Thursday, May 3, 2018

How to Prepare for Volunteering with SKY

So you’ve found SUMAK KAWSAY YACHAY (or SKY), filled out your application form, and now you’re eagerly waiting to join us in Salasaka. Surely there’s more you need to know, right? Absolutely! That’s why we put together this short list of ways you can make the most of your time with us, before you even get here!

  1. Make sure your dates are confirmed.

Once you know when you’ll be arriving, including the date and time, and you’ve confirmed with a volunteer coordinator, you should receive directions to Hosteria Pachamama, AKA your new home, via email. If you just can’t wait, you can also find the directions here on our Volunteers Page. The drivers of the camionettas (or white pickup trucks with green stripes) know Hosteria Pachamama well and are used to shuttling volunteers.
  1. Learn about the local culture and language.

Most of us intend to do research beforehand, but it’s often much easier said than done. Fortunately, we’ve tried to make it easier for you by compiling a few useful phrases in Spanish and Kichwa, the local language, and sharing information about Salasaka culture and its traditions on our website. If you’re lucky you’ll witness firsthand one of the unique festivals they hold throughout the year.
  1. Pack accordingly.

Locals often joke that while they don’t have typical seasons like those in the Northern Hemisphere, they can experience every season in a single day. And these are wise words to heed. When packing clothes, layering is your best friend. Sweaters and jackets for the cold mornings and evenings, and rain jackets for the occasional rain and strong breezes. That said, the sun does come out and when it does it’s nice to have sandals and a t-shirt. You’ve probably read about the dangers of sun exposure near the equator and that certainly applies in Salasaka, so it’s best to load up on sunscreen. And if you’re planning on working in the garden or going on an adventurous weekend trek, bring sturdier pants and hiking boots.

You can find more information about what to pack on our Volunteers Page.
  1. Bring supplies (and recipes) to share with the students, the community and your housemates.

Similar to number three, most people are best at packing when it’s too late. Chances are you’ll probably think of a hundred and one things you should have brought by the end of your first day in Salasaka. To save you some of the regret, we recommend taking to heart that your experience with us is part of a unique cultural exchange. Your traditions, no matter how strange or silly, will enrich the experiences of almost everyone you share them with. And you never know when they might come in handy. Think about the meals your family cooks for holidays. The songs they sing. The festivals in your hometown. Students and volunteers alike will love learning about where you come from and where you’ve been.

We also have a list of school and other supplies that are always in need on our Volunteers Page.
  1. Bring your skills.

Whether you’re a virtuoso with the guitar or just learning to play the banjo, your skills will be a welcome addition at SKY. Think about writing, photography, gardening, cooking, teaching, woodworking, juggling, games--anything you think will make for a fun, richer experience. As you’ve probably read on our Projects Page, or heard from past volunteers, there’s a variety of ways you can contribute. Common projects include teaching, homework assistance, and construction, but SKY is also always in need of help with fundraising, marketing, gardening, and program coordination, not to mention the fun factor music can add to any environment.

At SKY, the motto is help where help is needed. With a positive attitude and good work ethic, you’ll find your place in no time.
  1. Be flexible.

You probably know this lesson well, especially since you’ve signed up to volunteer in a rural indigenous community in Ecuador. But still, it’s worth repeating. Since 2017, SKY has undergone many organizational changes and the project remains in constant flux, as most small organizations do. One day you might be teaching a lesson about Easter traditions around the world, and the next day you’re building a fence around the garden. Variety is the spice of life.

The most successful volunteers, whether here for two weeks or six months, embrace change and try their best to leave SKY better than they found it.
  1. Extra credit: Consider spreading the word about your volunteer experience on social media.

You can share a quick update on Facebook before, during and after your time at SKY. Friends and family love hearing about our plans and projects, almost as much as they love seeing your happy, smiling face. And if you’re planning on spending a few months with SKY, consider sharing the address with close friends and family so they can send you gifts from home.

SKY is a modest operation with big dreams, and we’re always grateful for your support whether it’s through volunteering or donations. You can find more information about how you or friends and family can support SKY on our Support Us page.

Friday, April 27, 2018

A typical day in Salasaka

A normal day in Salasaka begins with the volunteers making breakfast around 7.30am. The classes in the local school begin at 8.20am, usually 3 volunteers look after these classes for around 3 hours. We only have morning classes from Monday to Wednesday. The classes range from first to seventh grade.

Some pictures of volunteers and students during their morning classes

The school is located in the centre of Salasaka, 10 minutes from the volunteer house Pachamama. The average clase size is 25-30 students. We try to speak as much English as possible with the students, an ability to speak Spanish is not completely necessary but it's very helpful to have a few words. Volunteering in Salasaka is also an excellent opportunity to improve your Spanish (and for the more adventurous person you can also learn the indigenous language Kichwa).

After the morning school we return to the house to cook lunch (we generally cook healthy vegetarian meals) and prepare the afternoon classes. The classes run from 3pm to 7pm with each class being one hour long. We try to always have 2 people at a class and usually no one has to teach every class. The afternoon classes take place Monday to Friday. Anyone in the community can come to these English classes, regardless of their age. We teach young children as well as adults.

In the evenings we usually spend some time together in the volunteer house, although sometimes we go out for dinner in Baños which is just 30 min away by bus.

View from the volunteer house

If you don't want to go to the school every day there is also some work to do in the garden and some cleaning in the house. 

We are always happy to welcome new volunteers in Salasaka so feel free to contact us! 

From, the Volunteers

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.