Megan is from Georgia, where she studied History and Archaeology in college. She volunteered at a non-profit organization for girls with difficult home lives in Ecuador through World Endeavors.
What did you to do in a typical day at your volunteer placement?
A “typical” day at the foundation was anything but typical! There were no schedules or to-do lists, so volunteers had to always be on the look-out for ways to help. My responsibilities included assisting the girls with daily chores, helping with math and English homework, coloring, making jewelry, and playing with Barbie dolls. I had to remember that, although it may seem like you are not making a huge contribution, even the smallest of gestures matter to these girls—a simple smile really can brighten someone’s day.
My favorite aspect of volunteering at the foundation was receiving impromptu Spanish lessons from the girls. I embarked on my volunteer experience with limited conversational Spanish training, and it was overwhelming to suddenly be immersed in the language. However, the girls at the foundation are eager to communicate with the volunteers and thoroughly enjoy teaching their English-speaking friends common Spanish phrases. Just remember to be patient and to laugh at your mistakes!
Why did you choose to go abroad through World Endeavors?
I decided to travel abroad through World Endeavors because WE is one of the few programs which offer a personalized international experience which is both meaningful and affordable.
How were your living arrangements in Ecuador?
During my time in Ecuador I lived with a local host family. My home stay experience enabled me to gain insight into aspects of Ecuadorian culture which normally elude the average tourist.
What did you do in your free time?
Ecuador boasts spectacular scenery abounding with exotic flora and fauna, and as an added bonus traveling across the country is convenient and inexpensive. My most memorable weekend excursion was to the historic city of Cuenca. While there I went horseback riding in the Andes and hiked through the majestic Cajas National Park—truly a once in a lifetime experience!
How was the food?
The typical Ecuadorian meal consists of a hearty bowl of soup, a meat dish served over rice, and freshly-squeezed juice (your choice of papaya, coconut, banana, tomate de arbol, soursop – just to name a few), all for just $1.25! My favorite dish was the bolon, which is basically a dumpling made from plantains stuffed with meat (a must-have when visiting Ecuador).
What are you doing now?
Currently I am working for a firm which conducts archaeological and historical research in South Carolina. I had originally planned to pursue a master’s degree in archaeology; however, my six weeks in Ecuador have prompted me to consider a career in the fields of human rights and/or environmental policy. If you desire to make a positive impact on society and are willing to better yourself in the process then this is the program for you.
What advice would you give to someone going to Ecuador?
When in Ecuador make every effort to enjoy yourself and do not be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone. Try new foods, make friends with the locals, and learn the language. You only have a short amount of time to explore Ecuador, so make the most of it!