Cultural Exchange Creation Ecuador
As a centre of cultural exchange and social innovation, we bring together local Ecuadorians and others from around the world through sustainable tourism, culture, education and ecology – to create a more meaningful, sustainable and prosperous world. We’re 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 & community tourism experiences, and ensure volunteers like you learn new skills, meet extraordinary people and leave with unforgettable memories.
The project is on a hillside in the little-known province of Bolívar, just outside of the quaint colonial town of Guaranda in central Ecuador. It's 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 in the centre of the country and stunningly beautiful, the province is one of Ecuador’s poorest. There is a high rate of malnutrition, illiteracy and poverty. With few employment opportunities, most high-school graduates quickly leave to the larger cities and the indigenous language and culture is under threat. Here you can help make a real, lasting difference to the surrounding communities, so that they can access future opportunities, prosper as a society and share pride in exchanging their culture with yours.
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 my Ecuadorian partner, Karina. In 2017, I returned on a one-way ticket and after time spending 3 years searching the country looking for land, we found the perfect spot to begin building a vision we had been nurturing for many years. We are also expecting our first child un June 2022! More recently, we've been building a team of locals and international volunteers to help our programme grow and thrive. We have Tania, a local woman with a huge heart who loves to share her culture with the volunteers who visit. We have Wilson, from another part of Ecuador who's a passionate English teacher and cares deeply about the community. Kasper is from Denmark, he brings some valuable organisational skills, experience and a positive attitude to take the project forwards. From France, Elea is bubbly and fun, she leads the classes and personal projects! We’re delighted to receive you as a valued part of creating a more prosperous and meaningful world, while making your stay warm and welcoming.
We ask for 5 hours of your time a day, 4 days a week. In exchange, we will provide you with a nutritious lunch on your workdays and exclusive volunteer accommodation to build bonds with like-minded, international travellers. You have free use of the kitchen to prepare other meals and a list of recommendations how to make the most of your time off.
- Monday to Thursday Project Priorities: 8am-11am
- Break: 11am-11.30am
- Cooking, Cleaning & Personal Projects: 11.30am
Culture Exchange Centre Tasks:
In our project, you get out what you put in. We are looking for motivated, hard-working and responsible volunteers who can take the initiative when needed. Much of the work can be physically challenging in a variety of weather conditions - please only apply if you're someone who likes to get stuck in!
We're working on the following projects:
Develop the Cultural Centre: Build key infrastructure such as roads, fencing and water systems Help restore a 150-year old farmhouse using sustainable techniques (from July 2022). Plant, harvest and cook traditional crops with local farmers (depending on the season). Planting a native and food forests based on permaculture principles (from December 2022)
Engage with the Community: Deliver weekly English, art, sport and cooking classes with the local community. Engage with the locals during our monthly community café. Help organise our monthly language exchange event in the centre of Guaranda
Keep the Project Running Smoothly: Cooking shared meals (learning some local dishes!). Help with marketing and social media to raise awareness. Cleaning communal spaces.
Personal projects: As a popular project with big ambitions, we're looking for volunteers who can turn their professional skills to make a difference in the community. 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:
- Volunteer Coordination
- Business Development and Fundraising (Public, Private, Crowdfunding)
- Building, Carpentry, and Maintenance
- Gardening, Reforestation and Landscaping
- Community Engagement
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’s clean and has all the basics to help you feel at home. WiFi is available (we ask for US$3/month to cover costs), washing either done by a neighbour or by hand. We give each volunteer a toilet roll upon arrival, once used up you will need to buy your own.
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 definately throwing these off, so be ready for anything!
- Summer (Jun - Sep, around Christmas): hot sunny days (leading to water shortages), colder cloudless nights and often a strong wind.
- Winter (Feb - Apr): Often dry mornings and heavy rain in the afternoon. Less day/night temperature change and no wind.
- 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 sun screen. 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 cosey. Fortunately there are no mosquitos at this elevation!
With your time off, you can take a walk around any of the beautiful local trails around the communities, down to the river or jump in a taxi to savour the spectacular could-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 most infamous 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. Bolívar really has it all (minus the tourist traps!)
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+
Free: we provide lunch during work days and accommodation.
"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.