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Overview

In Galapagos, volunteer in an environmental project. Live on an incredible environmental reserve in the Galapagos. Additionally:

 

 

 

 

About Ecuador

Although relatively small in size, Ecuador is a world-renowned biodiversity hotspot. From the Amazon to the Galapagos, the richness of Ecuador’s natural resources is unparalleled. In regards to society, Ecuador has enjoyed a period of relative stability since the turn of the century. One reason is the adoption of the United State dollar as the country’s currency in 2000. This has lessened the currency fears that hounded the Ecuadorian economy before.

However, Ecuador faces serious challenges. Its natural resources are coming under attack and, while there have been efforts to conserve the local biodiversity, many areas are nearing irreversible points of destruction.

In terms of socioeconomic development, Ecuador lags behind most of its neighbors. Poverty rates have fallen in recent years, but Ecuador continues to have one of the highest poverty rates in the region and large parts of the population, especially indigenous groups, are economically and socially disenfranchised. For example, while access to elementary and middle school education has expanded to nearly all Ecuadorians, the quality of education for the poorest remains far below the national average.

With Ecuador’s increasing reliance on the volatile energy sector, especially oil, there are serious concerns about Ecuador’s ability to continue lifting its population from poverty. Moreover, considering the links between conservation and poverty, a worsening of poverty in Ecuador has negative implications for the environment. Click on the tabs above to learn more.

 

UBELONG approaches volunteering so differently than a lot of other organizations and is especially dedicated to the communities that it serves. I loved that it offered me the chance to live with volunteers working on completely different projects from such different backgrounds and the fact that we lived and worked so closely with the communities which we were serving.” Ketan Jain-Poster, UBELONG Quito Volunteer from the United States – read her interview here.

Projects

Environment

In the Galapagos, species like blackberry bushes, fire ants and goats are invasive, which means they are not native to the Galapagos and were brought there by people. Goats, for example, were brought intentionally by farmers while others, like blackberry bushes, came by accident aboard cargo ships.

These invasive species compete with native species for food and space, and alter the food chain and physical environment in irreversible ways. Their impact is especially dangerous because the local native species have evolved in isolation and lack defenses against foreign species.

As a volunteer on this project you help remove foreign species while supporting local agriculture to reduce the current need for fruit and vegetable imports. Volunteers live on the reserve and work throughout the area.

Click on a heading below to learn more.

What do volunteers do?
Volunteers generally work four to six hours a day. Depending on local need they are involved in a range of conservation activities. These may include removing foreign plants, especially blackberry, or “mora”, by hand and with machetes; collecting seeds; helping in local greenhouses; and participating in community and/or government initiatives that reach out to local farmers, particularly coffee and organic vegetable growers. Volunteers may also partake in reserve tasks like basic construction and trail maintenance, as well as collecting fruits for the cook and helping in the kitchen. Volunteers also frequently go on guided “caminatas”, or walks, with local team members to learn about the area – educating volunteers so they can become advocates for Galapagos conservation is an important part of the project.

 

 

Requirements to participate:
-The health and physical capability to live and do manual work in a tropical environment with few amenities.
-The flexibility to participate in many different activities depending on the season and ever-changing needs of the reserve.
-Education and/or professional experience in an environment or agriculture-related field is not required.

Minimum time commitment: 
1 week.

Project schedule:
The project starts every Monday and runs year-round (for self-organized groups of four or more, we may make an exception and allow an alternative start date – contact us to request an exception).

Please note:
1. This description is intended only as a broad overview of the work. There is no typical day or script to follow. Remember, volunteers are serving in the developing world where conditions can change in an instant. Being flexible, open and able think on your feet are crucial characteristics of a good international volunteer. It is each volunteer’s role to fit in with their project and not the other way around. We expect volunteers to contribute wherever the need arises, even if it means being involved in activities they were not expecting to work in. Being able to adapt, adjust and fit in is challenging, but also what makes international volunteering so special.

2. Conservation can be very rewarding, but also very challenging. Conservation projects are very fluid, even more so than social projects. There is no typical day or even typical hour – you must be ready to adjust to the whims of nature. For example, a simple rain or delay in obtaining seedlings can completely alter the schedule. In joining the conservation volunteer program we expect you to understand the importance of being flexible.

3. Prior to arrival, volunteers must provide a police background check. Without it, volunteers will not be allowed on the project.

#FinestVolunteersInTheWorld:
1. Read reviews of past UBELONG Volunteers and see why UBELONG is trusted by thousands every year.

