Ecuador

Global Crossroad

I am a seventeen year old girl who went to Quito, Ecuador for 2 weeks (July 22nd-August 7th, 2012). I have been to Ecuador before (2006 for a month for an adoption). Ecuador is a beautiful and vibrant nation with a lot of history, beauty, and culture. However, this program was not what was claimed. On the Global Crossroad website, it claims that there are 4 projects in Ecuador, plus a 2 week "mini-venture". The options listed are teaching English in a rural school, volunteering in an orphanage, volunteering with street children, and health/medical volunteering.
Of those four, only one was actually in Ecuador, and there was one that I ended up being stuck in that is not listed.
Two other volunteers came down to Ecuador for the teaching English project in Quito. We were all told that our number one option for project choices was completely possible, and that is where we would be. They will say anything to get you down there and spend money! Despite the fact that the organization knew about the other volunteers coming down MONTHS in advance, they never told the other volunteers that the rural school (actually not rural) is on summer vacation, and so therefore, they were not doing what they had paid to go to do. I signed up for the orphanage project. There was an orphanage project in Ecuador up until a week before I went to Ecuador but the orphanage was so badly run and corrupt that the Ecuadorian government shut down the orphanage and seized the kids, who were then put into 2 different Ecuadorian state-run orphanages. Why were any volunteers in a horrible orphanage anyway? In the new orphanages, the volunteers have not been allowed to go (as order from the officials of Ecuador) because it is bad to have so many people coming and going in the orphanage. The orphanage that was shut down had many problems, such as taking large sums of money from donations, incorrect staffing, and general issues.
There is no "volunteering with street children". That is not in Ecuador at all.
The hospital project was the only one that was correct as listed, but you must have medical training to join that project.
So as a seventeen year old high school student, I was not able to join ANY of the above projects. I was also not told this until AFTER I was in Ecuador and AFTER I had paid all of the program fees. I ended up being sent to a day care, called Retoñitos, to work in Quito with 70 kids under the age of 5. I loved the day care and the staff there, but it was not why I had gone down to Ecuador.
Another issue was my coordinator. The Ecuador coordinator is Jose Aguirre. I was told before I went to Ecuador that I would be met at the airport in Quito when I arrived by Jose (and/or his staff) with a sign with my name on it. I was also told that I would be provided with transportation to my host family's house.
When I got to Quito, it was 1 am, and after a long wait through customs and immigration, I was met by a man, who I knew nothing about, who didn't speak English, who was holding a sign with my name on it (which was spelled horribly). He was not able to tell me where we were going or what I was supposed to do. He didn't speak any English, but I was led into the back of a large van with another woman. We drove through Quito at 1:30 in the morning with a man who couldn't tell me where I was going. I had no information about my host family at all. They ended up dropping me at my host family's apartment, and charged me 15 dollars (which in Ecuador is a lot). This was supposed to be included in my program fees. Jose didn't help me at all while I was in Ecuador. I went to the day care with another volunteer, who helped me to get around. Jose was no help at all. I also needed a form filled out for my school, and Jose refused to fill out the form until I told him that I would have it translated and I would send it to the day care instead of him, and then he relented.
My host family was another issue all together. I was told that my host family would be friendly, and have safe meals, as well as be in a safe location. My host family was anything but friendly, another volunteer and I were often sick because of the meals, and I was later informed (by a friend of mine who works with the Ecuadorian government and lives in Quito) that the area I was staying in was anything but safe. Considering that another volunteer was robbed at knifepoint (before dark, while walking the less than one block from the Spanish school to our host family's house) while I was there, I'd have to agree that the area wasn't safe.
This all being said, I don't think that Global Crossroad is a bad company, nor was my project terrible. I think that the Ecuador program is awful and that it is not worth its money, but not because of the day care. Retoñitos was great, just not what I paid for. If you do end up going to Ecuador and you like kids, Retoñitos is a great option, just not what I paid for or wanted. I will not be recommending it to anyone. Global Crossroad IS a company, and therefore, the money aspect is important (obviously). I just wish they had provided accurate information, because it seems as though my family and I were mislead at every step of the way. I might try Global Crossroad again, but not through the Americas, and definitely not through Ecuador. The staff in the States were absolutely as accommodating as possible, and I might try through an African or Asian program, but as for Ecuador, I wouldn't recommend it to anyone.

