Experiential Learning Ecuadorian Programs

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7.3 / 10 after 7 Reviews Based on overall, support & value average ratings
Program website: http://www.elep.org/

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+++ WARNING - REVIEW POSTED BY PROGRAM STAFF FROM ELEP+++ THE FOLLOWING REVIEW HAS BEEN POSTED BY PROGRAM STAFF FROM ELEP. REVIEWS TO BE ONLY POSTED BY PARTICIPANTS - NOT COMPANIES. PLEASE SEE COMMENTS BY ABROAD REVIEWS ADMIN BELOW +++ I want to thank ELEP for looking after our 17 year old son so well during his 3 week trip this summer to Ecuador. As parents, we were obviously concerned about him travelling alone to Ecuador, getting to his final destination, and being looked after well. I have to say that ELEP provided the utmost care, and an excellent program for Cosmo. You met Cosmo at the airport on arrival, accompanied him on the bus ride to the village where he stayed with a very welcoming and caring host family. Each day he did volunteer construction work in the morning and then had one on one spanish lessons in the afternoon. Overall we wanted him to be immersed in family life, volunteer and meet others from around the world, further his spanish, appreciate life and have fun. ELEP succeeded, Thank you. I will strongly recommend you to my friends, and please share our experiences with other potential volunteers.

Richard Sparshatt

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Posted: March 18, 2012
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+++ THIS REVIEW HAS BEEN DEEMED A "FAKE REVIEW" BY THE ABROAD REVIEWS TEAM. THE REVIEW WAS SUBMITTED FROM AN IP ADDRESS IN THE SAME BLOCK AS THE ELEP OFFICES. THE EMAIL ADDRESS USED BY THE REVIEWER WAS ALSO AN ELEP COMPANY EMAIL. REVIEWS ON ABROAD REVIEWS ARE TO BE POSTED BY ONLY GENUINE PARTICIPANTS (NOT COMPANIES). +++

I cannot deter you from this program enough. It was one of worst experiences of my life. Having traveled extensively in South America and being well versed with the culture and customs of third world countries, I had low expectations for living conditions, etc. However, I was willing to live a less than luxurious lifestyle for an adventure and a learning experience as a medical volunteer in a spanish-speaking country. Hell is what I got.

Let me start with the beginning of my trip when Patricio Nunez was 2 hours late to pick me up from the airport. My flight arrived at 10:30 pm so I was waiting alone and outside until after midnight. I had his phone number, but no phone to use. Luckily, a very nice Ecuadorian let me use her cell phone to call Patricio. In the next couple of days, Patricio was extremely hasty for money. I understand that programs need the money to support the volunteers, but I wanted to get to my final destination of Puerto Lopez (to make sure it wasn't a scam) before sending the money. I also had a lot of questions about the final price that he had given me, because when I calculated it the price was supposed to be 300 less than what he was asking. However, he was insistent enough that I gave him the money but told him we needed to discuss the price. He agreed that he had overcharged me and said he would refund the 300 dollars, and never did.

My host mom Liz Bermeo is crazy. I know this sounds like an empty insult and like someone is just venting, but there is no other way to describe her actions. I was in Ecuador for 6 months and met 10 other volunteers that stayed in the house with me. Out of those 10, only 2 left content. The other 8 left early because they were so upset, or left in tears, or left infuriated.

We were not allowed to be out of the house past 10:30 because Liz said she didn't want us to awaken her with the noise of our arrival past 10:30. If we arrived past curfew, she would lock us out of our rooms. One time two volunteers were outside in the hammocks at 11 pm and she threw a bucket of water of them (and then hid). In the morning they confronted her and at first she denied it, then she passed it off as a joke.

We were told that our money would provide all three meals, but the job in which they placed me was an hour away, so I asked if I could take my lunch, and she told me that the only thing she would make me every day was an egg sandwich. I asked if I could just have leftovers from dinner the previous night, and she told me I wasn't allowed, so I ate the egg sandwiches sometimes and the other days I had to pay for my lunch again when I had already paid for it in my host family's house.

