Explore the highlands around Cuenca, Ecuador, and dive deep into food security and justice in rural indigenous farming communities. Discover how Ecuadorian agriculture is based on ancestral cultures, specifically regarding the importance of superfoods and indigenous medicine. Meet local leaders, food producers, and youth making an impact on food systems in the region.

Length Training
Dates
In-Country
Dates
Ages Application
Deadline
Price
Gap Semester: Azuay, Ecuador 8 weeks

Pre-departure training online and group training upon arrival in Ecuador

Spring: February 15–April 12, 2022

17–22 Apply by October 15 for a $500 discount! Final deadline: December 15, 2021

Program fee $12,475

Need-based financial assistance is available! Apply by November 15, 2021. Apply by October 15 for $500 off your program fee!

  • Gap Semester: Azuay, Ecuador
  • Length
    8 weeks
  • Training Dates

    Pre-departure training online and group training upon arrival in Ecuador

  • In-Country Dates

    Spring: February 15–April 12, 2022

  • Ages
    17–22
  • Application Deadline
    Apply by October 15 for a $500 discount! Final deadline: December 15, 2021
  • Price

    Program fee $12,475

    Need-based financial assistance is available! Apply by November 15, 2021. Apply by October 15 for $500 off your program fee!

What to Expect

THE BASICS

  • Pod of 20 students, two spots reserved for students from Ecuador
  • 8-week session
  • Communal living in Cuenca, Ecuador
  • Robust health and safety protocols

 

What You’ll GET

  • Volunteer with small organic farms in the Cañar and Azuay provinces near Cuenca
  • Network with local officials and community organizations who promote sustainable agriculture, environmental protection, youth leadership, and indigenous rights
  • Excursions to national parks, Incan cultural sites, and Andean communities
  • Mentorship through coaching, supervision, and support
  • Spanish classes tailored to your level
  • Earn 120 service hours
  • College credit is available through the Gap Year Association and Portland State University for a fee of $1,700. Email Admissions at [email protected] for more information.

 

What You’ll Need

  • Age: 17–22 (high school graduate)
  • Interest in food security, indigenous rights, or community service
  • At least two years of high school Spanish or equivalent

 

What’s Included

All expenses in Ecuador are covered, including:

  • Accommodation, including excursions
  • Three meals per day
  • Private group transportation throughout the entire program
  • Medical supplies like hand sanitizer, masks, and cleaning products
  • Entrance fees at sites we visit
  • 24/7 On-Call Safety System
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About the Program

Project Highlights

  • Discover the Andes region by understanding more about its best treasures, Pachamama (Mother Earth), and Andean indigenous worldviews and customs. 
  • Visit two of the Ecuadorian wonders: Ingapirca and Cajas National Park.  
  • Learn about local ecosystems and agriculture and understand more about how they function by working alongside locals at different farms.   

Partner Agencies

  • Local Farm: This land, located on Cerro Cabogana, is a space to be immersed in nature. They grow vegetables and plants using the lunar calendar and produce dairy products in a responsible and humane way.
    • Volunteer on projects like recovering ancestral medicinal plant seeds, reforesting the land, and digital promotion of the farm!
  • Indigenous Women’s Organization: This is an organization led by three indigenous women who have built an enterprise focused on community-based tourism. Unlike other forms of community tourism in the province and around the country, this organization focuses on the correlation of the four natural elements of earth, air, water, and fire, and how they are woven into Andean wisdom and influence agriculture, gastronomy, medicine, language, music, architecture, and spirituality. 
    • Volunteer on projects like reforesting watersheds, planting community gardens, and creating murals that represent the vision of the organization.
  • Government Agency: Volunteer with a municipal agency that works with protecting environmental rights in the region.   

Example Activities

  • Take part in a cooking class using Andean superfoods
  • Try your hand at weaving using ancient methods
  • Hop between hemispheres at the Mitad del Mundo
  • Learn to make and play wind instruments
  • Attend a pampa mesa, an indigenous cultural celebration and communal meal
  • Hike in the Andes Mountains, spotting llamas, highland lakes, and waterfalls!

 

Questions?

Join an online info session!

RSVP Here

Cosmovisión in the Andean Highlands

Cosmovisión is the way in which the indigenous culture understands the world. The way agriculture and food production have developed in Ecuador are rooted in ancestral cultural systems and practices, which has important implications on food security today. In this program, we’ll meet food producers, local organizers, and young people making an impact on food justice and indigenous rights in their communities.

