Volunteer Name: Whitney Burnett
Project Location: Quito, Ecuador
Program Dates: May 18, 2013- June 16, 2013
Volunteered At: Centro de Salud
How was the local ABV Director and the support provided in-country? - Laura was AMAZING! I was greeted in the airport by Laura and her husband Vicente and although my Spanish wasn’t very good when I arrived, they explained everything clearly to me and made sure I felt comfortable. The following day, Laura took me to her office where I talked with Karen about the project I would be working in. Karen speaks great English and I could understand everything she was explaining to me. The purpose of my trip was to do a medical mission/Spanish immersion, and after hearing about the project I was supposed to volunteer in, it wasn’t what I was expecting. I shared my feelings and concerns with Karen and she immediately looked into other projects that I would be more interested in volunteering in. Great service!
What was your favorite memory of this trip?- I think my favorite part was spending time with Laura and her family. I remember one night that her daughter, Alison, and I sat at the kitchen table doing our homework. She helped me with my Spanish, and I helped her with her English…it was perfect!
What was the most difficult thing you experienced? - The hardest thing for me was not being able to express myself as well as I wanted, due to my lack of Spanish skills. By the end of my 4 week trip, I felt as though my Spanish really improved and I could finally tell my host family, and the doctors I was working with, how grateful I was to have this experience.
What was the one thing you wished you were better prepared for?- I felt pretty prepared for my trip. I tried to keep an open mind and go with the flow and I think that really helped. Also, I tried to speak up when I needed help or wasn’t sure about something, and I think that kept me from getting frustrated or annoyed.
Any tips for future volunteers… (clothing, travel, personal items, donations, sightseeing etc) - I thought Quito would be a lot warmer than in was! I went in May and needed a sweatshirt or raincoat almost everyday. Also, I HIGHLY recommend taking weekend trips whenever you can! Ask your host family about what buses to take (very easy and super cheap), and stay at a local hostel (also easy, cheap, and I felt very safe). While I was in Quito, I took weekend trips to Banos, Otavalo, and Mindo and loved them all! Also, honestly, the first week is hard if you don’t speak a lot of Spanish, but it honestly gets easier every day. I took my dictionary with me everywhere I went and tried to write down new words or phrases that I didn’t know whenever I heard them. My best advice is: Do NOT be afraid to make mistakes when it comes to Spanish…just put yourself out there and go for it!
Personal Paragraph (ABV Program Testimonial): - I will be forever grateful for my experience in Ecuador. A Broader View and the director of the volunteer program in Quito (Laura) were extremely helpful and I really appreciated the fact that ABV took the time to check in with me after I arrived there. My host family was centrally located, making it extremely easy to take the bus or walk to anywhere in the city. They also advised me on safety measures I needed to take, made sure I enjoyed the food they were preparing for me in the house, and were very patient and instrumental in helping me learn Spanish. ABV is a great company and they will go out of their way to make sure you have the experience you hoped for!
Are you willing to speak to other potential ABV volunteers?- Of course!