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 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.
50 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.
• Snorkel in the Galapagos Islands.
• Learn about subsistence farming in the Amazon Rainforest.
• River tube and canopy zip-line in the Mindo Cloud Forest.
• Help in the reforestation of the giant tortoise natural habitat.
• Whitewater raft the Pastaza River.
• Learn about childcare as you assist local daycare teachers.
• Hike and kayak Tortuga Bay.
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.
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 make a positive impact on the ecosystem of the Galapagos Islands by planting indigenous plants to restore native and endemic species, and by installing new water pipelines for the community.
About the Hacienda Tranquila Project
Hacienda Tranquila is a 50-hectare farm located in the highlands of San Cristobal Island. The property helps to rebuild and replenish the native habitat of the local environment by planting local species of plants from mainland Ecuador to help reconstruct the environment.
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.
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.
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).
Visit the San Cristobal Interpretive Center and snorkel among amazing marine life by Frigate Bird Hill and Darwin Bay. View the island landscape from Junco Lake formed in an extinct volcanic crater. Snorkel among playful sea lions at La Loberia Reserve and by sea turtles at Lobos Island. Sea kayak at Cerro Brujo. The huge volcanic formation of Kicker Rock is one of the best snorkeling spots of the Galapagos featuring king angel fish, starfish, rays, turtles, and colorful corals.
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.
The Monte Selva Lodge offers comfortable rooms with TVs and Wi-Fi. The hotel facilities include basketball and volleyball courts, and a pool.
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.
San Cristobal, Galapagos
The Grand Hotel Paraiso Insular, though basic, is clean, has internet, and all rooms have comfortable beds, private baths and air conditioning. It offers a nice patio with gardens and hammocks to enjoy where we can chill and laugh about the excitement of the fish we saw on our amazing snorkeling expedition or the sea lions we met!
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. 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’), Toacazo (10,500’), 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!