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.