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Volunteering in Ecuador

Based in Ohio, USA, the non-profit Tandana Foundation offers opportunities for volunteers to travel to Ecuador and participate in various community development programs. Visiting a foreign country as a guest is far different from being there as a tourist, and volunteers have a host of heart-warming experiences and memories to treasure, knowing that they have made a difference in the lives of people they now call friends. The foundation's name is taken from a Kichwa root meaning "to unite" or "to gather together" and their focus is on creating and nurturing responsible relationships between people of different cultures where mutual respect and compassion lead to giving and receiving as communities.

A recent volunteer project saw thirteen keen gardeners from different parts of the United States spend a week in Ecuador where they shared their skills and knowledge working side-by-side with community members in Muenala, Achupallas and Guachinguero near the city of Otavalo. Among other things, the group cut 750 shoots from alder trees in the hills around Otavalo, potting them in topsoil at a tree nursery in Achupallas. In Muenala the volunteers participated in a minga (a day when community members work on a project together) where they planted 500 acacia trees.

In addition to working on gardening projects, the volunteers had the opportunity to tour a rose plantation in Otavalo, visit a private garden of an orchid grower near Quito, attend some cooking classes and discover interesting facts about medicinal trees and plants. They spent time at Otavalo's vibrant market and visited the town of Cotacachi which is renowned for its superb leather goods. After a visit to the equator the volunteers headed home, no doubt with many fond memories of their trip.

Other volunteer projects undertaken by the Tandana Foundation in 2014 included a week of medical work in Otavalo's rural communities, where five medical practitioners, a dentist and eight volunteers attended to a total of more than 900 patients. The group also took some time out to enjoy the culture, cuisine and natural beauty of their host country. In separate projects groups of students from Lakeside School of Seattle, Raymond High School in Alberta, Canada, University of Cincinnati, George Washington University and Miami Valley School in Dayton, Ohio, also participated in various community development projects, while learning firsthand about the fascinating culture, and experiencing the warm hospitality, of the people of Ecuador.


Ecuador's Spectacular Spotted Eagle Rays

The biodiversity of Ecuador's Galapagos Islands is well known internationally, particularly among nature lovers, and visitors are never disappointed in a tour of this amazing archipelago. The Galapagos Marine Reserve is listed among the world's best diving destinations, and for good reason as there are a number of sites for divers to choose from, most of which are suitable for all levels of experience. Marine creatures that divers are likely to see include hammerhead sharks, reef sharks, green sea turtles, sea horses, puffer fish, golden rays, manta rays, sting rays and spotted eagle rays, as well as a wide variety of mollusks and invertebrates.

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Catch Some Waves in Ecuador

With its coastline stretching over 2,237 km, Ecuador has many spectacular beaches where surfing is an all year round activity. Ecuador's mild climate, particularly in the northern regions, along with varying surf conditions, offer options suited to beginner surfers, experts looking for a challenge, and everyone in between. Because surf tourism is vital to the economic wellbeing of communities along the coast, surfers are assured of well-priced accommodation and warm hospitality, as well as expert tuition if needed.

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