Volunteer Experience | Community Development

Ecuador: Indigenous History, Cultures, and Traditions

Tena, Ecuador


Location: Tena, Ecuador

Duration: Minimum 1 month (flexible for min. 2 weeks depending on intern’s qualifications), Maximum 1 year

Start Dates: Project is ongoing, and you can join at any time, depending upon availability

Cost: $450 for the 1st week + $250 for each additional week (2 month minimum is recommended) – see ‘Costs’ tab for further details


  • Work closely with NGO staff, farmers, and local agronomists experienced in forest conservation, agroforestry, agronomy, participatory community development, social entrepreneurship, and sustainable farming.
  • Learn about international efforts to mitigate climate change and be a part of implementing long-term research and solutions alongside local community farmers
  • Learn about Amazonian cultures and their connection to organic agriculture, ethnobotany, agroforestry, and plant medicine
  • Live in a beautiful, rural community with an indigenous host family in the Amazon rainforest
  • Keywords: field research, sustainable development, climate change, international development agriculture, forest conservation, community tourism, cacao industry, seed banks, indigenous rights, economic development, sustainable development, indigenous traditions.
Costs Explained


The Amazon rainforest is home to the most biodiverse ecosystem in the world, teeming with millions of species of plants, insects and animals. One thing many people forget, though, is that the Amazon is also teeming with people. There are about 7 officially-recognized nations in the Ecuadorian Amazon – Kichwa, Shuar, Achuar, Huaorani, and Cofán to name a few – and they all come bearing their own languages, customs, and traditions. This internship is a unique opportunity to learn about different cultures of the Ecuadorian Amazon by living with and learning from local indigenous people. You will live in a host family in one of our partner communities where you can learn about their customs and traditions and then become an active participant in their culture. You will also have the chance to take day trips to other communities that are different from your host one in order to gain a better understanding of the realities of other indigenous nations. Internship benefits:

  • Learn about Amazonian cultures during your immersion living with a local family
  • Support local traditions and customs through active participation in events, workshops, and community tourism
  • Collaborate with different ministries to understand cultural preservation, community tourism, and other initiatives
  • Collaborate on a historical preservation initiative with local youth and community leaders
  • Opportunities for personal research related to indigenous customs, community and eco-tourism, cultural preservation and modernity, and more
  • Participate in other cultural events, such as:
    • Guayusa tea ceremonies
    • Ecotourism adventures to waterfalls and indigenous communities
    • Medicinal plant remedy workshops
    • Amazon Forest to Table Feast

Daily Life

At the start of your program, you will have a 3-day orientation in the city of Tena which is about 3 hours east of Quito, Ecuador’s capital city. During orientation workshops, you will start learning about the culture, people, and geography of the region as well as other tools to support you in your internship abroad. Here you will also be connecting with other interns that are going to be leaping into a similar experience.

After orientation, you will move in with a local host family in one of the communities surrounding Tena. The distance from Tena can vary depending on which community you are placed in, ranging from 15 to 45 minutes. In your immersive homestay experience, you will be able to participate in the family dynamic, form meaningful connections, and share knowledge and experiences. No day in the family will be exactly the same, and we encourage you to participate in as many family rituals as you can, like waking up at 6am to make guayusa tea with your host grandmother or washing your clothes with your host mom in a river!

Some potential activities include:

  • Collaborate with local initiatives in cultural and historical preservation
  • Attend community events, such as morning tea ceremonies or cultural dance practices
  • Interview community members and gather primary source accounts of your host community’s history, heritage, and traditions
  • Help your host family with daily household tasks
  • Journey into your host family’s chakra (traditionally-planted, agroforestry farm) to help harvest products and learn how each plant relates to their livelihoods
  • Trek into the rainforest with local guides to learn about the flora and fauna and their uses as medicines and for rituals
  • Share stories of your home culture and traditions with locals, practicing storytelling skills
  • Conduct language tutoring exchanges with community members [English, Spanish, Kichwa, etc.]

Your main internship can be combined with personal research. We can connect you with communities, women’s groups, healers, and shamans to create an independent project researching traditional plant medicine and practices.

Book with Confidence

Travel & Accom.

The best airport to fly into is Quito (UIO, Mariscal Sucre International Airport) as it is only 3 hours from the project. You will be put in contact with the director of the program upon applying and they can give easy to follow instructions to get to the project Headquarters from Quito or Guayaquil International airport.

For orientation, interns will stay for the first 3 nights in the city of Tena (accommodation is provided) and then will spend the rest of their time living with a local host family. This is an amazing opportunity to integrate fully with the local community; participate in cultural activities; and practice Spanish. Host families also provide 3 meals per day, bedding, mosquito net, and a place to do your laundry.

Fundraising Help


We recommend that interns commit to 8 to 12 weeks on the ground in Ecuador, have an intermediate level of Spanish proficiency (or a strong motivation to learn quickly before and upon arriving!), and bring knowledge in their area of research if looking to do a personal project. Interns are expected to finance their own travel costs.

Further requirements include:

  • Minimum 2 weeks commitment (40 hours/week), recommended 8-12 weeks
  • Motivated students, Industry professionals, graduate/undergraduate students majoring in history, anthropology, sociology, linguistics, or a related field
  • Full travel & medical insurance
  • Necessary vaccinations
  • Flights & visas (Most nationalities are granted a 3-month tourist visa automatically upon arrival, and you can extend this for 3 more months for a fee while in-country.)
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$450 USD for the 1st week, $250 USD* for each week thereafter.

* Currency conversions are approximate. Use xe.com for up to date currency conversion rates
** All payments incur a 5% bank transfer fee
*** Places are confirmed with a 1 week deposit.

What’s Included:
  • Accommodation and 3 meals a day with a local Host Family. This includes a private room, shared bathroom, all bedding, and place to do laundry.
  • A pre-departure orientation (general and specific information about Ecuador, logistics and a Skype meeting)
  • 3-day in-country introduction and orientation that addresses risk management, culture shock symptoms and remedies, cross-cultural adaptation skills, intro to history/culture/politics of the Ecuador and the Amazon, team-building amongst interns and staff, setting a vision and goals for your experience, and more;
  • 1:1 coaching/check-ins every 3 weeks to track goals, check in on health, support with challenges, and providing feedback;
  • 24/7 emergency support;
  • Thorough vetted network of doctors, therapists, Spanish tutors, organizations, etc. in the country;
  • Space for learning and reflection with other foreigners having a similar experience;
  • Re-entry training;
  • Alumni group and future references.

Additionally you will need about $15/day for food for the first three days of training. You will also need to pay for your own transportations and any other activities you want to do.

What’s not included:
  • Food during the first 4 days of orientation
  • Transportation from the airport to location is not included
  • Flights, insurance, visas (if applicable) and vaccinations.

Full assistance will be provided in getting all these arranged if you choose our Premium Support.

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We understand there’s a great deal to plan and organise for your trip. When booking a Placement, many of our participants choose to purchase our Premium Support Upgrade to benefit from the expertise, knowledge and experience of our Project Coordinators. We can provide the personal advice you need to ensure your trip is organised with excellence and planned with efficiency; ensuring the very best experience possible. Read more about how we can help you.

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