The Andes define the highland region of Ecuador. The Andes are a massive chain of mountains that run along the west coast of South America. The Andes in the highlands region of Ecuador rise from 3,200 to nearly 20,000 feet. The Andes are home 44% of Ecuador's total population, who mostly live in the valleys along the mountain range.

Ecuador Highlands Region

The Location


The Population


The Religion

Roman Catholic

The Weather

  • These children are Compassion’s Riobamba City program. The province, made up primarily of indigenous people, has one of the highest poverty rates in the region. Ecuador Large Group of Children
  • Cotopaxi is one of sixty active volcanoes that dot the landscape of the Ecuadorian Highlands. The threat posed by these volcanoes keeps the people of the region on high alert. Ecuador Cotopaxi Volcano
  • These children wash their hands before eating, just as they were taught. Teaching kids good hygiene habits is one way Compassion helps improve community health. Ecuador Children Washing Hands
  • A healthy lunch, made possible by Compassion’s sponsors, is the only nutritious meal most of these children will get each day. Ecuador Children Getting Nutritious Meal
  • Children in Compassion-assisted child development centers receive regular health screenings from medical professionals. They also receive helpful advice on taking care of their bodies. Ecuador Girl Getting a Medical Checkup
  • Compassion cares for children’s social needs, along with their physical and spiritual well-being. The children have blossomed as a result. Ecuador Children Playing Outside

Overview: Highlands Region of Ecuador

The highlands region of Ecuador is defined by the Andes, a massive chain of mountains that runs along the west coast of South America. In this region of Ecuador, the Andes rise from 3,200 to nearly 20,000 feet. Throughout the region, volcanoes — some recently active — influence the safety and livelihood of inhabitants who must struggle with the effects of the intermittent ash and lava. Extreme weather and periods of drought and flooding also make life challenging here.

The region is divided into 11 provinces and is home to nearly half the country’s population. The two most representative ethnic groups are mestizo (a blend of indigenous Amerindian and white) and indigenous people, who are also identified as Kitchwas and are divided into 13 groups.

This region is dominated by the volcanoes. Chimborazo, the highest at 20,702 feet, is in the center of the country. In the valleys at the base of the mighty volcanoes, farmers tend to livestock and crops of corn, beans, wheat and barley for themselves and for market.

Quito, the capital of Ecuador, was once the northern capital of the Incan Empire, and today is listed as a UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) World Heritage site. The markets in the small mountain town of Otavalo draw visitors from around the world who come to see the striking array of handicrafts — maracas, pottery, jewelry, leather goods and hand-knitted items.


Culture Corner


Prepare fritada, a typical Ecuadorian dish.


  • 5 pounds of pork
  • 4 white onions, finely chopped
  • 5 mashed cloves of garlic
  • 1 cup liquid (water, broth, etc.)
  • salt and cumin, to taste


Cut the pork into little pieces and put them in a deep pan with the onion, garlic, liquid, salt and cumin, and turn until the pork looks nicely browned (it’s best to buy pork meat with its own fat so that it dissolves while cooking and browns the meat).

Once the fried pork is ready, serve it with corn, mote (mature boiled corn), plantains and potatoes. Serve also with a simple salad of onion and chopped tomatoes in limejuice and salt.

Life in the Ecuadorian Highlands

The Ecuadorian Highlands, set between the coastal region on the west and the Amazon on the east, are home to some of the most breathtaking vistas in South America. The region’s geographical features include snow-capped mountains, active volcanoes, humid cloud forests, rushing waterfalls, and fertile valleys.

The people who live in the region in the valleys along the Andes mountain range make up 44 percent of Ecuador’s total population. Despite the natural beauty, all around, life in the Highlands is difficult. Poverty and unemployment are rampant. Ninety percent of the people in the region earn their money through informal commerce – selling water in the streets, shining shoes, and other jobs that require long hours for little pay. While the parents work, their children are left to fend for themselves.

