Ecuador is located in the continent of South America, where it borders the Pacific Ocean at the equator, in between Colombia and Peru. With its capital at Quinto, Ecuador boasts an estimated population of 14 million persons, who are mostly a mixture of Mestizo (mixed Amerindian and white) and Amerindian. The official language in Ecuador is Spanish, while the pre dominant religion is Roman Catholic.
Ecuador has a democratically-elected government and national assembly, the current president being Rafael Correa who was elected in November 26, 2006. The country has used the U.S. dollar as its official currency since 2000, ever since its currency collapsed in 1997. Both U.S. coins and Ecuadorian coins, which are equivalent to the value of the U.S. coins, are used.
The climate and weather in Ecuador is mainly tropical, but if packing for specificity, then a basic idea is that the weather is tropical along coast, it becomes cooler as you head inland at higher elevations, and tropical in the Amazonian jungle and lowlands.
For a volunteer one should know that Ecuador has 4 diverse regions: the Amazon Rain forest, the Coast, the highland Andes, and the Galapagos Archipelago, but as there may be some differences in cultural practices within these regions, mainly evidenced by mode of dressing, the Roman Catholic Church has a strong influence on personal and social behavior, making it part of national identity. Most holidays and celebrations are based on Christian festivals. Due to historical circumstances the Church is also wrapped up with the process of government, however, traditional gender roles still remain, the man is the breadwinner and the wife looks after the home. Therefore from birth, children are raised to understand that they will have different roles and expectations in life, remember this while dealing with local volunteers to avoid meeting cultural barriers.
Ecuadorians are known for being warm and polite. They can be quite tactile and tend to stand much closer to each other when speaking than in many other cultures. As a result they are highly tuned to body language and non-verbal communication, so if you are from a culture that is less reliant on relationships, trust and non-verbal cues then you need to watch what messages you may, or may not, be giving, in order to have an easier time communicating with the local people.
There are many volunteer opportunities that exist in Ecuador include sports coaching, animal conservation, teaching, orphanage work, social work, HIV/AIDS etc. It is also a great place for volunteers or students who want to learn to speak Spanish. They can improve their Spanish by living with the local people and being immersed in their culture.