Program: Volunteer Abroad
Location: Ecuador
Posted: Aug 8, 2012
Overall:
5
Support:
4
Value:
5

Comments

Wow, this is a bit disturbing! I was just about to book flights for my 17 yr old daughter and have been corresponding with the same coordinator. We picked Ecuador as ease of access from Canada, a little more English spoken, and accomodating responses for a 17-18 yr old traveling alone. This experience might not be a concern for me, but for her first trip.....Guess more research is required.

Frontier

I wanted to travel Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia to see the main sites which the countries offered in each. The Frontier trip looked like it offered that, and it exactly did. I really enjoyed seeing that part of the world, there were some beautiful places - although the photos you take just don't do it justice. The trip was well organised and the itinerary was flexible enough for you to chose which places you would like to visit on a day to day basis (provided there was enough time). 1 month however is not long enough to explore these 3 countries, but I suppose one will always want more time in a country than they are given. I highly recommend this company for what they offered. Awesome experience.

Program: Gap Year
Location: Bolivia, Ecuador, Peru
Posted: Aug 2, 2012
Overall:
8
Support:
8
Value:
10

International Volunteer HQ (IVHQ)

I just got back from my great adventure in Quito, Ecuador with the Street Children Program with the organization UBECI, United to Benefit Ecuadorian Children, International. I thought it would be somewhat difficult because I do not speak Spanish but the people at UBECI especially Byron and Monica will make you feel like you are part of their family and the family at UBECI. In this program, you are allowed to take spanish lessons at a small charge. The lessons were very helpful especially when you are imeresed in the language outside of the lessons which is the most helpful. The volunteering is very rewarding where you will see first hand the markets where the children work to interact and play with the children. Volunteering with the children was the best portion of my trip where they will make you laugh and put a smile on your face. The great people at UBECI go above and beyond to make you feel like you are back home ranging from setting up cheap rides to different parts of the country including Middle of the world, Octavalo, and Banos to simply having dinner or dancing in their living room. If you want a great adventure with the greatest people including the staff, volunteers and especially the children, go to Quito and see for yourself how awesome UBECI and the Ecuadorian program is. You will enjoy it and love it. If you have any questions, please contact me at aroccofive@yahoo.com. Safe Travels.

Program: Volunteer Abroad
Location: Ecuador
Posted: Jun 30, 2012
Overall:
9
Support:
10
Value:
10

Comments

Thank you for taking the time to share your review of our Ecuador program. Great to hear you took advantage of the Spanish language lessons and had such a rewarding volunteering experience :)

International Volunteer HQ (IVHQ)

If I only had one word to describe my experience here in Ecuador, it would be incredible. UBECI is such an amazing program run by outstanding people. The directors, Byron and Monica are some of the most selfless people I have ever met. Everything they do is for the kids and that is exactly what we do here in Ecuador, we volunteer for the children. I’ve been volunteering with the Street Children Program for three weeks (I am here for a total of 4 weeks) and I love every moment. The kids are so happy to see you and even though there could be a language barrier it doesn’t matter to them. Your presence is what makes the different. Being a nonprofit in a developing country, UBECI needs volunteers’ year long and they welcome you with open arms any day of the year. I am so thankful I’ve had the opportunity to work for such an amazing organization that supports, teaches, and changes lives every day. I recommend Ecuador-UBECI 110%.

Street Children Program
Quito, Ecuador
May 31st, 2012 - June 28th, 2012

Program: Volunteer Abroad
Location: Ecuador
Posted: Jun 19, 2012
Overall:
10
Support:
10
Value:
10

Comments

Thanks for your recommendation we will be sure to pass on your kind words to our local staff. Thanks for volunteering with IVHQ.
Hi! I was hoping you could contact me so that I can ask a few questions about your experience? michelle.tappert@mail.mcgill.ca Thank you :)

Experiential Learning Ecuadorian Programs

+++ WARNING - REVIEW POSTED BY PROGRAM STAFF FROM ELEP+++ THE FOLLOWING REVIEW HAS BEEN POSTED BY PROGRAM STAFF FROM ELEP. REVIEWS TO BE ONLY POSTED BY PARTICIPANTS - NOT COMPANIES. PLEASE SEE COMMENTS BY ABROAD REVIEWS ADMIN BELOW +++ I want to thank ELEP for looking after our 17 year old son so well during his 3 week trip this summer to Ecuador. As parents, we were obviously concerned about him travelling alone to Ecuador, getting to his final destination, and being looked after well. I have to say that ELEP provided the utmost care, and an excellent program for Cosmo. You met Cosmo at the airport on arrival, accompanied him on the bus ride to the village where he stayed with a very welcoming and caring host family. Each day he did volunteer construction work in the morning and then had one on one spanish lessons in the afternoon. Overall we wanted him to be immersed in family life, volunteer and meet others from around the world, further his spanish, appreciate life and have fun. ELEP succeeded, Thank you. I will strongly recommend you to my friends, and please share our experiences with other potential volunteers.