2. Browse our Volunteer Abroad news section to meet UBELONG Volunteers, the finest international volunteers in the world.

3. Like UBELONG on Facebook and connect with past, current and future UBELONG Volunteers.

 

Closeup on Tiffany, a UBELONG Volunteer from Minneapolis, as she works in the nursery.

Closeup on Tiffany, a UBELONG Volunteer from Minneapolis, as she works in the nursery.

Living

When you volunteer in Galapagos with UBELONG, you embark on a life-changing volunteer trip that is all about volunteering, experiencing the local culture and making new friends. Live in a safe and comfortable Volunteer House that is located in the middle of nature on beautiful San Cristobal Island. Enjoy excellent food and have an authentic, immersive experience living as part of the local community. Read on to learn more!

Housing

Volunteers live on the reserve as part of a friendly and relaxed community. They live in a rustic Volunteer House made of a combination of bamboo and cement. The house offers volunteers the perfect home to live as one with nature and genuinely experience the Galapagos’ spectacular natural setting. Volunteers share a room with other volunteers and sleep in single or bunk beds. Outdoor bathrooms are shared and there are showers and flush toilets. There are hot and cold showers, although the hot water often does not work. There is electricity, although volunteers should expect sporadic power outages. For public phones and internet access, volunteers can reach Puerto Moreno, the largest town on the island, which is approximately 40 minutes away by taxi. There is a fun communal space near the cabins where volunteers can eat, relax and socialize. A laundry service for volunteers is available on the reserve and the price is US$2 per kilo.

 

“Throughout my month on San Cristobal, there were native Ecuadorians, Americans, Germans, British, an Australian, a Spaniard, and an Italian all living at the station and playing card games together at the dinner table.” Rachel Klas, UBELONG Galapagos Volunteer from the United States – read her interview here.

 

Make an impact and make new friends. Welcome to the Galapagos!

Food

Volunteers can expect to eat a tasty mix of local dishes. Every day, volunteers receive breakfast, lunch and dinner. A cook prepares a range of local dishes for the volunteers.

Breakfast: It typically includes coffee, juice or tea with bread, fruits, granola or pancakes. Depending on their work schedules, volunteers eat breakfast alone or together.

Lunch: As is the tradition in Ecuador, lunch is the most important meal and typically includes a main dish featuring chicken or fish and beans, potatoes, lentils, rice or yuka. Volunteers usually eat lunch together, and it is a fun time to take a midday break.

Dinner: It is lighter than lunch and typically includes a main dish smaller than the one served at lunch. Dinner also makes for a very pleasant time when volunteers come together.

 

breakfast-ubelong-galapagos-volunteer-abroad

Breakfast is ready. Enjoy!

Free Time

Living and volunteering in the Galapagos Islands is a once in a lifetime opportunity. The setting is stunning. The diversity and uniqueness of the wildlife is unparalleled. On San Cristobal Island UBELONG Volunteers can hike or visit one of the many observation points to look for rare and endemic animals like the red footed booby and Chatham mockingbird. On clear days volunteers can venture to nearby cliff areas to look over the ocean and observe the rare wildlife, including the famous frigate bird. They can also enjoy the white sand beaches where iguanas, sea lions and tortoises can be spotted. The volcanic rocks that line the coast create a surreal landscape, and hiking across them is a memorable experience. To experience the mellow vibe of local life on the Galapagos, volunteers can travel to the neighboring towns. There they can chat with the friendly locals, enjoy a cool beverage in the shade or simply sit back and relax.

 

Fabrice, a volunteer from Switzerland, snorkeling in his free time!

Fabrice, a volunteer from Switzerland, snorkeling in his free time!

Cost

Volunteering abroad with UBELONG is extremely affordable. Plus, when you consider that UBELONG Volunteers receive extensive support and the trust of joining an organization based in the United States with top reviews, you realize the unmatchable value UBELONG offers. It’s one of the main reasons thousands have already decided to join a UBELONG volunteer trip.

 

Volunteer Placement Program Fee (USD)
1 week $320
2 weeks $595
3 weeks $875
4 weeks $1145
5 weeks $1400
6 weeks $1630
7 weeks $1870
8 weeks $2110

In addition to the program fee, there is a US$295 reservation fee due upon your being accepted into a project.

 

Additionally, please note:

Before your trip

Easy online application: You can apply online using our Volunteer Abroad application form. We use the application to get to know you and make sure that you join a volunteer project that is right for you based on your background, interests, and skills.

Preparation Booklet: The booklet offers you a wealth of information and helpful tips to prepare you for your volunteer trip with UBELONG. Topics range from health, safety and visa issues to the development challenges that your host community faces.

