gap year programs fighting poverty in ecuador
Roughly the size of Colorado, Ecuador is a South American country rich in cultural and ethnic diversity. However, poverty in Ecuador is rampant, with more than 21% of Ecuadorians living below the poverty line. Poverty also disproportionately affects Indigenous populations, who have less access to resources like clean water and health care. Fortunately, many gap year programs fighting poverty in Ecuador let students get involved in the cause while allowing them to experience Ecuadorian culture. Here are three gap year programs fighting poverty in Ecuador:

3 Gap Year Programs Fighting Poverty in Ecuador

  1. YanaPuma Foundation: The first of these gap year programs fighting poverty in Ecuador is the YanaPuma Foundation, an NGO that began in 2006. Its main initiative is promoting Ecuador’s community development by focusing on six principles. These principles include sustainability, social justice, respect, freedom, transparency and professionalism. With YanaPuma, students can get involved in various initiatives, ranging from teaching English in the Andes to building natural infrastructure for the Shuar ethnic group in the Amazon. Another of YanaPuma’s ongoing projects is the “Edible Forest Restoration” project. This project aims to provide crops that provide economic and nutritional advantages to the Indigenous population of Tsa’chila. To further this initiative in 2019, the organization planted 2,500 saplings.
  2. United Planet: United Planet aims to create an interconnected global community by providing people the opportunity to immerse themselves in new cultures. Through its programs, participants work with children to enrich their education by tutoring them and teaching them English. Additionally, volunteers work with impoverished children in Ecuador to support human rights developmental programs that help disadvantaged, disabled and orphaned children. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the organization has expanded its program to include the option to virtually volunteer in Ecuador.
  3. CIS Abroad: CIS Abroad provides students the opportunity to study abroad in many countries. Like United Planet, it aims to promote global awareness and help people become international citizens while bridging the gap between cultures. CIS Abroad currently has eight gap year programs fighting poverty in Ecuador. These programs allow students to serve in various ways, from teaching at-risk Ecuadorian children to creating a service project in a local Ecuadorian community in need. This program is a unique opportunity because it connects participants to local organizations already working to have specific impacts on the community.

Firsthand Experience

Jeffery Fishman is a rising sophomore at the University of Pennsylvania. Fishman took a gap year to live in Ecuador for eight months and help with poverty alleviation efforts there.

In an interview with The Borgen Project Fishman said that “While living in the Imbabura Province of Northern Ecuador as a Global Citizen Year fellow, I worked at Fundación Arupo, an Ibarra-based therapy center for children with special needs. Fundación Arupo is a unique therapy center in that it provides physical, speech, occupational, psychological and psycho-pedagogical therapy all in one location. In the mornings, I worked to organize monthly events for students in local school districts to teach them about special needs and to encourage an inclusive learning environment. In the afternoons, I helped out the therapists during therapy sessions with the children. Additionally, I lived with an Indigenous host family who introduced me to the Kichwa culture.”

Fishman explains that while living in San Vincent, an agrarian society, he saw poverty firsthand. He said that “Most community members were agrarian workers, who lived off the day-to-day income they earned through selling their crops at markets. As a result, salaries in the community were often unstable and variable depending on the season and product demand. Even so, the community was very tight-knit and was able to band together to help each other out when they fell upon hard times. In terms of infrastructure, the community faced frequent water shortages that could last anywhere from a few hours to a few days.”

Poverty Alleviation and Cultural Immersion

While Fishman engaged in much rewarding anti-poverty work, he was also able to experience Ecuadorian culture. “My favorite Ecuadorian food was llapingachos, which are these fried potato pancakes cooked in achiote and are super crispy and delicious,” he said. “I loved conversations with my host family, where we shared aspects of our lives. Our nights together were filled with laughter and smiles until our cheeks were sore, and no matter how my day was going, I knew dinner would always cheer me up!”

Fishman’s experience, along with these three gap year programs fighting poverty in Ecuador, highlights the enriching experience of volunteering abroad. Not only can students who take a gap year immerse themselves in a new culture, but they can also actively work to help fight poverty in Ecuador and elsewhere around the globe.

– Kira Lucas
Photo: Flickr

Do you want to study abroad during college? Wanting to see the world, but also feel like you should be working to help others? If that matches your dreams and desires, there are study abroad alternatives that fit you perfectly! There are plenty of volunteer opportunities that can double as the abroad experience you are craving.