Richard Sparshatt

Program: Volunteer Abroad
Location: Ecuador
Posted: Mar 18, 2012
Overall:
0
Support:
0
Value:
0

Global Vision International (GVI)

My experience with GVI in 2009 was one that I will never forget, not only was it a dream that became a reality to go to the Amazon, it opened by eyes to the innate beauty of the rainforest that so desperately needs conserving.

My time in the Ecuadorian Amazon was once a distant dream from a young age, but from the first night in the jungle where we were welcomed with an extreme downpour (in true rainforest style) and encountered a giant earthworm by the toilets, I fell in love with the jungle and its truly awe-inspiring sights and sounds. There and then, I knew I’d embarked on one of the most exciting adventures of my life, with an eagerness to help in conservation of amphibians, birds, butterflies and every wonderful thing I never knew existed, which has no doubt enforced my hunger to continue in this field of wildlife and environmental preservation in studying Zoology at University at present.

I made some lifelong friends, and got the opportunity to join in with something to be proud of, the staff were friendly and enthusiastic, it was easy to understand why! And so for that I thank GVI for giving me such a memorable experience.

Program: Gap Year
Location: Ecuador
Posted: Feb 29, 2012
Overall:
9
Support:
9
Value:
8

GeoVisions

If you want a no hassle trip to see the sights in a foreign country, by all means book a sightseeing tour. Your every waking minute will be pre-planned and you'll see the sights.

If you're interested in seeing the sights, getting to know the people, really experiencing the culture, and doing some good to boot, then volunteering to "teach" English combined with a home stay is a good choice.

I was in Ecuador for 2 months on the GeoVisions Conversation Partner program, living with a family and teaching English at the Wall Street Institute. My teaching consisted of being a conversation partner for students studying English. To get the conversation started, I would simply ask why they wanted to study English and from that point the conversations just took off, sometimes in very unexpected directions. I even had a session where I baked oatmeal raisin cookies with the students. Laughter punctuated every session and the students were all very eager learners. I also certainly learned a lot about the country, the people and the culture.

GeoVisions made sure my workload was such that I had plenty of opportunities to see the sights. On my way to Ecuador I visited Macchu Pichu. While in Cuenca I spent countless hours exploring the beautiful el Centro, the old colonial downtown, as well as the more modern neighborhoods. I was able to steal away for a few days for a trip to the Galapagos Islands where I snorkeled with sea turtles and walked among the blue footed boobies. I took a guided bus tour of Cuenca as well as a tour of the magnificent Parque Nacional Cajas where I hiked at 12,500 feet. But I also used the local buses, on my own, to visit lovely little towns just an hour or so east of Cuenca, and for a return trip from Quito to Cuenca.

Every time I boarded a city bus, crossed a busy street, asked for directions, or sat behind some folks who were smoking while attending a Mariachi concert, I experienced the culture. I visited most every museum and attended a free Symphony Orchestra performance that I discovered quite by chance. I watched parades and fireworks displays at local celebrations. I walked through local markets and ate at local restaurants.

My host family embraced us like long lost relatives. They included me in all their family activities including a trip to the country side with a Grandmother where we made humitas, a favorite local dish best described as an Ecuadorean tamale. When I felt a bit under the weather, they brought herbal tea to my room. And mealtime was a time for sharing experiences and laughing until our sides hurt, all this with benefit of being fluent in each others language.

I did a bit of good. And I had a great time! GeoVisions program exceeded my dreams. I heard from them twice during my program and I would not hesitate to use them again. This was simply the trip of my lifetime.

Program: Volunteer Abroad
Location: Ecuador
Posted: Jan 4, 2012
Overall:
10
Support:
9
Value:
10

United Planet

United Planet went above and beyond for our group of nursing students who spent ten days in Quito, Ecuador. They managed our logistics -- from planning through traveling through fun excursions -- flawlessly.

We were a big group, spread out through 3 medical projects. We got to do some real work -- helping deliver babies, doing intake, doing vaccinations -- and we got to observe many different practices.

