Volunteer activities

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When volunteering with us you are going to participate in a series of ongoing projects, study the Shuar language and culture as well as talking forest walks learning about plants and animals. We also help arrange visits to other Shuar communities and interesting sites.

Volunteers are also encouraged to carry out their own projects according to the skills and profession of the volunteer. Volunteers who want to carry out their own projects must write a short description of the project, so we can evaluate if it’s feasibility compared to the time available and need of the community.

A Typical Day
(By Kai Matson)
Breakfast is at 7:30. We head over to the kitchen when we hear the horn telling us that the food is ready. Breakfast can be anything from banana cooked any number of ways, a type of pancake, fruit or popcorn. We eat and chat with whoever has cooked breakfast. Then we have about half hour to get ready for work, which starts at 8:30. Work can be a variety of things, like cutting trails through the jungle, working on or fixing up a building, reforestation, working in gardens, collecting bananas or corn, or digging trenches. We work until about 12 and then have half an hour before lunch at 12:30. Lunch is always very good, a soup or pasta dish with vegetables, meat and potatoes. We usually stay a little longer at lunch talking with whoever is around. Then we have a nice little break until we start work again at 2:30. This is nice time to relax, read a book, explore or bird watch. Then we work until 4:30 or 5 pm. Some days instead of work we do a work through the jungle and learn about medicinal properties of plants, or hike to a waterfall, or do a small day trip. It is a good variety of things and doesn’t get boring. After that we have a few hours of free time to relax in the hammocks and talk with the other volunteers or the locals. Dinner is at 7 or 7:30. Then we play games or talk or learn about the Shuar Culture, the music, dress or dance. We usually go to bed around 10. It’s a great life with the just the right amount of work, free time, education and fun.


Examples of permanent and seasonal activities

Conservation related activities

  • In 2010 we are going to start two native animal breeding programs for supplementary diet and enrichment of the reserve by endangered species.

  • The volunteers can help establishing botanical gardens; identify plants and make signs for tourists.

  • Help establish a forest nursery for producing plants and trees to enrich the forest and the traditional gardens.

  • Walks in the forest or visits to other communities, where you learn about animals, birds, plants and Shuar culture and legends. 

  • Improving and maintaining the trail system

  • Collecting plants for the medicinal garden and the forest nursery

  • Recollecting seeds in the reserve

  • Planting seeds and bagging seeds

  • Maintenance of the forest nursery

  • Enrichment plantings

  • Enrichment plantings in the secondary forests with timber, fruit and endangered species

  • Registration of the planted species

  • Demarcation of the reforested areas 

Cultural and social activities 

  • Help in the traditional farming. Volunteers can help in the farming of manioc, plantain, sweet potatoes, yam, taro, bananas and other subsistence crops in the traditional gardens called chacras or ajaa (in Shuar).

  • Learn about the Shuar culture, legends and language

  • Volunteers can learn how to make traditional Shuar crafts from the women’s group KURINUA or weaving baskets with the men.

  • Participate in sports and other community activities.

  • Community workdays “mingas”.

  • Collection of traditional jungle food: herbs, fruits, larvae etc.

  • Traditional dancing lessons

Education related activities 

  • Teach in the local school. The community has its own school with approximately 15 students in all ages. The school invites people to teach English or any other subject according to the volunteer’s profession.

  • Maintain and developing the school infrastructure

  • Reforestation of the school area with edible, medicinal or ornamental plants

  • Establishment of a vegetable garden for the children

  • Construction of the school kitchen

Health related activities 

  • The community is raising fish for the diet

  • Reforestation of the area used for aquaculture: fruit species for fish

  • Improving the nutritional value of the diet: Establishing a community orchard and vegetable garden

  • Extending and improving the medicinal plant garden

  • Help finish the construction of the health center

  • Collect and planting of medicinal plants

  • Maintain the water supply

  • Making signs and information material for the medicinal garden

  • Collect waste and developing and improving the waste management system

Economic activities 

  • Help construct new houses for tourists, volunteers or the women’s group and maintain infrastructure

  • Volunteers could also choose to work with the women group. The women group works with micro-credits.

  • Help make trails for tourists in the reserve

  • Production of tiles

  • Aquaculture

  • Feeding fish

  • Harvesting fish

It is a relaxed and welcoming atmosphere. The people are so easygoing and friendly with no judgment. I had the opportunity to work with the kids in the school and it was an amazing experience. I highly recommend to any volunteer with teaching experience or an interest in teaching to take the opportunity. Even if your Spanish isn’t very good, there are people who can teach with you and help translate. Volunteering in Arutam is a great way to meet so many different kinds of people, the villagers of course, but also other volunteers from all over the world” (Senan Gardiner, Volunteer).