The International Volunteer HQ is a great place to start when searching for volunteer opportunities abroad. They offer programs in “over 30 different destinations and fees as little as US$180 per week,” making them one of the most affordable programs out there. International Volunteer HQ programs range anywhere from teaching to medical assistance, to arts and music and sports. Their wide variety of programs allows you to find the perfect fit of interests and locations. A notable trait of the International Volunteer HQ is their diligence and determination to help volunteers fundraise money for their trip. Although based in New Zealand, the work they accomplish touches the lives of people on five continents and 34 countries.

UVolunteer is another noteworthy volunteer abroad program. They are currently working in areas of Latin America, Africa and Thailand with various projects being conducted at each destination. Though UVolunteer is slightly more expensive than other volunteer abroad programs, UVolunteer promises they are “unbeatable when you consider what you pay and the services we provide.”

Cross-Cultural Solution, or CCS, is, as they put it, “changing the way volunteering is done, making it a safe, exciting adventure of a lifetime for people of all ages and walks of life.” CCS understands how important each person’s efforts are to achieving change in the world, which is why they are dedicated to helping everyone who wants to volunteer be able to. The program provides people with the ability to work extensively in and with various cultures, while making an impactful difference in people’s lives. Though they currently have six specific volunteer work areas, they promise that if you have a skill or passion you want to pursue, they can and will help you get there.

GoAbroad is a program not just for volunteering, but for study abroad and internship opportunities. They offer distinctive programs that focus not only on what you are good at, but more importantly what you enjoy. The destinations they offer with the programs available practically cover any trip you can imagine. The duration of your volunteer trip, study abroad adventure or career changing internship is also in your hands. GoAbroad understands that funds, abilities and desires differ for everyone, so they make sure you pick your trip’s length. Since they have such a wide range of countries to volunteer in, your ability to make a change in others’ lives has little limits.

World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms, WWOOF, is a unique program that operates around the world. WWOOF is so unique because it connects people looking to volunteer with organic farms that are looking for volunteer help. The premise of WWOOF is connection. There is a slight membership fee to join and find connections; however, aside from that there is no program fee. The families, groups or organizations looking for volunteers provide food, housing and the opportunity to learn about organic farming in exchange for four to six hours of work a day. Because of the global opportunities with WWOOF, you have the possibility to reach, help and connect with people from various locations and backgrounds. These programs each offer differing perspectives and opportunities for your abroad experiences, but can be tailored to what fits you best. Volunteering and making a change in the world can now go hand-in-hand with traveling abroad.

Katherine Wyant

Sources: International Volunteer HQ, UVolunteer, Cross Cultural Solution,, World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms

study abroad
Studying abroad is at an all-time high. Not only is it the latest coveted experience for employers, but studies have shown that studying abroad can have a substantial impact on one’s mind and creativity.

The role of learning a language pays off, according to the Huffington Post. Learning languages benefits the individual personally and professionally, as it increases one’s access to people, places, markets and ideas. Language formally benefits the environment through the ability to share environmental practices. Knowledge of another language also contributes to communication in the business and economic sectors. Language also contributes to political relations among governments and is indispensable in being assimilated into a new culture.

Learning a language can help an individual achieve his or her dreams in a variety of ways. Exploring a new language allows one to cultivate a more intimate experience when traveling, increases one’s accessibility to foreign recipes, art, literature and landscapes and can give vitality to new relationships.

To the delight of many students, scholars and societies, it has been recorded that learning a language influences the brain. A recent Swedish MRI study reveals that acquisition of a language increases the size of the brain, specifically in the hippocampus and cerebral cortex.

Recent studies have also concluded that bilingualism improves the brain’s ability to multitask, delays the onset of Alzheimer’s and promotes creativity. Language learning assists in other intellectual areas, specifically math and music. Each language provides insight into a different society or worldview.

The benefits of studying abroad surpass the benefits of just learning a language, although language is a key aspect of the international experience. According to the Institute of International Education, or IIE, “international students in the United States and study abroad by American students are at an all-time high.” The number of U.S. students studying abroad has more than doubled over the past 15 years.

The IIE claims that international education is one of the most important components of contemporary society. “International education is crucial to building relationships between people and communities in the United States and around the world. It is through these relationships that together we can solve global challenges like climate change, the spread of pandemic disease, and combating violent extremism,” said Evan M. Ryan, Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs. “We also need to expand access to international education for students from more diverse backgrounds.”

Studying abroad changes neurons, and it challenges one’s worldview in a way that may have not been previously acknowledged. Opportunities such as the Fulbright Scholarship, Critical Language Scholarship, Gilman Award and numerous others are renown for their prestigious international education programs. The focus on international education is steadily growing, and for earlier this year, the IIE launched Generation Study Abroad. This campaign aims to double the number of students who study abroad by the end of the decade, while increasing diversity and accessibility to international education.

