About the local hosting organization
The Arajuno Road Project was formally created in March of 2008 by Great Aves, a UK-based charity, with the goal of supporting the schools and improving the opportunities available to children living along the road located between the small city of Puyo and the rural community of Arajuno in the Ecuadorian Amazon. In December of 2011, the project became a separate organization under new direction, and has impacted over 500 children and their families to date.
Our primary initiative is supporting local schools having less opportunities then the city schools. Additionally, Eco-Agriculture program provides support for school and community infrastructure, the development of school gardens. The program is evolving to focus on development of an ecological agriculture center where cultivation for the community and ARP's community center, seedlings for partner sites, as well as experimental and demonstration areas will be established. Tropical soil and water management is an important focus, and both native and common agricultural species are cultivated.
About the volunteer work
The Arajuno Road Project (ARP)/Proyecto Ruta del Arajuno was created with the goal of supporting the schools and improving the opportunities available in the communities along the road located between the small city of Puyo and the rural community of Arajuno – a culturally and ecologically diverse area in the Ecuadorian Amazon. The program works in rural communities providing support in education, improving the infrastructure and learning environment of schools, and working on community development and conservation programs, such as school gardens and reforestation.
Help develop and maintain ecological agricultural center
Assist during community work days, when possible sharing healthy cooking ideas via the community snack afterward
Assist with other Eco-Agricultura Program tasks when possible
Keep tools and materials up to date and organized
Weekly check-in with program team
Generally the volunteers are not asked to work during the weekends. Although it might occur in some unexpected circumstances.
The volunteer will live on site in the dormitory at the community center. After an initial orientation, he/she will be expected to run agreed upon community center activities weekday afternoons/evenings; corresponding planning and administrative duties will be on volunteer's own schedule. The volunteer will also be expected to participate in a weekly minga (community service) with the community one afternoon each week (recently on Tuesdays). Documenting the work will be important for the long-term success of the program and future volunteers. If the person has any special abilities/skills, she/he is also welcome to propose a community class.
The volunteer dorm is located in a rural area on the outskirts of Puyo, 6 km out of the city, on site at ARP’s office and community center. The site is an old school that was closed in 2014 due to changes in the national school system that resulted in the unification of many schools. It is a site that has a 60+ year history as the first school along Arajuno Road and also as the heart of the region, which is being recuperated with ARP’s help.
The dorm was a classroom that has been converted into subdivided, shared spaces similar to a hostel. Bathrooms, shower, kitchen and dining area are located in a separate building. It has Internet. The coordinator lives on site, so you will always have someone for assistance as needed. Most volunteers describe the atmosphere as very communal and family-like. Volunteers share responsibilities for maintaining their living environment.
Special info about the food
Basic food items (Ecuadorian diet) are bought weekly by ARP personnel. Cooking meals is a shared activity, as well as cleaning. Help from volunteers is also greatly appreciated in producing our own food. All daily meals enter in this category.
About the project location
ARP operates in the region between the provincial capital of Puyo and the rural jungle town of Arajuno/ entrance to Yasuni National Park. Puyo is a small city of roughly 40,000 people in the Pastaza province of Ecuador. The province is one of the largest in Ecuador with one of the smallest populations – a large portion is comprised of Amazonian rain forest. The main ethnic groups in Pastaza are Mestizo, African Americans, and various indigenous groups. There are 7 different indigenous nationalities in the Puyo – Pastaza region: Quichwa, Shuar, Achuar, Waorani, Shiwiar, Zaparo, and Andoa. Main economics activities are construction, small business, tourism, artisanal crafts, trade, and public employment.
Family is extremely important, and quality of life is largely measured by it. Typically, most men work and woman stay home as housewives to raise children, cook, and keep the house clean. Children attend school, although it is common for them not to finish because of lack of interest, the need to work, or other situations. The people generally are friendly and open, but you need to show interest to socialize with them. In Puyo and around there are some other NGOs, it is possible to get in touch with their volunteers.
About the leisure activities possible
Compared to other destinations in Ecuador, Puyo is not a touristy town and you will not see many foreigners besides the others volunteers. However, it is a beautiful region and there are many activities for the weekends.Visit various zoos, ethno-botanical, and orchid gardens. Entrance costs between $2-$5 and there will be knowledgeable tour guides to show you around. Hike the river walk that winds along the river in town. Stop at Km 3 along the Arajuno road to visit a monkey rescue centre.
For a $5 taxi ride, visit the 11 story Casa del Arbol tree house for a wonderful view of the canopy, then take a relaxing swim in the pool afterwards. Swim in the river or waterfalls at various places in the area.
Other relatively close destinations: Baños - a small city nestled in the eastern Andes Mountains. It is a popular spot for hikers, bikers, and other adventure enthusiasts travelling through Ecuador. Tickets for the two hour bus ride from Puyo to Baños cost roughly $3.
Tena is a small city located just two hours north of Puyo. They are known for their white water rafting and tubing. There is also a local town called Misahualli, just 45 minutes outside of Tena by bus. They have monkeys that run around in the park, boat tours on the river to indigenous communities, and more.
Extra info about the project
8 volunteering weeks fees are 750$, 9 weeks - 850 $. Project participation fees include basic food and housing and vary depending on the pre-determined length of the service cycle(s). Flights, visas, insurance, local transport and excursions are the responsibility of the volunteer. A training is foreseen in the beginning of the volunteering period, some occasional activities might also be proposed (such as atelier of ceramics).