Kerry Fugett, Andean Bear Foundation

Name, Age: Kerry Fugett, 24
University, Major: UC San Diego, Physiology and Neuroscience
Region: South America
Length of stay: 6 months – 1 year
Type of Work: Environment/Conservation

Tell us about the nonprofit/social business you work for:
I worked with the Andean Bear Foundation in rural Ecuador. Most of my time was on-site at our research house in Pucara, in the northwestern area of the country. For more information, check out

How did you find your position?, an awesome website for finding gigs like this!

What’s your typical day like?
I was the Volunteer Coordinator for the program. We had 4 to 6 volunteers who stayed up to a month. As the coordinator, I was responsible for planning and guiding the treks to do radio telemetry looking for Andean Bears in the mountains. I also had to write the menu and do all the grocery shopping (a task requiring about 5 hours of bus round trip!). A typical day meant up at 6am, we all ate breakfast together, then head out on a hike by 7 or 7:30 to “listen” for one of our 6 radio collared bears. We’d usually be back around 3 to avoid the afternoon rain, take turns in the lukewarm shower, then dinner and hammock or game time.

What kind of people do you work with?
All nationalities with the average age from mid 20s to mid 30s. It was not a program for people going abroad for the first time ever, so most people had finished college and had probably studied abroad. We had a lot of biologists looking for field work training, but really anyone with a passion and who worked hard was accepted.

What are your living accommodations?
The bear house has closed down since I left, but the project is hoping to begin construction on the first ever Andean Bear Sanctuary in Ecuador soon and will be looking for volunteers for that. That will be in a new location near Baeza on the way out to the Orient.

What do you do in your free time?
Hammock, climb trees or work in the organic garden we had going. One volunteer made a swing and a tree house, that was great!

Share a favorite memory or story from your experience!
My first Andean Bear sighting in the wild…up in a tree, the expanse of the Andes Mountains behind, just stunning. We were lucky enough to get to watch it for an hour before it came down and walked away. It never even knew we were there!

What inspired you to do this kind of work? If you are taking a gap year, what motivated you to do that?
Career development and travel bug. That bug bites hard, watch out!

How are you financing your time?
I was given free room and board once I was there, my free time spending money was from personal savings.

What kind of special skills do you need to do your job?
Language, photography, leadership experience.

Do you feel like you are making a positive, critical impact on the global community?
Yes. It is a very small organization and I had a huge part in every aspect of helping run it, from finances to website assistance and social media. It was started and is primarily run by an Ecuadorian Biologist, and I really valued working for someone from the country I was living in. It made it very challenging at times, but I learned how to best make a difference “Ecuadorian style”, which I think will ultimately be the longest lasting.

What have you learned about the nonprofit and social business world in your experience?
It is hard. No doubts about that. But you take the small successes and just keep pushing.

Do you think you make a unique contribution to your organization as a young person? Is your perspective or approach different from others?
Possibly. It was good and bad being the same age or younger than a lot of our volunteers. I had to make sure to gain respect right away and that meant being “on” 24-7. But it also allowed me to relate to a lot of volunteers which I think helped a lot.

How do you see this experience fitting into your long-term goals?
I really liked the leadership aspect of it. It made a positive impact on me for sure, but what I want to do next is still hard to sort out. Very amazing experience though that I am extremely glad I did. Though you always think you’ll have it figured out after just one more experience or trip, but it just made me more confused!

Do you have any advice for prospective gap-givers?
Do it!

Are you blogging about your work or travel? How can we stay in touch?
Tried to blog, but only got about 5 posts in almost 10 months….opps. Feel free to email me though if you want to get in contact!

Would you be willing to take questions from potential Gappers?