– Neti Gupta

Sources: Institution of International Education, The Chronicle, The Diane Rehm Show, The Guardian, The Huffington Post 1, The Huffington Post 2

Photo: Honors Advising Blog

Schooling in the United States and Europe was a source of great fascination to Africans in the 1970s, 80s and early 90s. Over 80 percent of Africans seeking to further their education abroad ended up in these two regions.

Today the West continues to be the first choice for African students, with nearly 55 percent of those studying abroad choosing Western countries, especially France. More and more Africans, however, are now being drawn to Asian universities.

China, a country at the center of this new development, is continuing to improve and advance its educational ideals. In the last five years, Beijing has spent more than $1.26 trillion on education, a target of 4 percent of China’s GDP. The country has an unswerving teacher development scheme. Historically, teaching has been a highly respected profession.

Once teachers are employed in China they must experience a vigorous system of continuous professional development. Groups of teachers work together with master teachers on lesson plans and general improvement.

According to China’s university and college admission system, the number of international students studying in China has significantly increased. In particular, African students are pouring into more than 660 higher education institutions in the country.

Besides the thriving educational culture, the increased enrollment is imperative for Africa’s future because the country can learn from China how best to utilize and manage its many natural resources.

Africa has a dream of reproducing China’s success in manufacturing, construction, technology and healthcare. The economic powerhouse’s sustained growth has primarily been anchored on continuous technological innovation and industrial diversification. The industrial dynamics caused the shift from an agrarian society, where nearly 90 percent of the labor force worked, to non-agriculture and manufacturing sectors. The change was gradual, but continuous and unstoppable.

Today, manufacturing is the economic backbone of China. Its emergence as a manufacturing powerhouse has been shocking. In seventh place in 1980, China overtook the US two years ago to become the world’s largest producer of manufactured goods.

China also used its large manufacturing engine to increase living standards by doubling the country’s GDP per capita over the last decade — the kind of achievement that took the industrializing United Kingdom 150 years. Now, Africans seek to imitate China’s economic accomplishments through knowledge transferred from Chinese classrooms and lecture halls.

The process started a decade ago when African nations began to sponsor their most academically gifted students to attend schools in China. Meanwhile, China also sponsored students majoring in medicine, engineering, economics and journalism. In 1983, China sponsored 400 students. In 2005, the number increased to 2,000. Last year, it funded university education for 5,500 students.

As Africa seeks to learn the best from the best, it is important that the country also cultivates the culture of working hard. China’s forward-looking system has put it on the right path to success. There is no mystery to its methods. China succeeded because it knew what it wanted. This should be the culture that African students studying in China bring back home.

Scarlet Shelton

Sources: Global Times, UNESCO,

Photo: Moment

Created by former World Bank executives Mari Kuraishi and Dennis Whittle, GlobalGiving is a fundraising web site that connects non-profits and social entrepreneurs with people around the world who support their projects. GlobalGiving has raised $87,755,095 to fund more than 8,000 projects since 2002, working towards its mission of “catalyz[ing] a global market for ideas, information, and money that democratizes aid and philanthropy.” Listed below are four ways to utilize GlobalGiving.

1. Help Raise Money for a Project
Fundraisers are great opportunities to raise money for a project on GlobalGiving. The site allows individuals to organize fundraisers that commemorate birthdays, weddings, loved ones and other important events. Its also provides the option for members to involve their employers or other members of the online community.

2. Travel on a Service Trip or Volunteer Vacation
GlobalGiving’s In-the-Field Program recruits, trains and facilitates trips to GlobalGiving projects around the world. This opportunity allows individuals to understand the impact of GlobalGiving and to see the results grassroots funding can have. GlobalGiving also helps to connect volunteers with its partner organizations so that they can personally witness the application of GlobalGiving funds.

3. Study Abroad
Studying abroad offers university students a unique perspective regarding the world around them. GlobalGiving has an extensive list of partner organizations and projects with which students studying abroad can get involved. These programs offer a variety of opportunities, allowing students to gain course credit, take advantage of research opportunities, or gain valuable internship experience

4. Put a Project on GlobalGiving
Putting a project on GlobalGiving allows thousands of potential donors to learn more about it and contribute to fundraising efforts. In order to get a project to appear on GlobalGiving, individuals must nominate their organization and provide documentation regarding its non-profit status. Organizations that finish the application process successfully are then invited to participate in GlobalGiving’s Open Challenge, which lasts roughly 4 weeks and tests if the organization can meet fundraising thresholds. If an organization can raise at least $5,000 from 40 donors, it is invited to become a long-term member of GlobalGiving.

– Katie Bandera

Sources: Global Giving, SSI Review