UBELONG Mentor: We pair you with a UBELONG Mentor, a highly experienced member of our team who works closely with you throughout your UBELONG Volunteer Abroad experience. From coordinating details like airport pickup and housing preferences to preparing you for your role as an international volunteer, your mentor is there for you.

Briefing Meeting: Prior to your departure, you have a meeting with your UBELONG Mentor. You go over staying safe during your volunteer placement, as well as tips for getting the most out of your Volunteer Abroad experience. The meetings generally occur over the phone or Skype, but if you are in the same location as your UBELONG Mentor they can occur in person.

UBELONG Shop 25% discount: The UBELONG Shop is a clothing store selling shirts, bracelets and other items that are inspired by travel. It’s another way for us to advance our social mission. A part of the Shop’s profits go to where UBELONGers serve, for example the hospitals, schools, environmental reserves, etc.

When you are accepted into a UBELONG program, you receive a 25% promo code for the UBELONG Shop. You can share it with your friends and family. The donations from purchases made with your promo code go to the projects in the location where you are travelling.

During your trip

UBELONG Quito Volunteer House Stay: To make things easier for you, you can stay at the UBELONG Quito Volunteer House if you fly through Quito before heading to the Galapagos. The home is 30 to 60 minutes from downtown Quito, depending on traffic. It is a cozy and fun place to live, and the cost is US$20 per night per person, which includes your meals. We can also pick you up from the airport, the cost per car is US$25 – there can be up to four volunteers per car.

Orientation: Our Local Team Leader gives you a volunteer orientation to introduce you to the local staff and go over everything from living locally to the volunteer work that you will be doing. The orientation is generally your first Monday.

Housing: You live in a rustic cabin on the reserve. To learn more, click the “living” tab above.

Food: You receive breakfast, lunch and dinner every day. To learn more, click the “living” tab above.

United States and Europe based support: UBELONG is an American organization with headquarters in Charleston, South Carolina. We also have a European office in Lisbon, Portugal. As such, you have the peace of mind that comes from having the support of a volunteer organization with an American and European presence.

In-country support: Throughout your Volunteer Abroad placement, we work with our Local Team Leader to provide you with any assistance that you may need. Whether you have a question about where to travel on the weekend or have an issue that requires immediate assistance, the local team is there for you.

After your trip

Reference letter (including for graduate degree and job references): Upon request, we provide you with a letter stating that you joined our Volunteer Abroad program. As the UBELONG network extends widely into the university and professional worlds, participating in a UBELONG Volunteer Abroad program can be a strong positive in a university or job application. See some of the institutions in the UBELONG network.

Fundraising and networking: We hold fundraising and networking events throughout the year to support development initiatives. Join us online, in the United States or wherever in the world we are holding an event. To keep up with events, see the UBELONG Facebook page.

United States President’s Volunteer Service Award: If you are a U.S. citizen and shared your story in our Volunteer Abroad blog, you are eligible for the award, which we have been certified to give as a U.S. based international volunteering organization committed to the highest standards.

Airfare, entrance fees to the Galapagos (US$100), travel medical insurance, and visas are not included.

We also require that every person 18 years of age or older obtain a police background check to volunteer with UBELONG – this is part of our commitment to volunteer safety and community safety. The price you pay depends on what location you are in because every country/city has a different price. However, in general, the cost of a police background check ranges from US$40 to US$150 per person.

Additionally, miscellaneous spending like snacks and toiletries is not included. You may also have to take transportation to reach your volunteer project and you are responsible for the fare. Most volunteers budget US$5 to US$10 for each day of their placement for additional expenses in the field.

Please note: We require that you have travel medical insurance, including emergency evacuation, throughout your volunteer placement with UBELONG. We do not include it because there are many different plans available and you know best what is right for you. Before your departure we will ask you for general information about your policy, but it is your sole responsibility to determine its adequacy and any associated details like coverage levels and deductibles.

You can pay us via PayPal (which includes credit and debit card), bank wire, United States Postal Service money order, or certified bank check. We do not accept cash or personal checks. To learn about when fees are due, see our how to apply section.

FAQ

Application

Applying is easy, simply follow the steps we lay out in our How To Apply section.

If you still have questions after doing so, please contact us, we are glad to help.