We lived in a village of 400 people, and being the only blonde in the village, obviously everyone knew who I was. Liz apparently took a disliking to me (I honestly do not know why, because I am a rule-follower and do not usually have problems getting along with others) and spread rumors that I slept around and was a pot-head (I heard this rumor from multiple of my friends in the village, and it always traced back to her. Even her son told me that he had told him as well). Rumors are hurtful in general, but the fact that I do not smoke pot at all and am a virgin, these blatant lies that tarnished my reputation were hard to handle.

Liz is extremely racist, and the two very sweet black and indian volunteers that stayed there got the brunt of her ignorant behavior.

Many of the volunteers had problems with their volunteer placements and were not positioned where they had been promised. They barely got any help from the program with their volunteer positions, and it is clear that the first thing on their minds is money.

I was one of the unfortunate ones that left deceived, betrayed, stolen from, and completely devastated.

She did countless other things, but let me get to the worst part. I was raped by the doctor under whom they had me working. I do not blame this on them, and know that ELEP is in no way responsible for this happening. However, I did expect their help and support when possible. Not only did they fail to help me, but during such a traumatic time, Liz Bermeo and Patricio made the hellish ordeal even worse. Firstly, I told Liz what had happened and that I was going to report it. She patted me on the back and said, "Oh, I'm sorry. You'll be ok." She then told the others in the house that she thought I was lying. I was worried that the doctor might come looking for me, so I asked her to tell him that I was out of the house in the case that he came by. This worst case scenario happened, and as I laid shaking, balling, and terrified in my closet, I heard someone coming up the stairs. She led him right to my room and tried to let him in, but I had the door locked from the inside. She then went downstairs to wash dishes as my rapist harassed me for 30 minutes just a couple of days after the attack. When he had finally left, I went and asked her why she had done that, and she said she didn't know I was home, even though I had been downstairs eating breakfast a mere 15 minutes prior. Even if I hadn't been home, there is absolutely no reason a grown man should be allowed to peruse a young female volunteer's room upon request. I was so traumatized that I could barely function, and the other volunteer that was with me looked at me and simply said, "you know you can't stay here anymore. We're leaving." So I packed my things and was gone from the house and village in which I had lived for 6 months after only 20 minutes. The other volunteer had been having troubles in the house as well, and watching my host mom betray me so deeply for no reason pushed him over the edge. I tried to contact Patricio multiple times a day over the next two weeks until I finally got someone on the phone saying he was on vacation in Peru. I'm not saying he can't go out of town, but considering the fact that he has so many volunteers in his program spread throughout the country, maybe he should have someone check the phones or provide an emergency number...you know, in case someone has to leave their host house unexpectedly because their host mom has put them in physical danger.

I was now in an unfamiliar city, with no contacts other than the government victims' protection agency, and I was weary of trusting them since a relative of my attacker had a connection in the office and had prematurely informed him that I was pressing charges, thus greatly compromising my safety. I had to then go through legal processes of which I knew nothing, and in Spanish. I know that programs aren't expected to drop everything to help one person, but I didn't think that returning my phone call was too much to ask.

Ecuador is beautiful and I made some great friends, but everyone I met that was associated with ELEP helped make my life a living hell. They stole hundreds of dollars from me, they are extremely disorganized and they offer you no support when you are in need (whether it be with your volunteer position, general advice, or when you have been attacked by the boss under whom they had you volunteering). No matter what my host mom's opinion of me was, if I tell her that someone has attacked me and request that she simply tell him I am out of the house, there is no reason what so ever that she should, instead of sending him away, lead him up to my room and allow him to terrorize me. I know that my circumstances are unique, but that does not change the fact that out of 10 people I met that stayed in the house, only 2 didn't leave completely upset with Liz and Patricio and ELEP in general. Even if my traumatic event hadn't happened, the constant mistreatment I got from my host mom and the complete neglect from Patricio would be enough for me to highly discourage anyone from ever using ELEP.

