Volunteer helping to teach and care for street children in Ecuador
This long-established and successful volunteer project in Ecuador was originally designed to support young girls that worked and lived on the streets and were susceptible to sexual exploitation, but now the project supports both boys and girls from disadvantaged families, providing a range of educational and welfare programmes.
The different programmes include pre-school education for some of the poorest children, plus tutoring, homework classes and recreation for those older children who are in state education. This volunteering project is important because without it the pre-school children would be left to their own devices while the parents work in the markets, and those of school age lack a supportive environment to continue their homework, learning and recreation after school finishes.
Based around the large street markets, the pre-school children are collected by volunteers from the market stalls where the children would otherwise spend their day. They are walked to nearby basic classrooms where pre-school education and activities take place.
The homework club operates every day from the main centre. It is for children who attend school but have no working space at home. As well as homework clubs there are usually sports activities that the volunteers can help lead.
The health service addresses the needs of both children and their families. Poor diet is a problem and the associated difficulties of hypertension, diabetes and dental problems needs addressing. This is an opportunity for aspiring or qualified health workers to contribute to and gain insight from an alternative social healthcare programme.
This project is suitable for gap year volunteers who want to have experience volunteering with young children and those career break volunteers who may have experience working in a social care or healthcare environment.
The most popular programme is the pre-school education programme. Volunteers collect the children from market stalls and take them to classrooms located just off the main market areas. They put on educational activities for pre-school children, including songs, games, arts and crafts, as well as basic primary school lessons. They help provide food for children and ensure that the children wash their hands.
Some of the children will inevitably have behavioural problems and the support of volunteers helps keep sessions on track.
Every afternoon there are homework clubs for older children and volunteers can help provide support and tutoring, depending on their levels of Spanish.
Volunteers with health or dental qualifications would work with an Ecuadorian nurse. Most of the hands on work is first aid but there is a need to promote awareness of a healthy diet, hygiene, drug and alcohol abuse. Hypertension and diabetes are the main problems due to poor diets.
The project has a number of local staff but could not operate effectively without volunteers. Indeed the success of the programme means there are large numbers of international volunteers currently filling in a gap in state education and welfare provision.
Volunteers improve the capacity of the project, meaning the children get more attention and support, improving their learning and enjoyment.
The children also enjoy the participation of international volunteers, who can help provide a fun and engaging time.
I got a real insight into South American culture, both the indigenous and non-indigenous communities.Student, Ecuador