer use (apart from the odd community event). It has Wi-Fi and all the basics to help you feel at home. Washing can either be done by a neighbour, a laundrette in the nearby town or by hand.
Desired skills outlined above as well as serious commitment, enthusiasm and self-responsibility.
Dates of program:
Duration of program:
4 weeks minimum
Adults of both sexes 18+
We ask for US$30 per week to volunteer to make this programme possible. This covers the costs of meals, accommodation, utilities and volunteer coordination. This price is cheaper than it would otherwise be, due to your time working here.
"Joshua was a great host, with an inspiring vision for El Terreno and making a difference in the community. It’s such a unique project that introduced me to so many concepts like permaculture, I’ve come away with a massively widened worldview. As for Josh itself, I was absolutely blown away by his incredible patience- after filming for hours and hours to produce the video, he never lost it at all. If anything, he only became more invested and passionate about the video project, generating tons of ideas and suggestion, and being incredibly cooperative and flexible in the process of giving time to complete it. The area is also very interesting - I was looking to get away from the touristy parts of Ecuador and in the countryside, you are absolutely getting a true taste of Ecuador! From hitchhiking on the camioneta pick up trucks into town to buying food on the side of the road in the village of Guanujo, to shopping in the nearby provincial capital of Guaranda, you can get a piece of all types of life. One thing though - if you come in the winter, beware, as it does get pretty cold! (50F) but other than that, it’s totally worth it!"- Jeffrey Yu
"Our stay with Joshua and Karina was so far beyond my expectations. They - and their entire community in Atandahua - embraced us and shared their music, dancing, food, stories, adventures, and work. It is a truly special place and Joshua is kind, organized, communicative, and inspiring. The work is fun and very fair, the accommodations are comfortable, the community and the group of volunteers is lovely and easy to build friendships within. I highly recommend this project to anyone looking to experience this region in a real way, and to become immersed in a small, hard-working community with a beautiful vision for the future. I will be thinking about all that I learned here for a long time."- Kenzie W
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Web links / Other ways to help
If you visit and apply via the website please mention that you saw this project on volunteerlatinamerica.com.