Experience the natural beauty and cultural richness of South America on this summer volunteer program. Work on a diverse set of community service projects alongside locals in Quito, Riobamba and spectacular Galapagos Islands. This teen community service program in Ecuador and the Galapagos uses a service-learning framework tailored for high school students, where our staff provide guidance and reflection on the impact of the work we do throughout the program and promote the value of empathy and cultural sensitivity. When not volunteering, explore Quito – the first city to be declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO –, where you’ll straddle the Northern and Southern Hemispheres at the same time. You’ll be one of the privileged travelers to visit the Galapagos Islands where we explore the home of Darwin’s theory of evolution and observe many species of animals, including the giant tortoise. This program will also awaken your sense of adventure as we river tube and zip-line in the cloud forest and more!
About This Program
What It’s Like
The perfect balance of meaningful service projects, cultural immersion and unforgettable adventures.
This program requires an open mind to experience a different culture, new foods and comfortable hotels.
35 Service Hours
A certificate of completion detailing the program's service hours and projects will be issued after the trip.
Everybody participates together in each project. Specific projects are confirmed in late spring and are similar to those described.
A professional guide accompanies the group to assist, educate and immerse the students into the local culture.
Includes breakfast, lunch and dinner daily.
Includes all recreation & activities listed.
Chartered, air conditioned motor coach with a professional driver.
Up to 21 participants.
• Work on a sustainable community project with MEDLIFE.
• River tube and canopy zip-line in the Mindo Cloud Forest.
• Help in the reforestation of the giant tortoise natural habitat.
• Snorkel in the Galapagos Islands.
• Mountain bike down Chimborazo in Riobamba.
• Hike and kayak Tortuga Bay.
• Learn about childcare as you assist local daycare teachers.
• Visit La Mitad del Mundo - Center of the World.
You will help with a beautification project alongside local students. Play games and interact with the children as you exchange cultures.
About Quintiliano Sanchez
Quintiliano Sanchez is a public elementary school in the city of Quito that hosts 580 students between 4 to 12 years old. Public schools in Ecuador do not require fees to attend and are designed to be accessible to all students. Unfortunately, many schools struggle to maintain and improve their infrastructure after many years of little funding. The administration, parents and students of Quintiliano School are working to try and improve the state of their school.
You will learn and work across multiple projects at a center for children. Projects include assisting teachers in the daycare, helping with the construction of a storage room and improving the community garden.
About Semillas de Esperanza
Semillas de Esperanza is a center that supports the children of single mothers, people from the countryside and immigrants from Colombia who have experienced economic issues. The children receive nutritious meals throughout the day, educational classes, and regular medical check-ups. Parents of the children also benefit from the center as it allows them the freedom to earn an income during the day while having the peace of mind that their child is being well taken care of.
Take part in a development project that will directly benefit the community. Past MEDLIFE projects include installing modernized bathrooms, basic kitchen upgrades, and putting in fencing to separate farm animals from living quarters.
Founded in 2005, MEDLIFE works in undeveloped communities in Latin American and Africa to provide medicine, education and other community needs.
You will learn about balance in ecology and help to plant indigenous trees. We also work in the ranch’s garden where we plant seeds.
About Rancho Primicias
The goal of the Rancho Primicias Reforestation Project is to reforest the natural habitat of the Giant Tortoise as well as the endemic species of Darwin Finch.
From your hotel in the lively Mariscal District, visit the beautiful colonial area, zero latitude at La Mitad del Mundo (Center of the World) and ascend to 12,150’ aboard the Funicular offering unrivaled views of the city and Pichincha Volcano.
Get set for the extreme adrenaline rush of zip-lining 11,975’ over 12 cables above the cloud forest canopy. Hold on to your tube while riding the rapids of the Mindo River.
Be amazed in the Andes by Cotopaxi. An active volcano, Cotopaxi is one of the world’s highest volcanoes and is known for the lush and beautiful forest that surrounds it, as well as the glacier-covered summit. Hike to the refuge for an unforgettable view of Cotopaxi National Park.
Marvel at the views on a countryside bike ride at the foot of Chimborazo Mountain in the Andes.
Visit the most popular island and home of the Charles Darwin Center. Learn about the volcanic formation of the islands and the giant tortoise breeding program.
Hike to Tortuga Bay known for its beautiful white sand beach and multitudes of marine iguanas. Kayak in the mangrove protected saltwater cove and snorkel among amazing marine life. Climb, crawl and hike through natural lava tunnels and walk around the edge of Twin Craters. Snorkel the crystal blue waters and see abundant natural life.
