Emily W.’s Ecuador Experience

Emily W.
Volunteer Name:Emily W.
Project Attended:Amazon Rainforest Wildlife Rescue
Country Attended:Ecuador
As a first time volunteer, did you have any worries before you travelled? As this was my first time volunteering, but also my first time on a big trip abroad by myself, I (along with my family) had several worries before I travelled. The main concern was the safety of the country I was visiting and of the project I was working on. Most of my other questions were rather minor such as the availability of methods to contact my family at home, how to get around in Ecuador, what the accommodations were like at the Centre, timing, etc. Kaya was very helpful and addressed all of my questions/worries. One of the Kaya coordinators told me that volunteering is probably the best way to travel solo, as you have the ability to meet new people and others in your situation. That helped me to be less nervous about going alone.
What was the highlight of your trip? There were many highlights I would say. Just being able to see and learn about new species in the world (especially the Amazon Rainforest) was great. Specifically spending extra time with the species that were not going to be re-released into the wild (the songo songo and the coati) was very special and meaningful. I loved taking a tour of the new project site and the family’s plantations by trekking into the Amazon. They let us try different fruits they had there and it was just interesting to experience how they live and work every day. Getting to explore the nearby cities on weekends was also a fantastic cultural experience.
How do you feel at the end of your experience? I feel lucky. Not everyone gets to have these experiences and I am very happy to be fortunate enough to have done this. I learned so much about myself and about other cultures (through the Ecuadorian people and friends visiting from other countries). I also feel awakened after this experience. I feel that my adventures have just begun and that I want to continue exploring and learning about new places in the world. I have made plans to learn new languages, as I can see how important and valuable it is to an experience and to improve yourself as an individual.
What advice would you give to someone considering volunteering on this project? I would recommend that anyone considering this project actually has a genuine love or appreciation for animals. The work isn’t necessarily the most glamorous, so if you don’t truly care about the animals you may not take as much pride in your work which is only going to affect their living conditions and well-being. The main purpose of the Centre is to look after the animals and, as a volunteer, you are there to help them with this objective. You shouldn’t expect to be catered to or to be living in style.


“Travelling is all about learning new things. I have learned that although you may have expectations for a trip, it likely won’t turn out exactly the way you think it will. You may think this means your experience won’t be as great, but in reality it just means your experience will be different. You’ll learn or experience things that maybe you didn’t expect to, but they’ll mean just as much and they’ll teach you different things about the world and about yourself. This is one of the most important things I’ve learned from my experience- to learn to be flexible and to understand that you can take new (and unexpected) things away from a trip.”