"Work that was meaningful and helpful to the community"

A volunteer interview with Sammy on his placement as a community worker and English teacher in Ecuador.

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How did you find the support you received before departure?

Because I had done a couple big trips on my own prior to volunteering with Latittude, some of the content in the briefing felt a bit redundant as I had many of the tools and felt relatively prepared to manage my expenses, homesickness and most obstacles I would encounter during my placement. What I liked about the briefing was getting to know other volunteers who I would be with and I also enjoyed meeting with a past Ecuador volunteer to ask any questions I had about their experiences while in the country. It was nice to talk to someone with first hand knowledge on cultural differences, how people act down there, common diets and things they found surprising/different while they were there.

Tell us about your placement and volunteer role.

I worked as an English teacher in the local school and with some of the adults in the community, in Comunidad de Yunguilla, Ecuador. I also worked doing various tasks around the community and on the community farm (gardening, cheese and jam production, cow milking, road and infrastructure work, cleaning of touristic facilities, some translation work).

What was the accommodation like at your placement?

Each month I lived with a different host family in the community, which was really nice because I got to know more of the families very well. On the weekends I lived in the capital of Ecuador, Quito, with another host family. In all of my accommodations I always had my own room and most of the houses were quite simple but nice.

What was the high point of your placement?

Working with the kids was so great. I felt really connected to each of them and had so much fun finding different ways to teach them and engage them in the English language. During my time in Ecuador, I also ended up organizing a dog rescue for a stray dog in the community that I ended up building a strong bond with. I sorted out all of his vet requirements and set up an adoptive family for him back in Canada. It didn’t end up working out with him and the family, and he eventually came to live with me in Victoria, which is fantastic :)

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What was the toughest part of your placement?

Sometimes it was tough because the community is so small; I had to find ways to entertain myself while with some of my placement families.

Do you have any advice you would offer to future volunteers at your placement?

I would say, consider bringing an e-reader as it is pretty quiet at night and dark so there isn’t always a lot to entertain yourself with. Also make sure you interact and get to know your family and participate in the community events and gatherings, they love to have a party or play volleyball (ecuavoley) on the weekends. 

What have you been up to since your return?

Over the summer I worked tons as a lifeguard and summer camp leader. In September, I started school in my hometown at the University Of Victoria and a few weeks into the 1st semester I tried out for the varsity rowing team and have been super busy between rowing and schoolwork.

Did you experience match up with your expectations? How did it differ?

I feel like overall my expectations for my volunteering placement were pretty in line with my experience. As someone going into environmental studies for university, I was excited to do some ecological/ecotouristic work in Yunguilla, as that is part of the work they do in the community. I think I did less of that work than I had anticipated but I felt like I was doing the work that was meaningful and helpful to the community so it was alright.

Do you feel you made a difference at your placement?

I felt like I was pretty helpful and I think it was useful for them to have some extra hands to do work in the different areas of the community. I also felt proud of the work I did with teaching English to some of the adults in the community; I felt like I was really able to help them in reaching their goals.