Community Development & Social Entrepreneurship

Coordinator | Pamela
Coordinator | Pamela
Work alongside staff and community enterprise partners to strengthen organizational management and governance, build financial management capacity, and design... This volunteer program is especially suitable for:
Age 18+
Runa Foundation works with indigenous communities to mitigate the effects of climate change, foster biodiversity conservation, and improve livelihoods by creating new value for forest products and increasing access to local and international markets. Building on existing local knowledge, Runa gives farmers the tools to maintain biodiverse agroforestry systems instead of conventional, mono-crop systems, while simultaneously increasing the economic stability of indigenous families and incentivizing sustainable production techniques. 

The guayusa tea leaf is an excellent example of how we’ve started with our mission and now we are looking to the future for other native Amazonian plants that could create new value and opportunities for farmers. Our Social Entrepreneurship Interns will assist us by looking into creating new supply chains for other species commonly found in the area. You will work alongside staff to look at new potential products, carry out market research, and create a short business plan to commercialize these new potential products from Amazonian plants.

Intern activities include: 
-Research supply chain development, international markets, and processing capabilities for these new potential products. 
-creating short business plans for new products and supply chain management.
-Work with local farmer cooperatives to plan new product development activities.
-Participate in trainings in organic production, value-added processing, financial and organizational management, and commercialization of non-timber forest products. 
-Carry out field visits in local indigenous communities.

We recommend that interns commit to 8 weeks on the ground in Ecuador, have an intermediate level of Spanish proficiency (or a strong motivation to learn quickly before and upon arriving!), and bring knowledge in their area of research if looking to do a personal project.

For those interns looking to do their own research or fieldwork for university - we offer the knowledge and time of our network, technical knowledge and informational databases, access to communities, NGOs, government agencies, and consultants, and pre- and post-research support.

8-12 week Minimum commitment (shorter periods will be considered, and longer is possible with visa extension)

Interns are expected to finance their own travel costs and food, and will receive a packing list upon acceptance. On our end, we provide interns with a coordinator as well as a supervisor within the organization that guides and mentors with your particular work area. Additionally, the organization provides:

  • A pre-departure orientation (general and specific information about Ecuador, logistics and a Skype meeting)

  • 3-day in-country introduction and orientation that addresses risk management, culture shock symptoms and remedies, cross-cultural adaptation skills, intro to history/culture/politics of the Ecuador and the Amazon, team-building amongst interns and staff, setting a vision and goals for your experience, and more;

  • Coordination of projects and activities and mentorship in your field of interest;

  • 1:1 coaching/check-ins every 3 weeks to track goals, check in on health, support with challenges, and providing feedback;

  • 24/7 emergency support;

  • Thorough vetted network of doctors, therapists, Spanish tutors, organizations, etc. in the country;

  • Space for learning and reflection with other foreigners having a similar experience;

  • Re-entry training;

  • Alumni group and future references.

Interns must also cover:
Full travel & medical insurance
Necessary vaccinations
Necessary flights & visas

Typical day

Typical days are rare when working on the ground for a small non-profit that collaborates with several different actors and projects! Additionally, intern work is designed with progress and needs of the current projects in mind, so this is ever-changing. Here are some examples of how different each week can look.  One week you may be staying with a family in a community helping to build a model farm that will be used to show visitors of the native tea factory how the plant is grown and contributes to conservation efforts. These days may range from starting at 7am to harvest seeds and fill the tree nursery, pausing at 10am due to rain, and starting back up again on designing the project at 2pm, with some interviewing of farmers in between, ending with a traditional meal with your host family. Another week, you may be staying at the intern house and be in the office from 8:30-4:30 creating content for and having meetings with other interns and staff to collaborate upon a proposal for a project to train community leaders on best accounting practices. 

Beyond Social Entrepreneurship, there is also an opportunity to engage in all aspects of Runa Foundation's work,  including sustainable community development, forest conservation, and the following:

Research Projects: 
We would be excited to receive researchers or university students that need to complete field research - specific research projects will need prior approval of project directors and will depend on experience and staff availability. Past projects have involved market value chain development of Amazonian products, biodiversity evaluation sampling, impact studies on benefits of Fair Trade, and more. 

Social Impact Storytelling
There is the option to help create engaging and provocative videos and written stories about the Runa Foundation's work in the Ecuadorian Amazon, highlighting the farmers we work with, the significance of guayusa to the Kichwa culture, and the dynamic Amazon jungle. Beyond longer stories and videos, you can assist us to develop brand awareness by creating digital online and web media by preparing, editing, updating, and composing online material such as graphics, photos, and audio/video clips, which will be integrated with our social networking mediums. This role allows you to build a unique media profile whilst supporting our work and sharing Guayusa with the world.

Eco-Tourism Development
We have supported development of a community ecotourism project to follow the "guayusa trail," observe the process of growing and producing guayusa drinks from beginning to end, explore indigenous Kichwa communities, and participate in authentic Kichwa cultural activities (early morning guayusa ceremonies, creating jewellery and clothes from natural fibers, etc.) Interns can help to develop this ecotourism center within one of our collaborating communities!

