Volunteer Service

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Volunteer Service May Include:
  • teaching English as a Second Language

  • health care through medical and dental clinics

  • health education

  • tutoring and recreation for children and teens

  • community and economic development.

  • Water rights



“My experience in Guayaquil thus far has been amazing. I am volunteering at a Foundation called Fundacion de Padre Damian. This organization houses men and women who have Hansen's Disease. The foundation also works to get rid of the stigma surrounding Hansen's Disease. Every morning when I walk in to volunteer, I am always inspired by the smiles on everyone's faces. Many of the men and women have lost their fingers, cartilage in their faces, feet, and sometimes even legs. Many people would choose to be bitter in these situations but I have never seen anyone seem unhappy. I always describe my days there as full of laughter. I am usually a part of intense domino tournaments or arts and crafts with the women where I practice my Spanish and learn about the lives of these joyful people. Just as my presence there is much appreciated, I will be forever changed after meeting these people.”

Hannah, IPSL Guayaquil, Ecuador Program Spring 2015 

Service-Learning™ versus Internship/Practicum

IPSL service-learning™ placements are determined, in part, by student interests and skills (and, in some cases, language abilities), but primarily by community needs. Central to the philosophy of service-learning™ is the notion of service. Service-learning™ is not the same as an internship or practicum although it may look very similar. The service in service-learning™ may or may not be career-related. An internship is designed mostly so that the student will benefit by learning about his/ her future profession. In contrast, in service-learning™, the outcome of the student's work - that is, the service – is as important as the student’s learning. There are — or should be - identifiable benefits to those served. This reciprocity is a key component in international service-learning™.

IPSL Service Placements


IPSL's service-learning™ placements are in agencies that have sprung up from the grassroots, where locals have identified a need, and where the change effort is owned by them. What they need is additional assistance of all kinds from the outside. So, IPSL participants should remember that they are stepping into a moving stream of initiatives and efforts that began long ago, and that will continue after the participant departs. Your work is important, but your individual contributions may not be visible for many years. Change takes time. In the meantime, you are fulfilling a need, and the need is huge.

A single agency may need hands-on assistance from IPSL participants (direct service) or assistance in the background building capacity (indirect service) so that the agency can one day experience more stability in the delivery of its services. Either way, both direct and indirect service are needed to accomplish the goals. Each is valuable. In actuality, because nearly all non-profits experience resource scarcity, IPSL participants do a little bit of everything. And this is as it should be. Nothing says "I'm a partner in your community" more than a willingness on the part of a service-learning™ participant not only to do higher tasks, but also occasionally to pick up a broom and sweep the floor so that the setting is clean and presentable. Such actions serve to break down stereotypes about Americans, and build relationships based on equality. That is why many of the service agencies with which we work have been our partners for years.

The IPSL website lists areas of service, and a few examples for each program site. This list is not exhaustive, nor static. The types of work listed do not each represent a distinct agency; they represent the types of work that IPSL participants can expect to encounter at the different service agencies with which we work. The number and selection of service agencies may change at any time. Sometimes there are logistical (transportation, scheduling, etc.) issues that arise that complicate certain service agency placements and make them unworkable. Sometimes students need to be proficient in the local language in order to serve in a particular agency. Also, we do not place too many students in any one agency. Doing so would undermine the immersion environment for which IPSL programs are known.


Volunteer Service that Addresses Real Human Needs

With nearly 2.5 million inhabitants, Guayaquil is Ecuador's largest city. Like many cities in South America, Guayaquil has experienced tremendous population growth in recent years; parts of the city have undergone impressive redevelopment while other areas of the city have become vast tracts of squatter housing lacking basic urban services. Urban growth is also putting significant pressures on unique, delicate ecological reserves that provide homes for endangered flora and fauna. These many challenges form the framework for the community service agencies in which IPSL students are placed.

You will serve 15–20 hours a week in an established Ecuadorian agency. Some of the service placements are in the "invasion" communities of rural and poor migrants. Areas of service may include:

  • Teaching English as a Second Language

  • Health care through medical and dental clinics

  • Health education

  • Tutoring and recreation for children and teens

  • Community and economic development.

