Volunteer abroad providing care and therapy to children with disabiliites in Ecuador

  • Volunteer to care and provide therapy to children with disabilities
  • Volunteer opportunities for part-qualified physiotherapists and occupational therapists
  • Ideal volunteering for those looking to gain experience working with disabled children
  • Volunteers live and work in Quito, with great opportunities to enjoy Ecuador

Project summary

Based in Quito and funded through a mixture of private donations and state funding, this volunteering project is one of very few that provide care and therapies for disabled children. A major part of the project is a day care facility for young disabled children, and this is supplemented by an occupational therapy  and physiotherapy departments, both of which support the children in the day care facility and other visiting children.

The day care centre caters for approximately 20-25 children, aged 2-5 years old. They have various disabilities including Downs Syndrome, autism, cerebral palsy and other physical and mental difficulties. There are a number of staff present, but they struggle to give the high level of care and attention that each child needs. The children need help with feeding, washing themselves, and ideally one-to-one support in activities such as arts, crafts, games and play. Help is also needed to support the children during outings to local parks and swimming pools.

Children visit the OT and PT departments each morning. Part qualified volunteers are used to support each child’s visit, helping manage the children and activities, providing more quality time for the local qualified therapist and gaining insight into local professional practice. Volunteers would then be expected to support the day care centre in the afternoon.

Volunteer opportunities exist for part-qualified and fully qualified physiotherapists and occupational therapists, plus this is an ideal volunteering opportunity for those looking to gain experience working with disabled children.

Volunteer roles and responsibilities

Non-qualified volunteers are  needed to help play, paint, feed, bathe and help with stimulating recreational activities. The small number of local staff are only able to provide basic care and volunteers provide additional energy, creativity and resources.

There is a simple routine followed by the staff, and volunteers are encouraged to be proactive and dynamic in contributing their own ideas for activities that engage the children.

There are separate areas for physiotherapy and occupational therapy, under the guidance of qualified Ecuadorian staff. Volunteers who are actively interested in these vocational careers, or those who are part qualified, can provide assistance to these therapists, managing the children and supporting the therapies, but without taking the lead role. At lunch time, volunteers switch back to the day care, helping the children eat their meals and then staying to help with the afternoon activities.

How you can make a difference

There are too many children for the number staff. The level of disabilities mean that the children need more personal attention than the team are able to give. Improving this ratio greatly improves the quality of care and level of engagement each child receives.

Given the challenging nature of the work, volunteers also offer staff a degree of respite, as by giving some support to their duties they dramatically improve the quality of their working lives.

Those staff working in the therapy departments make the unit more productive, meaning more children can be seen. By helping manage the children, collecting them and settling them through play and interaction, the qualified therapist can manage the session more efficiently.

The parents form a tight-knit community. You are providing much needed support to these families.

What is distinctive about this project:

A well run project, it is one of only a few centres in Ecuador providing care for disabled children and gives volunteers thinking about working with disabled children a full and rewarding experience. It provides those working towards a career in physiotherapy or occupational therapy an insight to the profession in the context of Ecuador.

Blue Tiger Features:

This is a project that needs you. It can be a long but very rewarding day, helping the children with feeding, washing and toiletries as well as play and recreation, so volunteers need to be flexible about how they can make their contribution.

Volunteers need to be committed and proactive to achieve the best result for the children and for themselves. Even with a good management team, the volume of work and the local culture means that volunteers will be relied upon to ‘get stuck in’ and make a difference, rather than be micro-managed (after your initial introduction of course).


The centre is closed for a small number of periods in the local holidays


The staff and parents all speak Spanish and so an intermediate level of Spanish is recommended, although language is less important for the interaction with children.

Experience required:

Experience of working with or caring for young children is helpful and particularly those who are disabled.

Part-qualified physios and OTs are welcomed and it is a good placement for anyone considering a career in the one of the caring professions / paediatrics.

Good to know:

Located in Quito, you will be a short distance from your accommodation and in the centre of the thriving city, well positioned to travel around Ecuador. Remember to take note of the altitude and the changeable weather, as well as the traditional risks of traffic and pick-pockets.

Price table

4 weks8 weeks12 weeks16 weeks

Includes: Comprehensive travel insurance (supplements may apply to older travellers). Accommodation, food, airport transfer, travel to projects, in-country support, welcome meal, excursion. Two weeks of good quality 121 Spanish tuition.
Excludes: Flights, visas, vaccinations

Things to see and do

  • Visit the Amazon rainforest
  • Downhill mountain-biking in Cotopaxi
  • Go Wild in Banos
  • Visit the Galapagos
  • Straddle the equator

Country co-ordinator

Monika Montes

Monika is superbly connected throughout Ecuador and has been working with Outreach International since 2003. She lives with her two teenage children in central Quito and plays host to many of our volunteers who work in the city. Monika’s passion for volunteering is reflected in her commitment and level of support that she provides. She speaks fluent English and is a qualified Spanish tutor.

About Ecuador