Orphanage Work in Quito (Ecuador)
The two orphanages we work with are located in the south and the north part of Quito. To either one of them, it will take about 45 minutes with local transportation from where participants live depending on what family they live with and how the traffic is.
Both the orphanages are run by nuns but while the one in the south has civilian staff as well, the one in the north only has nuns working there except for one driver.
Most of the children have a sad story for life as their parents often have problems with drugs, poverty, alcohol, mental illness or other problems, therefore they have ended up in the orphanage. Many children have been placed here as nobody else can or will take care of them and some of the children have even been found in trash bins, abandoned on the streets, or in some bushes. The government’s help to the children and the orphanages normally ends after they have found a child and taken it to an orphanage. After this, the only thing the government does indirectly is that the schools today are free from monthly fees, but other than that they don’t do much. As a result, the orphanages need to raise their own money and ask for contributions for food, clothing, medicine, etc.
Except for short local holidays and vacations for Christmas, Easter and other holidays, the schools in Quito have summer holiday from the end of June to the end of August. This means that during the holidays the children will be in the orphanage all day long, but they try to arrange excursions with the children if possible.
Orphanage in the South:
There are about 40 children here ranging from about 1 year to 12 years old. They live in one of 6 apartments with their “mother” that takes care of the day to day tasks around them like cooking, cleaning, laundry, playing, etc. As it is a lot to do with cooking and cleaning, so it is hard for the “mothers” to have much time for games and homework and that’s why volunteers can help a lot. There are up to 8 children in each apartment together with substitute mom and in total there are normally around 40 children.
Children that attend school do it in the morning and therefore it is calmer in the orphanage in the morning with only the youngest ones there. If it is nice weather, the children can go outside to the garden or to the basket court or soccer field behind the house.
Once the children get back to the orphanage from the school, which is around 12:30 or 13:00. They first have lunch and then they have tasks to do such as their homework, cleaning the place where they have their snacks, taking the time for reinforcement when needed, etc.
When doing their homework the older children will help the young one so they can understand it better and finish it soon to have some time left to play.
Orphanage in the North:
Here the children also range from about 1 up to 12 years and they have about 40 children. The children live in dorms, one for boys, one for girls and the smallest children. There are only nuns that work in this orphanage together with help from one local Ecuadorian that is their driver if needed.
Except the children that live here, there is also another group of children that come here in the morning and get picked up in the afternoon like a daycare facility for poor families in the area. Thus, in total there are up to 135 children here approximately every day.
When the older children leave to attend school early in the morning, the smaller ones are divided into two groups for pre-school activities in two classrooms. During their pedagogic classes of singing, drawing, learning the alphabet etc, they have a break for a snack before continuing for a while. Then, while the older children start to come back from school, they have some time for playing games outside before it’s time for lunch.
After lunch, it is time to do their homework. If they have a lot to do or if they are slow, they might sit with this the whole afternoon while the ones that are finished have a chance to get some free time to play. They also have a snack in the afternoon to make sure they have enough strength to study and work.
Older children are thought to be responsible and have to learn to help out with various things. For example, this could be to help the smaller ones to the bathroom, help with cooking or doing the dishes, help cleaning, help younger children with homework, be responsible for the entrance door, and help serve food during lunch and snacks.
The orphanage normally closes for repairing work and maintenance sometime in August for about one month. During this time, the children will either stay with relatives to the family or in an orphanage on the coast in Esmeraldas.
Also, during the school summer holiday in the end of June to beginning of September, they might have other activities as well as during other local holidays like Easter and Christmas.
Interns’ or Volunteers’ Roles
The first thing the volunteers normally are asked to help with is English homework as the nuns or the staff have very little or no knowledge in this. The orphans that attend school also have other homework of course like Math, Spanish, Geography, etc, which volunteers also can help with. In the orphanage in the north, volunteers will also help with the pre-school classes that the smaller children have in the morning.
