Tag: Volunteer Abroad

Volunteering in Ecuador

Below you’ll find the photo essay that I submitted to a National Geographic photo journal competition over at WorldNomads.

The Introductory Essay
Photos often capture a single moment in time, but great photos have the ability to tell an evolving story. Exceptional photography reveals a continuum in the subject’s past, present and future, and becomes an art when it invites the viewer to feel and contemplate the scene within.

By American standards my family isn’t wealthy, but I learned the relativity of wealth while traveling. I gained a new perspective by living with some of the two billion people who survive on a dollar a day. After these tremendous experiences, my attending university, teaching English in China, and buying a nice camera suddenly felt like astounding privileges that many people only dream of. The beauty of travel is the people that we meet along the way. Everyone has a story to tell, and particularly in the ‘Global South,’ these stories inevitably center around the improvement of their own lives.

Before entering a developing country, I try to understand their political and economic development. What have they already achieved and how do they want to continue advancing? Have they been able to help themselves, or are they dependent on outsiders for assistance? My natural interest in observing human transformation led me to study anthropology where I learned when and how it was appropriate to participate in social and economic change.

When I arrive in a new country, my camera snaps freely during my first interactions with the new host culture. The excitement of photography is in the simultaneous development in front of the lens and behind the viewfinder. A camera is an intersection of change between a photographer’s internal transformation and the unfolding human saga in the larger world.

My camera is an ever-present companion in my travels, but I feel as if we are still becoming acquainted. With it in-hand during particularly spectacular moments, I feel blessed at the opportunity to share a piece of the diversity, beauty and strife that we collectively create. Travel photography is the best and only way that I know how to educate and inspire positive action in myself and in others.

The Photo Essay


Welcome to Ganquis, a town located in the high cordillera of the Ecuadorian Andes. Although the town has a dirt road connecting it to a highway about an hour away, it is very rural, not even appearing on most maps. The children’s faces are chapped because it takes around 15 years for their skin to adapt to the chilly, windy environment.


We came to Ganquis as a group of students from university associated through Engineers Without Borders. Ten months prior to our arrival in Ecuador was a period of intense planning since our project involved sophisticated engineering. It isn’t easy to design a gravity-fed water system that descends nearly 3,000 vertical feet of steep Andean mountains. The force behind the water would have literally ripped the system apart without pressure break tanks like this one.


Although we applied our technical skills and labor to the system, the locals soon showed us who was boss. I felt that I was making a formidable accomplishment as I hauled a 100lb. bag of concrete around the mountain at 14,000 feet above sea level until I was passed by a man about half my size carrying two bags! This picture captures a local woman in a rare moment of repose.


These two women, Maria and Consuela, faithfully prepared an early breakfast for us before we set out and a tasty dinner after we returned from working on the system. Even though they had grown up in Ganquis and understood the material luxuries of a life in the city, they have chosen to stay in the village and focus on family life.


One of the central ideas behind our project’s goal of sustainability is that the village should be self-reliant in the construction and repairs of the water system. This crew became the first to construct a tap stand on their own. As the concrete dries, their confidence and happiness exudes from bringing clean drinking water to Ganquis for the first time.

Thanks for reading.
You can see a couple more photos from my EWB trip to Ecuador HERE.

Making a Difference by Volunteering Abroad

Volunteer UgandaVolunteering is a great break from the “rigors” of long-term travel, or a nice way to make a commitment while traveling. Sometimes people plan trips specifically for the purpose of volunteering because it presents the opportunity to stay in one place for much longer than you do while backpacking. You’ll learn a lot more about the people, customs, and life cycle of the area you are visiting, and you’ll make stronger social connections than you ever likely would while backpacking.

There are endless voluntourism possibilities out there, and some are much better than others. This is a preliminary and basic list of volunteer abroad programs, but it will be periodically updated and expanded over time.

My Favorite Sites
WWOOF (Worldwide Opportunities On Organic Farms)
WWOOF-ing is a chance to work abroad on farms in exchange for room and board. You can learn a lot about organic farming and make some great friends while WWOOF-ing. With hosts available in over 53 countries, there’s an opportunity for everyone. For more info check out A First-Timer’s Guide to WWOOF-ing.

Work Away
For only 22 Euros, you can have 2 year access to Work Away’s impressive list of host contacts throughout the world. The idea is similar to WWOOF-ing, but isn’t limited to agricultural work exchange. You can contact people all around the world looking for help in the tourism business, construction, animal care, sailing, language teaching, and the list really does go on. Work Away’s strength is in its community of good people.

Ecoteer
You can browse and contact Ecoteer’s volunteer placements for £15 per year, or get lifetime access for a one-time fee of £25. It’s the same idea as Workaway except you’ll generally be contacting relief and aid organizations rather than private citizens. There are wide number of arenas to work in, including Ecotourism, Conservation, Teaching, Humanitarian, Research, and Organic Farming. They’ve listed many placements, however you won’t find as many opportunities here as Work Away.

Escape the City
With the same kind of volunteer opportunities as Ecoteer, Escape the City makes a cut above the rest by catering to young professionals looking for a break from corporate offices for real travel adventures. It’s even possible to land good-paying jobs on this site. With the same format as LinkedIn, you can create a browse-able profile to advertise yourself to employers looking for people with a certain set of skills. Escape the City is “on a mission to liberate talented people from corporate jobs that don’t excite them.” How couldn’t you get excited for this one?

Other Volunteering Opportunities
Sea Turtle Restoration Project
Sea Turtle ConservationThis is just one organization amongst countless others where you can bide your time to help protect one of the ocean’s coolest creatures, the sea turtle. Most of these organizations are based at nesting beaches and sometimes even look for help for just one night.

HF Holidays
Volunteer to help with HF Holidays, whose mission is to help people enjoy the great outdoors. They encourage people to take a break from the rat race, and you too can become a part of it by volunteering as a trip leader.

Appalaichan Trail Conservancy, USA
Help protect and promote the health and vitality of the diverse ecosystems of the 2000+ mile Appalachian Trail in east coast region of the United States. Help with trail building and maintenance in return for very basic accommodation and food.

Volunteer at a Kibbutz in Israel
Become a part of a highly social community living off the land in Israel. Experience a different kind of life in Israel and use the time outside of work to explore this controversial country. The site linked to is about an English backpacker’s personal experience at a Kibbutz. He offers a lot of information about going to Israel and what it’s like to live there.

Engineers Without Borders
EWB is an organization interested in promoting development projects all around the world. Their principle goal is to fund and build sustainable projects that help people achieve basic human needs. They collaborate with a number of professionals from a variety of fields including engineering, public health, anthropology and business. If you aren’t a student, it’s possible to become involved as a corporate partner in fundraising and other activities.

I volunteered with EWB while attending university, and traveled to the Ecuadorian Andes to build a water system to bring fresh water to a village for the first time. Read and see more about my experience there in my photo essay from Ecuador.

Meet Dave

Meet DaveUnfulfilled by consumer lifestyles, I left on a really slow trip around the world. As a 3rd eye traveler on the New American Dream, my aim is to inspire and cultivate conscious living along the way....Read More...

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