The Hotel Embassy is strategically located in the lively Mariscal District, an exclusive area of the city near museums, galleries, theaters, historic city center, and other tourist attractions. Each room features Wi-Fi, phone and a safe.
With the symmetrical cone of Cotopaxi in the distance, Hosteria Simon is located just outside the town of Toacazo. It is a lovely wooden log cabin style lodge. The rooms are simple with bunk beds, bathrooms, and Wi-Fi. There’s a large lobby area with restaurant, wood-burning stove and comfy chairs.
This Spanish Colonial inspired Mansion Santa Isabella. hotel has stunning views of Chimborazo Mountain. Features include Wi-Fi, safes, and a restaurant serving both Ecuadorian and international dishes.
Santa Cruz, Galapagos
The Villa Laguna is a three-story hotel set in front of a fresh-water pool. The rooms have Wi-Fi and are clean & comfortable with spaces to take in the majesty of the islands. Poolside, there are plenty of spaces to lounge in the rich Galapagos breeze.
Flight to Quito, Ecuador
Participants on this program have the option of joining us on a chaperoned flight from our departing USA city (Fort Lauderdale or Miami to be finalized in the spring) directly to Quito. We strongly recommend this option to Quito. Our staff will be with you from the time you check-in onward. We arrange flights from other cities to connect into the departing city. From New York, we typically have 1 leader flying with participants from the area to the departing city depending on how many are from New York. Check with us on your departure date. If you decide to meet us in Quito, we will help you coordinate your flight and times and greet you as you proceed through immigration and customs.
Separate from the airfare to and from this program, there is an additional $495 USD fee for internal flights between the Galapagos Islands and Quito.
Return Flight Home from Quito, Ecuador
For your return from Quito, we offer a chaperoned flight back to the USA. You may choose to join that flight and arrange transfers (if required) at suitable times after the group has cleared customs and immigration in the USA; or you may fly from Quito to your home city and our leaders help you to check-in and remain in the airport until flights in designated times have departed.
Where We Stay
We carefully select clean and comfortable accommodations with the needs of our students in mind. While our volunteer programs do not stay at luxury resorts, we do know that a good night’s rest, in your own bed, is key to performing your service hours well and having enough energy to enjoy the day’s activities. For this reason, and also to maintain the close group bond and to uphold the quality of this program, we do not offer any homestays.
Meals & New Cuisines
Eating well while away from home is an important part of a summer’s success. Part of your travel experience will be immersing yourself in the local cuisine and culture so please bring with you an open mind and a willingness to try new things. For example, in Ecuador the food will be a mix of “typical food” including chicken, beef, potatoes and of course ceviche, and other great local options. They also have North American style options on the menu.
We have satisfied the choosiest of eaters and gladly accommodate most special dietary requests including vegetarian, anaphylactic food allergies, lactose intolerance, celiac disease, and kosher style. We welcome discussing your individual requirements with you and have extensive experience in this area.
On this program we will have large containers of clean water for you to fill up your own water bottles as needed.
We recommend you follow the advice of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and consult with your physician for current immunizations and medication required for travelers to Ecuador. These recommendations may change from time to time. We will send you detailed information in March (or upon enrollment if later) regarding the current recommendations for this itinerary.
This program travels to high altitudes when in Quito (9,350’), Toacazo (10,500’), Cotopaxi Lookout (15,700’) and Riobamba (9,000’). Travel to high altitudes can posea serious risk of illness, particularly if you have a condition that affects circulation orbreathing. All travelers, even if very healthy, will feel symptoms of hypoxia (lack of oxygen) upon arrival at high-altitude. That is normal. Adjustments to high altitude may not even correlate with how great shape you are in – a marathoner may suffer while a “couch potato” is fine. Most participants will have increased respiration and increased heart rate and need time to adjust. Our schedule considers the change in altitude and allows participants to acclimate before beginning any strenuous activity. If concerned, please call us to review your circumstances and we strongly recommend that you discuss this with your doctor prior to departure as they may recommend the use of a medication that assists with altitude adjustment.
You will only need one week’s worth of clothing as outlined in the packing list that will be sent to you prior to departure. You will have the opportunity to do laundry at your convenience by dropping off your laundry at a local wash and fold service and then pick it up clean, folded and ready to go.
Included in your program tuition is all lodging, breakfast, lunch and dinner daily, recreation & entertainment listed, airport transfers in designated times, gratuities & taxes.
Not included is transportation to and from the program, internal flights, and personal spending money for snacks, souvenirs, and laundry. We also make available optional travel insurance that is not included, but highly recommended.
Please contact us with any questions. We are happy to hear from you!