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, the Amazon Rainforest and the 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 whitewater raft and snorkel crystal blue waters 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.
40 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.
Air-conditioned, professionally-driven vehicles (from deluxe motor coaches to passenger vans).
Up to 21 participants.
• Work on a sustainable community project with MEDLIFE.
• Snorkel in the Galapagos Islands.
• Learn about subsistence farming in the Amazon Rainforest.
• Whitewater raft the Pastaza River.
• Straddle the Equator at La Mitad del Mundo - Center of the World.
• Help in the reforestation of the giant tortoise natural habitat.
• Visit Otavalo Market -one of the largest indigenous markets in Latin America.
• Hike and kayak Tortuga Bay.
Learn about the root causes of the issues facing the community. You’ll work hand-in-hand with local community members to create and work on sustainable solutions.
About MEDLIFE Founded in 2005, MEDLIFE works in undeveloped communities in Latin American and Africa to provide medicine, education and other community needs.
From a Jungle Lodge on the bank of the Napo River, participate with the Quechua on a community development project. Learn about subsistence farming from the indigenous people. Help locals with a project such as maintaining a nature trail.
About the Quechua Community
The Quechua people live in the Andean Highlands of Ecuador and other regions of South America. They speak the ancient language of Quechua, which was the ancient language of the Inca Empire.
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 the giant tortoise habitat, balance in ecology and help to plant indigenous trees.
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 TelefériQo gondola lift offering unrivaled views of the city and Pichincha Volcano.
Otavalo Market, locally known as Plaza de los Ponchos and Centenario Market is one of the largest indigenous markets in Latin America. It's the capital of Ecuadorian crafts and is rich in culture and history.
Enjoy the sights and sounds of the Amazon jungle. Visit a wildlife rescue center to see toucans, parrots, monkeys and jaguars. Spot even more wildlife during a float down the Napo River. Your welcoming hosts will show you how to make the local beverage “chicha” and challenge you in a blowgun target-shooting contest (don’t worry, a friendly one).
Travel high in the Andes to the small town of Baños. Whitewater raft down the thrilling Pastaza River and enjoy a beautiful hike to the Pailon del Diablo waterfalls. Stroll down Ambato Street choosing from many international restaurant options.
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.
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.
After your cruise to Bartolomé Island, hike the moon-like path to the highest point of this volcanic island. The reward is an amazing view over the islands Santiago, North Seymour, Baltra, Santa Cruz and Rábida.
Take a panga ride in search of penguins standing on the cliff and as you zip through the clear waters. Snorkel in Sullivan Bay, home to many reef fish, penguins and sea lions.
Take a relaxing cruise to Floreana Island, the first populated island of the Galapagos. Go to the highlands and feel how the real pirates must have felt in their old, dusky caves that they used in the 17th century as a hideaway. At the pier, playful sea lions, green sea turtles and penguins may pass by. You’ll snorkel one of the most exquisite marine areas of Galapagos, the bay located between the islets of Champion and Enderby. We'll be able to spot marine turtles, tropical fish and starfish.
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.
Amazon Jungle, Ecuador
Surrounded by rainforest, on the shores of the River Arajuno, the Liana Lodge is only reachable by boat. Experience the rainforest with indigenous guides and enjoy some chill time in your hammock in tropical surroundings. Your lodge forms part of the rainforest project “Selva Viva” and boasts its own protected forest and an animal rescue center. Every room has a private bathroom and all windows have mosquito meshes.
The Monte Selva Lodge offers comfortable rooms with TVs and Wi-Fi. The hotel facilities include basketball and volleyball courts, and a pool.
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, our staff will fly with you on a chaperoned flight to either south Florida and/or a NY/NJ area airport, determined in the spring. For those traveling from the New York area, we have a chaperoned flight back to NY. For travelers from outside these cities, we help you arrange transfers at suitable times after clearing customs and immigration in the USA.
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. We welcome discussing your individual requirements with you and have extensive personal 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’), Cotopaxi Lookout (15,700’) and Riobamba (9,000’). Travel to high altitudes can pose a serious risk of illness, particularly if you have a condition that affects circulation or breathing. 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!