My story and the stories of two other volunteers has led the American consulate to investigate Liz Bermeo and ELEP in general. A worker from the consulate witnessed first hand the horrible treatment from my host mom.

I know for a fact that even after those 8 people had complained about Liz Bermeo and her treatment of the volunteers, they continue to place people in her house. The problem isn't just with one host family, but with the leaders of ELEP as well. The only positive memories I have of Ecuador are those that do not involve ELEP or my host family in any way.

I am just one of many volunteers that was stolen from, mistreated and endangered by ELEP.

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Posted: October 12, 2011
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0 (worst)
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0
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0
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Replies from a user called "Bryan" from Ecuador have been removed as they user coarse language and became a personal hate attack against the user that posted this review. "Bryan" has been banned from using this website as his email was fake and he did not reply to any emails from Abroad Reviews.
Hello, I am Patricio Fernandez, the founder of ELEP Volunteer & Internship Programs. ELEP is a reputable and worthy organisation andhas been in operation for over 14 years, and earnestly endeavors to provide quality service and to arrange safe, enriching experiential learning opportunities on behalf of all of its participants. Further, I affirm that it is my and ELEP's belief and practice that all persons are equal and should be treated with respect. The internet and social media are powerful tools. Unfortunately, a small few seize these tools to unfairly malign the names and reputations of others without cause. While we cannot do anything to prevent others from making statements that are not true, we are more than happy to share contact information for volunteer/intern references-- past and present -- with anyone who is interested in participating in a quality volunteer or internship experience in Ecuador. If you require any further clarification, please do not hesitate to contact us: programs@elep.org Sincerely, Patricio Fernandez

I wish I had read many of these posts before deciding to pursue an internship program with ELEP. It was perhaps the biggest rip offs!!

I completely agree with some of the other posts. The only way I can describe Patricio Parrales and Jonnathan is as scammers! I have set myself as a goal to denounce as much this organization so nobody falls in this trap anymore!

My friends were promised Spanish lessons but what they got were lessons from a teacher that did not even know how to speaks English! Practically the blind leading the blind!! When we told Patricio about it he just made them feel bad about themselves, basically telling them that it was their fault that they were not learning.

On top of that, he did not pick us up from the airport, did not reimburse us for having to pay for a hotel bc it was his fault of not picking us up at the bus station and we had nowhere to go.

The accomodations were just awful too! No toilet seats, food primarily consisting of rice, a cheap filler with little fruits and vegetables. As a European or North American you might think these are things that are not cheap, but in Latin America is dirt cheap. An avocado is 40 cents, a banana 5 cents, just to put it into perspective!

The experience itself of my internship were terrible too. As someone else said, he practically organized things the day before the starting date of the program. I think what I learned the most of my experience was to stand there useless in the ER of my medical internship without proper guiding and doctors not even knowing what to do with us. Doctors there even recommended us to go somewhere else, because the location where we were at was just terrible!

Please, please, please, do not trust this organization. I feel it my duty to help others not get scammed as I did with my friends.

I read a post from this some people speaking wonders... Beware!!! It might be them posing as a past intern! Go by what most of the comments from DIFFRENT people say. You will find out this organization is not worth what they charge and is a scam.

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Posted: August 13, 2011
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0 (worst)
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0
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0
By: cleiva7
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New User

Comments

Alert Volunteer & Internship Organizations! Be aware with unscrupulous people. Carlos from Salvador and currently living in Canada traveled to Ecuador to participate in a voluntary internship program with our organization. Unfortunately we were not able to detect about this unscrupulous individual who asked for money to ELEP Programs to travel to the Galapagos Islands in exchange for not writing falsehoods against ELEP Programs. Our organization considered this proposal as a great ridiculousness and decided not to continue on contact with this unscrupulous people and as retaliation this bad guy decided to wrote these abominable falsehoods. Once again, be aware with Carlos Leiva.

