Arriving to Quito
Before embarking on our journey, my boyfriend at the time and I searched for Volunteer programs in Ecuador. We found that you had to pay ridiculous amounts of money for your time. Instead, we searched farther and found what we thought was perfect. A small, volunteer ran school in a small village in Salasaka, Ecuador. We would be doing anything from building on the new volunteer house, working in the gardens, or teaching at the school. I figured I would be working in the gardens, and my boyfriend figured he would be doing construction, as we had no experience in teaching.
When we finally arrived in Quito after long, draining flights, we quickly found WiFi and searched for a place to stay. I definitely recommend finding a hostel prior to arriving in an unknown country. Delirious and exhausted, you will want certainty in where you are staying, as we quickly found out. We found a hostel called the Botiquito near new town. We took a taxi for $20, which may have been overpriced, but I was in no condition to argue or haggle, as I felt ill and utterly exhausted from lack of sleep, and not to mention the massive change in altitude. I went from 227 meters in my hometown to 2,850 meters above sea level. It definitely took me some time to get acclimated to this change.
After some much needed rest, we took a taxi to the bus station, which any hostel can help you arrange if you have trouble with Spanish or want to avoid any chance of being ripped off.
To get to the small village of Salasaka, we bought a ticket to the tourist town of Banos for about 8 dollars for 2 tickets with the Expresso Banos company. When someone came around to check our tickets on the bus, we said “a salasaka” to make sure the bus would stop in the town we needed to go.
3 hours later, the bus stopped near a pedestrian bridge where we then found a camineta, or truck to take us to the Rosa Maria Biblioteca, as instructed. The truck took us to a place, which seemed to be empty and abandoned. Confused, we had the driver take us to the actual Katitawa school. Nobody was at the school but seeing it for the first time was incredible. We would be at this place everyday for an indefinite amount of time. We could not wait to start this new adventure.
However, since there was no one at the school, we decided to walk around, in hopes we would find where we were supposed to be going. We walked aimlessly for about an hour until 2 girls saw us with our giant backpacks on, noticing that obviously we were out of place.
They asked if we were lost and we told them we were looking for the Rosa Maria Biblioteca. As fate had it, it was right in front of us.
Immediately we were greeted exuberantly by another volunteer. Already, we felt at home. She showed us to the Volunteer house, which was right across from the Library.
We then met the man who ran the Library, Robert. He didn’t look any older than 60, when in fact, he was 80 years old. He had been a volunteer for the school for over 10 years, and knows that is where he will stay. An incredible and caring man with some quite interesting views and ideas in practically all aspects and any topic, He is one definitely worth chatting with.
Volunteering at Katitawa, there is a variety of jobs to be done. 18, and inexperienced, I assumed I would be working in the gardens, however, when we arrived, there was a shortage of volunteers, and each new person would have to teach.
Teach??? I had never taught in a classroom setting to English speaking children, let alone Spanish speaking. My spanish was very basic. I had enough to get around but initially, I did not think I was in any way qualified to teach in the school.
On the first day of school, we were introduced to the 16 kids from Kindergarten to 4th grade. I had worked with children prior to volunteering, but I was scared out of my wits to teach. The first few days were definitely a challenge, as I assumed it would be. However, after a week or so at the school, it became much easier. While I taught the kids English, they taught me Spanish. Each day would be better than the last, as my communication with them improved tenfold.
“Comedor” of Katitawa
Teaching, you will either go from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the school, or split it up from 8-12 and 4-8, as there is also English classes at night for people from surrounding communities. This was always a great time as almost all the people coming to night classes genuinely wanted to learn English. Of course, when a person wants to learn and has the drive for it, teaching and learning come so much more naturally. Night classes were always a fun time. Each person had a different goal to reach with their English whether it was for school, work, traveling, or wanting to “pick up the ladies.”
Besides teaching, we worked on several projects such as building a new on the new volunteer house. Robert hopes when the third floor is finished, it can be a place for the community to come together for a variety of activities such as concerts and plays.
Various Activities at Katitawa
Craftsmanship of bows and arrows made by the kids on their own time
Dia de los Muertos – Eating guaguas de pan or Ecuadorian
Every Monday, the children would perform a march and sing with their 3 important flags of Ecuador, their province of Tungurahua, as well as their own indigenous flag.
After about 6 weeks of volunteering Katitawa Escuela, it was time for me to continue my travels onward. Prior to leaving, they held a goodbye ceremony where each kid gave us a drawing or letter as well as sang us a sweet goodbye song. We were given handmade medallions from the director, thanking us for the time and effort we had put into this organization. It was an extremely difficult goodbye after getting so close with all the wonderful children of Katitawa Escuela. I feel quite lucky for having had the opportunity to volunteer at this cultural of a place. The experience I had with the kids, other volunteers, and my own personal growth, was worth every bit of time and energy