Our accepting you into a Volunteer Abroad project is based on three things:

  • Availability: We receive many more applications than we have spots for. As such, there may be projects where we simply don’t have a need for volunteers anymore. This is why you should apply as soon as possible. However, you should only apply when you know the exact location, project, and dates of your placement, and when you’re completely sure you’ll join if accepted.
  • Your background, experience and skills: Make sure to check the description of each project carefully. You can find all the project descriptions for this location in the “projects” tab above.
  • The UBELONG Mindset: UBELONG Volunteers have the well-deserved reputation of being the best of the best. So, we expect that you will approach your UBELONG experience eager to contribute, and with a caring, humble, proactive and respectful attitude. We just want good people with the right attitude.

Yes, as long as your dates meet the “minimum time commitment” and “project schedule” requirements we have for the project you want to join. You can see these requirements by clicking on the “projects” tab above and looking at the description for your project.

Additionally, considering how affordable and popular UBELONG opportunities are, we sometimes run out of spots. So, while you should only apply when you are completely sure you will join if accepted, the earlier you can apply the better your chances of being accepted. Until you have submitted an application, we will not be able to tell you if certain dates have been filled or not – you must apply first.

For additional information, visit our how to apply section and see our application.

Yes. We believe that everyone has something valuable to contribute. If you do not have previous experience, we offer you the opportunity to have a great start with us. We make international volunteering easy – not only are our Volunteer Abroad opportunities rooted in offering you extensive support, but they are also very affordable.

Yes. Many of our Volunteer Abroad projects are designed to offer highly-skilled professionals the opportunity to contribute their expertise while growing professionally and personally.

We were founded by international development professionals and university professors determined to raise the bar in international volunteering. Empowering even the most senior development professionals to volunteer overseas is a key part of our mission.

While we are based in the United States, we offer programs for people of all nationalities. Most of our volunteers come from North America, Europe, and Australia, yet every year we welcome into the UBELONG community thousands of individuals from all corners of the world. As long as you have a willingness to discover the world and volunteer abroad, you’re welcome to join one of our Volunteer Abroad projects.

You should apply as soon as possible as we receive a very high volume of applications for a limited number of spots. However, you should only apply when you know the exact location, project, and dates of your placement, and when you’re completely sure you’ll join if accepted.

Most individuals apply three to six months before their start date, although some apply even earlier and some with as little as a week before. Again, the earlier you apply the better, but only do so when you’re completely ready to commit if accepted.

As of the date you submit your application, you must be at least 18 years old. There is no maximum age requirement. Whether you are a student or have recently retired, or whether you are a young professional or a middle-aged housewife, we probably have a Volunteer Abroad project that is right for you.

Please note: In certain cases, we will allow people under 18 years old to become UBELONG Volunteers. To learn more, see the two FAQs right below this one.

Yes, we have many wonderful families with children volunteer on our projects. It is a great way for families to come together, and we have found that children coming in as volunteers can very positively impact the local communities.

For families with everybody 13 years or older, all our volunteer projects are open to you. Visit our families page to learn more about families volunteering abroad with UBELONG.

For families with children younger than 13 years old, due to project qualification requirements, logistical challenges and safety precautions, in certain of our locations we cannot have children under 13 years old join. To see the list of volunteer projects that are open to families with children under 13 years old, please visit our families page.

If you are under 18 years old, you can still volunteer with UBELONG either with your family or with a high school group. Click on the links to view more information about each option.

Groups

Yes. All groups, including couples, families and friends, can join any of our Volunteer Abroad projects and volunteer together. Every year we have thousands of individuals become UBELONG volunteers as part of corporate, university and religious groups. We can have groups of up to 500 people.

The application procedure for groups is easy and very similar as the one for individuals. You can review the entire process in our How To Apply section, and for your convenience here is an overview:

1. Each group member submits his or her own application online with these points in mind:

  • Everybody in the group should apply within the same 24 hours so we can review all the applications together.
  • In part 1 of the application there is a field where each person types a common group name. The group makes up its own name, past examples:
    • For a couple: “Jane and John”
    • For friends: “Peter, Trent and Mike”
    • For large groups: “Cornell University summer 2015 team” or “Jake’s winter 2018 team from the University of Michigan”
  • If you want to house together or volunteer on the same project, please let us know in your application. We will do everything we can to accommodate you; generally it is not a problem as long as you let us know in your application.

2. Once we receive all the applications, we will review them together. Assuming you are all accepted, we will pair the group with a UBELONG Mentor, a highly experienced member of our team who works closely with you throughout your UBELONG experience to support you. From coordinating details like airport pickup and housing preferences to preparing you for your role as an international volunteer, your mentor is there for you.

As always, if you have any further question please contact us, we are glad to help.

Yes, we have accepted many alternative breaks teams into our Volunteer Abroad program and had great success.