We also had a lot of fun -- salsa dance class, excursions to Otavalo for shopping and an indigenous clinic, Spanish lessons, parties, and more.

The country coordinator was great -- he picked up us and our giant boxes of medical supplies from the airport; helped sort them out; and delivered them to the best medical projects. He made sure we had language help, good food, nice accommodations, and more.

From the home office to the hostel, it was all professional and a great experience.

Program: Volunteer Abroad
Location: Ecuador
Posted: Nov 23, 2011
Overall:
10
Support:
10
Value:
10

Experiential Learning Ecuadorian Programs

I cannot deter you from this program enough. It was one of worst experiences of my life. Having traveled extensively in South America and being well versed with the culture and customs of third world countries, I had low expectations for living conditions, etc. However, I was willing to live a less than luxurious lifestyle for an adventure and a learning experience as a medical volunteer in a spanish-speaking country. Hell is what I got.

Let me start with the beginning of my trip when Patricio Nunez was 2 hours late to pick me up from the airport. My flight arrived at 10:30 pm so I was waiting alone and outside until after midnight. I had his phone number, but no phone to use. Luckily, a very nice Ecuadorian let me use her cell phone to call Patricio. In the next couple of days, Patricio was extremely hasty for money. I understand that programs need the money to support the volunteers, but I wanted to get to my final destination of Puerto Lopez (to make sure it wasn't a scam) before sending the money. I also had a lot of questions about the final price that he had given me, because when I calculated it the price was supposed to be 300 less than what he was asking. However, he was insistent enough that I gave him the money but told him we needed to discuss the price. He agreed that he had overcharged me and said he would refund the 300 dollars, and never did.

My host mom Liz Bermeo is crazy. I know this sounds like an empty insult and like someone is just venting, but there is no other way to describe her actions. I was in Ecuador for 6 months and met 10 other volunteers that stayed in the house with me. Out of those 10, only 2 left content. The other 8 left early because they were so upset, or left in tears, or left infuriated.

We were not allowed to be out of the house past 10:30 because Liz said she didn't want us to awaken her with the noise of our arrival past 10:30. If we arrived past curfew, she would lock us out of our rooms. One time two volunteers were outside in the hammocks at 11 pm and she threw a bucket of water of them (and then hid). In the morning they confronted her and at first she denied it, then she passed it off as a joke.

We were told that our money would provide all three meals, but the job in which they placed me was an hour away, so I asked if I could take my lunch, and she told me that the only thing she would make me every day was an egg sandwich. I asked if I could just have leftovers from dinner the previous night, and she told me I wasn't allowed, so I ate the egg sandwiches sometimes and the other days I had to pay for my lunch again when I had already paid for it in my host family's house.

We lived in a village of 400 people, and being the only blonde in the village, obviously everyone knew who I was. Liz apparently took a disliking to me (I honestly do not know why, because I am a rule-follower and do not usually have problems getting along with others) and spread rumors that I slept around and was a pot-head (I heard this rumor from multiple of my friends in the village, and it always traced back to her. Even her son told me that he had told him as well). Rumors are hurtful in general, but the fact that I do not smoke pot at all and am a virgin, these blatant lies that tarnished my reputation were hard to handle.

Liz is extremely racist, and the two very sweet black and indian volunteers that stayed there got the brunt of her ignorant behavior.

Many of the volunteers had problems with their volunteer placements and were not positioned where they had been promised. They barely got any help from the program with their volunteer positions, and it is clear that the first thing on their minds is money.

I was one of the unfortunate ones that left deceived, betrayed, stolen from, and completely devastated.

