Why should I pay for volunteering?

Paying to volunteer may seem strange to some prospective volunteers and it is a legitimate question. Below, an exert from HOW TO LIVE YOUR DREAM OF VOLUNTEERING OVERSEAS by Joseph Collins, Stefano DeZerega, and Zahara Heckscher published by Penguin Putnam, Inc. describes why a fee is necessary.

Prospective volunteers are surprised to learn that many programs charge their volunteers a fee to participate. At first, this can seem ridiculous — Why should you pay money to work for free? Aren't you already forgoing income you could be making? Here are a few things to keep in mind while trying to understand why the vast majority of programs charge international volunteers a fee:

The local organizations and projects with which you volunteer overseas have limited resources and are seldom able to subsidize your trip or cover the costs of hosting you. (These costs include housing, feeding and transporting you, among numerous other things.) If they did have the financial resources to pay an international volunteer, it would almost certainly be more beneficial and cost-effective to hire a local person instead, someone who already knows the language and culture and is likely to stick around.

Identifying appropriate host organizations overseas and working with them is time-consuming, takes resources, and requires an experienced and professional staff.

The process of preparing, training, transporting, housing, feeding, and supervising volunteers is not cheap. Additional services such as health care, re-entry assistance, travel medical insurance, and more, all add to the expenses of a program.

The costs of recruiting volunteers, producing literature, answering the phones, sending mailings, developing a website, and interviewing potential volunteers are significant.

With SVE, you will be fully prepared, receive 24/7 in-country support, have a well planned volunteer experience, and your costs will cover the homestay experience, Spanish lessons, various activities, and more!

What kind of people participate in the programs?

Our programs are for the independant minded traveller or volunteer. Most people who participate in our programs are looking for a unique cultural exchange experience.

Will I be able to get "hands on"/practical experience?

Our programs our mainly observation, but depending on your level of education and/or training in a specific field (ie. medicine or dental) you will be able to participate and not simply observe. During the program, you will always be under the supervision of a qualified doctor. We must keep in mind that even though it is a "developing" country, the people in Ecuador still have the right to quality medical atention from a qualified doctor and SVE programs are not meant for students to be performing complicated procedures on their own.

When do the programs start/end?

Sustainable Volunteer Ecuador's programs are available year round with no specific start/end dates. You can start at the beginning, end, or middle of the month. The program costs cover 30 calender days.

Where does my program fee go?

All program fees for Sustainable Volunteer Ecuador go to in-country expenses in Ecuador. Furthermore, we donate to and assist the local organizations we work with in a variety of ways. The rest of the cost goes towards program administration and yearly web site expenses.

Is SVE associated with a religious organization, university, or medical organization?

SVE is not associated with any specific religious organization, university, or medical organization.

Can I take more than the 40 hours of Spanish included in the program?

A volunteer can choose to take more hours of Spanish study at an extra cost. For each 20 hours of extra classes, a cost of $130.00 will be applied.

Can I get a university credit for my participation in a SVE program?

That completely depends on your university. Some volunteers/students have come to Ecuador with an arrangement with their university or professor to gain credit. Some write essays or do a small project in order to get a university credit. If this is the case, we are more than willing to assist students with any type of projects. Speak with your academic director about the possibility of credits. If they have any questions, tell them to email us.

Do I need any qualifications or requirements for your volunteer programs?

There are no qualifications or requirements for any of our programs. The only requirement is the desire to experience a new culture and volunteering spirit. For the Sustainable Healthcare and Smile Ecuador programs, we recommend that volunteers are 18 years old. However, it is not a requirement. We have had people of all ages that have participated in our programs from 15 years old to 60 years old. Are there age limits? No, SVE programs have no age limits. For the Sustainable Healthcare and Smile Ecuador programs, we recommend that volunteers are 18 years old. However, it is not a requirement. We have had people of all ages that have participated in our programs from 15 years old to 60 years old.

Do I need to have a certain level of Spanish in order to participate in your programs?

Volunteers of all Spanish levels are welcome to participate in our programs.

Will I be the only one in the program?

Summer months are the busiest months for volunteering and if you chose to come during that time there will be plenty of other volunteers to meet and share your experince. However, throughout the year there are volunteers and you will most likely not be the only one no matter what time of year you chose to come.

Are water and food safe to eat and drink in Ecuador?

Water from the tap is not safe to drink in Ecuador. All of our homestay families will use bottled water or boil their water. Bottled water is cheap: a 250ml bottle costs 0.25cents USD. Food at the homestay families is completely safe and food is a great way to experience Ecuadorian culture.

Will debit and credit cards work in Ecuador?

There are plenty of banks that will work with debit and credit cards. Both CIRRUS and PLUS international systems are used in Ecuador. We recommend that various forms of accessing money are brought (ie. credit card, debit card). Traveler’s cheques should be brought as a backup to credit and debit cards, as they can be difficult to cash. Check with your specific bank for overseas charges (some can be as much as $5.00 per international withdrawl).

Is internet available at the school?

The Spanish School is hoping to have an internet café, games room, and small bar by the summer of 2009.

How safe is Ecuador/Quito?

Quito is a relatively safe city. Petty crime, such as pick pocketing does occur and there are certain neighbourhoods that are more dangerous than others (as in any big city). We will fully prepare our volunteers for their month in Ecuador during the orientation day. The safety of our volunteers is of utmost importance to us and we do everything possible to provide a safe and enjoyable environment. The Spanish school and our homestays are located near each other in one of the safest, most modern neighbourhoods in Quito.

Do I need a visa to volunteer in Ecuador?

No, a visa is not necessary for Canada, the United States, Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and most European countries. You are able to spend 3 months in Ecuador without a visa and volunteering is not considered work and, therefore, a work visa is not needed. If you plan on coming for more than 3 months, get in touch with this and we can discuss your options.

Which currency is used in Ecuador?

In 2000, Ecuador adopted the US dollar as its official currency.

How many people live in Ecuador and Quito?

Ecuador has an estimated population of 13,755,680 (2007) and Quito has a population of approximately 2.1 million (2007). Other major cities in Ecuador are the following: Guayaquil (3 million), Cuenca (600,000), Riobamba (450,000), and Otavalo (26,000).
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Sustainable Volunteer Ecuador