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Street Children Project in Ambato (Ecuador)

Ambato is located in the Andean mountains south of Quito at an altitude of about 5,577 meters above sea level (about 8,454 feet) and has about 330,000 inhabitants including the urban areas which makes it one of the biggest cities in Ecuador.

The city is a big transportation hub and also it has big industries within for example vehicles, textiles, glass, shoes and food, but due to its big production of flowers and fruits it is also famous as the “City of Fruits and Flowers” and has a big festival each year in February in memory of the big earthquake that destroyed the city in 1949.

THE PROJECT

Ambato that has many industries is sadly also famous for child labor and the project aims is to give the children a place to be after school so they have a chance to have lunch, do their homework, and stay away from the streets.

The main part of the program for the street children is located in the central part of the city. We have about 250 children and adolescents coming every day though the number can vary from day to day. The other part of the project is in the suburbs with about 100 children and here they also try to produce handcraft while the children and adolescents can learn a trade to maybe start their own business one day.

Unfortunately, most of the kids attending this project come from very poor neighborhoods where the parents can barely offer them a piece of bread or in many cases they are alcoholics, drug addicts, or the family simply has no income to support the children. As the kids lack good nutrition, the project tries to provide them good nutritional food to give them the chance to improve health. The kids learn in school as well as the skills of making necklaces in order to get some income to support the project since the government barely supports them financially.

INTERN’S AND VOLUNTEER’S ROLE

Volunteers are needed to help with the daily tasks in the centers such as keeping an eye on the children, play with the children, help with homework, help with reinforcement classes, help with lunch for the children by for example cooking / serving food / feeding smaller children, make games, play games, dance, sing etc. Volunteers might also help with the workshops that they arrange for the children.

Exactly what volunteers will do depends on a number of factors like if the children have homework or not, what the volunteer can and feel comfortable to do, the age of the children, what they need help with, etc.

In general the volunteer in the projects are needed since the number of people working at the project is not enough to help with the daily work. There are some days when the children increase in number and it is hard to say no to a hungry, small kid. Also, it is good for the children to see another adult from another country that maybe has some new things to teach them or just be with as many children lack of affection and social connection to adults.

Volunteers who study social work or psychology are very welcome since the social work/psychological department is in need of help to assist the so many cases they have with different kids

What volunteers might do:
• Help the children with their homework.
• Help teaching the children things like how to make bracelets or similar handcrafts.
• Help out in the kitchen to prepare and serve lunch to the children.
• Look after the children and give them company.
• Reinforce their knowledge in math or any other subject they need.

REQUIREMENTS

Application with passport scan
Resume/CV
Interest in working with children
Adaptable and open-minded to work and live in a different culture

RECOMMENDED

4 weeks minimum
Intermediate Spanish is recommended
Some experience with children is recommended

Working Hours

Monday to Friday, from about 08:00 to 16:30.
Volunteers normally have lunch in the project together with the children and the staff.

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 dippers, pants, socks, shirts, shoes, jackets, powder 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, but remember that it’s best to give this to the director of the project as they know how to best distribute everything. If volunteers want to buy things, it’s best to check with us and the project to see what is needed most at the moment and it’s often cheaper to buy things in Ecuador than back home.

HOME STAY

Volunteers will stay with a family, normally within 30 minutes away from the project.
They have a private room, a shared bathroom and 3 meals with the family but while working they normally eat in the project together with the children and the staff.

TO GET THERE

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 $8 USD to the new bus terminal in the south of Quito and here they take a bus for about 2.5 hours (about $3) to Ambato. On arrival to Ambato, a family member will wait in the bus terminal to take the volunteer to their house. The host family will show the volunteer how to get around, how to get to the project, where an internet café can be found or an ATM machine etc. so the volunteer feels familiar with the area.

The day after the volunteer will be taken to the project and introduced to the director
Volunteers also needs to calculate $0.25 one way to get to the project every day.

PLACEMENT FOR

Anybody that likes to work with children and adolescents. It could also be possible as an internship for child care students, sociology, psychology, social worker students.

THINK ABOUT

This is a placement that works for all ages, but maybe best for younger volunteers as they tend to have more energy and they will notice that the children really take the breath away sometimes as they can run and play around all day long 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. They also need to help with cleaning, cooking, and everything else that needs to be done in benefit of the children.