Volunteer Name: Shannon Hegemann
Project Location: Quito, Ecuador
Volunteered at: Children Center
1- How was the local ABV Coordinator and the support provided in-country?
I couldn’t have asked for a better ABV Coordinator. Laura went above and beyond to help me and the other volunteers have the best experience possible. While I enjoyed my time volunteer with my kids and helping with the speech therapies, Laura also put me in contact with her friend who’s an anesthesiologist and I was able to shadow her at the hospital a couple times. I believe Laura sincerely had my best interest at heart.
2- What was the most surprising thing you experienced?
I was surprised to build such strong relationships with the kids. There were a few days where we went on field trips and took the kids to pool therapy or canine therapy and I was assigned to be a “mom” for the day. I was able to gain a unique perspective on how difficult it would be to raise a special needs kid, but also how much unconditional love they have to offer.
3- What was most difficult to experience?
The first week was difficult in regards to learning the language. At the program I had to ask my supervisors to repeat themselves a lot or to speak slower so that I could understand what they were asking me to do. But as my Spanish grew stronger with the help of my daily Spanish classes and speaking with my host family, my confidence also grew and I was able to communicate easily with my supervisors and even the kids.
4- Any tips for future volunteers… (Clothing, travel, personal items, donations)
If you’re planning on doing any traveling outside of Quito, such as to Cotopaxi or other volcanoes, I recommend bringing warm clothes like gloves, a hat, and definitely comfortable pants and a rain jacket/wind breaker. I would also recommend bringing a smaller backpack for weekend trips that you can fit a few days’ worth of clothes in.
5.1-Other things volunteers should know:
a. Try to speak Spanish as much as possible in the house with the host family; this will definitely enhance your comprehension and speaking abilities
b. When walking around during the day, and especially at night, try to pack lightly
6- Personal Paragraph (ABV Program Testimonial):
My time here in Ecuador hasn’t been what I expected. I didn’t think I would love my kids so much, or that I would make such incredible friends with the other volunteers, or that I would find a new family. But I did. I am so thankful for the love that my host family has shown me every day. I have enjoyed the family and Ecuador so much and hopefully I will return to visit again.
7- How would you describe your accommodation, meals, security (e: host family, on-site, shared)
My meals and accommodations have been wonderful. All of our meals are homemade, unless I decide to find food elsewhere on the weekends. The living situation was more than I what I was expecting, with our own rooms and a nice common area for everyone to play games and chat, I felt completely safe walking around the city by myself.
8- What was your favorite memory of this trip?
I can’t pick one favorite memory, after being here for eight weeks it’s impossible for me to do so. But I always enjoyed our family dinners together every night. They were always filled with laughter and smiles and everyone sharing stories from their day. It made Ecuador feel like home.
9- How was the ABV USA support prior traveling?
The USA ABV support was perfectly adequate. If I had questions, they were quick to answer them.
10 – Are you willing to speak to other potential ABV volunteers?