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HIV Orphanage Program near Otavalo (Ecuador)

The orphanage is located about 20 minutes away from Otavalo at an altitude of about 2,500 meters above sea level, about 8,200 feet. Here in the country side of the Imbaburra province, most people live of agriculture in small communities spread all over the region. Close to the orphanage, there is a small village as well. Some people also live of producing different things like bags, ponchos, hats, table clothing’s, tapestry, etc, that they sell at the famous market in Otavalo.

Otavalo is the closest town from the orphanage and with its about 64,000 inhabitants there are plenty of services like ATM’s, agencies, Internet cafés and bus communication without losing its charming small town feeling.


In Ecuador, the number of people infected by HIV has increased during the last decade and as always children and adolescents get affected. This is something that the priest in the project (orphanage for children with HIV) saw and he started to work hard to take care of some of these young children and adolescents. Little by little he managed to get help and now the project has a big house with a decent piece of land where they try to give the children a good start in life with education, food and a feeling that they are loved.

At the moment there are 21 children at the orphanage from the age of 1 year to 16 years old. All the children that are old enough are taken to Otavalo every day Monday to Friday to attend the school. The smaller children that don’t attend school stay at the orphanage where they play or possibly help out with the agriculture or in the kitchen to learn something about daily life.

At the moment, there are 6 staff except the priest and of those there are three women working in the house and three men working outside in the area.

The women in the house do everything from changing diapers and cleaning toilets to cooking and washing clothes. However, as they are only three, they have almost no time to play or do homework with the children and the older children actually have to help taking care of the smaller children and other tasks in the house.

The men that work outside taking care of the infrastructure with cleaning, cutting the grass, etc. Also, they take care of the agriculture project and additionally they have a guinea pig farm, which they protect so much since they get money for having food at the table from this project. However, unfortunately all the efforts to get more production has been not very effective due to the lack of money. They try to make the project as sustainable as possible. At the moment they have some vegetables and animals, but the idea is that they should become more and more independent by producing more vegetables that they can use to cook and animals would give them for example eggs and meat.

All the children receive brake medicines for their HIV as this is something that the government has decided, but other than that the priest has to ask for contributions and help in the best way that he can. With the volunteers that participate at this project, the orphanage will not just get help but also some extra money for the home stay.


Volunteers can take part in many works around the orphanage, but an important thing for the children is the social part. It is important for the orphans to have someone around to play with, to talk to, or maybe just to get a hug. Volunteers are needed to be around the children and help them with anything they need, which can be doing homework for school, keeping them busy by teaching them a game, or taking them out to the garden to play soccer for a while.

Volunteers should not be afraid of doing other dirty things like changing diapers on the smaller children or to clean bathrooms as this is also an important part of the project. The house also needs to be cleaned. If volunteers want, they may also take care of the laundry or help cooking the meals as well as making sure that the children eats enough and are taking their medicines as they should.

Tasks that volunteers might do:

• Change diapers on the smallest children.
• Help cooking food.
• Clean the house, including all its rooms, toilets, laundry, kitchen etc.
• Do the laundry.
• Play with the children and look after them.
• Help with homework that the older children might have.


Application with passport scan in color and resume/CV.
Letter of intentions is recommended.
At least beginner Spanish is recommended.
Interest in working with children.
Possibility to live under simple conditions.
Open-mindedness to work and live in a different culture.
At least 8 week is recommended.


Monday to Friday. Basic hours are about 08:00 to 17:00 but as participants will live at the orphanage with the children they might be needed anytime if something happens.


If volunteers want to bring something, the orphanage is always in needs of things such as detergent, things to clean the house including toilets like chlorine, toothpaste, toothbrushes etc. If participants have a chance to bring things like shoes, clothing, school materials, books, DVD’s, music, paper, pens etc, it is also welcome as they need things for their school as well as for the house. Many things may be cheaper to get in Ecuador than back home.


Volunteers will live at the project where they will have a room and bathroom that might be shared with other volunteers. They will eat together with the children and the staff at the project.

During the night, it is normally only the priest that stays with the children as the staff goes home.


Volunteers have to arrive to Quito for at least the first day when we have the orientation. If they want Spanish classes, they will of course stay for a while before heading to the location of their work.

When it’s time to leave Quito they will take a cab for about $8 to the bus station in the north and here they take the bus to Otavalo for about $3. On arrival to Otavalo after about 2 hours, a staff member will wait in the bus terminal to take the volunteer on a 15 minutes car ride to the orphanage.


Anybody that wants to help with children but also don’t mind to work with other things like agriculture, cleaning bathrooms, change diapers, or other less attractive things that needs to be done.

Someone that has experience or interested in working with children could be placed here.


Living in a project that is located a bit off side can be a bit hard for someone without very much Spanish. In case a participant has a low level of Spanish, they should be quite sure in themselves as a person and it might help if they have some experience in traveling alone.