Sophie Moellenbeck - General Care Projects in Ecuador
Travelling to the Galapagos
When I arrived in the Galapagos at the beginning of January 2013, I didn’t really know what to expect. Until only a little while ago I didn’t even know where the Galapagos archipelago was. The only thing I knew from biology class was that there are finches named after Darwin.
When I first set foot on San Cristobel Island I immediately knew that I could very well spend six months on Las Islas Encantadas (The Enchanted Islands). The people are outgoing and interested in getting to know you.
When I left the airport there was a Projects Abroad member of staff waiting to pick me up. I felt at home right away. They gave me (and two more volunteers who arrived on the same day) a tour through town. They showed us where the bank, pharmacies and so on were and introduced us to our projects.
My Care project
To start with I worked in a school with four to six year old kids. In February, the school closes for a long break and so the other volunteers and I started work at a summer camp organised for local children (aged between 5-14 years). We offered Arts, English, Sports and Conservation classes starting at 8.30 in the morning and finishing at 12.15pm. The kids were split up into four groups according to their age.
I taught Art with two other volunteers. It was a lot of fun but also involved a great deal of planning and preparation. We had to make sure we had the materials, colours and paper set up when the children arrived and ensure that the class room didn’t look a mess when the day was over. It was a lot of work, but it was rewarding. To change the daily routine a bit in order to make things more interesting and fun for the children, we organised trips to the beach, the pool, and horseback riding.
The children really enjoyed what we were doing so we knew we had done a good job. Some even wanted to stay after the class ended or put in some extra time at home to finish a project. This showed us our efforts were taken seriously and that everybody got something out of it. Of course it could get loud and messy at times- but that is what happens when 30 little creative minds get together in a room.
My host family
During my stay I lived with a local family. They were very sweet and took great care of me. I had all my meals with them. My “host mum” was an excellent cook and there was always more than enough food for everyone.
On the weekends they took me to the highlands or fishing. During the rainy season we watched movies or just talked. My family didn’t speak any English. I benefited from this and my Spanish improved a lot.
Travelling in the Galapagos on the weekends
On the weekends I took every opportunity I could to get to know people - not just locals, but also volunteers. I met people from all over the world during my six months in the Galapagos. We went out at night (yes, there are a few bars and a disco), went to the beach and went snorkelling. Whilst snorkelling I saw turtles, rays, fish and sharks. Sometimes we went by boat to the other islands, where we walked up a volcano, explored mangrove forests and watched iguanas bathing in the sun.
My volunteering experience
The Projects Abroad staff were always available if I needed help or just wanted to talk. They helped me when my suitcase got lost on my way there and took me to the hospital when I fell ill. They also organised barbecues, sports events and Spanish classes.
Time went by incredibly fast and leaving the Galapagos was very hard. Living abroad for such a long time, and especially living in such a small community, makes you become a part of these people’s lives. They also become a part of your life. Looking back now, going to the Galapagos was the best decision I could have made. I learnt Spanish, got to know at least one new culture, helped people, swam with sharks and caught a tuna. What can be better than experiencing all this?
To anyone thinking about volunteering in the Galapagos - do it!
Read more about Care in Ecuador