We have had teams from over 100 institutions from throughout the world, including:

  • Cornell University
  • University of Michigan
  • University of Wisconsin
  • University of California, San Diego
  • Rice University
  • McGill University
  • Oxford University
  • La Sorbonne
  • College of Charleston
  • University of Indiana
  • New Mexico State University
  • University of Melbourne
  • Dartmouth College
  • Columbia University
  • Southern Methodist University
  • University of South Dakota
  • New York University

The teams volunteered throughout the world on our projects across Africa, Asia and Latin America. Some have gone for a week during spring break, while others went for longer periods. Moreover, as we have over 150 projects, depending on their backgrounds teams have joined projects ranging from teaching English and conservation to healthcare and microfinance.

We encourage you to connect with past teams by visiting our Volunteer Abroad News section as well as the UBELONG Facebook page.

Yes, we work with many high school groups from all over the world.

Visit our high school groups page to learn more about high school groups volunteering abroad with UBELONG.

Mindset

We believe everybody has something to offer by volunteering abroad – this is why our Volunteer Abroad program is rooted in affordability and flexibility.

At the same time, volunteering abroad is not easy. Expect challenges. There is no typical day or script to follow, and in the developing world conditions can change quickly. You must be flexible and ready for anything. Some days will be frustrating and not what you expected.

However, the challenge of international volunteering is also what makes it so special. You will push yourself and step out of your comfort zone. You may develop relationships you would never have ever imagined. Or, in making an impact on those around you, find yourself growing immensely. And when it is all said and done, you may realize you gained even more from volunteering abroad than what you put in.

Volunteers are not tourists. Volunteers expect to serve, tourists expect to be served. As a volunteer your role is to fit in your project and not the other way around. Think what you can do for your hosting community, not what it can do for you. We expect you to contribute wherever the need arises, even if it means being involved in an area you were not expecting to work in.

You must be open, flexible and proactive. That is the challenge, but also the beauty of becoming a UBELONG Volunteer – you will be out of your comfort zone, but don’t be surprised if in making an impact you yourself have the experience of a lifetime.

Finally, while tourism companies offer overpriced “voluntourism” opportunities, we believe that’s unfortunate. Volunteerism and tourism have nothing to do with one another. They require very different attitudes, and attempting to combine them creates disappointment for the volunteer and generates no positive impact for the local community. And, while tourism companies may speak of the “volunteer travel industry”, authentic volunteering has nothing to do with an industry. For UBELONG Volunteers, volunteering is about people coming together for positive change – there is nothing industrial about it.

As long as you take your volunteering seriously and approach your experience with an open and proactive mindset, absolutely.

Your impact will be specific to you – every person experiences life differently. And while you will not “save the world”, as a UBELONG Volunteer you will be part of a large and wonderful community of individuals who, together, are making a significant positive global impact.

There are three general areas where you can expect to make an impact:

  • Project: You bring energy, experience and skills to share with the local community. Whether you are helping plant trees or sharing medical skills on a health project, you are making your mark.
  • Cross-cultural sharing: When people come across borders to live and work together, it’s powerful. It breaks down barriers and dispels stereotypes. Whether you are connecting with a local or another UBELONG Volunteer from a different country, those relationships you create matter.
  • Yourself: In travelling and volunteering, you will probably change for the better. You will pick up new skills, have new experiences and make new friends. How each of us grows is deeply personal to who we are, but be ready to change in ways you may never have imagined.

One of the best ways to learn about the impact of UBELONG Volunteers is to meet them. Do so by reading their interviews in the Volunteer Abroad news section and meeting them on the UBELONG Facebook page.

Community

Yes. While certain times of the year are busier than others, there are generally 5 to 20 UBELONG volunteers in any location at any point in time. You’ll be meeting plenty of other volunteers during your UBELONG experience. A great place to meet them beforehand is our Facebook page – you should like our page and connect with the other people hanging out there.

We encourage you to connect with others in the rapidly growing UBELONG community. It is a great way for you to hear firsthand about what it’s like to be a UBELONG Volunteer.

There are thousands of UBELONG Volunteers around the world, so getting in touch is easy. You have three principle ways:

1. We frequently publish interviews with alumni in our Volunteer Abroad news section.

2. Many people connect with each other via our rapidly growing UBELONG Facebook page. We suggest scrolling through the timeline and seeing the many pictures, videos, and testimonials posted there. If you have a comment or question, do not be shy, start a conversation.

