The Special Needs Program
International arrivals into Ecuador must present either:
- Proof of a negative COVID RT-PCR test taken no more than three (3) days before entering the country or:
- A completed COVID-19 vaccination card
This program is crucial to the lives of people with medical issues and disabilities in Quito. Volunteers undertaking this project will contribute their time and energy to taking care of the animals participating on the program, providing quality care and attention to ensuring the animals are well fed and cared for. They will also work directly with patients participating in the program. Hippotherapy (horses) and canotherapy (dogs) are recognized worldwide as an effective method for physical, mental and emotional rehabilitation. The goal-oriented program develops the patient's balance, coordination, orientation and rhythm, while giving them a sense of achievement and an emotional connection with the animal they are working with. Volunteers help care for the horses, as well as working with patients during therapy sessions. Without volunteers the sustainability of the program would be in question, with volunteers providing essential free labor to ensure the therapy sessions can continue to aid those who need it most.
Goals of this Project:
- Provide animal therapy sessions to those who need it most in Quito
- Improve the health and wellbeing of some of Quito’s most marginalized citizens
- Provide quality care to the animals participating in the therapy program
- Create inter-cultural understanding which benefits both residents and international volunteers alike.
How You Can Help
This Animal Therapy Program plays a significant role in helping to better the lives of those with medical conditions. For many people suffering ill health and disabilities, life can be disheartening and painful. Animal therapy is a proven method to help alleviate some symptoms and improve patient’s mood and general wellbeing. Participating volunteers will work on a number of task including feeding the horses, preparing them for each therapy session, general tasks during the therapy and cleaning the horses afterwards. In addition, volunteers can help with horse-back riding lessons for the general public and with administrative and maintenance duties. During the afternoons they can also be part of the therapies with dogs if they wish. Volunteers allow the program to continue to offer animal therapy to those who need it most. Participants on this project will gain a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to help those who truly need their support, and gain valuable experience in working with animals and also with those with medical issues or disabilities.
Volunteers on this program will participate in a variety of tasks and can expect to:
- Help care for the horses and dogs involved in the program
- Prepare the horses for therapy sessions or sessions with the general public
- Assist with the equine therapy sessions and public horse-back riding sessions
See the Additional Info. section for more information on how to support disabled children.
Love Volunteers welcomes all those 18 years and over who wish to assist in the support and development of some of Ecuador's most marginalized children and young adults. While this highly rewarding project does not require participants to have a background in the field of special needs care, as there are many ways you can assist, volunteers with suitable education, qualifications or experience are highly sought after. Regardless, a volunteer’s individual role can often be tailored to suit their particular skills and interests. Volunteers on this project will need an understanding of Spanish in order to communicate effectively with the children and local staff members. All applicants must of course display a genuine willingness to help, show drive, initiative and compassion, and bring a positive 'can-do' attitude. If this sounds like you, we want you on the team!
Additionally, volunteers applying to join this program will be required to supply to following documentation:
- Emergency contact
This program is based in the beautiful city of Quito, where volunteers will find their help is invaluable and very much in need. Quito is a beautiful city filled with significant architecture, friendly people and fun places to visit – making it a fabulous city to volunteer in.
Start Dates & Duration
This project is available year-round and programs start every SUNDAY. Volunteers can choose to participate for periods ranging from 1 week to 4 weeks. Longer stays can be arranged directly with the local team, but will be subject to availability and individual visa conditions.
For current available start dates please check the calendar on the right.
Arrival & Orientation
Upon your arrival in Quito, you will be collected at the airport and delivered to your accommodation. On Monday morning, after making your way to the local project offices, you will receive an orientation to help you settle in, find out about your volunteering placement, the local surroundings and meet your fellow volunteers. A representative from the local team will fill you in on local and regional customs, traveling, rules and recommendations, and of course, what to expect from your volunteering experience. This is a great opportunity to get to know your hosts, meet your fellow volunteers, and ask any last questions you may have. You will then be taken to your assigned project site and introduced to the project team you will be working with. Easy!
- Program Arrival Day: SUNDAY
- Program Departure Day: SATURDAY
- Arrival/Departure Airport: Mariscal Sucre International Airport, Quito, Ecuador (Code: UIO)
Accommodation & Meals
Volunteers on this project have the unique opportunity to experience the generous hospitality of local Ecuadorian families during their stay in Quito. Staying with one of our local host families is an excellent way to 'live like the locals' and get first hand experience of local culture and customs in a comfortable and supportive environment. A home away from home!
Rooms may be shared depending on volunteer numbers and homes are well equipped with all the comforts and facilities required for an enjoyable stay.
Volunteers will be accommodated near to their project site; either walking distance or an easy commute via public transport.
Breakfast and dinner are provided daily by the host family and lunch can be prepared and taken to your project or purchased at a local eatery.
With its reputation for superb exotic fruits, unsurpassed fish and seafood, and not least the numerous varieties of Andean potatoes, Ecuador offers the taste buds a veritable feast.
Prefer to arrange your own accommodation?
No problem! The program fee is adjusted to $320 for any duration.
*In addition to the program fees listed above a Registration Fee is payable to secure your place. The registration fee is USD 299 for those volunteering with Love Volunteers for the first time or USD 149 for any subsequent volunteer placements. The registration fee includes: lifetime LV Alumni Membership, fundraising support & advice, dedicated pre-departure support, certificate of completion (on request), and exclusive access to the LV Trip Planner.
Some things are not included in the program fees listed above, such as flights, visas, vaccinations, travel insurance, additional foods and snacks, spending money, local transport, in-country trips and excursions, return airport transfer (unless mentioned above).
Please note that prices are subject to change without notice. Please ensure you have read the Love Volunteers Terms and Conditions & Refund Policy.
Entry procedures in place in response to COVID-19:
- All travelers arriving in Ecuador should provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination at least 14 days prior to entry OR
- a negative COVID RT-PCR test taken no more than three (3) days before entering the country.
Please note procedures may change at any time. We recommend reaching out to the Ecuadorian embassy or consulate nearest you before traveling for the most updated information.
Want to learn Spanish?
Why not use this opportunity to improve your knowledge of Spanish and really get immersed in the local culture during your volunteering placement? Part-time Spanish lessons, taken in conjunction with volunteer work, are just USD$8/hour, paid directly to your volunteer coordinator on arrival in Ecuador.
Volunteering With Children With Disabilities: How To Best Support Them
Between 93 million and 150 million children worldwide are diagnosed with a disability. In developing countries, children with disabilities rarely have access to the resources and facilities they need to help them reach their full potential. By volunteering to help children with disabilities, you can provide them with the best support possible and encourage them to blossom in their own time.
Communicate directly with the child
When you first meet a child with a disability, avoid making the all-too common mistake of not actually directly talking to them. Children with disabilities should be given encouragement and patience to answer questions and speak up in conversation. Adults often assume they don't understand or can't answer and soon switch to talking to their caregiver instead. So, when meeting for the first time, introduce yourself and explain who you are. Depending on the type of learning difficulty and its severity, you may need to place your hand on the child's shoulder or take their hand. You can then let them know what you'll be doing together, including explaining the activity step-by-step. It's important to use simple language, be patient, and make a lot of eye contact to build rapport and trust with the child.
Use nonverbal gestures
Using nonverbal communication and gestures like nodding, pointing, and eye contact will help children with disabilities understand you better. At first, you may need to exaggerate or draw out these gestures to aid the child's understanding. In fact, using these gestures is usually essential to ensure children with disabilities participate in the activities. However, if you still have a problem with a child not listening to you, you may also find it useful to clap, whistle, or sing. Additionally, tactile cues can help effectively engage children. For example, giving them a soft blanket or plasticine can capture their attention and help them focus.
When rules are implemented for the group, it's important all children abide by them. Consistency is key if you want children to feel safe, comfortable, and encouraged, as well as for teaching discipline. So, don't backtrack on rules already set or change them from one day to the next. For children with disabilities (especially those with autism or other cognitive or sensory impairments), consistency and discipline will help them thrive in learning environments. Remember, when working with children with disabilities, it's your job to give them dedicated attention they may not usually get. Focus on the individual and adjust your approach as needed. For example, if a child has poor motor skills making a certain activity difficult for them, you may need to work through the steps with them together. While it's good to encourage children to challenge themselves, you should also be aware of their limits.
Volunteering to help children with disabilities is a meaningful and rewarding experience. By being prepared to provide the best support possible, you can better help this vulnerable group succeed and thrive.
Source: Jennifer Orson