Volunteer Review Cherise White in Ecuador Quito at the 3 Social programs
1- How was the local ABV Coordinator/staff and the support provided in-country?
The local ABV Coordinator/Staff and support were very welcoming and attentive to any of my needs. They addressed any concerns or questions promptly.
2- What was the most surprising thing you experienced?
I was surprised at how quickly my host family felt like my real family. They were very accommodating. I may not have always understood what was said in Spanish but at the same time I was still always apart of family activities and discussions. This is also true with the extended family. Within one week I met extended family from both sides of my host parents and it made this experience even richer.
Many individuals you pass on the street are impeccably dressed as if they all work at a corporate job. It was also possible to see at any given moment a person in traditional Ecuadorian dress or a young person with unique style and a bold look. Either way it was very impressive and reminded me it is always important to put your best foot forward when you can.
I was a little thrown off guard by the extremely fast paced traffic. When you get on a public bus it is essential to grab a railing because there is no time to waste for we have to get where we are going quickly. I knew I had to adapt quickly when I saw people of all ages including the elderly mastering the task of riding the public bus with ease even when it zoomed off.
3- What was the most challenging thing you experienced?
Program: A challenge for me that I didn’t prepare for unfortunately were environmental allergies. I did not struggle much with the higher elevation as I did with unknown allergies. This led to me changing one of my volunteer projects. However, I would not replace the experience I had in all three projects.
Country: A beautiful thing but challenge, is the constant sound of life. Meaning, whether I was at the host family, walking through the streets or near the school you will hear music, roosters in the early morning, church bells, traffic and honking all day, parties and best of all laughter while people congregated. There was beauty to the continuous sounds of life but at times I did miss the simplicity of silence.
4- Any tips for future volunteers… (clothing, travel, personal items, donations)
1. If you know you tend to have allergies to trees, grass but don’t know what types, bring allergy medicine anyways.
2. My limited time of three weeks was too short of a time to truly get a handle on the language, culture and the experience. I did not have more time due to grad school but if I could I would have stayed at least two months so I could truly feel emerged in the culture.
3. Visit museums and participate in the activities with the school. I enjoyed taking salsa classes and cooking classes. It was a great way to be around others from around the world. I met people from Switzerland, Jamaica, England, the United States and Germany.
4. Normally, in the U.S. I watch CNN to stay abreast of what is happening in the world. However, it was a different experience watching the local and international news with my host family daily at dinner. The manner and world lens in which the news is delivered here in Quito was eye opening and enlightening. I would suggest occasionally watching the news, if you can with a host family, to open your mind to how other’s experience trails and tribulations and how they may handle them. For example, during my three weeks I was able to learn a lot about the protests that have been occurring due to the people’s concern with the economic state of their country. It was informative to see the news coverage, hear the people say their peace and see the passion in their outcry to the president.
5.1-Other things volunteers should know before coming here:
a. I packed for all types of weather but I would have packed warmer pajamas. At the same time I love but dislike how quickly the weather here changes. I was often cold at night despite my host family offering three warm blankets.
b. Ladies if you normally wear a medium or large purse try to reduce when you come here. For safety purposes the less you take with you each day the better. If not, make a huge effort to always wear your purse in the front of you so it is positioned at your torso and always in your sight.
c. I forewent going on some of the school/agency’s weekend trips to be with my host family. It was the best decision. I experienced a family reunion, cookouts, going an hour and a half away to the countryside, going as a family to enjoy the festivities of Independence Day in Old Town and meals with extended family. All of which was worth not going on some of the weekend trips.
6- Personal Paragraph about the experience (ABV Program Testimonial):
I had an amazing experience within the short time I was able to volunteer. I loved basking in the breathtaking scenery. No picture could capture the essence of the mountains in Quito. Even though I wish they could, it made me absorb what I can in the moment.
ABV helped me every at every step of this journey. From the moment I submitted my application, to online chats, right before leaving the US, to arriving in Quito. It was extremely helpful to have pictures of my coordinator and host family before hand. It was comforting and stress reducing to have a visual of the first individuals you would meet and count on during your stay.
Overall, ABV is an excellent Organization that tries their best to meet your needs and go beyond your expectations.
7- How would you describe your accommodation, meals, security, friendliness, quality others:
My accommodations, meals and security were all of great quality. I believe the placement I received was with the right host family for me. Meals were adequate and timely. My host family was a wonderful security blanket; they would correct me if ever I did something that could potentially be unsafe such as always having my purse in the front of my torso in eye’s view.
8- What was your favorite memory of this trip?:
Program: In my second program I had the opportunity to go on a field trip with the children to swim. We went an hour away and went to a privately owned area that offered an aquarium, ponds where you could feed the fish, a playground, and a pool. The children I worked with had some form of mental or physical disability. Seeing the therapeutic aspect of the activities for the children and adults was an amazing moment for me.
Host Family: I enjoyed laughing with my host family. More often than not I was unable to understand stories told in their entirety. I understood enough Spanish to gather the main idea of most things said. However, the moments when I understood what was said, we would all share a hardy laugh and these moments with the family were amazing. It was the moment I could truly connect and it would make up for all the other stories I could not fully comprehend.
9- How was the ABV USA support prior traveling?
The ABV USA support prior to traveling was wonderful. My coordinator was Sarah and she answered any questions I had. On the chat online I received very prompt responses from Lori. Both of these ladies helped reduce any concerns or anxiety I had with the unknown of my approaching experience in Quito.
9.1- What do you think about the reservation system online?
The reservation system online is efficient especially with the timely responses from coordinators and staff if anything was entered or submitted incorrectly.
9.2- Who did you find Abroaderview website
I just happened to stumble across ABV by diligently searching abroad volunteer programs on the internet. I can now say I found the perfect organization for my first experience abroad.
10 – Are you willing to speak to other potential ABV volunteers?