Join us for a Gardening Volunteer Vacation in the beautiful Andean highlands outside the city of Otavalo, Ecuador.
Get your hands dirty by working at the tree nursery in the community of Achupallas, planting trees in a local community alongside community members, or working with schoolchildren in their school garden. You will also have an opportunity to tour horticultural sites and learn about native plants and gardening techniques in the region.
When you are not having fun digging in the dirt, you will have a chance to immerse yourself in the local culture, soak up breathtaking scenery, and experience different biomes. You may visit the famous Otavalo market, take a cooking class at Kawsaymi Cooking School, hike to natural wonders, and meet local craftspeople.
After days filled with gardening and exploring, relax and socialize with your fellow volunteers at a comfortable inn in Otavalo.
Cost: $1,350 double occupancy, $150 additional for single occupancy. The trip fee covers all the basic expenses (food, lodging, transportation, activities) from when you land at the Quito airport until we drop you off there. (We provide one airport pickup on the first evening, and one bus back to the airport, on the last night. If your plans require different pickups or drop-offs, you will need to cover those on your own). Airfare is not included, and you'll want to bring extra money for personal expenses.
Sample Itinerary for Gardening Volunteer Venture:
Arrive in the evening and settle in. We provide one bus to pick up the group from the airport and bring you to Otavalo.
Have orientation and visit the world-famous Otavalo market.
Work at the tree nursery most of the day, and then visit Cuicocha volcanic lake.
Work with students in their school garden. In the afternoon, visit a master weaver.
Spend the morning at the school, planting more vegetables in the school garden. In the afternoon, have a picnic under Otavalo's sacred tree.
Beautify a community by landscaping its newly-constructed community center. In the afternoon, learn about medicinal plants and enjoy a Pachamanka, a traditional dinner cooked in the earth.
Help in a minga, [community work party] planting trees in one of the communities. In the afternoon, participate in a traditional cooking class and learn about the plants cultivated by local families.
Visit the high-altitude páramo to see another biome and its endemic plants, have a celebratory dinner, then head back to the airport and fly out at night.
The CDC recommends vaccinations against Hepatitis A, typhoid, tetanus-diphtheria and measles. Yellow fever is recommended for other parts of Ecuador but not necessary in the mountains where we work. Vaccinations are up to your own discretion.
I've heard about the Zika virus. Should I be concerned for my health?
The Zika virus is carried by mosquitoes that generally live below 1200 meters, but Tandana works at much higher elevations--typically above 2000 meters. So the chances of encountering a Zika-carrying mosquito while with Tandana is quite low. Moreover, the main concern for Zika is the damage it can do to fetuses if the mother contracts the virus; for others, the clinical symptoms are mild. Nevertheless, if you plan to travel in lower elevations before or after your time with us, you might want to take precautions with an insect repellant approved by the EPA.
What are the accommodations like?
Tandana's gardening volunteer venture participants are provided lodging at a wonderful facility right in Otavalo, Ecuador: Casa Latitud. Rooms all have private baths, comfortable beds, and outlets with the same electricity as the U.S. Wi-fi is available in the common area. Breakfast each day is a treat that offers fresh local fruits and juices, excellent coffee and a selection of hot breakfast items to start your day off right. The garden and patio area are an oasis with a view of 2 inactive volcanos. And the location is perfect for market shopping just 4 blocks away.
Will my electronic devices work in Ecuador?
Yes, Ecuador uses the same electrical currents and plugs as the United States does, so you don't need a special adapter.
What kind of clothing, etc. should I pack?
We will send you a "welcome" packet about a month before your departure, which includes a suggested packing list.
Should I bring my gardening tools?
You might want to bring personal hand tools, garden gloves, and boots or shoes that can take the mud. If you forget something, we do have an assortment of gloves and tools left behind by others. Just remember that some things are tricky for taking on planes. If you bring a soil knife, for example, you'll need to wrap it in a cardboard sheath and pack it in your checked luggage.
What if I don't speak Spanish?
It's not necessary to speak Spanish in order to do good work and have a good time on this trip. You'll learn the important basics during orientation, and Tandana staff will be able to translate for you.
Who leads the groups of volunteers? Who do I turn to when I need help?
All of Tandana's volunteer programs are led by a team of Program Coordinators who have first-hand knowledge of the region, speak both Spanish and English, have expertise in experiential education and group leadership, hold WFA (Wilderness First Aid) or other certifications that have prepared them to handle emergencies, and are caring and capable individuals. Our permanent local staff is always on hand to help with translation, activities, logistics, and anything else to make sure the volunteers' experience is the best it can possibly be. See here for bios of some Program Coordinators.