You might aid homeless (street) girls; assist in projects for the disabled; work at an adoption agency for abandoned infants; teach in primary or secondary schools; assist in a hospital; or serve in other areas.

Volunteer Service Examples

Following are examples of agencies where IPSL students have served in the past or may be able to serve. Other service placements in the areas of heathcare, social and economic inclusion, foundations for at-risk children, services to street children, foundations for ecologically responsible small farming, theatre supporting social causes, may be available. Your placement will be determined by community and agency needs, as well as your interests, goals, and skills.


Housing and Micro-Credit (Hogar de Cristo) GROUP SERVICE PROJECT


An organization somewhat analogous to Habitat for Humanity, this agency provides housing, education, health and other services for the thousands of persons streaming into the “invasion” or squatter communities that encircle Guayaquil. The initial focus of the agency has been to provide low-cost prefabricated dwellings using materials native and adapted to the city’s wet, tropical climate; but a new area of emphasis is on adult education focused on developing micro-business and micro-financing opportunities particularly for women living in “invasion” communities. IPSL students assist with housing construction, English language instruction, and educational efforts with “invasion” community women connected to micro-business development.

Population Served: “Invasion” or squatter community mothers and children

Areas of Service:Construction / ESL / Micro-business

Low Income Medical Clinic (Luchadores del Norte)

This public health  center, located in a squatter community in Guayaquil, provides medical assistance to nearly 600 families. Clinic, laboiratory and pharmacy services are available. Volunteers help with education and information activities about health and prevention.

Population Served: “Invasion” or squatter community residents

Areas of Service: All Ages / Healthcare / Health education

Centro de Equinoterapia Integral  

This agency promotes social inclusion and offers rehabilitation of people with special abilities. They work with people, especially children, with psychological and intellectual disorders such as autism, Down syndrome, etc. Patients receive equine therapy, early intervention, occupational therapy, physiotherapy, speech therapy, psychological therapy, dance therapy, music therapy, hydrotherapy and garden therapy. To do this, the agency has a team of therapists who have been trained by renowned national and international experts in this field. The horses are properly trained to perform the equestrian therapies that help patients improve their balance, motor coordination and regulate muscle tone.

Federación de centros agrícolas y organizaciones campesinas del litoral

This organization is made up of over 60 small farmers’ groups, drawn from across the coastal region of Ecuador. In total, it has about 15,000 members. Among the objectives of the Federation are to raise awareness about the use of toxic chemicals in the production of food, at both consumer and producer levels. The organization also provides an alternative "farmers" market for organically grown food. Finally, the Federation acts as a political pressure group, advocating in favor of Food Sovereignty and Agroecology. The Federation is also organizing organic food fairs and a Seed Bank for the collection and storage of native seed varieties.

Fundación Gracias María

Created in 1993, Fundación Gracias Maria educates about 60 children from 7:30am to 16:30. The children are 1 to 6 years old and belong to families whose mothers work as maids in residential homes. The site provides the kids with breakfast and then divided in groups according to their ages for socializing, play and learning.The site also provides lunch and a snack in the afternoon. The kids have gardening classes and psychological assistance.

Fundación Niños con Futuro

This foundation works with and for the most vulnerable, at-risk children and adolescents from the poorest neighborhoods in Guayaquil. The foundation attempts to identify those in most need and registers them as students in the educational unit (elementary and high schools) in order to help them build a better future. The foundation provides education, meals, recreation, and psycho-social support.  The role of the volunteer is defined on an individual basis; some activities include catechesis classes, arts and crafts and working directly with children. There are also opportunities to organize cultural events for the children and families and to provide indirect support with office assistance.

Hospital León Becerra

This offers health services to people of the community with extremely low incomes. Patients can access medical services such as doctor's appointments, emergency care, observation, out patient and in patient hospitalization, intensive care, therapy laboratory services and other specialized care. Students can assist with patient intake and other non-specialized support services.

