Sunday, April 1, 2018

5 Reasons You Should Volunteer with SKY

Volunteering abroad can be a challenging and rewarding experience. It takes us to new places, exposes us to new cultures, and helps us learn more about ourselves and the world we live in. These are only a few of the reasons we do it. But how do we choose where to go and which organization to give our time and skills to? Each person has their own reason for wanting to volunteer abroad, but we thought we’d offer a few of the top reasons why we think you should consider working with SKY. 

  1. A unique and immersive opportunity for cultural exchange with the indigenous Salasaka community.
Salasaka is a wonderfully unique indigenous village, which means its culture is different from many of the surrounding areas of Ecuador. For example, most people in Salasaka are bilingual, speaking Spanish and Kichwa, and have traditions and festivals that vary from other parts of Ecuador. Volunteering with SKY will immerse you within this special Andean community, introducing you to new foods, music, ways of dressing, and warm-hearted people just as eager as you are to learn more about the world.

  1. A chance to live and work with volunteers from around the world, building friendships and creating memories.
SKY attracts volunteers from all over the world. And the more time you spend volunteering, the more likely you are to meet people from vastly different backgrounds and nationalities--all united by a desire to make a difference for the people of Salasaka. By living and working closely with other volunteers, you’re sure to build new friendships. Many of our volunteers have stayed close friends with the volunteers they met at SKY for years. It’s all part of the experience.

  1. Use your strengths to improve the lives of those in the Salasaka community (and learn new skills in the process!).
Salasaka is a small community, and when volunteers bring their enthusiasm and skills it’s a win-win situation for everyone involved. Perhaps you’re a veteran greenthumb just waiting to get your hands dirty in the new volunteer garden. Or maybe you’re interested in improving your gardening skills by learning from the locals. It’s all possible. The variety of projects and needs here at SKY gives you ample opportunity to help where help is needed and learn something along the way. If you’re skilled and a willing teacher, there’s always room to start your own workshop and teach others--music, art, woodworking, English, photography. The list goes on.

  1. Gain useful experience and discover new areas of interest.
Similar to number three, volunteering at SKY might be just what you need to figure out your next step in life’s journey. Whether you’re taking some time during your gap year to figure out what you’d like to study or looking to change your career, SKY can provide a wonderful testing ground for you to explore. Maybe you’re energized when you see the light in a student’s eyes after they’ve understood a new tense in English. Or perhaps you enjoy connecting people in the community and organizing events. You’ll never know until you try it, and volunteering at SKY might be just the push you need to discover new interests and talents.

  1. Location, location, location.

Last but certainly not least, Salasaka’s central location is ideal for exploring the rest of Ecuador. With Quito only a 3.5-hour bus ride away and the spa and adventure town of Baños a mere 45 minutes east, it’s easy to explore many of the most popular attractions this beautiful and diverse country has to offer. From Baños, volunteers often take a bus down into the jungle towns of Tena and Puyo. And heading north, you can visit Latacunga and walk around the jaw-dropping blue-green lagoon of Quilotoa. Not to mention it’s a direct route from Ambato to many of the coastal towns. Finding something to do on the weekends is never a hard for volunteers, but deciding, well, that can be more challenging.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Volunteer Profile: Zach and Ayn-Marie

Meet Zach and Ayni (“Annie”)

Age: Zach, 28; Ayni, 27
Home country: USA

  1. What languages do you speak?
English and the tiniest amount of Spanish. We know enough to get by, which in our case means: book a hostel, take a bus, give directions to a taxi driver, and order Salchipapas from the local vendor in Salasaka. You know, the important stuff.

  1. How did you hear about SKY?
We found SKY on the internet, specifically We read the recommendations, scoured the website, and filled out our application. A few weeks later, we were here.

  1. Why did you want to volunteer with SKY?
Our time in Salasaka is sandwiched between a few weeks of traveling across Ecuador. We thought a volunteering experience would get us off the well-worn backpacker path, and give us some time to sit still during our whirlwind trip through this beautiful country. We also had an interest in teaching English, so it seemed like a near-perfect fit.

