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Volunteering in Otavalo

Volunteer Abroad Alliance - Ecuador - Otavalo



about Ecuador

Ecuador is located in the northwest of South America and is the smallest country in the Andes with a total area of ​​283.561 km². With about 16 million inhabitants, it is one of the most densely populated countries in South America. The capital, Quito, is located at an altitude of 2.800 meters and lies just below the equator, which gives the country its name. Ecuador borders the Pacific Ocean to the west, Colombia to the north and Peru to the east and south.

Ecuador is divided into four main zones: the coast (Costa), the Andes (Sierra), the Amazon basin (Oriente) and the Galapagos Islands. The coastal area consists of wide plains with fertile soil, mainly used for agriculture. The plains are only a few meters above sea level, which means that temperatures can rise quickly. In addition to extensive plantations, you will mainly find mangrove forests and tropical forests. Guayaquil, the largest city in the country, is located in the south of this country.

The Sierra are the highlands of the Andes and are formed by two parallel mountain ranges: the Cordillera Occidental and the Cordillera Oriental. The Andes runs through the center of the country. Both the capital Quito (2800m) and the third largest city Cuenca (2500m) are located in these high mountains. Ecuador is known for its large number of volcanoes, some of which are still active. The so-called “volcano road” is formed by volcanoes such as the Cayambe (5790m), Antisana (5704m), Chimborazo (6310m) and Cotopaxi (5897m). The Cotopaxi Volcano is the highest active volcano in the world.

The Oriente is located in the east and consists of a tropical jungle area (la Selva), with a very varied flora and fauna. The area is intersected by a number of major rivers. The two most famous national parks are Cuyabeno and Yasuni. This green lung is seriously threatened by rampant logging and many concessions for mining and petroleum.

The Galapagos Islands are located 1000 km west of the mainland. The archipelago consists of a group of 13 large and dozens of smaller islands. Five islands are inhabited. The islands are of volcanic origin and have never been connected to the mainland. This makes them particularly unique from a geographical point of view and they are home to unique animal species.

about Otavalo

Our projects in Ecuador are based in Otavalo, a city in the Andes, 100 km north of Quito. Here you will find the headquarters of our projects.

Otavalo is a city in the high Andes in northern Ecuador. The city is surrounded by volcanoes, Imbabura, Fuya Fuya, Cotacachi. In Otavalo you will find the largest artisanal every Saturday markt of South America.

The city is located in the province of Imbabura at an altitude of 2500 meters, has about 53.000 inhabitants and takes its name from the Indian tribe Otavalo. This tribe has managed to maintain its own culture and identity and adapt it to modern times.

By modernizing the textile industry in particular, a lot of money has flowed into the community and people have bought back the original land from large landowners. Compared to many other places in Ecuador, the city of Otavalo itself is prosperous with a cheerful streetscape.


The head office in Ecuador is located in Otavalo where we have our base of operations to the rest of the country.

The project work in Ecuador consists of 'growing together', going through a process together with the local population. Through sustainable projects that directly address the problems, values ​​such as respect, shared responsibility, transparency, trust, discipline and solidarity play a major role.

We direct and guide experiential learning processes among vulnerable population groups to promote the local economy and sustainable agriculture, so that associations and productive organizations can evolve socio-economically towards independence.

We believe in integral processes, where cultural, anthropological, socio-economic, scientific-ecological and educational aspects are intertwined.


The first two nights our volunteers always stay at the office in Otavalo for their orientation.

During the rest of your volunteer work you will stay in a single room in a homestay close to your project environment. All accommodations are selected for their safety. Volunteers are never housed in dangerous or unsafe areas. Water shortage can occur, but never for a long period of time. Amenities depend on where you stay.

You always stay in a homestay. Sheets and towels are always provided by the host/hostess. There is hot water everywhere except in Nanegal; nanegalito; Gualsaqui; Moraspungo & San Jose. Each homestay has a western toilet. WIFI may be available in some places but it is unreliable. It is best to arrange your own mobile internet (our team will help you with this).


You may do fieldwork for a few days, but keep in mind that luxury is not always available. In remote areas, you may need to wash in a bowl of river water. Tap water is only available in the cities; in the villages this is more exceptional. You will only find hot water in urban areas. Water can also be boiled on a wood fire in the remote areas.


All meals are the responsibility of the volunteer. Some accommodations have cooking facilities, others do not. The team managers will be happy to explain where you can do your shopping.

For about 7,5 EUR / day you can already eat in your homestay prepared by your local host / hostess. In Otavalo & Atuntaqui there is no cooking, you can use the kitchen here.

