Cultural Exchange Creation Ecuador
Bring your building skills to transform an abandoned adobe farm house into a cultural exchange centre in the heart of the Ecuadorian Andes.
Hi, my name's Joshua, the founder of a cultural exchange and social innovation project. Since July, 2021 we've been working hard 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 aspire to regenerate local ecosystems, build pride in indigenous culture, provide dignified employment opportunities, offer a wide variety of unique eco & community tourism experiences, and provide volunteers like you with a meaningful experience.
If you're looking to use your talents to travel the world, experience new cultures and make a difference, apply to our volunteer programme and help us restore a 150-year-old farmhouse into a vibrant cultural centre that will host an abundance of community, cultural, educational and tourism activities. The space will include a café/restaurant, a training/co-working space, office-space, eco-toilets and a studio-apartment.
You live and work alongside other volunteers and interns from around the world, as well as immerse yourself in a local culture in the rural community where the project is based.
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.
This place is run by the founder, Joshua (UK) and his partner Karina (Ecuador), as well as members from the local community and long-term volunteers 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.
In our 'Terreno' volunteering programme, you will focus on the development of the cultural centre. In exchange for 4 hours a day, 4 days a week 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 to offer.
Typical workday outline:
Work Days: Monday to Thursday
- 7.45am: Collection of Tools/Equipment
- 8.00am: Group Check-in (with all volunteers and interns)
- 8.30am: Building Work on the Cultural Centre
- 12.30pm: Communal Lunch
- 1pm: Free Time
- 3pm - 5pm: English Class for Community (Thursdays, Optional)
- General Building
- Plumbing & Water Filtration
It's often said that the people make the place. In creating a positive, environment, experience shows us that we're looking for people who have the following qualities:
- Hard-workers: tasks can be very physical, often in a variety of weathers and temperatures
- Positive: determined, solution-focussed and able to take the initiative when required
- Organised: punctual, meet deadlines, takes responsibility, and keep communal spaces clean and tidy
- Interpersonal skills: sensitivity to others needs and good communicators
- Contextual understanding: align with our vision and are respectful of cultural difference
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 fiberoptic WiFi 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.
With your time off, you can take a walk around any of the beautiful local trails in the surrounding communities, down to the river or jump in a taxi to savour the spectacular cloud-covered sunset. There are regular buses into town if you would like to go shopping, try the local food or learn about Guaranda’s Carnaval - the best known in the country.
For a day’s outing, don’t miss hiking up to Chimborazo’s refuge and enjoying a hot chocolate at over 5,000m above sea level. Alternatively, take a tour around the salt mines and micro-businesses of the nationally renowned village of Salinas de Guaranda. If you prefer warmer climates, within an hour you can drop down to sea level and go hiking in protected virgin forests in the search of pristine rivers, tropical birds and immense waterfalls. Guaranda really has it all (minus the tourist traps!).
Getting to us:
Guaranda is equal distance between the two international airports, Quito and Guayaquil Bus travel is cheap and low-risk, $7 for a 5 hour journey 10 minutes by bus you reach the nearest town with some food & vegetables 30 minutes by bus you arrive in Guaranda with supermarkets and the large weekly market.
We are at almost 3,000m (10,000ft) above sea level and the average temperature is 13°C (55°F). Below is a list of typical weather patterns throughout the year, though climate change is definitely throwing these off, so be ready for anything!
- Summer (Jun - Sep): hot sunny days (leading to water shortages), colder cloudless nights and often a strong wind; temperatures ranging from 7-20°C degrees (45-70°F)
- Winter (Feb - Apr): Often dry mornings and heavy rain in the afternoon. Less day/night temperature variation and no wind; temperatures ranging from 10-15°C degrees (50-60°F degrees)
- Spring/Autumn (May, Oct - Jan): Somewhere between summer and winter!
Due to the high altitude, the sun feels cooler but will burn you more easily - so be prepared with a hat and sunscreen. The temperature is cool at night and Ecuadorian houses have no insulation/central heating, we have blankets and hot water bottles to help keep you cosy. Fortunately, there are no mosquitos at this elevation!
Desired skills outlined above as well as a positive attitude.
Dates of program:
Duration of program:
4 weeks minimum
Adults of both sexes 18+
This programme is free, which covers the costs of meals, accommodation, utilities and volunteer coordination
"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.