Since 1996, Global Volunteers has partnered with local organizations leading community development efforts in their communities in Ecuador. Now, we are pleased to accept an invitation from a school in Calderón in northern Quito to help teach conversational English to children and youth. Colegio Miguel Ángel Asturias is a school of some 300 students on the outskirts of Quito where volunteers will make a significant impact in students’ English language learning. Read on for details about the expansion of Global Volunteers’ work in Ecuador and this important new project with Ecuadorian children and youth.
Colegio Miguel Ángel Asturias
Named after the Nobel-prize winning Guatemalan poet, novelist, playwright, journalist, and diplomat, Colegio Miguel Ángel Asturias was founded in 2002. Some 300 students grades K through 12 study at this school, located in Calderón, on the northeastern border of the city of Quito. Poverty is pervasive in Calderón and in Quito, and English language skills are a passport out of poverty. The small but dedicated English teaching staff consists of three full-time teachers who have excellent grammar skills in English, but are eager to engage native-English speaking volunteers in their classrooms to help their students with conversation and listening to native accents, as well as motivation to continue studying the language. Under the direction of these committed teachers, volunteers will teach children and youth in all grades — the country’s future leaders. Volunteers do not need to have teaching experience to make a difference at Colegio Asturias. The teachers at the school will provide direction for classes, and volunteers who are simply open to speaking English and engaging with students will be pivotal in helping students advance their English language skills.
Seniors at this school seek B2 certification in English before graduation and the exams for this certification include both oral and listening components. Gaining this certification affords students more possibilities for attending college. Being able to practice listening and speaking with native English speakers is fundamental for preparation in becoming certified in level B2. That is where volunteers will be pivotal in students’ preparedness for exams.
Miguel Ángel Asturias is considered one of the most important writers in Latin American in the 20th century. In 1967, he became the second Latin American author to receive the Nobel Prize for literature.
The invitation at Colegio Asturias came about as a result of Global Volunteers’ work in the community, providing care for children at two early childhood development centers in Calderón with FUNDAC, our community partner for two decades. Yolanda Galarza, a member of FUNDAC and a leader in her community, is also the principal of Colegio Asturias. Grateful for Global Volunteers’ assistance, Yolanda hoped to engage Global Volunteers in English teaching. Speaking earlier this year, she cited volunteers’ understanding and love: “We have always observed how children feel when they are with volunteers – happy and more engaged. The help that the children and our centers receive is invaluable, and we feel flattered, happy to receive the volunteers.” She says she hopes the students at Colegio Asturias can benefit in the same way from working with Global Volunteers — to be happier and more engaged in classes as a result of the energy that volunteers bring with them. Ecuador Country Manager Maggie Bjorklund has held meetings with staff at Colegio Asturias and says that the eagerness to begin engaging Global Volunteers at their school is palpable.
“We have always observed how children feel when they are with volunteers – happy and more engaged. The help that the children and our centers receive is invaluable, and we feel flattered, happy to receive the volunteers.”– Yolanda Galarza, FUNDAC member and Principal of Colegio Asturias
Our Development Partnership in Calderón, Quito
Global Volunteers has been working in the vibrant community of Calderón for decades. Technically a part of the Metropolitan District of Quito, Calderón is still quite rural compared to the rest of the city of 2.2 million inhabitants. Calderón is a juxtaposition of the hustle and bustle of an urban city with dirt roads, corn fields, and chicken coops. With a population of some 280,000, Calderón is a sprawling parish of the capital city. Volunteers lodge in what local people call the modern part of the city, and are transported the ten miles northeast to Calderón each day. In Calderón, daily life is very challenging for those who live on the margins of society. Many people from northern provinces of Ecuador who migrate into Quito in search of work settle in Calderón. It, like many parts of Ecuador, is also home to many Venezuelan refugees. In her team journal entry, volunteer Maddie Hite-Smaka describes the humbling experience of visiting a family in their home, and that Calderón is powerful.
Experience Ecuador as a Volunteering Destination
Online travel guides are teeming with opportunities to tour Ecuador. Adored by hikers, climbers, and birders, the middle section of the country features the Andes Mountains with Chimborazo Volcano — envied by Mount Everest as being the point on Earth closest to sun due to the combination of its elevation (20,548 feet) and location at the bulge of the Earth at almost 0 degrees latitude. The eastern part of the country is covered by the Amazon rainforest, including Yasuní National Park, which has been declared the most biodiverse spot on the planet. Continental Ecuador’s largest protected area, Yasuní is home to over 4,000 plant species and 173 mammals. Several groups of indigenous peoples also inhabit the Ecuadorian Amazon. The western part of the country includes 1,390 miles of Pacific coastline, with sandy beaches and exquisite cuisine. And Ecuador’s fourth major geographic region is, of course, the wildlife-rich Galápagos Islands, located 600 miles off the mainland and only accessible from continental Ecuador. These four geographical regions, each one more unique than the next, are all located in this tiny country, which is about the size of the state of Colorado.
For travelers looking to explore architecture and historical sites, they need not travel outside the beautiful city of Quito, the first city in the world to be declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Ecuador volunteers delight in exploring this historic city.
As extraordinary as these geographical and historical wonders are, however, they’re overshadowed by the country’s most precious resource: the generous and warm Ecuadorian people, who welcome you into their lives. Experiencing Ecuador as a volunteering destination instead of a tourist destination places you into the daily lives of the local people – where you learn first-hand about the diverse peoples, ethnicities, cultures, and customs by working with Ecuadorian children, students, teachers, and community leaders. (Read from the archives about the openness of an Ecuadorian mom when welcoming volunteers into her home.)
Be a part of this important new project in Ecuador to shape Ecuadorian children and youth, and help them gain more opportunities through the advancement of their English language skills. You can make learning English fun and engaging for them. Call a volunteer coordinator today at 651-407-6100 to learn how you can help!