Except in El Limonal & the Carchi province, you can easily eat anywhere in the city.


Otavalo is surrounded by volcanoes, Imbabura, Fuya Fuya, Cotacachi where you can walk extensively. In Otavalo will find every Saturday the greatest craft markt of South America.

The most famous tourist places in the Otavalo area are:

  • craft markt
  • Peguche . waterfall
  • The waterfall of Taxopamba
  • San Pablo Lake
  • The lakes of Mojanda
  • Condor Park
  • The Imbabura Volcano and Fuya Fuya can be climbed, it is recommended to do this with a licensed guide.

There are also big festivals every year

  • Fiesta de Yamor
  • Pawkar Raymi
  • Inti Raymi


Volunteering abroad comes at a cost and it is not the intention that the community you will help have to pay for it. If there were sufficient budgets to cover these costs, we would spend it on a local employee who knows the local culture and daily customs. If you want to know more about our transparent system, take a look at the transparency page.

local costs

These costs, which you pay on site, are specific to your stay, such as your accommodation and meals. Through payable locally you are also sure that your contribution will go directly to the person who organizes it and will not be left behind at various “intermediate stations”. 

Note: these costs are only for individual volunteer work. For group projects, different prices apply depending on various factors

The cost is €50/week

What is included

  • Local costs and preparations specific to your stay;
  • Accommodation 7/7;
  • Airport pickup;
  • The first transport to your project on the third day.

What is not included

There are probably other expenses that you would like to take into account. The list is a brief summary of the most common possible costs:
  • International vluchten;
  • drinks;
  • Breakfast and dinner;
  • travel insurance;
  • Costs related to your free time;
  • All meals: for 7,5 EUR/day per day you can already eat in local restaurants or with your host family. It can be even cheaper if you prepare your meals yourself.
  • Visa fees;
  • Internet: There are several options, depending on your wishes. You already have a basic 30 day plan for 5 USD.

Connection fee

We want to ensure that there is sufficient influx of volunteers to keep each project viable. After all, many projects require continuity from volunteers in order for the project to succeed or to create sufficient impact. Unfortunately, marketing and raising volunteers costs a lot of money. The budgets that the participating organizations collect during recruitment campaigns are used to develop projects in the south for the benefit of the local population and we therefore do not want to address these funds for marketing campaigns.

The membership fee serves to cover the costs of our volunteer platform. We ask each participant for a one-time contribution of €130. This is only the first time volunteering and only after you have been accepted. After payment of this contribution, you can do unlimited volunteer work in the future at any project (if there is room and you meet the requirements of course).

As soon as you are a member, we will inform you as soon as new projects are added to our alliance.

What is your connection fee used for?

  • Annual costs for the management of our platform such as management of the registration database, website, administration…. We try to keep these costs to a minimum, but they must be covered. We have a beautiful website that needs to be maintained and on which all information regarding our programs and our organization must be kept up-to-date.
  • Promotion costs money and we want to make ourselves as visible as possible in the streets in order to find enough volunteers for each project. This contribution is therefore also used for promotions on various media, printed matter, but also the presence at trade fairs & network events.
  • We are volunteers and put a lot of energy into our projects but also into your preparation. In the past we had volunteers who did not show up. That is very annoying for our team and the local people we support. We see this contribution as a kind of guarantee that you will keep your promise.
  • You get your own personal webpage where you can write everything about your experiences abroad and in that way keep the home front informed about your adventure abroad.

You can read all about the possible costs on our transparency page.


We will of course not let you leave without thorough preparation and guidance. With Volunteer Abroad Allliance we have developed a system that ensures that you can sleep soundly and leave with peace of mind for your volunteer work abroad. As soon as you have been accepted and everything has been arranged, you can count on the guidance of our experts.

Once you are registered and accepted for your project, your preparation can begin. You already get a lot to read on the website, but you can also prepare for your trip in other ways. Once you have arrived, you can also count on the guidance of our local team.

Project page

Volunteering will have an impact on you and on the local population. We think it is very important to create awareness for you as a volunteer, so that you can optimally prepare for what awaits you as a volunteer. That is why you will receive the login codes for the project page after acceptance as a volunteer. Here you will find information that is important to you as a volunteer for your preparation. You can read everything about your project, accommodation, instructions for a visa application, a packing list, cultural advice for your country and much more…

Personal Mentor

Our experienced mentor will contact you and will help you with advice and answers to the questions you have. Your mentor is a member of an organization that is part of our alliance and has been working with fundraising for the project you are traveling to for years, so you can speak of a real specialist. Our mentors are members of our alliance and have years of experience in the projects. This system ensures that you receive 100% expert guidance from VAA.

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