Environmental activism and teaching in Mashian Ecuador, a remote indigenous Achuar community in the Amazon



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 Min stay requested: 1 month or more

  • Description


    Please contact this host in Spanish or in Englsih

    -Please contact this host in Spanish or in English-

    This is a remote indigenous Achuar community located right at the heart of the Amazon rainforest at the southern tip of Pastaza, where the national frontier of Ecuador meets in around 8 hours down Pastaza river to Peru. Still accessible only by plane and canoe, the community is seeking english-speaking volunteers to come and live with them in their pristine ancestral territory (here still untouched by logging and drilling) to engage in a project of inter-cultural exchange. Sharing, learning, and growing.

    The ancient Achuar culture is one that has co-evolved in balance with its incredibly rich and diverse arboreal environment over the course of thousands of years. As such they possess a deep body of knowledge about their environment. Their systems of land use and resource management have enabled both people and ecosystems to thrive in harmony with each other. The source-energy of the rainforest (´Arutam´) suffuses everything for the Achuar, and within this living web of forest trails, streams and rivers, they know virtually every plant, tree and animal. Here, they fish, hunt, and grow their crops much as they have always done. But things are shifting. Now as the interior becomes more accessible and the Ecuadorian government seeks both to centralise and also increasingly to monetise Amazonian raw resources (primarily drilling for petroleum), the Achuar way of life is undergoing changes. This project is part of a strategy to harness these forces of change in a positive way in order for the Achuar to defend their land, culture and knowledge for the generations to come.

    Nestled alongside the Rio Kusutkau and Pastaza, it is a community of around 100 large families with (recently installed) solar-powered running water and Solar energy for 24 hours a day for each family, a school for ages 5-18, and a strong communal ethic. Achuar is still the primary language but the majority also speak good Spanish.

    IMPORTANT!! PLEASE NOTE: this is an extremely isolated indigenous community, only accessible by light aircraft and only contactable twice a day by radio (7-8am and 4-5pm from Shell). Although you can organize an emergency departure, it is not ideal. You will need to be extremely self-reliant and self-directed, because this community is still unused to foreign volunteers. They also predominantly speak Achuar amongst themselves so much of the time you may feel cut off by language barrier. For this reason, to be at least two volunteers coming together is recommended. Bring with you a First Aid kit and any comforts you will miss. And be prepared for a unique, intense experience!

  • Types of help and learning opportunities

    Types of help and learning opportunities

    DIY and building projects
    Help with Eco Projects
    Help around the house
    Language practice
    Art Projects
    Help with Computers/ Internet

  • UN sustainablity goals this host is trying to achieve

    UN sustainablity goals this host is trying to achieve

    UN goals
    No poverty
    Zero hunger
    Good health and well-being
    Quality education
    Gender equality
    Clean water and sanitation
    Affordable and clean energy
    Decent work and economic growth
    Industries, innovation and infrastructure
    Reduce inequality
    Sustainable cities and communities
    Responsible consumption and production
    Climate action
    Life below water
    Life on land
    Peace, justice and strong institutions
    Partnerships for the goals
  • Cultural exchange and learning opportunities

    Cultural exchange and learning opportunities

    Living with an Achuar community offers myriad extra-curricular opportunities (talk to the volunteer coordinator to organize everything): from accompanying hunters on fishing and hunting trips, to swimming in the Rio Kusutkau, to hiking through the jungle, to experience an ayahuasca ceremony, to experience a wayusa ceremony, to playing football and volleyball, and generally enjoying the pristine natural environment.
    This truly is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to live deep within the pristine beauty of the primary Amazon rainforest, whilst learning from an ancient culture that has lived there sustainably for thousands of years. This is about as authentic as it gets!

  • Help


    Volunteers will be teaching English at the school for classes of between 12 and 26 students for 4 hours, 3 times a week. Plus an adult class. They will be encouraged to pitch in with community work days as well as weekly sport! Food will be provided by the community most of the time, but you will need to bring essential items to cook on your own sometimes (see "what to bring section below). Anything left could stay for the community when you leave.

    Mandatory qualifications:
    - conversational Spanish
    - conversational English
    - an intrepid spirit and an open mind!