 

 

Ready to Apply?

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Example Itinerary

Weeks 1–5: Farmhouse Near Cuenca

Quarantine Period: Days 1–6.

For more information about COVID-19 procedures, click here.

Our first site is a rustic farmhouse with lots of communal space. Volunteers will be sharing rooms with approximately 3 others, but each will have their own bed.

Food – The farm’s diet contains fruits, vegetables, protein, and grains from the highlands of Ecuador. You will also be able to taste and consume the products that are made fresh on the farm such as eggs, milk, and yogurt!

Excursions
-Find yourself amid the stark beauty of Cajas National Park
-Hike through the cloud forest to Cerro Cabogana
-Visit waterfalls and natural ponds that surround the farm
-Explore the picturesque streets in Cuenca’s historical center

 

Weeks 6–7: Community House in Cañar Province

This site is an eco-tourism enterprise run by three indigenous women. There are several different community houses onsite. Volunteers will share rooms and the rest of the communal areas.  

Food – Try superfoods such as quinoa, amaranth, chia, sweet potato, corn, barley, and more. Volunteers who eat meat will be able to enjoy a very traditional dish in the Andes, cuy, or roasted guinea pig. 

Excursions
-Visit the sacred Laguna Culebrillas
-Contemplate history at Ingapirca, the largest-known Inca ruins in Ecuador
-Make new furry friends at an alpaca farm

Week 8: Residence in Quito

The group will be together in shared rooms and a place with communal space to share. 

Food – Volunteers will finish off their stay with traditional foods and will get to taste typical Quito dishes, such as a good locro de papas.

Excursions
Visit the Equator at the Mitad del Mundo
-See the city from a new perspective on the teleferico

FAQ

What does it mean to live with a pod?

On this program, you’ll be living with a group of fellow gap volunteers from the U.S. and Ecuador. You’ll share responsibilities like cooking, cleaning, and planning activities. The pod will travel together on excursions and day trips. Certain health and safety precautions will be required when interacting with anyone outside the pod. This is for their health and safety as well as your own.

 

How is the program staffed and what is the ratio of staff to students?

The program will be led by a Project Director assisted by Project Coordinators and a Health & Wellness Coordinator. The number of students in the pod is 20 maximum, so the ratio will be close to 1 to 5.

 

What are some of the activities I might take part in?

Visit an organic farm drawing from ancestral Andean knowledge of agroecology, gastronomy, and traditional medicine
Hike to high peaks overlooking pristine lakes in Cajas National Park
Stroll through Cuenca’s historic center
Learn how to prepare land for planting on a local family farm
Take part in a traditional celebratory pampa mesa style meal
Explore Ingapirca, the largest-known Inca ruins in Ecuador
Ride horses in the Yunguilla Valley

 

Do I have to be enrolled in college to participate?

No, you do not need to be enrolled in college or planning on enrolling in college to join. This program is open to all students ages 17–22 who have graduated high school, regardless of college plans. You should have an interest in Spanish, food security, indigenous rights, or Latin American culture and a commitment to your community.

 

What COVID-19 precautions are you taking?

Volunteers on this program are required to receive a vaccination for COVID-19. Some exceptions apply. Students on this program should self-isolate for two weeks before departure (unless they are vaccinated) and must show a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of departure. Upon arrival in Ecuador, the pod will isolate together and receive another COVID-19 test within the first few days. A Health and Safety Coordinator is onsite. Students will have minimal contact with anyone outside the pod.

See other questions related to COVID-19 here.

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“The things you will learn and experience and the relationships you will build will remain with you through the rest of your life.”

—Emma, AMIGOS Gap Volunteer

Program Requirements
  • Age: 17–22 and high school graduate
  • Interest in food security, indigenous rights, sustainable agriculture, or community service
  • Elective participation (AMIGOS does not accept court-mandated participation)
  • 2+ years of high school Spanish or the equivalent
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What is cosmovisión?

In the Andes, cosmovisión is a way of understanding the world that has roots in the indigenous culture of the region.

Explore how this impacts food security and production today on a gap semester this spring in Ecuador! Learn more at the Gap Programs link in our bio.
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