10 Years of Blog Archive

Friday, September 11, 2015

Do You Know of an Orphanage I Can Volunteer at in Cuenca Ecuador?

 A Reader Asks: I wanted to know what orphanage you ended up volunteering at in Cuenca, Ecuador. Thank you

Most of our followers know that for the first two years of living in Cuenca we volunteered for children; you can see many of our videos where we were working with children and volunteering our handyman abilities fixing up the children’s home.  However, most people don’t know this one small detail and that is we did not volunteer at an “orphanage”, we volunteered at a “children’s home”, which is a bit different than an “orphanage”.   We were not completely aware of that going in but as time went on we figured it out.

Frank, Brandon, and Alex drawing with the children
Difference between Orphanage & Children’s Home

The difference is an orphanage is a place that provides a home for children without parents, and a children’s home is a place that provides a home for children who have a parent(s) but it has been decided that they can’t be in their parent’s home (at the time) because of one or both parents with alcohol or drug problems, low or no finances, domestic problems, abuse, etc. In some instances the parents actually take their children to the children’s home because they feel life will be better for them there, at least for the time being.
Frank reading a book to some of the children
And actually we think children in the latter situation are much more emotionally needy than orphans because often times, sadly, the ones with parents have been abused in some way, or treated badly by one or both parents.  I cringe to say this and it breaks our hearts, but it is reality all over the world. In fact the administrator, at the Cuenca Children’s home told us, “There are more children’s homes in Cuenca than orphanages in Cuenca”.

Sometimes circumstances change for the better. When we were volunteering, we witnessed two different sets of parents coming to get their children from the children’s home; they were going home! Happy times seeing families get back together. We still see two of the children from one of the families helping their parents from time to time and they seem happy to back with their parents.
Brandon with some of the children
When we first started looking for information it was scant and hard to come by.  With a diligent and humble attitude we persisted and found a children’s home that did not charge up front fees. Subsequently we started receiving on a regular basis, requests for how to access this particular one or any other children’s home. We saw firsthand how small these children’s home are.  They are not a huge building or large church building etc. they are a small home with numerous children in it.

We quickly figured out that sending too many foreigners would swamp them, and they would and do quickly put up barriers making it harder for others to come after them.  So as an afterthought, we decided to make a short list of all the homes we knew did not charge an up front fee, and we put them in the DIY Cuenca Landing Guide.

We figured that by scattering the demand over several homes instead of one or two and limiting it to book buyers we could slow down the bottleneck.  And it worked for a while. Unfortunately or fortunately, Cuenca is not a very large city and the number of homes in the guide eventually became too small for the demand.  To this day we still get several requests on a regular basis.

Some of these homes eventually put up the additional barriers and now the number of homes in the guide that still don’t charge upfront fees has dwindled to about two.  If you are aware of any new homes that don’t charge upfront fees, we humbly request that you not make that information public on forums for the reasons stated above.  If you like what we’re doing about it, let us know privately and we’ll add them to the guide.  Thanks for understanding.

Keep in mind that “pure religion” as described in ancient writings would be to visit “orphans” and “widows” in those days widows had no social security check , pensions, or any societal ledge to rest on other than the goodwill of those with a good spirit, besides family members.                                                ***
On another note, last week I came across this from Gringo Tree (Tribelr) and it might be worth looking into if you want to volunteer your time to help children. It is a program that is partnered with Hearts of Gold and they need volunteers to help with children after school. The post did not say anything about an upfront fee, so it might be a good volunteer opportunity working with children to pursue.  Click the title: CETAP -Lucy Needs Volunteers for Afterschool Programs

Another possibility for volunteering working with children is to contact some of the Catholic churches in Cuenca directly, as there are a couple of orphanages in Cuenca that might not charge an upfront fee.  They’ll want to interview you and make sure you are a good candidate for volunteering for children, which is to be expected. 

Until we write again... 

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We're an Expat Family of Five, Living Frugal, Healthy and Happy Abroad. We live in Cuenca, Ecuador and travel the Ecuador coast whenever we get a chance. We just adventured throughout the country of Panama for five weeks! Come along and enjoy some of our experiences with us!


  1. Just the article I was waiting for. I am looking for place of my own but once settled I want to volunteer in one of those places. My Spanish is not great, I will speed up learning while I have my own apt or house to rent. I want to show those kids that people do care!

  2. Frank and family want to think those people who have provided orphanages and children's homes to be added to the Guide book. We will be adding them to the DIY Cuenca Guide Book very soon. Your contribution is appreciated. thanks so much!


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