Volunteer Programs and Projects in Brazil and Ecuador
As the fifth-largest country in the world, Brazil’s diverse landscape is full of mountains, beaches, and rainforests - a gorgeous country that needs volunteers like you to keep it as beautiful and welcoming as possible. On top of the diverse landscape, Brazil is home to a great variety of animals, with 600 mammal species, 1,500 fish species and 1,600 bird species, from its beaches to the Amazon Rainforest.
Volunteer Abroad in Brazil and Ecuador
Despite its incredible beauty, Brazil is also struggling both economically and socially. After hosting the 2016 summer Olympics, Brazil will more than likely struggle even more financially in the coming months and years: regardless of location, the cost to host the Olympics has continuously increased as the games became more elaborate. Oftentimes, countries that have hosted the Olympics are left near bankruptcy after the games are over and the athletes and tourists have left, leaving the country and its citizens to rebuild the economy. The actual cost of this year’s Olympics is currently unknown (but running at least more than $4.6 billion), but when the games were hosted in London in 2012, it cost the country $10.4 billion.
Going back further to a longer-term issue, family farms account for 70% of Brazil’s agriculture - and even though the country has the strongest economy in Latin America - poverty has made itself known through both social and economic inequality. Currently, 21.4% of Brazil’s population is sitting below the poverty line, with 4.2% in extreme poverty.
That is more than 42 million people living below the poverty line.
With this level of poverty comes a lack of education and means of living, particularly among women. Women in underserved communities throughout Brazil are undermined, undereducated, and sexualized in many areas, leading many girls to believe from a young age that they cannot thrive on their own as they get older. On top of that, Brazilians have faced a corrupt government and police system, extremes in poverty and wealth, and are trying to rebuild their country to become a new and improved Brazil - but they need a lot of assistance.
Another South American country in need of volunteers like you is Ecuador. With mountains, jungles, beaches, and volcanoes - and the famous Galapagos Islands, which are home to diverse, unique, and endangered species - Ecuador has an incredible ecology that’s amazing to visit and in urgent need of preservation.
While conservation is one of the most popular volunteer abroad opportunities you can sign up for in Ecuador, there are many other ways to make a difference. In cities or in low-income areas, volunteers are needed to teach English, life skills, and computer skills for young people and adults to build better futures for themselves. Hospitals and clinics are in need of skilled volunteers and interns to support doctors in day-to-day work in administration and patient care. And for volunteers who’d like to further your education or boost your career prospects, there are plenty of opportunities to support NGOs that are doing excellent work every single day throughout Ecuador - and need support, skills, and cross-cultural communication from travelers like you.
Volunteers from around the world can assist in these two countries’ development and sustainability - through skills exchange, education, and much more. Children need an education to build a better future for their country, and adults can to learn to become more self-sufficient through a variety of courses and programs. Understaffed and underfunded medical systems need volunteers to support doctors - and help patients who cannot afford adequate health care. The rainforests, beaches, and oceans must be kept clean and safe for the animals who thrive there, helping to keep Brazil’s and Ecuador’s environment and ecological systems in balance. As a volunteer, you can experience natural beauty, immerse yourself in these countries’ amazing cultures, and make lifelong friendships with fellow volunteers and with those you meet in your host communities.
Despite the troubles that Brazil and Ecuador are currently facing, their natural beauty and history will draw you in and encourage you to help support their communities, wildlife, and so much more. Read on to learn about some of the many volunteer abroad opportunities you can join in Brazil and Ecuador!
If you’ve always wanted to visit Brazil, check out International Volunteer HQ (IVHQ) to get started with planning your perfect trip. Every year, IVHQ sends thousands of volunteers abroad to work in childcare, teaching, environmental conservation, arts and music, sports, and much more. To ensure you gain the most from your experience, IVHQ partners with local NGOs that provide support and guidance for volunteers from all over the world. And depending on where you’d like to go, IVHQ’s volunteer abroad programs start from just $180.
