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Animal welfare in Ecuador as a voluntary service

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Animal welfare in Ecuador as a voluntary service

My name is Johanna and I am currently doing a “weltwärts” Volunteer service through ODI in Ecuador. Our
partner organization FIIDES has been supporting us since entering the country.
I have been here for eight months now and would like to tell you about the project and my experiences.

My project: Jardín Alado Ilaló
I work in the Jardín Alado Ilaló. This is a rescue and rehabilitation center for
different bird species as well as other animals. We currently care for 30 parrots,
many different species of birds of prey and a farm with chickens, emus, a pig and
rabbits. The Jardín is divided into four work areas: parrots, birds of prey, farm and
«various». We change areas weekly so you can work and learn anywhere.
My work is quite similar in the different areas. First it is all about animal welfare, which is why the cages and
stables have to be cleaned every day. I also take care of the preparation of the food, the feedings and try to
make the life of the animals as varied as possible. I am also integrated into flight exercises with the birds.


My favorite area is at the parrots. I feel extremely comfortable and enjoy working there
with the co-workers and the animals. Additionally I have fixed tasks like Flight training
with certain birds. The animals are extremely intelligent, but unfortunately most of them
can not set back into the wild, since they have been taken away from their parents as
babies and sold through the illegal pet trade. They can neither fly, feed themselves, or
communicate with each other like wild animals. Selling parrots is illegal in Ecuador, but
the trade continues because you can earn a lot of money with these animals.


What I like most about my project is that I’m really useful and honest be valued. The
longer I’m here, the more responsibility and trust is given to me, which feels very good.
The working atmosphere is friendly and all employees are integrated into the team. You
can bring in your own ideas and it’s no problem if you don’t want to do a certain activity
in one of the areas. It’s going to be very strong paid attention to the welfare of the
volunteers.

In my opinion it is pretty exciting that you get to know many different people from all over the world. Most of
the time there are short term Volunteers which change monthly, so there are always new compilations
during work. The people here have become like family to me and I have enjoyed going to them every day
since the beginning and I also know that I will miss this routine very much.

My experiences
Being away from home for ten months, living alone for the first time and carrying responsibility without
parents being able to support you at all times, are the things that go hand in hand with a voluntary service
and make sure that you gain experience and yourself changes.
When I arrived in Ecuador I was excited, curious, happy, exuberant and at the same time a little bit sad and
full of energy, also inexperienced and the first time alone for such a long time and so far away from home.
My nature and my curiosity about other people and their cultures helped me to take the step for a social
project abroad.

I arrived in Ecuador and was amazed by the culture, the open-hearted people, the
dealing with each other and excited about all my new possibilities. From the
beginning I was fascinated by the country and it is beautiful here to learn how to
travel, to be independent, get more self-confidence and of course to get to know
lots of different places. Those are the things I’ve learned here so far. I have
become much more independent, spontaneous, relaxed and trusting in myself
and life in general. I have learned that for every problem there is a solution and I can approach people and
they are happy to help me. Additionally the trust in myself is the most important thing and I can relay on my
intentions.


My Spanish wasn’t very good at the beginning, but I was able to learn that it only matters to speak at all as
well as just trying to be friendly to people in their language to accommodate. Friendliness and help are then
welcomed. I have learned to communicate with body language and just a few words. That was an important
experience for me. Before that I often tried to solve everything myself, not to disclose my problems and not
to turn to others and to give them part of my burden. My time here has shown me that you are not alone,
once you are ready to open up. Other people want to help you and you get to know a lot of nice people as
soon as you just start talking to them.
I think I might not have dared to do all of this in a language that I speak fluently because after all, you’re
more likely to get by on your own.


Nevertheless, I also had my problems with the language, since progress did not come as quickly as I
thought. Sometimes I wanted to contribute to situations and conflicts but I didn’t know how to express
myself. This can be very depressing and made me sad as I like contribute to interesting topics. Holding
myself back because I just can’t do better was not easy. It helped me to hear other people comment on my
progress and that my Spanish is getting better when I felt like I’ve been at the same level since the
beginning.


In general though, my time here so far has been really great. Logically, I sometimes had less good days
when I was missing my family and friends but these moments really only accounted for a fraction.
I really enjoy my work and I am also very good with the other volunteers in the area. We have grown close
and we explore the country together and are always there for each other. While traveling I always felt
comfortable and safe.
My host family is very open-minded, helpful and let me all the freedom that I
need.


However, living with another family is not always easy. Staying with a host
family means being integrated into a family that is not your own, suddenly
having a house as one’s home, though you have the feeling of walking through
the living room of strangers. For example, to be cooked for, although you’re not
hungry at that moment or would like to eat something else, is pretty difficult. You integrate yourself into the
traditions of another family and adapt to a life that is not necessarily the same as the one you used to know.
For me, the topics of time management and food are a problem that are part of my voluntary service. My
host family usually does not communicate periods of time when they are not there, which often left me and
Linde, my roommate, in the dark, especially at the beginning. It was unclear how we should behave when
we are hungry. Additionally, I had to indulge in hearty breakfasts as well getting used to a lot of soups,
which wasn’t a big problem, but it was a change.
In the meantime I can deal with it well and I no longer have any problems because I have made my way to
live with it.

For me, voluntary service means getting involved with a new culture, its people, to
open up ways of life and circumstances, to learn something new every day, getting
out of your comfort zone and to get to know yourself better.
I know this isn’t for everyone, but it can be for people who like to challenge
themselves. Although you have to be willing to take a break from your normal life
back home.

For me, this time here in Ecuador was and is one of the best I have experienced so far and I feel I’ve settled
down as well as being comfortable with myself. I know that the experiences I’ve gained will give me a
lifetime. It is a great privilege to experience something like this and I am really grateful for this possibility.

Greetings from Ecuador
Johanna 🙂

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