Free-time activities

Tena is known for it's world class rivers - for white water kayaking, rafting, canyoning, canoeing, paddle boarding, and swimming. There are also endless hikes to waterfalls, canyons, caves, and communities to explore! 

Water Sports

Program Requirements

In order to join the program you need to be at least 18 years old on the program start date. There might be exemptions if you can provide the permission of your legal guardian(s) or if your are accompanied by your parents.
Language Skills
You need to speak English (intermediate level) and Spanish (basic level)
Required Documents
Nationality Restrictions
No restrictions. Helping hands from all over the world are welcome.
Other Skills
Experience in Latin America and/or working in a rural setting desirable
Intermediate Spanish proficiency (or a strong motivation to learn quickly before and upon arriving!)
Bring knowledge in your area of research if looking to do a personal project.
Time Commitment
Your helping hand will be required on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from 08:30 - 16:30

Included Services

Services by Aliados

*Program fees includes:

- pre-departure materials and support

living accommodations in our fully-equipped and beautiful shared intern house (this includes electricity, drinking water, wifi, basic cleaning/laundry services)

- organizing specific internship activities and supervisors;

- a thorough orientation upon arrival with other interns;

- 1:1 coaching/check-ins every 2-3 weeks to track goals, check in on health, support with challenges, and provide feedback;

- 24/7 emergency and health support;

- thorough vetted network of doctors, therapists, Spanish tutors, organizations, etc. in the region;

- space for learning and reflection with other foreigners having a similar experience;

- re-entry training.

**Travel expenses and food are not included.


Our intern accommodation is a spacious 2-story apartment and sleeps up to 10 people. It is located right on the malecon or boardwalk of Tena, and is convenient walking distance to everything in the city. The house has a kitchen, three dorm bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, two patio balconies (one with a growing urban garden!), and a beautiful view of the city, river, and surrounding mountains and jungle. It’s a short walk from river swimming spots with an amazing views, and the main town's boardwalk which is a fun place to hang out.  Volunteers and interns are responsible for their own food, but often cook communally. The house is fully equipped with all bedding is provided, water, electricity, WIFI, cleaning services, and everything you need in the kitchen - stove, toaster, pans, cutlery, fridge, etc.

A bilingual (English and Spanish) intern program manager lives nearby and will be happy to help you with any questions or doubts you may have.

Tena is the regional capital of Napo and has around 20,000 inhabitants. Local agriculture consists of corn, yucca, bananas and plantains, all produced for either subsistence or sale at the local market. The only 2 crops grown for exportation are cacao, native cinnamon, and guayusa.

Napo is a region that attracts many tourists who want to experience the Amazon. Puerto Misahualli (Napo province) and Baños (Pastaza province) are popular destinations and especially geared towards tourism. You will not find tourists in Archidona, and only a few in Tena, which makes the immersion in a local environment even more tangible.

Dorm Room Guest Family Guesthouse
Internet Access
Good access at the project site
What's NOT included?
Visa, flights, travel insurance or vaccinations are NOT included in the program fees. An airport pickup isn't included within the program fees either. Food, snacks or beverages are at extra costs.
Flight Tickets
The nearest airport is Mariscal Sucre International Airport (UIO) in Quito. We assist you to find cheap flights to Ecuador.
Travel Insurance
Going abroad is an adventure and it is always best to be prepared. Sudden illness or injury, cancellation or theft - a travel insurance for Ecuador provides security and is a plus to have.
If you are intending to volunteer in Ecuador you should seek medical advice before starting your social journey. Check your required vaccinations for Ecuador.

Dates & Fees


Details on arrival

Dates: Dates are flexible throughout the year. Internships are 8-12 weeks (longer also possible with visa).

*Summer internships are competitive and fill up fast, so please apply ahead and there will be specific start dates for the summer*

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
4 - 40 weeks

Program fees

Costs: Prices in USD
4 weeks (min. stay)
$ 1,000
8 weeks
$ 1,800
12 weeks
$ 2,600
40 weeks (max. stay)
$ 8,200
Average fees
$ 228 /week

Please note that the above shown program fees are estimated and subject to exchange rate fluctuations. Aliados will let you know about the final price during your application process.
Deposit (15%)
The deposit is simply to reserve your volunteer placement. Payments are handled by PayPal, our trusted global payment provider. If you don't have a PayPal account, you can also pay using a credit card.
Final Payment (85%)
Your final payment will be agreed with Aliados during the application process. Common solutions are either via bank transfer or a cash payment at the project site.

Why book with Volunteer World

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Change your reservation at no extra costs
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We refund your fees if Aliados cancels your trip
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Our services are free of charge!
All program fees are charged directly by Aliados.

What are people saying about Volunteer World?

  Americas South America Ecuador  Tena, 15 de noviembre

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