3. Read some of our volunteer abroad reviews.

Health and Safety

The volunteer project is located 600 miles west of the Ecuadorian mainland on a 500 acre reserve on the San Cristobal Island, one of the five inhabited islands of the Galapagos Archipelago. The reserve is situated in the highland region of the island where dry and moist tropical forests host an abundance of species. The island is part of the Tumbes-Chocó-Magdalena hotspot and was the first that Charles Darwin visited.

The delicate ecological balance of the reserve faces serious threats from exotic and invasive species. The island does not have the capacity to meet the food demands from the growing population and tourism industry. Consequently, boats from the mainland deliver produce to the island and, with quarantine regulations being largely ignored, also bring foreign species that damage the local ecosystem. The volunteering project gives you the opportunity to protect the native biodiversity while promoting sustainable agriculture practices. Click on the “projects” tab above for more information on the volunteer work.

In terms of the local population, the area is very safe. Most people that you will meet will be very open and friendly. However, just as you would anywhere, as a foreign traveler you must take precautions. You should never travel alone and always let the local team know where you are going.

In terms of the wildlife, you must be careful as the area has rugged terrain. It is important that you are in good health, have the right gear and always follow the advice of the local team. While we of course cannot guarantee safety (and no organization in the world can), safety is our top priority and as long as you exercise good judgement you should have no problems. Once you become a UBELONG Volunteer, we will provide you with extensive materials and support to help make sure you stay safe and comfortable.

As international travel and volunteering carry inherent risks, we cannot guarantee your safety. However, your safety is our top priority and we work hard to minimize the risks. We design our programs so that you are surrounded by five layers of protection:

1. Comprehensive program set up
All our programs are personally inspected by a member of our team who goes through an extensive field checklist. We evaluate the local staff, inspect the living facilities, ride the public transportation, speak to former and current participants, taste the food, visit the work sites, and walk the neighborhoods, among many other activities. The program set-up process is long and thorough, but we consider it the most important part of our work. Our philosophy is to only offer placements where we would feel comfortable sending our own families.

2. Your preparation
When you sign up for a Volunteer Abroad project we send you a Preparation Booklet. The booklet offers a wealth of information and helpful tips to help you prepare for your experience. Topics range from health, safety and visa issues to the challenges in your hosting community.

We also pair you with a UBELONG Mentor, a highly experienced member of our team who works closely with you throughout your UBELONG experience. From coordinating details like airport pickup and housing preferences to preparing you for your role as an international volunteer, your mentor is there for you.

Additionally, prior to your departure you have a Briefing Meeting with your UBELONG Mentor. You go over staying safe during your Volunteer Abroad placement, as well as tips for getting the most out of your experience. The meetings generally occur over the phone or Skype, but if you are in the same location as your UBELONG Mentor they can occur in person.

3. Local partners
We have built and continuously manage a network of local partners, including community organizations, NGOs, private citizens and schools. They are well positioned to look after your day-to-day safety and comfort. They have extensive local contacts, understand how things work on the ground, and implement appropriate safety measures.

4. Continual program monitoring
We are proactive in identifying and dealing with issues that may affect your safety. We monitor local conditions where programs are located and continuously communicate with our local partners to determine if any safety steps need to be taken. Our team also spends many months on the road every year supervising placements and checking the safety of our programs.

5. Communication with you
Throughout your Volunteer Abroad experience, we work with our local partners to provide you with any assistance that you may need. Whether you have a question about where to travel on the weekend or have an issue that requires immediate assistance, staff is reachable 24/7.

The project requires sustained physical work. You work in a variety of settings, including dense forest and rugged trails, and the climate can be hot and humid. During the wetter months, the trails can become especially muddy and slippery. You should be in excellent physical health.

Prior to arriving in Ecuador, we suggest that you visit your physician or a travel health clinic to ensure that you are in good enough health for your placement and to obtain any immunizations that you require.

If you are coming from a country that is considered to have a risk of yellow fever then you must present an International Certificate of Vaccination (Yellow Card) to show proof of yellow fever immunization. Most of the countries requiring yellow fever immunization are in Africa and South America, although regardless of where you are coming from you should consult your country’s Ecuadorian embassy for the latest information.

Additionally, you should see your physician or a travel health clinic prior to arriving in Ecuador as most doctors recommend at least a few precautionary vaccinations before arriving, including:

-Routine immunizations for polio, measles/mumps/rubella, etc.
-Hepatitis A
-Hepatitis B
-Rabies
-Tetanus
-Typhoid
-Yellow fever

The risk of malaria in the area is low. However, if you plan to travel throughout Ecuador after your placement, you should consult a medical professional as there are high malaria risk areas in the country. Additionally, while the risk of yellow fever in the area is also low we strongly recommend you obtain the vaccination before arriving.