  1. How long will be volunteering with SKY?
Sadly, only two weeks. We have a limited amount of time in Ecuador and there’s so much to see. But even in this short amount of time we’ve been able to make great friends, so there’s always a chance we might come back. You never know!

  1. What is your education and/or work background?
Ayni has worked in marketing and has experience teaching English. Zach has worked in advertising. One of our goals for this trip was to explore different career options, and SKY has given us both an opportunity to try a lot in a short amount of time.

  1. Tell us about your past travel and/or volunteer experiences?
Zach has traveled widely across the US and has visited Mexico and Canada, but these six weeks in Ecuador are his first longer-term travel experience. Ayni has backpacked Europe, visited several countries in Latin America, and taught English in Turkey for nine months.

Both of us have a several years of experience volunteering as mentors for low-income children.

  1. What is a typical day at SKY like for you?
Eat, prep, teach, eat, prep, teach, sleep. But it’s never that straightforward. On Sundays or Mondays we take the bus to Ambato to buy groceries from the giant market. And on the weekends we take the bus to Baños to relax and eat arepas.

Ayni has found her groove teaching at the local public schools in the morning, and Zach has been helping write blog posts and promote SKY online. We also spend a lot of our time hanging out with the other volunteers, cleaning, and cooking. And there’s always a handful of surprise chores from Francisca, the house mother, when we wake up: take out the trash, water the garden, build a fence, build a bed, etc.

  1. What has been your favorite memory at SKY so far?
Our first week here one of the volunteers asked if we wanted to join her and the other volunteer to help a local University student with her thesis. She was writing it about tourism in the Salasaka area, and the plan was for her to take videos and photos of us visiting the local sights and “acting” like tourists. Easy enough, right? Well, apparently we didn’t know the plan very well. By the end of the day we had spent 10 hours hiking--er, bushwhacking--through the high-altitude marshes and overgrown hills of rural Tisaleo. We had sank ankle-deep in mud, frozen our feet, fallen on our behinds, and, for a few of us, been hit with some good ole Andean altitude sickness. But when we finished, all of us were happy it had happened. After all, we all claimed we wanted to travel off the beaten path. Ask and you shall receive.

  1. Is there anything you’d like to say to people interested in volunteering with SKY?
Do it. It can be challenging at times. And it’s hard to know what you’re getting yourself into, but with a traveler’s mindset and a willingness to make an impact, there’s plenty of adventure to be had and good to be done.

In hindsight, we wish we could have stayed longer and that we’d brought more supplies to share. Even a few extra sponges or tubs of soap purchased in Quito could have gone a long way. And bringing more gifts from the US to share with the kids would have been great too.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Student Profile: Chantal Torres

Meet Chantal Torres

Chantal has been taking English classes at GAD Parroquial, and before that she took classes at the Katitawa school. Her enthusiasm for learning and her fun, energetic personality make her a class favorite among teachers and her fellow students. It’s always a joy to see her smiling face.

We asked Chantal if she’d be willing to share some information about herself, her family, and her love of learning. Here’s what she had to say.

Age: 8

  1. Where are you from?
I am from Salasaka.

  1. How long have you been learning English?
Three years total. I started at Katitawa and I am taking classes at GAD Parroquial now.

  1. Why do you want to learn English?
I like it. It’s very fun and I like to meet the volunteers.

  1. Tell us about your family.
I have one older brother and one older sister. My brother is in 10th grade and my sister is in University. My brother is fun. He used to come to the school. So did my sister. And my mother used to come to the school with her friend Mercedes.

  1. What do you enjoy about English classes?
I like playing, drawing, learning, and listening to music. I like Fridays the most because it’s game day.

If you’re interested in taking English classes in Salasaka, send us an email at, or send us a message on Facebook.