    Desirable qualifications:
    - previous English teaching experience

    Volunteers will be helping with the eco-turistic community proyect in two different ways: building and fixing the cabañas and surroundings for the turist accomodation, and also training the future workers on different skills they will need to look after turists (manners, cooking, guiding, etc.).

    Mandatory qualifications:
    - conversational Spanish
    - previous experience on the turistic areas required (chef, guide, experienced worker, etc.) or good skills to work in eco-building.
    - an intrepid spirit and an open mind!

    NOTE the community is also seeking to construct a web-site for its eco-project, so any volunteers who have this skill-set and would be willing to extend their service please let us know!

    They will be encouraged to pitch in with community work days as well as weekly sport! Food will be provided by the community, although bringing essential items such as salt, oil, and rice from Puyo would be much appreciated!

    Mandatory qualifications:
- conversational Spanish
- conversational Engish
- an intrepid spirit and an open mind!

    Desirable qualifications:
- previous English teaching experience

  • Languages spoken

    English: Fluent
    Spanish: Fluent

  • Accommodation


    Right now Mashian have volunteers house, a tipical Achuar house made with Achuar technic using all materials form the forest, sleeping as the Achuar do on a wooden surface - so bring sleeping mats! (mosquito-net, blanket and pillows), so bring sleeping mats! There is also space to put up hammocks or pitch tents.
    The house has Achuar bed made with palm tree, and in the middle of the house there is fire food and our Coordinator will help you with explanation when you arrive here.

  • What else ...

    What else ...

    Please be aware this is a very remote location!

    This is a very isolated community so you should bring a First Aid kit with you. You can bring extra for the community because they cannot access basics as: painkillers, saline solution (for diarrhoea), antihistamine, disinfectant, bands, antibiotics, etc. Purify water tablets are also recommended to avoid stomach issues.
    Although low-risk, it is also a malarial zone. In case of emergency, there is a health centre with western-trained doctors in Copataza (2 hours upnriver) and in Warani ( 1 hours down river), and an emergency radio in Mashian should you need to be evacuated.

    You will need to book a flight from Shell domestic airport (15 minutes from Puyo) to Mashian for $70 (one way) with Alas de Socorro del Ecuador airlines. They flight monday to friday, but it is important to organized before you arive in shell with our Director. . You must also consider the airport fee which is $7.50 per person, and the over-weight costs because you are limited to 30 pounds.

    Another cheaper option and better for 2 or more people is to come to the community through Taisha. First, you have to get Bus station in Puyo, and from there you need to take a bus to Taisha which will cost you about 15 $, the bus from Puyo to Taisha is going at 3:00 am. There, at the Taisha airport, ask to the different airlines to book a flight to the Wayus Entsa community. It will cost you about 200 to 210 $ per flight for 3 to 5 people with no weight limitation.

    The community will provide for food but it is important to bring enough food for your stay because there might be some cases where the family might not have time or resources to cook for you. We recommend to bring some dry goods as rice, salt, lentils, sugar, pasta, spices, oil; some fresh vegetales just for the first days and any other food you consider necessary to complete your diet.
    Don't forget to bring the important articles for your stay here such as mosquito net (there are one tent adn one individual ones at the community, so just in case you are more than two people), sleeping bed and mat, there are two in comunity (it is painful to sleep on a hard wood surface), repelent, toilet paper, sunscreen, personal hygiene articles,flaslight, lighters and matches, candles, etc. You will also need boots, raincoat and swimsuit.

    You need to consider that the aiport staff only allows 30lb of luggage which is why we recommend a lot to leave clothes and belonging that you won't use in Puyo/Shell and travel with few clothing (the humidity will get to your clothes).

    Please bring with you a plastic bag which will be used for your waste in your stay and TAKE THEM WITH YOU when you leave the community, this is to preserve the environment. Plastic bags can also be helpful to protect your stuff from rain or humidity.

    Any other school equipment to donate to the community kids will be more than welcome, like notebooks, pens, pencils, erasers, colores, etc.

  • A little more information

    A little more information

    • Internet access

    • Limited internet access

      Limited internet access

    • We have pets

    • We are smokers

    • Can host families

  • How many Workawayers can stay?

    How many Workawayers can stay?

    More than two

  • ...

    Hours expected

    Maximum 3 hours a day, 5 days a week

Host ref number: 985114881325