Teaching English in Ecuador

Amy Barnicoat-Hood, 18, from Kirkby near Lancaster

1) I was in Ecuador for exactly 4 weeks, in the capital city of Quito.
2) The culture was amazing. At first it’s a little hard to adjust to things like having a maid (I got told off for making my bed…) and the things they eat (lots of soup and sweetcorn), but you do find that you get used to it pretty quickly. The worst thing by far is the poverty. I heard of one volunteer feeling so bad she gave this little girl a dollar, and then next thing she knew everyone had heard and she was inundated with these children all wanting money. You feel terrible about not giving them anything, but you really can’t. The other thing whilst I was out there was the political climate. There were riots in the old town because the new president Correa had just been elected and he wants to re-write the constitution. I heard this morning that he’s got the vote to do it now, so hopefully things will have calmed down a bit. It was dead exciting though. I was also quite pleasantly surprised when I went to a house party and all of a sudden the music was changed to samba and there was dancing in the garden. I wasn’t quite sure if Latin Americans actually did that sort of thing, but they do and it’s absolutely fantastic.
3) I was teaching English in a Children International school in an area called Atucucho, which is towards the north end of Quito. It’s a sponsored school, so people donate money and the kids get taught, and as you can imagine it’s in a pretty poor area, although by no means the worst. I spent one morning doing community service in a market, with an organization called Cenit. I don’t think I was supposed to go, but I tagged along with some friends and it was a real eye-opener. The volunteers go into the market and round up the children and take them back to this classroom. They get their hands and teeth cleaned and the older ones read and write; with the little ones you play games and sing songs. Then at the end they all get a small cup of soup, and they’re all really sad that it’s over. You can tell it’s the highlight of their day.
4) It was a placement with i-to-i. The great thing about that is that you get to meet people doing all sorts of different placements, and if there’s a problem there’s always someone you can turn to for advice. However next time I’m doing it solo.
5) I’m going back in May, to spend 6 weeks doing the same thing. I’m a complete sucker for Latin America.
6) The best thing was actually extremely strange. I bumped into someone I knew when I was 3 years old and living in London, who I haven’t seen for about 14 years. Apart from that probably the people and the general atmosphere. The climate is pretty wicked too.
7) It wasn’t nice feeling extremely rich, because everything is so dirt cheap out there. In theory this is fantastic, but in practice it just felt horrible, especially when you’re in a dirty market surrounded by barefoot children who are just so happy that you will play with them.
8) When I’m going in May, I’m going to arrange my own accommodation and not stay in a homestay, even though that would be cheaper and probably easier. I want to do this purely because the experience will be completely different, and if it all goes wrong then I can always email the family I was with before. I am also going to travel to other countries after my volunteering, because everyone who I met there was making the most of their time and I hadn’t even thought about going anywhere else – I was just coming home. So this time I’m going to Venezuela for about a fortnight after Ecuador. I wish I could afford to go to more places though!
9) I have some photos up on http://www.flickr.com/photos/amybh . There’s a set entitled Ecuador 07 or something. Just skip the drunken ones from other places, haha.

My family were really supportive – my dad loves travelling and I think my mum wanted me out of the house. My grandparents were a little anxious about it though.

If you’re going on a volunteering placement for the first time, go with an organisation like Outreach International or i-to-i, because it gives you complete peace of mind when you’re there.

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