about volunteer costs

Why pay to volunteer?

Yanapuma Foundation is a non-profit organization, registered in Ecuador under the Ministry of Social Welfare. Our aim is to promote sustainable practices in indigenous, rural and urban communities throughout Ecuador. We fund our activities from our Spanish Schools and travel agency which underwrite the foundation, as well as the money we receive from volunteers. In addition we seek project funding from international organizations for materials and costs associated with specific projects.

The communities that we work with are very poor, and although they are grateful for any assistance, they cannot afford to feed and house volunteers for free, as they themselves struggle to survive. Likewise, the projects that we work with struggle to continue their work, and are dependent upon the income that volunteers provide for food and accommodation to both feed and house volunteers and have a little left over to contribure to the project.

Yanapuma Foundation
Fundación Yanapuma is dedicated to promoting sustainable development in indigenous and marginalized communities in Ecuador.

There are many volunteer organizations, many of which charge large sums of money to volunteer. We aim to be as reasonably priced as possible, yet also strive to offer a guaranteed service to the volunteer.
We pay a volunteer coordinator to manage each community and project, reply to volunteer's inquiries, and maintain a database, along with rent, internet, travel expenses, etc. The cost for this is over $8,000 per year.

Talking to volunteers over the last couple of years who have volunteered with a wide array of organizations worldwide has given us the insights to understand how to provide these services to our volunteers. We have talked, for instance, to a couple who paid a lot of money to a seemingly reputable organization, who ended up working on their own digging a swimming pool in the back yard of the local director who had co-opted the volunteer program of a small community for his own ends. Having paid the money and set aside the vacation time to work to make a difference, this was a devastating experience for the couple, and threatened to cut short their entire vacation because they did not have the funds to cover the extra weeks costs outside the program they had signed up for. This is a fairly extreme example, but reflects something of the difficulty faced by the prospective volunteer trying to choose where to volunteer before they arrive in Ecuador.

Another disappointed volunteer appeared in our offices having signed up with another organization to teach English. She was shown into a room with 50 children on the first day and just left there. There was no orientation or welcome, no materials, no support or network for her to fall back on. Understandably, she could not volunteer under those conditions.

In addition, there is a significant difference between the very goal-oriented and driven culture from which most volunteers come and the more loosely structured and less time-bound approach typical in most indigenous and marginal communities and projects. Which means that even with the greatest of planning and forethought, the experience can be frustrating for volunteers anxious to achieve concrete results.

At Yanapuma, we are well aware of the responsibility that we have to both sides:
- to the community or project, in making sure that we achieve the goals we set with them and provide them with the outside help that they need
- to the volunteer, in ensuring that they arrive to find a well-organized project and a welcome place in which to contribute meaningfully.
To achieve both these goals, Yanapuma staff keep regular contact with the communities and projects that we work with, and monitor progress of each project continually. We will travel to the community on behalf of the volunteer to set up long-term and group projects and to ensure that all relevant materials are on site and that the community or project is prepared for their arrival.

We regularly monitor the volunteer programs as part of the overall goal of contributing to the development of each community, and solicit feedback from visitors about their experiences in order to ensure that the programs are running well. Thus, at Yanapuma Foundation we strive to guarantee our volunteers and visitors a rich and rewarding experience, conscious of our responsibilities to both the volunteer and to the community, and at the same time, working to cover the costs associated with our activities as a non-profit organization.

We hope you will support us in our efforts to improve the lives and futures of the communities that we work with.