Benemerita Sociedad Protectora de la Infancia (BSPI)

BSPI is a private not for profit institution created to improve the lives of at-risk children. This foundation is focused in four service areas:

• Health with Hospital León Becerra de Guayaquil

• Protection with Hogar de Niños Inés Chambers

• Education with School San José Buen Pastor

• Accommodation at Residence Mercedes Begue

The Inés Chambers Residence is a safe house for children who have come from difficult homes  or who have suffered  some type of abuse, abandonment, or negligence. The residents receive daily care, food, accommodation, medical services, education, mental health services, clothing and recreation. There are 84 children (both boys and girls).

Fundación Padre Damien

A mission designed to help people infected with Hansen’s disease (formerly known as leprosy) to live with dignity. This foundation provides medical care seven days a week, twenty-four hours a day. It also provides human interaction and socialization, well-balanced meals each day, physical therapy, daily care and basic sanitation services. Approximately 35 patients live at the foundation, with others attending as out-patients only. Volunteers are needed in the following areas: nursing, physical therapy, occupational therapy, wound care specialties, recreational therapy, arts and crafts teacher. At the moment, the foundation has particular needs for work in: arts and handcrafts, hospital maintenance, informal English classes, and gardening.

Population Served: Elders who have or have had Hansen’s Disease

Areas of Service: Healthcare / Elderly / Recreation

Fundación Juconi (Junto con los niños)

JUCONI focuses on bringing street children out of their professions by offering counseling, employment, psychological and family support services. By utilizing the services of psychologists, counselors, and less specialized volunteers, JUCONI aims to offer a comprehensive rehabilitation of not only the children, but their families and communities as well. Most often the organization works ¨in the field¨ with families, usually located in the more impoverished areas of Guayaquil, engaging them in their own communities. Services offered to families are long-term and seek to be transformative, not transitory.The role of the volunteer in Juconi is defined on an individual basis, depending on the interests and abilities of the individual volunteer and the needs of the Juconi team. Opportunities range from visiting families, to helping deliver educational and recreational groups for children or office based activities such as translating and fundraising support.

K-12 School for children and adolescents from low-income families (Colegio Jose Domingo Santistevan)

School providing kindergarten, elementary and high school education to students from an economically disadvantaged area of central Guayaquil. The school is linked to Universidad Espiritu Santo, and educates approximately 1,300 students. It is located at the foot of Santa Ana Hill (where Guayaquil was founded).  Students can serve as teacher aides in English, Spanish, sports and art classes.

Population Served: Children and low-income families

Areas of Service: Education / Children & Youth / Recreation / ESL / Teaching/tutoring

Residential home for homeless girls (Sor Dominga Bocca)

A residential center for about 30 street girls between the ages of 4 and 18, in central Guayaquil. This foundation was founded by the former students of a Salesian high school, and is funded by donations. Along with accommodation and meals, the foundation provides educational support and school preparation. Students provide essential back-up services to the staff of the home, including help with academic tutoring, arts projects and recreation.

Population Served: Homeless girls

Areas of Service: Social services / Homelessness / Recreation / Women's issues / Teaching/tutoring

Fundación La Iguana

This is an NGO whose main objective is to recover and reforest the city with native species of trees as an immediate solution to fight the effects of climate change. They also protect the remaining environmental resources in order to improve communities and the resident's quality of life.  Volunteers can engage with community survey  and education efforts as well as physically planting and monitoring the trees.

Animal Welfare (Rescate Animal)

An authorized private not for profit organization approved by the Ministry of Agriculture, cattle, aquaculture and fishing in Ecuador. The organization is located in Guayaquil and runs a veterinary clinic. This foundation focuses on the rescue and care of all abandoned, abused and mistreated animals. The center has a shelter, sterilization, vaccination, vet and adoption services.

Population served: All species of urban fauna

Areas of service: animal rescue/education/ vet care/ shelter and adoption. Students can participate in event planning, marketing, graphic design, animal health and welfare service. Proficient Spanish is required.