For most of IVHQ’s Brazil volunteer projects, you’ll stay in a house located in Santa Teresa, where you’ll share a bedroom with two to eight other volunteers. You’ll have breakfast provided daily, but must arrange your own lunch and dinner. On weekends, you will have plenty of time to relax and travel around Rio de Janeiro and other areas of Brazil - your program fee depends on the length of your stay, but all projects you’ll sign up for with IVHQ in Brazil have a registration fee of $279.
One volunteer travel opportunity that’s unique to Brazil is IVHQ’s Carnaval Project, where you’ll help prepare for one of the biggest parties on Earth. Marking the beginning of Lent, Carnaval features a week of parades, festivals, singing, dancing, elaborate costumes, and much more. As a volunteer, you’ll help some of Brazil’s leading samba schools get ready for the big day by creating costumes and decorating floats - so be prepared to sew, cut, paste, and work on lots of other crafts as part of your program. Each school you’ll work with will represent the people of their community during Carnaval, and throughout your stay, you’ll have the opportunity to learn about Brazilian culture while teaching your host community a little about your own as well. And while participating in the parade is not included in your initial project, you may be able to arrange it for an additional cost once you arrive in-country. This project is available between October and February every year, and you should be able to stay at least two weeks.
Another option to volunteer in Brazil with IVHQ focuses on Community Development. As part of this project, you will work with organizations throughout Rio de Janeiro to provide assistance with small, day-to-day tasks, which allow staff to focus on larger, ongoing programs. There are multiple areas you may focus on within this program, including health education and awareness, technology, arts, environmental development, media, and design. Your tasks can include painting or other restoration projects at local community centers, establishing local development programs, helping maintain community gardens, and more. If you have an intermediate knowledge of Portuguese, then you’ll have the opportunity to work in outreach campaigns, where you can offer value in developing the sustainability and impact of IVHQ’s initiatives in Brazil. You should be able to stay three weeks or longer on this program to gain the most from your experience.
For more information about volunteer programs in Brazil with IVHQ, please visit: www.volunteerhq.org/volunteer-in-brazil
WHAT VOLUNTEERS SAY: REVIEW FROM PETER
IVHQ were great, information booklet answered just about every question I had and anything else the program manager was quick with the answers. The program description matched what I found at the other end except the accommodation and food were way better than expected. I had a great time and am so thankful for IVHQ for this opportunity.
Another amazing organization you should consider if you’d like to visit Brazil is Love Volunteers. With volunteer abroad programs in more than 30 countries around the world, Love Volunteers offers short- and long-term projects for travelers who want to make a difference overseas. And you’ll be in great company: Love Volunteers has sent more than 20,000 volunteers abroad, and expects to place 4,000 travelers on meaningful programs this year. For Love Volunteers’ Brazil programs, your fee is dependent on how long you stay (with a registration fee of $249) - this helps to ensure pre- and post-placement support, vetting local organizations, and other necessities to make your experience in Brazil the best and safest it can be.
Love Volunteers has new opportunities in Brazil where volunteers 18 years or older can spend at least one week in Rio de Janeiro working with local community programs. One of the many new programs Love Volunteers is hosting in Brazil right now invites you to join a creative arts project that helps youth within the community escape their reality of poverty and learn to use creative expression. Countrywide, there is an extreme difference in the economic quality of life - and that difference is especially clear in Rio de Janeiro. With extreme levels of poverty comes poor health and malnutrition - affecting upwards of 25% of Brazil’s children. Because of this, volunteers are needed to help poverty alleviation programs that provide knowledge of important skills and development. The arts can provide an outlet for creativity while teaching skills that can positively influence one’s future: the goals of this project are to provide free art classes to local youth, create a more vibrant community space, expose young people to different types of creative arts, and encourage intercultural exchange among the locals and international volunteers. As part of this project, you can expect to teach classes, design creative activities, prepare lesson plans, monitor students’ progress and write debriefs, and network with local artists and volunteer program staff - plus your program fees you will help contribute to material costs.