A big part of this program is the social part. Volunteers are needed to just be around the orphans, play with them as well as looking after them, and make sure they don’t do anything they shouldn’t. This take form in many different ways as some children might like soccer and games while other children prefer painting or dancing. Many times, volunteers are welcome to prepare activities or to grab a few children and start a soccer game. If volunteers have any games they know from their own childhood, they are more than welcome to teach both children and the staff the rules and maybe also to translate the rules on a paper for them to use in the future.
Another big part of the work at the orphanages is the daily work that takes place constantly around the orphans and in the background. This is for example helping children to the bathroom, change diapers, help cooking, do the dishes, wash clothing, clean bathrooms and bedrooms, fold clothing, etc. Volunteers will not be forced to change diapers for example, but they are expected to at least help out with some of these tasks from time to time.
During lunch and snack brakes, volunteers will help serving food, maybe help feeding smaller children and of course to help teaching good manners as well as showing how to help with cleaning dishes.
Application with passport scan.
CV / Resume.
Interest in working with children.
Be adaptable and open-minded to work and live in a different culture.
Minimum 4 weeks.
At least 4 to 6 weeks is recommended
At least basic Spanish is strongly recommended
Some experience with children is recommended
Monday to Friday, from about 09:00 to 17:00. It is also possible to work for half a day, but we will have to ask the orphanage first.
What to Bring
Most projects have a lack of materials and toys like footballs, paper, pens, scissor, toy cars, dolls, paper glue, pen sharpeners, erasers etc. The list can be made very long only with things that children need for school work and to play with, but most projects also lack and/or need other things for the children like diapers, pants, socks, shirts, shoes,
jackets, dry milk, baby bottles, blankets, bed sheets, pillows, towels, toothbrushes, toothpaste and similar things that are constantly used and worn out.
If volunteers can bring things like mentioned above from home, they always appreciate this in the projects. Remember that it is best to give donations to the director of the project as they know how to best distribute everything. If volunteers want to buy things, it is best to check with us and the project to see what is needed most at the moment and its often cheaper to buy things in Ecuador than back home.
Volunteers will stay with a family about 35 to 45 minutes away from the orphanages.
They have 3 meals with the family but while working they usually bring a lunch box, which is provided by the host family.
Volunteers usually will have a private room with a shared bathroom.
To Get There
Volunteers and interns will arrive to Quito where they first will have orientation to be shown basic things like where they have Internet, phone cabins, ATMs etc.
If they want Spanish classes, we can arrange that with working half the day. (Spanish classes are for $8 per 55 minute class.)
Volunteers and interns will be taken by either their host family or local coordinator to get introduced to the orphanage the first day and of course how to get there.
Calculate $0.25 to $0.50 for a one way trip here from the family.
Anybody that is interested in children can help at the orphanages. Also someone that might study to become a pre-school teacher or similar could do an internship here.
This is a placement that works for all ages, but maybe best for younger volunteers as they tend to have more energy. Volunteers may notice that the children can really take their breath away sometimes as they can run and play all daylong without a break.
One important thing to tell volunteers is that they have to remember that the project is more than just playing with children. Everything else has to be taken care of as well or they won’t have food, clean clothing, a clean room, or a clean bathroom to go to. This may sound like boring work for young participants, but many times this is actually a way to get a break from the children and most participants need this from time to time. This is very IMPORTANT as we get too many complaints from the orphanages about volunteers that just like to sit with other volunteers or a child in the sun without even looking at the other children or offering to help out with other tasks in the orphanage.
Volunteers with very low Spanish can still help a lot depending on their personality, but in many cases they tend to say that they are not needed and that there is nothing to do. The problem is that they don’t understand what they are asked to do and with very low Spanish they often tend to lose their initiative too. It is important to show interests in helping others.
At the orphanage in the north, the volunteers might help with the pre-school classes for the smaller children in the morning, but the nuns normally want them to work with other things in the beginning to see if they have the right personality and enough Spanish to help with this.