I have gone to volunteer and study in Ecuador twice with ELEP, and both times I have felt that my time and money were very well spent.
Patricio, the main project coordinator, was extremely kind and unfailingly helpful. He met me punctually at the airport and promptly took me to my host family afterward. The hosts were experienced with foreign volunteers and always treated me with great consideration, respect, and understanding. The other volunteers were friendly and incredibly supportive--I made fast friends with whom I could talk to, practice my Spanish with, and travel with on the weekends. The house was close to a variety of services, so it was never inconvenient to walk over to the supermarket for some snacks or to the internet cafe to send an email home. The place where I took Spanish classes was right on the next street as well, so I never had trouble finding it or getting there on time. Each and every one of my needs were met and I never felt uncomfortable in the home of my host family.
I worked in a small clinic with people of all ages. I observed the clinic's doctor in order to learn the physical and psychological ailments of his patients, and distributed bread to the impoverished visitors when the doctor was not in. The staff at the clinic was also very supportive--they encouraged me to ask questions and helped me practice my Spanish every day. I bonded with the kids, who were all extremely sweet and quick to make friends with me and each other.
On weekends, I traveled to explore the cities outside Quito. Bus and taxi fares were never too expensive (depending where I was going, transportation prices ranged from $2 to $5 per ride--I was glad that I had brought lots of small bills) and I never felt ill at ease on public transportation. I shopped at the huge artisan market in Otavalo, where the stand owners were all very kind and willing to negotiate prices, and biked to see the gorgeous waterfall (El Diablo) on the outskirts of Banos. Locally, I visited malls and marketplaces, and was never disappointed by the variety of products offered there.
All in all, I regard my past trips to Ecuador extremely fondly, and I still remain in contact with the friends I have made there. I am looking forward to traveling with ELEP again in the future years! Thanks for everything, ELEP!

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Posted: August 29, 2010
Overall:
9
Support:
10
Value:
9
By: Anonymous
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My trip to Ecuador through this program was not only fun but also rewarding. Once I arrived in the airport, there was a friendly ELEP representative waiting for us. Even though I did not speak Spanish very well, I found him easy to talk to and eager to help. After the trip from the airport, I promptly arrived at my host family's house. All the other volunteers and members of the host family treated me warmly. They included me in activities and were never rude or inconsiderate. For the three weeks that I spent there, where I lived felt not like just a house but like an actual home filled with friends and loved ones. The following day an ELEP staff member came to show me how to get to work and introduce me to my fellow workers there. He was careful to make sure that I would not have trouble getting to and from work and encouraged me to tell him if I felt unhappy with anything at. Just as at my host family's house, the people at work equally accepting and considerate of my Spanish abilities. In mere days, I come to close and friendly terms the vast majority of them. Work was inspiring and humbling at the same time, never for a moment letting me feel as if my efforts were wasted in any way. Each day I woke up eager for work to start because it was so rewarding just to help people through my volunteer work. A week later, my Spanish classes started and and ELEP staff member made sure that I could find my way to and from class without a problem. In those 2 weeks of classes in Ecuador, I learned more than the 3 years that I have been studying Spanish in school. Each class was filled with new information like vocabulary and some grammar. However, the most memorable aspect of the class was being able to learn to talk and understand Spanish not only in the classroom but also in the markets or even just on the streets. Travelling to a solely Spanish speaking country forced me learn more Spanish and a quick pace in order to converse with the people and work at my volunteer job. Every minute of it was exceedingly enjoyable and I am forever thankful that ELEP has made this never to be forgotten adventure possible for me.

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Posted: August 19, 2010
Overall:
10
Support:
10
Value:
10
By: Anonymous
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