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.