International Volunteering and Gap Year Placements for 17 - 25 year olds
Visiting the Ecuadorian Cloud Forest
Posted on the 22nd May 2019
Hi, I’m Anna, one of Lattitude’s Volunteer Coordinators, for South America.
Back in March, I was lucky enough to be sent off to Ecuador to help our lovely Country Manager Rossy in the Quito office.
One of the highlights of my trip was visiting our volunteers at their placements in Cuenca, and in the Andean cloud forest community of Yunguilla. About a 1.5 drive outside of metropolitan, lively and vibrant Quito, you’ll find this stunning community, high up in the mountains of Ecuador. You’ll pass ‘Mitad del Mundo’ which is where there is the Monument to Ecuador. Here is where everyone goes for the famous Equator photo, but in fact it is not where the Equator lies, due to miscalculations! Here you can find exhibitions, museums about Ecuadorian culture and history, a beautiful church and lots of places to buy souvenirs. It’s worth stopping for a chocolate con queso– hot chocolate with bits of cheese, much tastier than it sounds, and a favourite of the Ecuadorians.
Winding up the roads to Yunguilla, you can’t miss the breath-taking views (and that isn’t just the altitude!) It really does feel like a stairway to heaven.
Here, Lattitude works with the community, to ensure that our volunteers are involved in projects that are supporting, and beneficially to them. The community of Yunguilla describes themselves as: “
“A mestizo community made up of over 50 families, located in the Calacali parish, DM Quito.
In 1995 we started the process of organizing a community and environmental project through reforestation. The project was helped by NGOs and with the help of international cooperation; productive and sustainable activities were put into place, such as working in organic vegetable farms, plant nurseries, craft workshops, and cheese (and other lactose products) and jam factories.
In 2000 the Yunguilla Microbusiness Cooperation was founded as the community organizational entity. In 2013 the municipality of Quito declared the zone as a conservation area, and sustainable living.” (Thanks to Reserve Yunguilla Conserving The Cloud Forest leaflet, provided by the Yunguilla community.)
Our volunteer placement in Yunguilla is a mix of teaching and conservation activities. Volunteers live in Yunguilla primarily, from Sunday night until Friday morning, staying with a host family. The Yunguilla host family changes every month, to give volunteers the experience of living with different families, and this ensures the volunteers are well assimilated into community life. Friday to Sunday afternoon volunteers are in Quito with a host family, who are often the families of volunteers currently in the UK. Volunteers will feel like they have gained another family and Ecuadorians are warm, friendly and caring people, who will go out of their way to make sure you’re comfortable.
Weekends in Quito can be spent relaxing, hanging out with your host family, or exploring the city. You won’t be stuck for things to do. You can visit the centro historico and see the many churches, museums and browse in the shops- keep your eyes peeled for the English book shop- great if you need some more literature for those Yunguilla evenings. Head up to Bella Vista to visit Guayasamin’s Capilla del Hombre (Chapel of Man) and home, Ecuador’s most famous, and controversial artist. Make sure you get to know some locals, who will show you the best places to see, and the most interesting things to do.
In Yunguilla volunteers have a mix of activities including teaching English in the primary school, teaching English to adults, and helping out on local projects, which have included mending roofs, helping in the organic vegetable patch, assisting in the elaboration of cheese and jams and creating pathways. It was fantastic to see how sustainable Yunguilla is becoming, using the vegetables from the organic vegetable patch in the food sold at their restaurant, where you could enjoy fresh produce, while looking over the forest.
Volunteers can gain many important skills here, that will help them with their future endeavours. Teaching and language skills, team work, flexibility and adaptability to name a few. Not many people would have a shared experience, so it’s a real talking point.
Yunguilla is an ideal place if you like the idea of mixing activities at your placement, and getting hands on and involved. It’s perfect if you want to spend some time away from technology, and to take a breather from busy city life. Here you can take in the stunning scenery, discover plenty of trails, and if you’re lucky, see the many different species of animals and birds hiding in the forest. Ask one of the locals for their fauna guide and checklist, and see how many you can tick off!
If you want a challenge, a new experience, some peace and perspective- Yunguilla is the placement for you.
If you want to know more, send us an email, or give us a call.
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