Yes. For all our Volunteer Abroad projects we require that you have travel medical insurance, including emergency evacuation, throughout your experience.

We do not include it because there are many different plans available and you know best what is right for you. Before your departure we will ask you for general information about your policy, but it is your sole responsibility to determine its adequacy and any associated details like coverage levels and deductibles.

Travel Logistics

Citizens of most countries can enter at no charge and receive a tourist stamp in their passport valid for up to 90 days. If you are planning on staying in Ecuador for longer than 90 days, we offer you further information in the Preparation Booklet you receive when you become a UBELONG Volunteer.

The project is located on San Cristobal Island, which is one of the major islands making up the Galapagos. As San Cristobal Island is 600 miles west of the Ecuadorian mainland, volunteers must take a flight to get there. There’s an airport on San Cristobal Island, but all flights to that airport come from either Quito or Guayaquil, major cities on the Ecuadorian mainland. So, we suggest arriving in either Quito or Guayaquil on Saturday or Sunday, and then flying out to the Galapagos first thing Monday, which is the first day of your placement. In the Preparation Booklet that you receive when you sign up, we provide you with much more helpful information on getting to the project.

A driver will be waiting for you at the airport to welcome you and bring you to the reserve.

The last day of your placement is your final Sunday. You should book your return trip for that day. Of course, you may also decide to continue traveling in Ecuador on your own – we’re always glad to help UBELONGers with travel tips and advice, we’re world-travelers ourselves.

Yes, you’re welcome to volunteer in multiple of our locations back to back. Just remember that travelling between locations takes a lot of energy and time. You also need time to settle in and get up the learning curve in each location.

So, while you can do back to back placements, we suggest you think it through to make sure you’re not cutting yourself short. Generally, we advise against volunteering in multiple locations back to back if you’re spending less than two weeks in any particular location.

Many people want to volunteer with UBELONG in both the Amazon and Galapagos. This is a great way to experience two wonderful environmental volunteer projects.

If you would like to do this, some tips:

First, think about dates. Each location starts every Monday, and the Amazon volunteer project requires you to stop in Quito on the Sunday before your first Monday for a check-in with our Local Team Leader there.

So, while we’re flexible, our suggestion on your dates is:

  • Arrive in Quito on a Sunday. That night, you are welcome to stay at UBELONG’s Quito Volunteer House. The cost is $20 per night, which includes your meals. More information about this in the “cost” tab of the Amazon page.
  • On Monday, leave for the Amazon by bus. We’ll help you organize this when you are in Quito.
  • Volunteer in the Amazon for however many weeks you would like. Then, on your final Sunday, leave the Amazon to return to Quito by bus and either catch your flight to the Galapagos or spend another night with us in Quito and catch your flight to the Galapagos on Monday.

Again, all this is flexible and once you join we can help you further with details, but this is the way most UBELONG volunteers organize their dates when they volunteer in both the Amazon and Galapagos.

Second, submit two applications, one for Galapagos and one for Amazon.

Third, check out our volunteer application process so you know what to expect. Then, wait for some good news, you are one step closer to joining the finest international volunteers in the world 🙂

Project

Your orientation happens on your first Monday and is led by our Local Team Leader. During the orientation you go over your project scheduling and receive further information about your work. You also meet other volunteers and staff, and learn the general layout of the reserve.

Yes. In the Preparation Booklet you receive when you become a UBELONG Volunteer we give you a list of items that you need, which includes headlamps, mosquito repellent, rubber boots and work gloves.

Yes, the majority of the local team speaks English.

Yes, but we ask that you limit any financial or material donation to your project to US$20 for every month you spend in the field. We do not want to encourage a culture of dependency whereby volunteers are viewed as a source of money.

Additionally, as an international development organization, we believe the culture of handouts that has been perpetuated by “voluntourism” organizations with no real commitment to making a genuine local impact is unfortunate. Handouts stifle local innovation, self-reliance, and long-term sustainability.

In general, all of the projects run Monday through Friday. Saturday and Sunday are off, as well as local holidays. Your days off are free, so it’s entirely up to you what to do.

As for the number of hours a day you will spend at your project, every project is different. For every project description under the “projects” tab above we offer an approximation of what you can expect.

Finally, remember that in accepting you as a UBELONG Volunteer we expect you to be understanding that local needs are always changing. You may find yourself volunteering either more or less days and hours than you expected, and you must be adaptable and flexible.