Another hands-on volunteer abroad opportunity with Love Volunteers Brazil brings you to Rio de Janeiro to help with an Urban Garden Project - if you have a green thumb, then this program is for you! As a volunteer, you’ll plant, create, and maintain productive gardens, which makes a huge difference to the health and well-being of families in the area. This program is designed to teach people about nutrition and encourage them to change their diet for better, all while supplying nutritious food for those in extreme poverty or with major health issues. A few ways you can help include:
Planning garden spaces for local schools
Planting and maintaining gardens
Educating students and residents on the benefits of eating healthy
Teaching the community about tropical urban gardening, medicinal plants, nutrition, and conservation techniques
With your help, the families you support can continue maintaining these gardens long after you leave - especially important because people in the community where you’ll work are often targeted by door-to-door salespeople selling cheap, processed food, taking advantage of the fact that many locals do not have a vehicle to get to the supermarket - and may not even be able to pay for public transportation. Due to a lack of nutrition education, they can be vulnerable to scams and often buy unhealthy, processed foods that are high in fat and sugar, leading to many long-term health issues.
If you are interested in learning more about the many volunteer opportunities Love Volunteers is offering in Brazil right now, please visit http://www.lovevolunteers.org/programs/volunteer-brazil
WHAT VOLUNTEERS SAY: REVIEW FROM MICHAEL
Love Volunteers is a great organization. They were seamless with all of the pre-event discussions and preparations. The support was top notch. Responses to emails and calls were speedy. The NGO I worked with, suggested by Love Volunteers was very helpful and a safe, reliable and honest organization. I highly recommend Love Volunteers and will use them in the future for my other adventures. Also, how can you go wrong with a name like that?
Moving along to Ecuador, you may be interested in traveling with Volunteering Solutions, or VolSol. With programs ranging from wildlife conservation, to teaching, to childcare and beyond, VolSol has sent more than 10,000 volunteers to 25 countries since its founding in 2006. And it’s one of the most affordable volunteer abroad organizations you can sign up with: depending on where you go, you can expect to pay a starting fee of only $200.
For most of VolSol’s volunteer abroad programs in Ecuador, your program fee includes 24-hour assistance and support from Volunteering Solutions staff, comprehensive pre-departure information, pickup from the airport, orientation, weekly cocktail and salsa class in Quito, food two to three times a day when staying with a host family, and accommodation - plus, travel and medical insurance is available at an extra cost.
If you’re most interested in teaching, check out VolSol’s education project in Ecuador, where you’ll teach at a school in Quito. This school currently has around 100 students (20 to 30 per classroom) between the ages of 5 and 14, ranging from all economic and social backgrounds. As a volunteer, you’ll take on some of the following tasks:
Helping to create a proper lesson plan for teaching English
Assisting teaching staff with lesson plans and curriculum development
Teaching computer skills
Teaching basic English
Engaging and playing games with kids during their breaks
When you’re not working at the school, there will be plenty of time to explore the area and learn all about Ecuadorian culture. If you sign up, there are two different types of housing for you to choose from: either a volunteer house or with a host family. If you stay with a host family, meals will be provided for you Monday through Friday, and if you stay at the volunteer house, there is a fully functional kitchen for all your cooking needs and several local restaurants to try out in the area. To sign up, you must be 18 or older, provide a criminal background check, have travel insurance, and know beginner or intermediate Spanish.
Another opportunity Volunteering Solutions is offering right now in Ecuador invites you to work with and support street children at a local community center. The 250 young people that benefit from this program often have past traumatic experiences, such as living with drug-addicted parents, living on the streets, physical and mental abuse, and being subjected to violence. The main focus of the center is to help those who have left a life of addiction behind to find employment, as they often face a lack of schooling and life skills. The center you’ll volunteer with includes a carpentry workshop and a bakery both for young people and adults to receive training and courses. As a volunteer, you’ll help with several tasks, including:
Helping the youngest children clean up after themselves
Assisting in the carpentry workshop
Performing school visits and gathering information about attendance, grades, abilities, and more
Preparing recreational activities for youth to take part in after finishing their homework or during breaks
Helping with hygiene education
When you’re not working at the center, there will be plenty of time for you to explore Quito - plus, evenings and weekends are open for you to travel, hang out with fellow volunteers, or just relax. As with VolSol’s teaching program in Ecuador, you’ll be able to choose whether you stay in the volunteer house or with a host family, and your program costs vary depending on the length of your stay.
