Priscilla King Gray Public Service Center

Join Us in the Amazon jungle and Help Support the Growth of a Budding Social Enterprise

Runa Foundation, Ecuador


Runa is an innovative social enterprise, which markets Guayusa, a natural, delicious tea that provides a source of energy and nutrition straight from the Amazon jungle. In response to the cyclic and pervasive poverty trap affecting indigenous populations in Latin America, Runa provides direct market access, agroforestry training, and integrated development services to Amazonian farming families to create lasting social change.

Runa Foundation USA and Fundación Runa, its counterpart in Ecuador, together form the non-profit branch of Runa’s operations. Fundación Runaprovides tools and resources to indigenous communities and farmers' associations working towards their vision of sustainable developmentin the Ecuadorian Amazon. We focus on three core areas: social empowerment, community development, and environmental management.

We are looking for interns to work withFundación Runa in Ecuador. With 90% Ecuadorian staff on our Ecuador Runa team, volunteers and interns will have the opportunity to see how an innovative development model works at its roots. Emerged in the Ecuadorian and Kichwa cultures, interns will have a once in a lifetime opportunity to see the achievements and challenges faced working in a fast paced sustainable development organization.

The Challenge

Interns with Fundación Runa will take on longer placements working alongside our team in the Amazon. They will work on a range of projects, contributing to ground breaking research on Guayusa and developing sustainable projects with indigenous communities. Interns will have the chance to experience life in the Amazon, whilst supporting the development of Runa’s innovative work.

We are looking for motivated, enthusiastic and adventurous interns to join us in the Amazon jungle and help support the growth of this budding social enterprise. Interns with Fundación Runa will have the chance to take on ground-breaking research in a range of areas which are essential for the growth and development of Guayusa and the communities Runa works with. Interns will work alongside our experienced technicians and engineers in the field, and also have the chance to participate in cultural exchange events and guayusa ceremonies.

Internship opportunities

Community Development

Interns and researchers on our community development team will work with Fundación Runa and the farmers’ association to survey the needs of indigenous communities. Summer 2011 interns began the process of designing the survey, field work is now needed to interview all 60 communities who work with Runa. This information will be gathered for planning of future projects.

Agroforestry System Design

Guayusa (Ilex guayusa) is a native holly tree to the Ecuadorian Amazon. Historically, the tree has been wild harvested or cultivated in small quantities. Runa works with indigenous farmers to boost production of guayusa by growing it in agroforestry systems. Researchers on our agroforestry team will work with farmers and Runa field technicians to design a participatory research initiative.

Agricultural Economics

Interns and researchers on our economic team will investigate the costs and benefits of guayusa production in the Napo region. They will work with our local field team and farmers to calculate net present value of guayusa plantations, opportunity costs, and the social/environmental benefits of production.

Forest Conservation and Watershed Management

Interns and researchers on our conservation team will work in the communities of Santa Rita and Alto Tena to monitor conservation buffer zones around the Colonso Protected Forest. The Colonso Forest is a 10,000 hectare (22,000 acre) reserve of primary rainforest that serves as the water source for the towns of Tena and Archidona.

Qualifications, Preferences, and Assets

Time Constraints

A minimum of 8 weeks (40 hours/week)

Accommodations and Cost for Program

Accommodations: Volunteers and Interns stay in “Casa Runa” in Tena. The house is a 3 storey house and sleeps 6-7 people. It is a 10 minute walk from the centre of Tena in Barrio Las Hierbitas. The house has a kitchen, three bedrooms, three bathrooms, hot water and a balcony with a hammock and a beautiful view of the river and the jungle. All bedding is provided. Volunteers and interns are responsible for their own food, but often cook communally.

Price: $1600 for 8 week program and accommodation
  $200 per week for additional weeks


Cass Walker

PKG Center Support

For this project, please note thatThe PKG Center cannot pay community partner program fees, so this portion of the cost would be the applicants' responsibility. Applicants should only request the PKG Center to cover portion of the fee that covers accommodation.

MIT students who develop projects around these ideas may apply for support from the Priscilla King Gray Public Service Center's Fellowships and Internships programs. Please check the program descriptions and deadlines and talk to program staff to determine which is most appropriate for your needs and project.

If you want to volunteer or you have funding from outside the PKG Center that enables you to work on this project, that's great! However, please do let us know if you work on a project you saw advertised here, even if you don't use our funds. And remember, the PKG Center staff are happy to advise on service projects even if we are not funding them ourselves. If you are more interested in volunteering, Fundacion Runa has a volunteer program. Please visit their website for more information.

Priscilla King Gray Public Service Center
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