In the mood for a little eco-travel and voluntourism? Brand spankin’ new programs in the field of international volunteering have just been launched… hurrah! United Planet, a leader in the field, has recently added to its offerings in the beloved country of resource rich Ecuador. United Planet is an international non-profit based in Boston that strives to create a world in which all people understand, respect, and support one another. Their global network of leaders and volunteers fosters cross-cultural understanding and addresses shared challenges to unite the world in a community beyond borders.
Over the past ten years, they’ve worked with local communities all over the world to find meaningful work for volunteer travelers; and have placed thousands of volunteers in those communities to live and work – for periods ranging from a week to a year. Volunteers may now work with wildlife/animals in the Amazon; indigenous people in the Amazon jungle; or in environmental conservation in the Galapagos.
These programs supplement the long-standing and popular programs in Quito and the Cloud Forest, where volunteers can work with children (teaching, childcare, working with at-risk youth);healthcare; or on environmental projects. We likey. Did we mention our father-in-law has lived there for the last 20 years. Ecuador is one of those still-off-the-beaten-track countries for mainstream tourists so it’s managed to hold onto it’s indigenous culture (and it’s inexpensive prices), unlike some it’s competitors.
Why are these new programs so great? you ask.
Because volunteers ‘get to experience more of Ecuador’s diversity,’ says Theresa Higgs, Vice President of Global Operations at United Planet. “United Planet is looking to provide its volunteers with new experiences in a variety of projects. Ecuador is a wonderful place for almost anyone seeking to volunteer: it’s easy to get to, the dollar is strong, and the people are famous for their warmth and hospitality. ”
At the Wildlife Project, volunteers have the opportunity to care for animals that have suffered from maltreatment or been victims of animal trafficking. Volunteers can work at an Animal Rescue Center and help protect the wildlife of Ecuador’s Amazon. Volunteers also have the opportunity to island-hop through the Galapagos. At Tortuga Bay, they can observe marine iguanas and turtles, sharks and hike through an ecologically diverse rainforest. If they’re looking to relax, volunteers can enjoy the stretches of white-sand beaches.
In Floreana, volunteers will be exposed to the history of the island, having the opportunity to explore caves once inhabited and used by pirates. Snorkeling in the crystal bay after a day of new discoveries in the caves is also available. At the Charles Darwin station, volunteers will continue to explore the history of the Galapagos and enjoy the clear-water that yields sights of reef sharks. There is also a chance to see colonies of Galapagos Penguins who have recently been relocated to this site.
So, I don’t know about you, but taking off to give and receive some Amazonian love sounds really good right about now.