Free (or Cheap) Volunteer Work in Ecuador
Ecuador has numerous opportunities to volunteer and we have many, many more organisations to investigate and add here.
Grassroots Volunteering in Ecuador
The organisations listed below have either got in touch with us to add their details to this or another of our websites, or we otherwise have reason to believe they are actively looking for international volunteers and charge reasonable or no fees to join in, live and work with them:
Merazonia is a wildlife rescue and rehabilitation centre located on 250 acres of Amazon rainforest, near Mera. Around ten to 15 volunteers from all over the world help in the day to day care of over 100 animals, including capuchin, tamarin, red howler and woolly monkeys, parrots and macaws, kinkajous, sloths, an otter and a puma.
Volunteers should be willing to get a bit of jungle dirt under their nails and make a difference, be flexible, have a sense of humour, and a love for animals and the outdoors. You will need to have a basic level of fitness, as most work is physical, walking up and down the jungle surroundings. Knowledge of English and/or Spanish is required. The minimum age requirement is 18 and stay a minimum two weeks (four in the summer), although people coming for four weeks or more take preference.
Where: Near Mera.
Accommodation & Costs: Merazonia does not receive any government funding and for the well being of the animals do not receive tourists in the centre either. Therefore they depend on volunteer fees to cover the basic costs of running the centre. Currently this fee is $150 per week for the first two weeks, which covers lodging and food, and a contribution to medical supplies and animal food. For those staying longer, the fee for weeks three to six is $130 per week and every week thereafter, the fee is $95 per week. Most volunteers stay in their six sided jungle abode, which consists of a large dorm style room, housing up to 11 volunteers. When staying longer some other housing in cabins might open up too.
Paseo de los Monos
It’s not everybody that can say they’ve looked after John Lennon, Shakira, and Johnny Cash. These are the names of some of the animals that have been rescued and cared for by this Swiss-Ecuadorian non profit protecting wildlife and the indigenous traditions of the Ecuadorian Amazon Rainforest. Volunteers are an essential part in their efforts conservation of flora and fauna and if you are concerned for wildlife you can work here as a zoo keeper.
Accommodation & Costs: Three meals a day and a bed in the project house, in the middle of the jungle, equipped with an industrial kitchen, laundry, office, library, cinema, wifi and other facilities. Volunteers contribute $130 per week for the first month and $110 each week thereafter towards their keep and project expenses.
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Sustainable Roots is a very small grassroots community based organisation driven by sustainable principles focusing on education, adventure, environment and community. Long term volunteers work in their educational programmes, which involve teaching English to the local community and also leading educational activities such as art classes. Or they can work on environmental projects, maintaining and improving the gardens around the foundation and researching the most sustainable methods of organic farming in the local environment. Long term volunteers should have an intermediate level of Spanish and stay between six months and two years. Short term volunteers stay for up to six months participating in the educational or environmental projects described above, or they are free to design a project of their own which will benefit the community. No Spanish is required but a willingness to learn is good.
Where: The tiny Andean mountain town of Cosanga. near to Baeza.
Accommodation & Costs: Volunteers are housed in shared accommodation provided free with food to long term volunteers. Short term volunteers pay $10 to $15 per day (depending on the length of their stay). This covers accommodation and food.
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There isn’t much volunteering information on the website of Sacred Sueños, an organic farming community located on a beautiful mountainside overlooking the town of Vilcabamba, but their Facebook page is active and aimed at providing information for interested volunteers and interns. They are regenerating a small piece of that mountainside into a self sufficient farm community. Currently, there are two homesteads on the land: the founding site, now called the Seed Camp, and Wild Blossoms Farm. A horse service is available to take your luggage up the mountain.
Where: Near Vilcabamba.
Accommodation & Costs: Volunteers contribute $30 per week towards accommodation and the food kitty.
An Ecuadorian non profit organisation specialising in community tourism that works with local families to improve living conditions in rural communities. They have homestay volunteer programmes in Quito (teaching English, childcare, health care and community work) and the Galapogas Islands (organic farming and teaching English).