She did countless other things, but let me get to the worst part. I was raped by the doctor under whom they had me working. I do not blame this on them, and know that ELEP is in no way responsible for this happening. However, I did expect their help and support when possible. Not only did they fail to help me, but during such a traumatic time, Liz Bermeo and Patricio made the hellish ordeal even worse. Firstly, I told Liz what had happened and that I was going to report it. She patted me on the back and said, "Oh, I'm sorry. You'll be ok." She then told the others in the house that she thought I was lying. I was worried that the doctor might come looking for me, so I asked her to tell him that I was out of the house in the case that he came by. This worst case scenario happened, and as I laid shaking, balling, and terrified in my closet, I heard someone coming up the stairs. She led him right to my room and tried to let him in, but I had the door locked from the inside. She then went downstairs to wash dishes as my rapist harassed me for 30 minutes just a couple of days after the attack. When he had finally left, I went and asked her why she had done that, and she said she didn't know I was home, even though I had been downstairs eating breakfast a mere 15 minutes prior. Even if I hadn't been home, there is absolutely no reason a grown man should be allowed to peruse a young female volunteer's room upon request. I was so traumatized that I could barely function, and the other volunteer that was with me looked at me and simply said, "you know you can't stay here anymore. We're leaving." So I packed my things and was gone from the house and village in which I had lived for 6 months after only 20 minutes. The other volunteer had been having troubles in the house as well, and watching my host mom betray me so deeply for no reason pushed him over the edge. I tried to contact Patricio multiple times a day over the next two weeks until I finally got someone on the phone saying he was on vacation in Peru. I'm not saying he can't go out of town, but considering the fact that he has so many volunteers in his program spread throughout the country, maybe he should have someone check the phones or provide an emergency number...you know, in case someone has to leave their host house unexpectedly because their host mom has put them in physical danger.

I was now in an unfamiliar city, with no contacts other than the government victims' protection agency, and I was weary of trusting them since a relative of my attacker had a connection in the office and had prematurely informed him that I was pressing charges, thus greatly compromising my safety. I had to then go through legal processes of which I knew nothing, and in Spanish. I know that programs aren't expected to drop everything to help one person, but I didn't think that returning my phone call was too much to ask.

Ecuador is beautiful and I made some great friends, but everyone I met that was associated with ELEP helped make my life a living hell. They stole hundreds of dollars from me, they are extremely disorganized and they offer you no support when you are in need (whether it be with your volunteer position, general advice, or when you have been attacked by the boss under whom they had you volunteering). No matter what my host mom's opinion of me was, if I tell her that someone has attacked me and request that she simply tell him I am out of the house, there is no reason what so ever that she should, instead of sending him away, lead him up to my room and allow him to terrorize me. I know that my circumstances are unique, but that does not change the fact that out of 10 people I met that stayed in the house, only 2 didn't leave completely upset with Liz and Patricio and ELEP in general. Even if my traumatic event hadn't happened, the constant mistreatment I got from my host mom and the complete neglect from Patricio would be enough for me to highly discourage anyone from ever using ELEP.

My story and the stories of two other volunteers has led the American consulate to investigate Liz Bermeo and ELEP in general. A worker from the consulate witnessed first hand the horrible treatment from my host mom.

I know for a fact that even after those 8 people had complained about Liz Bermeo and her treatment of the volunteers, they continue to place people in her house. The problem isn't just with one host family, but with the leaders of ELEP as well. The only positive memories I have of Ecuador are those that do not involve ELEP or my host family in any way.

I am just one of many volunteers that was stolen from, mistreated and endangered by ELEP.

Program: Volunteer Abroad
Location: Ecuador
Posted: Oct 12, 2011
Overall:
0
Support:
0
Value:
0

Comments

Hello, I am Patricio Fernandez, the founder of ELEP Volunteer & Internship Programs. ELEP is a reputable and worthy organisation andhas been in operation for over 14 years, and earnestly endeavors to provide quality service and to arrange safe, enriching experiential learning opportunities on behalf of all of its participants. Further, I affirm that it is my and ELEP's belief and practice that all persons are equal and should be treated with respect. The internet and social media are powerful tools. Unfortunately, a small few seize these tools to unfairly malign the names and reputations of others without cause. While we cannot do anything to prevent others from making statements that are not true, we are more than happy to share contact information for volunteer/intern references-- past and present -- with anyone who is interested in participating in a quality volunteer or internship experience in Ecuador. If you require any further clarification, please do not hesitate to contact us: programs@elep.org Sincerely, Patricio Fernandez

Global Vision International (GVI)

I have recently returned from a conservation expedition in the Ecuadorian Amazon rainforest, where day to day life consisted of rainforest walks and surveying mammals, birds, amphibians and reptiles.
The biodiversity of the rainforest was incredible, from the sweet understory birds to the birds of prey, and from the grand Kapok tree to the shy Mimosa, the Amazon is certainly a sight to behold!
I feel that this experience was enhanced for me due the species identification training I received upon arriving at base camp. This in turn enabled the volunteers to be valuable assets to the research that was carried out on the reserve. My time spent on the expedition was so enjoyable I have since begun studying Zoology at university.

Program: Volunteer Abroad
Location: Ecuador
Posted: Sep 28, 2011
Overall:
10
Support:
10
Value:
10

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