The past 3 weeks I had the privilege of working at a children’s summer camp in Quito, Ecuador. I’ve never been a camp counselor, and my experience with children is pretty limited, but for some reason I was really drawn to this opportunity. I knew I would get to speak Spanish and play with Ecuadorian children in various parts of a new city every day. Come on. How fun is that?! There were approximately 100 children, and my age group was 5-6 year olds.
I found the job through an international volunteer site called Workaway and decided it would be a great spot to start my South American travels. I worked as a camp guide (the kids called me “profe” which is short for “profesora”) from 8-1 M-F along with 7 other volunteers in exchange for free lodging and breakfast. It was a great decision since I met so many amazing people! Our group consisted of: Hannah from New Zealand, Ben & Heidi from New Zealand, Joass from Germany, Julius from United States, Lais from Brazil & Merlin from France, and me. Everyone got along really well. The 4 singles/solo travelers shared and room, and the 2 couples had their own rooms. Bunking with two guys wasn’t without its challenges, but it was a good way to ease into the hostel living situation only having 4 to a room versus 10-12 people in some hostels. Let’s just say I’m glad I have noise-cancelling headphones on this trip!
We took the kids to so many places around Quito: parks, pools, amusement parks, museums, movies, and more. We could only speak Spanish with the children, the local Ecuadorian guides, and the drivers. It was a wonderful way to immediately immerse myself in the culture upon arrival. I may not have all of my college level Spanish back yet, but it’s coming to me with practice!
Last week I said goodbye to the kids from camp and tried not to shed a tear as I parted with my favorites, including a girl who lives in an orphanage. Earlier in the week, I had the opportunity to visit this foundation. It was my first time visiting such a place so I didn’t know how I would handle it. I held back a some tears and managed to keep myself together and really enjoyed playing with the children. The grounds were nice and there seemed to be an excellent staff and several volunteers. The children were sweet, and each one had a unique story as to why he or she was there. I spent time with a lot of 1-2 year olds in their room, and then played with the older 4+ year old kids outdoors on the playground. The goal for some of these children is to be reunited with their parents one day once they are in a good place. Others have no longer have parents in the picture so they are waiting for new ones. I am no where near ready to have kids in my life right now, but if I do decide to have them one day, I would consider adoption. This experience really opened me to the idea.
I can’t believe my time in Quito is already coming to an end, but there is still so much to see in Ecuador! I could easily spend months here, and maybe I will. (90 days is the maximum allowed for tourism in one stay.) I will be continuing the next part of my journey with 3 of my new friends from New Zealand. First we will be trekking in the mountains around Quilatoa, and then we will be volunteering on the coast of Canoa where the 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck back in April. There, I will be sleeping in a tent on the beach and doing manual labor demoing and building bamboo houses. Definitely not city living. My internet will be spotty the next few weeks, but I hope to keep you updated on my travels periodically!
Have you done any international volunteering? Would you consider it?