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Community Development on the Pacific Coast Featured

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Location:  Esmeraldas Province, Ecuador
Type of Assignment:  Social development and teaching
Project Duration:  Minimum 2 Weeks
Activities:  Sustainable development tasks with the local community.


The Organization

How is the Organization involved with the community?

The project Station is located on the Ecuadorian Coast, serving as a base to develop and implement a variety of community extension and ecotourism programs in the region. The reserve promotes sustainable community development while maintaining an ecologically productive conservation area.

The project promotes biological conservation through research, environmental education, and management of natural resources. Their activities are divided into:

  • Conservation of the biological and cultural diversity.
  • Development of biological research.
  • Teaching appropriate agricultural methods to the indigenous communities in Ecuador (outreach).
  • Management of natural resources.
  • Promoting the use of non-timber products.
  • Development of models of reforestation.
  • Management and community welfare.
  • Promoting environmental education.
  • Other community work (ex: work in day care centers, teaching English in the nearby local communities, or work in the public hospitals) that improves the quality of community life.

Background to the project and its aims?

The Biomarine Station covers a succession of ecosystems such as beaches, mangroves, man-made wetlands and tropical humid rainforest. The 170 hectares (425 acres) are, on a small scale, an example of natural resource management integrating sustainable aquaculture, agroforestry and range management with conservation. It is partly surrounded by mangroves and divided into the main housing facility area and the Chontaduro hills, which include protected forest, regeneration and reforested areas as well as agroforestry models with cacao.

Volunteers will be able to participate in a wide range of activities. By participating in them, volunteers get a feeling of the local reality while learning about conservation and social issues; it is a true learning and personal growth experience. The interaction of volunteers/visitors with the locals also becomes a multicultural experience that broadens everyone’s horizons and empowers them to take action and propose their own solutions. There are two local communities to work with:

  1. Bunche Village: This is a small community located about 20 minutes walking distance from the station. The community has approximately 500 inhabitants, their main means of existence is fishing, shellfish extraction, cacao production and small scale cattle raising. The community has only one elementary school and a day care center.
  2. Muisne Town: This is the largest town in the area located about 6 kms from the Station by car. The population is about 8,000 living some on mainland (Nuevo Muisne) while most live across the Estuary on the Muisne Island. There are 4 day care centers, several elementary and high schools and 1 public hospital.

What are the daily volunteer activities in the project?

Daily activities vary on the volunteer's skills, so the work schedule is pretty flexible. Volunteers get to participate in a wide range of activities, or tailor suit their skills to one of four areas: social service, economic sustainability and income generating options with local farmers, education, and environmental conservation and development.

Example of an average day's itinerary:

  1. Social service (with people in towns and villages):
    • Certified Organic Cacao Farmers Cooperative: Work at cooperative center helping to process cacao mainly during mid- year harvest season.
    • Health: Work in the public hospital in Muisne town.
    • Day care centers: Preschool kids need a variety of activities and entertainment for proper development, so ideas are permanently welcome.
    • Small enterprises: Ideas, adding value to products and searching potential markets are needed to generate income opportunities for people in towns.
    • Support local handcraft makers, small enterprises, etc.
    • Construction/maintenance of infrastructure: Maily in towns and villages and at the schools and day care centers. Work includes painting (murals welcome!), repairing/building fences, bamboo/wooden playgrounds and chairs and tables. Help is also needed to repair infrastructure and houses of people, such as the elderly and the underprivliged.
  2. Economic sustainability and income generating options with local farmers:
    • Organic farming and agroforestry, cattle husbandry and range management: Basic concepts of tropical farming; working in small organic garden and fruit orchards, maintenance of cacao plantations, nurseries, harvests of fruits IN SEASON or other resources such as tagua nuts, toquilla palm leaves or bamboo. Pasture weeding, repair, establishment or removal of live barbed wire fences, amongst other activities.
    • Fishing: Options include going out to sea with artisanal fishermen or fishing in the mangrove waters with hook and line.
    • Organic aquaculture (mainly shrimp farming): Shrimp farming concepts; shrimp harvests and processing with small shrimp farmers; occasional shellfish trials and fish harvests.
  3. Education (minimum 4 weeks):
    • English teaching at any of the 5 schools between April to end of December; English is part of the Ecuadorean school syllabus. Environmental, sexual, health and other education campaigns can also be given to school students throughout the school year.You have the option to supplement this program with an optional TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) online certification.
  4. Environmental development and conservation:
    • Conservation: Basic land zoning concepts; weekly mangrove reforestation and occasional tropical humid forest restoration, inventories of reforestation areas (as a personal project), occasional plant nursery work. Optional: periodic sea turtle monitoring and beach patrolling during nesting season (October to end of December). Occasionally work with researchers or students on their projects.
    • Litter reduction program: Reduce, reuse & recycle. Periodic beach clean ups. Construction of wooden/bamboo trash containers and placement in towns and villages (parks, schools, etc). Ideas are needed for plastic reuse.

Program Details

Quick facts about the trip:

Project duration:  Minimum 2 weeks
Project Location:  Esmeraldas Province, Ecuador
Airport of arrival:  Quito (UIO)
Activities:  Sustainable development tasks and teaching with the local community.
Working hours: Monday to Friday, 7-8 hours a day.
Requirements:  An interest in sustainable development and conservation. A person with maturity and personal stability, respectful, loving, patient and understanding. This type of volunteering requires a certain affinity with children. Certificate of the following vaccines: Hepatitis A or immune globulin (IG), Hepatitis B, Yellow Fever.

What's included:

Accommodation:  Wooden house with capacity for 17 people accommodated in shared per room. There are 2-4 beds per room with pillows, blankets and mosquito nets. The housing facilities have permanent electricity (110-120V), running water and a balcony with hammocks/chairs.
The accommodation in Quito upon arrival is also included the first night before travelling to the project location. It will be at a host family and includes three meals, laundry service, and internet access.
Meals:  3 meals a day. Meals are served as buffet with seafood, rice, beans and plantains as staples with fruits in season.
Airport pickup: In Quito and transportation to host family house.
Pre-departure Orientation and Onsite Training::  Volunteers receive a comprehensive workshop on being a volunteer in the project, safety and security in the destination country, culture shock, and pre-departure preparations.
Support::  24/7 during your volunteering time.

What's not included:

Flights, visas, insurance.
Other optional activities not included in program fee:

  • Spanish lessons (USD 8/hr for a one on one class, USD 5 in a group).
  • City tours and trips to surrounding areas.


Program Duration Cost (USD)
2 weeks 718.00
4 weeks 1,051.00
6 weeks 1,336.00
8 weeks 1,579.00
10 weeks 1,849.00
12 weeks 2,113.00
16 weeks 2,641.00
20 weeks 3,182.00
Additional weeks 267.00 per week

All Registration Fees are included in the prices above.