As it says in each project description under the “projects” tab above, we require a police background check from every UBELONG Volunteer. Once you apply and are accepted into a project your UBELONG Mentor will ask you for it.

In terms of obtaining one, every country, state and city is different. For example, getting a background check in Washington, DC, where UBELONG was founded, is different than getting one in a neighboring city like Boston or New York. Similarly, countries like Australia and Canada all have their own unique processes.

In general though, it is a relatively easy process that simply requires you to walk into your local police station and ask for one. For volunteers living in the United States we also have a couple helpful tips that we offer you in your Preparation Booklet once you become a UBELONG Volunteer.

Living

In most cases yes and, considering the difficulty of meeting dietary restrictions in the countries UBELONG Volunteers serve in, we believe we do an excellent job. For example, restrictions related to dairy, eggs, gluten, poultry, meat, nuts and shellfish are generally not a problem.

With that said, there are limitations because of the different resources available in the field. For example, if your allergy is very severe, we cannot guarantee cooking environments that are completely free of a particular type of food product, for example peanuts or seafood. Remember, you are travelling to an environment that may not be built to cater to your requirements.

So, if you have a dietary restriction, simply let us know in your application and, if we cannot meet it, we will let you know. You can also contact us before you submit your application and ask us about your particular needs.

Yes. We encourage you to discover different places, experience new cultures, and meet other people. These are fundamental parts of the UBELONG Volunteer Abroad experience, and you should take advantage of your free time in the field.

No. The UBELONG experience is as much about volunteering on your project, as it is about cross-cultural exchange and community building. A lot of that happens through the housing that we have set up. Additionally, for safety reasons all volunteers must live in vetted housing. As such, for you to become a UBELONG Volunteer you must live in our accommodations. 

Network Opportunities

The United States President’s Volunteer Service Award was created by the President’s Council on Service and Civic Participation to recognize the contributions of American volunteers and encourage others to serve. There are various award levels, depending on the number of hours served.

UBELONG has been certified to give the award to UBELONG Volunteers. UBELONG successfully passed the selection process as a U.S. based international volunteering organization committed to the highest standards.

The award can be bestowed to U.S. citizens, and we award it to UBELONG Volunteers who, upon returning home, share their stories in our Volunteer Abroad news section.

Washington, DC is the most important international volunteering center in the world. Our network is strong and we have unparalleled resources at our fingertips. Most notably, the city is home to influential development organizations, government agencies, embassies, think-tanks and universities. We tap heavily into these networks to help us design safe, affordable, and high-quality programs.

Cost

You are not “paying to volunteer.” Among other services, you are paying for your pre-departure preparation with a UBELONG Mentor, project supervision, housing and meals. Additionally, your fee goes towards the extensive structure we put in place to support you. Offering safe, comfortable and meaningful volunteering experiences in developing countries takes an enormous amount of resources. It does not “just happen.” From large details to ones you will never notice but that are still crucial, we make sure that you can focus on discovering new places and making a difference instead of worrying about logistics.

Additionally, in many cases it is significantly cheaper to join a UBELONG Volunteer Abroad project than traveling alone and trying to plan logistics like airport pickup, housing and meals on your own. Not even counting UBELONG services like pre-departure preparation, project supervision and volunteer flight discounts, it is very difficult to travel on your own and have what we charge you give you the same comfort, security, and support that UBELONG volunteers receive.

UBELONG has revolutionized how people volunteer abroad. A fundamental part of our mission is to offer the highest quality experiences at the lowest possible cost. We are able to do so for two principal reasons:

1. There are very few organizations offering one week to six month international volunteering opportunities. As a result, even those claiming to be nonprofit get away charging exorbitantly high prices. Strong demand and low supply means elevated prices.

We believe that a new approach is needed. We are a social venture, which means we aim to advance our social mission in a sustainable manner instead of widening our profit margins. Moreover, being led by former international volunteers with extensive academic, international development and management experience, we can keep our overhead costs low while focusing on the quality of our programs. We do much more with much less.

2. The resources we have as a US-based organization are unmatchable. We have access to embassies, governmental organizations, NGOs and universities that allow us to build the highest quality programs in the most cost-effective manner. Additionally, considering that the majority of international volunteers come from North America and Europe, our being an American company led by North Americans and Europeans lets us reach volunteers very easily. Instead of spending resources on marketing we can focus on building our programs and supporting our volunteers.

To learn more, we encourage you to read a post by UBELONG Founder Cedric Hodgeman, in which he talks about the affordability of the UBELONG Volunteer Abroad program.