If you’re ready to make a difference in the lives of Ecuador’s children and want to learn more about the many programs that Volunteering Solutions has to offer, please visit https://www.volunteeringsolutions.com/volunteer-in-ecuador
WHAT VOLUNTEERS SAY: REVIEW FROM KATIE
Volunteering Solutions was a great organization to volunteer through! They helped set up the placements at the hospitals to volunteer at and all of the weekend excursions as well as orphanage/school visits we wanted to make. They also always helped us out if they saw us around the town! They gave us good deals on everything and the living arrangements were so much nicer than I could have expected! There was always a coordinator easily contacted or at the apartments and everyone was very kind and always willing to teach a little bit of the language.
If you’d like to look at a few other volunteer abroad opportunities in Ecuador, take a look at A Broader View, a US-based nonprofit organization that’s committed to providing quality volunteer assistance to local NGOs and communities around the world. A Broader View works in 25 countries and offers nearly 250 placements for volunteers like you who want to make a difference through teaching, to construction, to childcare, and much more.
One of the several South American volunteer abroad opportunities that A Broader View has open right now is Child Care in the Galapagos. Through this program, you’ll work at a center to care for about 35 children between the ages of two and five each day, providing education and much more to support their development. Most of the children in this educational system come from families of immigrants who came to Galapagos looking for a better future. You’ll volunteer Monday through Friday each week for eight hours a day, and your tasks can include changing diapers, helping with upkeep duties at the facility, and supporting recreational and education needs. This is an incredibly fast-paced environment, but it’s also a great opportunity to volunteer and still have plenty of time to explore the local community and spend time with your host family. To sign up for this four-week program, you must be at least 18 years of age and have a proficiency in Spanish. This project costs approximately $2,585, which includes a donation to A Broader View, airport pickup, orientation, program supervision, accommodation and meals, 24/7 in-country support, and in-country administration costs.
If you’re particularly interested in healthcare, then the Ecuador Therapy Center in Quito may be a great project for you to look at. Through this placement, you can learn about different areas of physical therapy, technical work, occupational therapy, language therapy, medical services, and disabled persons’ rights (and protection of those rights).
If you sign up for the physical therapy program, you’ll help treat different medical conditions by providing services such as kinesitherapy, thermotherapy, cryotherapy, phototherapy, therapeutic pool, hydrotherapy, and more. During the occupational therapy program, you will help patients work on every-day activities such as getting dressed and feeding themselves, vocational training, and movement exercises including strength recovery, relaxing techniques, and early stimulations. With language therapy, you can help patients in their ability to express their needs and emotions by working on sounds, comprehension and expressions, helping with homework, providing language and communication therapy, and assisting with those who have hearing problems. And finally, if you choose to work in orthopedics program, you will assist with general medicine, trauma, urology, audiology, dental care, psychology, and psychological pedagogy.
These premedical opportunities are open year-round from one to 12 weeks, with costs ranging from $895 to $2,330. You’ll stay with a host family in Quito, and will be provided with three meals per day throughout your stay in Ecuador. As part of this program, you must have basic Spanish language skills, two to three white scrubs, white comfortable shoes or white sneakers, and basic tools such as oximeter, stethoscope, strip thermometer, gloves, and mask.
If you’d like to learn more about these two volunteer programs in Ecuador - and everything else that A Broader View offers to its volunteers - please visit www.abroaderview.org.
WHAT VOLUNTEERS SAY: REVIEW FROM CHERISE
From the moment I submitted my application for the Pre Dental Program in Ecuador, to online chats, right before leaving the US, to arriving in Quito. It was extremely helpful to have pictures of my coordinator and host family before hand. It was comforting and stress reducing to have a visual of the first individuals you would meet and count on during your stay.
I was surprised at how quickly my host family felt like my real family. They were very accommodating. I may not have always understood what was said in Spanish but at the same time I was still always apart of family activities and discussions. This is also true with the extended family. Within one week I met extended family from both sides of my host parents and it made this experience even richer.
I had an amazing experience within the short time I was able to volunteer, 4 weeks. I loved basking in the breathtaking scenery. No picture could capture the essence of the mountains in Quito. Even though I wish they could, it made me absorb what I can in the moment.