What if I can't find the answer to my question on the FAQ page?
Please email your question to us at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we'll answer it as quickly as we can.
En Équateur, nous travaillons principalement dans les communautés de la paroisse de Quichinche, dans le canton de Otavalo, dans la Sierra équatorienne. Juste à l'extérieur du centre du marché de Otavalo, cette zone est à seulement 2 heures en bus de Quito, mais offre une tranquillité rurale et la connexion à la terre très différente de la vie dans la capitale.
Les volcans du père et de la mère, Imbabura et Cotacachi, se gardent sur les vallées et les collines où les Otaveleño indigènes et les familles métisses cultivent leur subsistance. Diversifiés dans leurs coutumes, les résidants sont unis par leur besoin de travailler ensemble pour améliorer leurs communautés. Ils cultivent le maïs, les pommes de terre, les haricots et d'autres cultures, tissent des textiles et des paniers, et commutent à Otavalo pour l'enseignement secondaire ou les travaux du secteur formel. Les Otavaleño sont l'un des groupes autochtones équatoriens qui ont le plus de succès à préserver leur identité culturelle et leurs traditions. Parlant à la fois Kichwa et espagnol, ils ont appris à négocier les structures de pouvoir de leur nation tout en conservant la fierté de leur patrimoine autochtone. Les gens de Quichinche travaillent dur et aiment aussi célébrer. En général, ils sont très accueillants pour les visiteurs et aiment partager la nourriture, plaisanter autour, et discuter de leur culture avec les invités. Le paysage qui entoure leur maison, en attendant, offre des lacs hauts, des chutes d'eau, et des pics volcaniques pour inspirer un sens de la grandeur de la nature. L'élévation de 274 mètres de la région et la proximité de l'Équateur se conjuguent pour lui donner des températures toujours confortables (de 10 à 26 C) tout au long de l'année.
Faites défiler la carte de l'histoire ci-dessous pour connaître les communautés avec lesquelles nous collaborons et voir leurs emplacements sur une carte.
Ecuador experience an honor for volunteer gardeners
Earlier this year, The Tandana Foundation hosted a group of members from the Ohio Master Gardener Volunteers program. Pam Bennett, the Ohio State Master Gardener Program Director, wrote about about her experience on the trip in the Dayton Daily News. Her article is below. Español Français This past week I had the privilege once again … Continue reading "Ecuador experience an honor for volunteer gardeners"
A creative chronicle of a volunteer’s trip to Ecuador
During a Tandana Foundation volunteer trip with the Ohio Masters Gardener group last year, Ed Gasbarre kept a journal chronicling what he did each day. From helping out on a farm to visiting with school children, and sampling the local cuisine, Ed creatively documented each experience with photos and drawings alongside his written description. Read … Continue reading "A creative chronicle of a volunteer’s trip to Ecuador"
The many impacts of the Olouguèlèmo Association’s environmental protection work
The Olouguèlèmo Association has been actively organizing and implementing projects to conserve and restore the biodiversity and environment across the Wadouba Township of Mali. Nineteen communities are now a part of the association, which receives support from The Tandana Foundation in the form of funds, training, and other resources. In the following blog, Moussa Tembiné … Continue reading "The many impacts of the Olouguèlèmo Association’s environmental protection work"
In April 2018, the Tandana Foundation partnered with the residents of Kilegou to create a garden at the elementary and junior high school. To support their efforts in establishing the school garden, Tandana provided the community members with a fence, tools, training, seeds, and water containers, helping to solve the water problem during the driest months. … Continue reading "The impact of the Kilegou school garden"
Motilón Chupa, the newest addition to the Tandana family
The Tandana family has been growing larger every year, and the foundation currently works with about 20 different communities in highland Ecuador. One year ago, a new community named Motilón Chupa joined our family. Motilón Chupa is a small community of less than 250 people that is located near Padre Chupa. Español Français In a … Continue reading "Motilón Chupa, the newest addition to the Tandana family"
Volunteer trips can take many forms. Sometimes volunteers make lasting connections with local people, and other times they leave without building a lasting relationship. As Karen Graves explains below, the volunteer trips organized by the Tandana Foundation fall into the first category. In the following blog, Graves shares her experience volunteering in Ecuador with Tandana, … Continue reading "It’s all about the relationships"
The Tandana Foundation is a network of diverse people and communities across the world. It is the strength of this network working together that allows Tandana and its partners to achieve community goals, while fostering caring intercultural relationships based on mutual respect and responsibility. On the last day of a recent Gardening Volunteer Venture trip … Continue reading "Tandana is unity"