Where:Quito and the Galapogas Islands.
Accommodation & Costs: Homestay accommodation and meals are included for $150 per week in Quito, $210 per week in the Galapagos. There is also a $225 registration fee to cover airport pick up and other programme expenses.
Hostel Work Exchanges
Many hostels use help exchange networks (see below) to find volunteer staff but the following either advertise on their websites or are particularly noted for taking on volunteers:
Friendly, fun-loving people wanting an extended stay in Ecuador can help out at this hostel, where tasks include welcoming guests, planning and promoting social activities, and helping in the restaurant kitchen. Volunteers are expected to work six and a half hours per day, six days per week, be aged 18 to 38 and have decent Spanish. They also offer internships and are happy to work with travel bloggers.
The Secret Garden Hostel
This Quito hostel is looking to complement rather than replace their paid Ecuadorian staff, so there’s no cleaning or cooking here for volunteers to do. Instead they want to work with writers, English teachers, yoga teachers, designers, influencers, photographers, videographers, vloggers, bloggers and SEO experts, or people with hospitality or restaurant/bar experience. Rather than just showing up, they ask people looking for a free stay or tour to email in advance.
More Hostel Work Exchanges
The Kiwi owners tried to raffle away La Casa Verde in 2017 but not enough tickets were sold so the Baños hostel stayed in the same hands. They have in the past taken people on for duties revolving around guest management and meeting and greeting. Hosteria PapaGayo, in the Cotopaxi National Park, and Latacunga’s Hostal/Cafe Tiana are potentials too.
Set in the small village of Isinlivi, Llullu Llama Mountain Lodge is an ecofriendly lodge situated right on Ecuador’s most famous trekking route, the Quilotoa Loop. The page for volunteers is no longer found but volunteers frequently crop up in reviews. A reply to one such review emphasises that volunteer staff enable the paid local staff to work flexible hours – important because they still have their farms and families to take care of as well – and also bring in skills not available from within the small local community.
Travellers in the capital may be provided with a bed and food for the working reception of Colonial House Inn. Elsewhere in Quito, Marco founded Community Hostel in his parent’s house on returning from his own worldwide travels. Volunteers form part of the team here.
Other Opportunities to Volunteer in Ecuador
Urcu Puyujunda Eco Lodge Mindo used to provide information on volunteering on their website but this is gone now, as is our full listing we had for them. However, we note that they now use HelpStay to find volunteers, offering free cabin accommodation and meals. As they used to charge $80 a week for this, plus a $50 registration fee, it now works out much cheaper for volunteers to just fork out for HelpStay’s membership fee. Work includes planting trees, maintaining trails – clearing them of plants with a machete; improving trails – building stairs or fences for safety and constructing new trails.
Help Exchange Networks in Ecuador
Volunteer Latin America – https://www.volunteerlatinamerica.com/volunteer-abroad/ecuador
Workaway – https://www.workaway.info/hostlist-EC.html
Hovos – https://www.hovos.com/host/South-America/Ecuador/
Other Ways to Travel or Stay for Free in Ecuador
Stay for free in return for caring for local residents’ homes or pets. Join Trusted Housesitters to live rent free as a house sitter (Americans may prefer this link). You can also get a free $25 Airbnb credit from us here.
Settling into Life in Baños, Ecuador – Kim and her husband spend three weeks in the Andes mountains promoting literacy and the arts to local children.
Volunteering in Banos – 30 Kids and 100 Soda bottles – Jack and Jill use empty plastic bottles and the power of imagination to keep a horde of children quiet in Ecuador.
Volunteering in Ecuador: Recap – Pola Henderson, Greenheart Travel’s volunteer abroad correspondent in Ecuador, looks back on her time volunteering in an indigenous settlement near Quito.
Working in a Hostel While Traveling – Shane Brown volunteered with The Secret Garden Hostel (see above) in 2009.
* not all these volunteer experiences are with grassroots NGOs or low cost organisations
Image copyright Merazonia Refuge and Sacred Suenos