If you’re looking to further your education or career, definitely check out Global Nomadic. With carefully-vetted, impactful and educational volunteer placements and internships, Global Nomadic offers programs in Africa, Asia, Central and South America, Europe, and the Pacific. And you’ll learn a great deal during your placement abroad: through Global Nomadic’s partnerships with local NGOs, you’ll make a positive impact while providing local solutions to local issues defined by your host community.
In Brazil, Global Nomadic is offering a two-week Wildlife Conservation Internship for $1,230, where you’ll conduct ongoing research and carry out conservation initiatives with local scientists, monitor and observe local flora and fauna, implement conservation measures, and have the opportunity for individual supervised research and dissertation field work. Your project will take you to the tropical wetland basin of Brazil’s Pantanal region, which covers about 200,000 square kilometers and boasts the greatest concentration of wildlife in the Americas.
Through this program, you will further research to understand how peccaries, tapirs, agoutis, and other frugivores such as macaws, certain fish, and numerous insects affect the dynamics of the Pantanal tropical forest. While there, you will also work with a professional to create an evaluation of the current state of local ranches. Generally you can expect to work for five to seven hours in the field and be prepared to walk five to 10 kilometers each day. Your general tasks may include:
Mammal and fruit data collection
Exploring and mapping new areas
GPS registration of mammal tracks
Conducting diet analysis and data entry
Setting up camera traps
Throughout your stay in Brazil, you’ll live on a simple private reserve close to the headwater stream and native forest, where you’ll have the option to sleep in a tent or in a cabin - also all meals will be provided, with lunch being the largest meal of the day as is tradition in Brazil. To sign up, you must be able to work in a hot climate, be in good physical health, be motivated to work with animals and plants, know basic English and/or Portuguese, have full travel and medical insurance, obtain necessary vaccinations, and be able to arrange your flight and visa.
Another excellent program you may be interested in is Global Nomadic’s Youth Sports Program in Brazil. This project invites you to Rio de Janeiro, where you will work with an NGO that helps the margins of Brazilian society. Through this program, you’ll create a cultural exchange between yourself as a volunteer and the local community members - and you’ll gain valuable knowledge and experience while helping generate income and employment opportunities for underserved individuals. Sports are a vital part of Brazilian lifestyle, especially football (soccer) - and for children throughout the impoverished areas of Rio, sports are one of their few forms of entertainment, particularly for many children vulnerable to falling down a dangerous path. By working with these children, you will provide a much-needed outlet for them in a safe and friendly environment. During this program, you’ll volunteer at least 10 hours a week, either part-time or full-time, with a schedule that will be decided upon your arrival.
You do not need to have previous athletic experience to participate, but you do need to be at least 18 years old, have a passion and enthusiasm for working with children, and have a lot of energy and creativity. You also must speak English at a native or near-native level, have at least a high school education, complete a criminal background check, have all vaccinations, be able to organize your flights and visas, and have full travel and medical insurance. This program has a minimum three-week participation requirement with a maximum of six months. For the first three weeks, the cost is $1,049, with the prices becoming staggered for longer stays, and includes all accommodation, breakfast, donation to the project, orientation, airport pickup, intensive Portuguese lessons (for stays of four weeks or more) and integration into the project. For this program, you will stay at the volunteer guesthouse in the Santa Teresa neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro, within walking distance of many bars and restaurants, supermarkets, a bakery, and public transportation links.
If either of these projects have piqued your interest and you want to learn more about Global Nomadic and their other volunteer and intern programs in Brazil, please visit https://globalnomadic.com
READY TO TRAVEL?
There are so many different opportunities awaiting you in Brazil, Ecuador, and other parts of South America. The volunteer projects we’ve listed above are only a few of the many that can be found from a multitude of organizations all around the world. And no matter what organization you choose to travel with, you’ll have an amazing time traveling, exploring a new country and culture, meeting amazing people - including your fellow volunteers - and of course having fun all while making a positive impact on communities and environments in need.
To find more information about the different opportunities available to you in South America, check out Volunteer Forever’s volunteer abroad, teach abroad, and intern abroad sections. For more inspiration, take a look at these articles as well: