Since 1962, Peace Corps Volunteers have worked at the grassroots level to assist Ecuadorian communities with a range of development needs. Large sectors of the population suffer from problems such as nutritional deficiencies and a high infant mortality rate. Poor urban youth face problems such as elevated school dropout rates, illiteracy, and high unemployment. Ecuador suffers from large-scale environmental degradation as it loses 200,000 hectares of forest per year. In 1999, Ecuador experienced a major economic and banking crisis that has exacerbated these problems and contributed to political instability.
In response to these challenges, Volunteers focus their efforts in the areas of health, agriculture, youth, and natural resource conservation. The Peace Corps also integrates income generation and HIV/AIDS prevention into all four projects. An innovative community bank program enables community members to save and manage their finances as well as loan available funds to rural families. Volunteer Working Groups work on issues in anti-Human Trafficking and Smuggling, Gender and Development and HIV/AIDS Awareness.
Peace Corps History
Main article: History of the Peace Corps in Ecuador
The first group of Peace Corps Volunteers arrived in Ecuador on August 7, 1962. Since that time, more than 5,300 Volunteers have served in Ecuador in almost every imaginable capacity, from working on rural electrification and organic family gardens to teaching in preschool centers and universities. There are not many communities in the country where Peace Corps Volunteers have not left their mark over the past 40 years. One town (San Juan Bosco in Morona Santiago Province) even has a main street (Calle Jaime Agett) named for a Volunteer (James Agett) who served there many years ago.
As conditions in Ecuador have changed, the Peace Corps has refined and adapted its programs to target those areas most in need of the support the Peace Corps can provide. Peace Corps/Ecuador defines its mission as follows:
Peace Corps/Ecuador promotes sustainable development that will improve the quality of life of the populations with whom we collaborate. Through activities focused on income generation, nonformal education, strengthening local organizations, and protecting the environment, our four programs—habitat conservation, rural public health, sustainable agriculture, and youth and families-are our tools to achieve our goals.
Living Conditions and Volunteer Lifestyles
Main article: Living Conditions and Volunteer Lifestyles in Ecuador
All Volunteer housing is reviewed and approved by Peace Corps staff prior to occupancy. Volunteers live with a family for at least three months when they first move to their sites. This helps Volunteers get to know the community better and to integrate before making a permanent housing decision. Volunteers in the youth and families project work in marginal urban neighborhoods and many are required to live with a family during their entire two years of service. For reasons of safety, security, and cultural integration, the Peace Corps recommends that Volunteers in all projects consider living with a host family.
Housing varies greatly by site. Most Volunteers live and work in rural communities, but a few work in urban settings. Some live in buildings with up-to-date plumbing and electrical systems. Others may have a small adobe house with a pit latrine in the back and one or two bare light bulbs for illumination. A few Volunteers live in very isolated sites without electricity or running water.
Volunteer sites are located throughout the country but generally are clustered in several regions so that Volunteers from all four project areas and from older and newer groups are located relatively close to one another. In most cases, you will be located, at most, within two or three hours of other Volunteers. There are some areas of the country where the Peace Corps does not place any Volunteers, either because the level of development is such that Volunteers are no longer needed or because of safety and security concerns (e.g., the jungle regions of Succumbios and Orellana Provinces on the Colombian border as well as parts of Esmeraldas).
Main article: Training in Ecuador
The 10-week training period is a time for you and the Peace Corps to reexamine your commitment to being a Volunteer in Ecuador. Participation in training does not guarantee that you will become a Volunteer. While we fully expect you to successfully complete training, there are certain goals you must achieve before you can be sworn in as a Volunteer. These goals include attaining a minimum level of ability in the Spanish language (as measured by a standard oral exam), gaining the required technical knowledge, and demonstrating your ability to live and work within the framework of the local culture (as assessed by staff members), while following Peace Corps’ guidance for safety and security and personal health. These goals are equally important. Not only must you be able to do your job, but you must be able to do it in a culturally acceptable way. You will be evaluated and advised by both American and Ecuadorian members of the training staff regarding your progress.
Throughout pre-service training, you will be encouraged to continue examining your personal motivation for having joined the Peace Corps and your level of commitment, so that by the time you are invited to swear in as a Volunteer, you are making an informed and serious commitment that will sustain you through the full two years of service.
Ninety percent of training takes place in a community setting, where you will experience living and working conditions similar to those at the site where you will be assigned. During this community-based training period, you will live with an Ecuadorian family and be expected to take full advantage of the opportunity to immerse yourself in the language and culture. Three to five trainees are assigned to each community.
Your Health Care and Safety
Main article: Health Care and Safety in Ecuador
The Peace Corps’ highest priority is maintaining the health and safety of every Volunteer. Peace Corps medical programs emphasize the preventive, rather than the curative, approach to disease. The Peace Corps in Ecuador maintains a medical office staffed with medical officers who are registered nurses with many years of experience in caring for Volunteers. They are qualified to take care of Volunteers’ primary healthcare needs, but Volunteers are referred to local physicians, labs, and hospitals when necessary. If you develop a serious medical problem, the medical officers will consult with the Peace Corps’ Office of Medical Services in Washington. If it is determined that your condition cannot be cared for in Ecuador, you may be sent to the United States or Panama for further evaluation and care.
Diversity and Cross-Cultural Issues
Main article: Diversity and Cross-Cultural Issues in Ecuador
In Ecuador, as in other Peace Corps countries, Volunteers’ behavior, lifestyle, background, and beliefs are judged in a cultural context very different from their own. Certain personal perspectives or characteristics commonly accepted in the United States may be quite uncommon, unacceptable, or even repressed in Ecuador.
Outside of Ecuador’s capital, residents of rural communities have had relatively little direct exposure to other cultures, races, religions, and lifestyles. What people view as typical American behavior or norms may be a misconception, such as the belief in some countries that all Americans are rich and have blond hair and blue eyes. The people of Ecuador are justly known for their generous hospitality to foreigners; however, members of the community in which you live may display a range of reactions to cultural differences that you present.
- Possible Issues for Female Volunteers
- Possible Issues for Volunteers of Color
- Possible Issues for Senior Volunteers
- Possible Issues for Gay, Lesbian, or Bisexual Volunteers
- Possible Religious Issues for Volunteers
- Possible Issues for Volunteers With Disabilities
Frequently Asked questions
Main article: FAQs about Peace Corps in Ecuador
- Does Ecuador accomodate medical restrictions?
- How much luggage am I allowed to bring to Ecuador?
- What is the electric current in Ecuador?
The electric current and plug in Ecuador is the same as in the US.
- How much money should I bring?
It depends on how much you spend, but it's wise to bring at least $100, in small bills.
- When can I take vacation and have people visit me?
Vacation in Ecuador is very flexible, as long as you stay in-country.
- Will my belongings be covered by insurance?
Only if you purchase supplemental insurance.
- Do I need an international driver’s license?
PCVs are not allowed to drive.
- What should I bring as gifts for Ecuadorian friends and my host family?
- Where will my site assignment be when I finish training and how isolated will I be?
It varies greatly on program and site assignment. Some are in large cities like Guayaquil; others are in tiny villages with no cell phone reception or email.
- How can my family contact me in an emergency?
PCVs are issued Porta cell phones after training, so once you complete training, that's the easiest way. These phones are also capable of receiving international text messages. There is also a phone number that your family can call in DC to contact you.
- Can I call home from Ecuador?
Yes. Most cities have phone booths where calls are about $.10 per minute to the US (prices vary greatly.)
- Should I bring a cellular phone with me?
No. PC will issue you one after training.
- Will there be e-mail and Internet access? Should I bring my computer?
Most towns have internet cafes. Some PCVs bring laptops, though it is not necessary, and there are very few places (large cities such as Guayaquil and Quito) with Wi-fi. Volunteers with laptops are able to connect to the internet through Alegro cell phones.
- What is the Agricultural Task Force?
Nobody really knows yet...we´re still working on it!!
Main article: Packing List for Ecuador
This list has been compiled by Volunteers serving in Ecuador and is based on their experience. Use it as an informal guide in making your own list, bearing in mind that experience is individual. There is no perfect list! You obviously cannot bring everything we mention, so consider those items that make the most sense to you personally and professionally. You can always have things sent to you later. As you decide what to bring, keep in mind that you have an 80-pound weight restriction on baggage. If you are buying luggage, we recommended that you consider the easy-to-carry variety rather than hard suitcases. And remember, you can get almost everything you need in Ecuador, including custom-made clothing.
Since you may live in chilly mountains, the hot and humid coast or jungle, or a more temperate transition zone, this can only be a general guide.
- General Clothing
- For Women
- Personal Hygiene and Toiletry Items
Peace Corps News
This website was made entirely by volunteers, to share their stories with the American public
The following is automatic RSS feed of Peace Corps news for this country.
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PEACE CORPS JOURNALS
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Contributions to the Ecuador Country Fund will support Volunteer and community projects that will take place in Ecuador. These projects include water and sanitation, agricultural development, and youth programs.
- Peace Corps Ecuador website
- Volunteers who served in Ecuador
- Sites where Volunteers served in Ecuador
- Friends of Ecuador
- Pre-Departure Checklist
- Inspector General Reports
- List of resources for Ecuador