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Ecuador & Galapagos

14 & 19 Days

High School Service Program
Construction Projects
with Spanish Immersion

JUNE 16 to JUNE 29, 2020 |  14 DAYS

JULY 5 to JULY 23, 2020 |  19 DAYS

JUNE 16 to JUNE 29, 2020

JULY 5 to JULY 23, 2020

Program Overview

Settle into the village life of Patate, a charming town in the lush foothills of the Ecuadorian Andes near the impressive Tungurahua volcano. Work on school and public infrastructure projects, take mountain hikes, explore waterfalls, practice local dances and make tamales—all while improving Spanish language skills. Round out the journey with three days in the legendary Galapagos Islands, swimming with sea lions, snorkeling at reefs and lending a hand on a local farm.


“I loved being able to help at the school as well as reforest at the farm. The people at the worksites were so dedicated and inspiring, they made me want to do a great job.”


Lauren Colella


Embracing Projects That Matter

Service projects in Ecuador are as diverse as the country itself. For the last six years, VISIONS has worked closely with the Patate Municipality, local schools and a social welfare organization to determine pressing projects. Construction projects include cement and masonry work to expand or improve schools and community centers. You’ll work side by side with local maestros and volunteers, who share their skills, spirit and Spanish tips. Additionally, you will organize and participate in activities for local students with disabilities. Past VISIONS students have also completed significant renovations to La Casa de Ancianos (The Home For the Elderly), installed much needed bathrooms in community centers and laid a new cement floor for a local soccer stadium. During our excursion to the Galapagos Islands, we’ll carve out time to assist local farmers and gain insight into small-scale tropical agriculture.


“My beliefs, values, and morals changed in ways I will never fully understand, and the sense of camaraderie with the other participants is something I will never let go of.”


James Robbins


In this country of contrasts—high mountains and ocean beaches, modern amenities and mule and oxen farming—one constant is the welcoming, friendly spirit of the people. The Ecuadorian townsfolk are eager to get to know visitors from far-flung places, and to share ages-old traditions in farming, cooking and crafts.

Making Meaningful Connections

It’s easy to feel like family in Patate. The residents of this agricultural town of 15,000, located 2.5 hours south of Quito, are easy-going and quick to smile. You’ll be immersed right away, as VISIONS volunteers are housed in a church located directly across from the town plaza. This Plaza Central is a popular gathering place for street soccer, food markets and live music. You will learn directly from community members about the many crafts and goods produced locally. And in a region known for its diversity of crops (avocados, mandarins, limes and grapes), you can bet that our cook and house mom Lupe will be sharing culinary tips, including how to make quimbolitos (sweet tamales). In the Galapagos, we’ll stay in a small family hotel run by longtime VISIONS friends Nelly and Javier, who’ll take you boating and to a cookout at their farm. All this cultural immersion means plentiful opportunities to speak Spanish—and make personal connections you’ll never forget.



“The Galapagos Islands were incredible. I have always wanted to try snorkeling so I was very excited that we did that on the trip, and it was so cool to see sea lions (Los Lobos de Mar) underwater. I also loved the Mundug hike we did while based in the Andes. It is a beauty that is not capable of explaining in words.”


Lizzie Edwards


From the agricultural foothills of the Andes Mountains to the stunning beaches of the Galapagos Islands to the historic capital of Quito, Ecuadorian exploration traverses an incredible array of landscapes. Hike to scenic waterfalls, soak in natural hot springs, swim with sea lions and fall in love with the “Republic of the Equator.”

Setting Out To Go Beyond

The geographical variety of Ecuador makes for unforgettable exploration—and you’ll take full advantage during your stay. Whether you’re relaxing after a workday by hiking to an Andean waterfall, spending an entire day getting to know a local family or traveling to a neighboring town such as Baños, with its hot springs and thermal baths, your experiences will be eye-opening and mind-expanding. In the capital city of Quito, you’ll roam the cobblestone streets and cathedrals of this UNESCO World Heritage site and learn about 16th century Spanish colonization. When you reach the Galapagos, every step (and splash) you take will feel like an adventure, with gorgeous beaches to swim, reefs to snorkel and abundant wildlife to watch, including sea lions, giant tortoises and blue-footed boobies. As you stroll along the shores and nature preserves of San Cristóbal island, you’ll quickly understand why naturalist Charles Darwin called the Galapagos “a little world within itself.”


  • Travel to the Galapagos Islands, where you’ll swim with sea lions, visit the Giant Tortoise Reserve and relax on incredible beaches
  • Visit Quito, UNESCO’s first World Heritage Site
  • Check out the highland town of Baños, with a hot spring, thermal baths and lively local scene
  • Hike to scenic vistas and waterfalls
  • Enjoy an immersive day stay with a local family
  • Take cultural workshops including cooking, dance lessons and weaving
  • Play games and sports with local kids
  • Dig into artisan markets replete with Andean crafts


Cedric Alvarez

IN Memoriam

Cedric Alvarez was born in the buzzing coastal city of Guayaquil, gateway to Ecuador’s popular beaches and a jumping off point for the Galapagos Islands. But he grew up in tranquil Patate. We were introduced to Cedric in 2011, by a partner organization who sang his praises as a capable, trustworthy and hard working young man. We couldn’t agree more.

Cedric was a fireman (or “bombero”) who worked 48 hours on and 48 hours off. We got to know him when VISIONS students were helping to build a dormitory addition for the volunteer firehouse. Just as with firefighting elsewhere, being a bombero is a lot of work and extremely demanding—particularly in terms of the unpredictable schedule. The Patate crew responds to emergency calls of all types for the entire valley, and many of the close-knit crew make the firehouse their temporary home, living in the dormitory quarters.

On June 25th, 2019, Cedric passed away when his crew’s boat overturned during a search and rescue mission. This summer’s projects in Patate will be done in his honor.

When Cedric wasn’t on-call at the firehouse, he lived in a small house with his daughter. Because he lived in Patate since he was a baby—not to mention his outgoing personality—he seemed to know everyone in town. He clearly enjoyed working with VISIONS students, and all the kids adored spending time with him. He was friendly, full of laughter, and always lent a hand (usually two) when we needed expert assistance on home base repairs or extra help on construction projects. Cedric often expressed his joy of collaborating with VISIONS and our students. The pleasure was ours, and we miss him deeply.

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