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.

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.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Gracias Escuela Weilheim

Today we would like to send a very special Thank You to Germany.

There is a small school next to Tübingen in the south of Germany, named "Grundschule Weilheim". Every year their children collect money in there village by walking from door to door, singing and explaining to people what they are collecting for. In general to donate to projects that work with and help children.
This time they have decided on splitting the collected donations between two projects. One is a project that pays clowns that cheer up kids who have to stay in hospitals for long terms. The other one is SUMAK KAWSAY YACHAY.

We find this initiative of children helping other children very great and want to send a big hug to those little helpers in Germany. DANKE SCHÖN!

If you want to help, too, you can make a donation on SUPPORT US, come over to volunteer with us or spread the word.