A Group Quest to Ecuador with Louisiana State
At the end of May, I had the great pleasure to travel on a Quest to Ecuador with a group of 12 volunteers from Louisiana State University. Because I work in the marketing department of United Planet, I get to hear about Quests all the time, but this was my first time experiencing one for real – and I understand now why our volunteers say that it is life-changing. I want to share a little window into the experience with you. As always, a big thank you to the volunteers from Louisiana State volunteers for welcoming me into their group!
Our first day
We started off our time in Ecuador with a tour of the capital city of Quito. We visited some beautiful old churches in the Old Town, learned a lot about Ecuadorian history and architecture from our tour guide, had a delicious lunch as a group, and then finished off the day by visiting and straddling el Mitad del Mundo – the equator line.
Our volunteer project in Quito
The next day, we started our volunteer work at a daycare center located in a disadvantaged neighborhood of Quito. We traveled there by bus with our wonderful bus driver, tour guide, and Max, our Ecuador Country Coordinator’s summer intern. Max spent most of the week with us, working alongside the group and making sure everything went smoothly. After an introduction with the daycare staff, we made fast friends with the children – both the younger kids who attended the daycare, and the older children who helped out during the day.
Each day, we split off into groups to complete different projects. With the help of a local artist, one group painted murals on the newly constructed classrooms.
A second group cleared an overgrown section of land and planted a beautiful garden that will provide food for the daycare in the future.
The third group worked alongside the teachers to organize activities for the children, feed them, put them down for naps, and supervise them outside.
On our last day volunteering at the daycare, we had a minga – an event where the families of the children worked together with the daycare staff and our group to complete various projects around the grounds. We all collaborated to finish up the garden work and some other side projects that will help keep the daycare center functioning.
When we weren’t volunteering, the group had language lessons, attended a salsa dance class, visited a local artisanal market, and even attended a chocolate tasting to learn about sustainable cocoa farming in Ecuador.
Though the focus of the trip was volunteer work, we also spent some time exploring Ecuador – what a beautiful country. Over the course of the two weeks, the group ziplined through the cloud forest in Mindo, took a boat ride on the crater lake of Cuicocha, visited the sacred Peguche waterfall, and spent a day at the vast artisan market in Otavalo.
Our volunteer work in Otavalo
After spending almost a week in Quito, we boarded our bus again and headed to the rural city of Otavalo, about two hours away in a valley of the Andes mountains. Otavalo has a large indigenous population known for their artisanal crafts and is home to the largest artisan market in South America. In Otavalo, we worked for four days with a local indigenous community.
Our first day with the community, we were introduced to the local community leaders. They spoke to us about what their community is currently working on, including a reforestation project and a project to provide potable drinking water to other communities in the area. They then led us on a hike through the valley of the Andes mountains – to this day the most beautiful place I have ever seen.
As we worked with the community, we learned to adapt to their slower pace of life – definitely an adjustment! At the community daycare center, we sanded and repainted tables and chairs, repainted the blacktop and murals, and of course, spent time playing with the children.
Before I knew it, I was at the airport, waiting for my flight out of Ecuador. Though I had spent less than two weeks there, it felt like I had been learning the culture customs for a month at least. I won’t soon forget the generosity of the communities we worked with, the dedication of the Louisiana State volunteers, the delicious fruit juices we had every morning for breakfast, and the overwhelmingly beautiful culture I had the honor to be a part of for a short while.
The Louisiana State students I had the pleasure to volunteer with were dedicated to service, open-minded, and all around a wonderful group of people to spend two weeks with in Ecuador. Thank you for sharing your journey with me!