Children at Home

Homes in the highlands region vary according to their location. Houses in the city are typically made of cement with zinc roofs. In rural areas, typical houses are made of adobe and stone with plain dirt floors to accommodate the livestock each family raises.


Community Issues and Concerns Community in Ecuador

The highlands region of Ecuador is called “Volcano Avenue.” Of the 32 volcanoes here, 13 can be active, and that activity greatly affects the lives of the region’s inhabitants. Ash clouds from active volcanoes cause significant losses in agriculture and livestock. Incidents of respiratory disease caused by the ash pollution increase dramatically during volcanic eruptions.

The combination of cold weather, volcanic ash and dust from unpaved roads all contribute to respiratory illnesses that affect more than half of the children under age 5. Villages in the paths of the volcanoes’ lava and ash clouds are often evacuated, and inhabitants find it difficult to support their families. Financial losses caused by the volcanic eruptions and the region’s cycles of drought and frost cause many people to migrate from the countryside to the city to look for work.

Still, more than half the people of this region are underemployed, earning less than the average daily wage of $7. Sadly, migration and the difficulty of finding jobs that can sustain a family have boosted the delinquency rate here to levels higher than in any other region of the country.

Local Needs and Challenges

The lack of job opportunities in the Ecuadorian Highlands has created a devastating domino effect. Parents are forced to relocate in order to find work. Many of them abandon their children in the process. An entire generation of Ecuadorian children is growing up without supervision. The result has been an epidemic of abuse, delinquency, addiction and teen pregnancy. Without the intervention of Compassion, the problem will continue to grow and more Ecuadorian children will suffer.


Schools and Education Education in Ecuador

The school year in the highlands region extends from September to June. About 8 percent of the population doesn’t receive any education. Students who do attend school have the highest rate of absence in high school, with more than one out of 10 students absent each day. More than three-fourths of children finish elementary school, but only a third of them continue on to high school and graduate. Urban areas have an average of one teacher for every 35 to 40 students.

At the Compassion Child Development Center

Child development centers in the highlands region of Ecuador provide registered children with a place to learn and grow. While their parents spend their days farming and selling in the markets, Compassion-assisted children attend health classes, tutoring sessions and Bible studies at the center. They also spend time writing to and praying for their sponsors.


Working Through the Local Church

Compassion works with local churches to meet the most pressing needs of children in the region. Many of the children have been abandoned by one or both of their parents. As a result, they struggle with low self-esteem. They lack motivation and are prone to selfishness and violence. They don’t know how to interact with others. Their Compassion tutors help them learn to respect themselves and others by teaching them that they are part of God’s perfect creation.

The Compassion program provides clean clothes for them to wear. The curriculum helps them understand the importance of personal hygiene and a clean environment at home. The result has been a noticeable improvement in the children’s health.

How Compassion Works in Ecuador Compassion in Ecuador

Compassion’s work in Ecuador began in 1974. From humble beginnings, we have expanded our reach dramatically. Currently, more than 60,300 children participate in 210 child development centers throughout the country. Compassion partners with local churches to meet the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of Ecuadorian children. Our dedicated workers help them understand that they can rise above their dire circumstances to become all that God has created them to be.

The Role of a Partnership Facilitator

The Partnership Facilitator ensures that local churches are equipped to meet the needs of the children in their area. The facilitator leads training in Compassion’s specially designed curriculum, tweaking material along the way to maximize its impact. The facilitator spends time in the community in order to understand its unique needs and challenges.

The Partnership Facilitator helps create an environment where children can talk freely about their problems. The facilitator helps train a staff of tutors who will listen to the children, show them love and compassion, and equip them with the self-confidence to meet the challenges they face. The facilitator stands on the front lines in the battle for the well-being of the children of the Ecuadorian Highlands.


Prayer Requests

  • Pray for families to have the strength to handle the constant threat of an intense reactivation of the Tungurahua Volcano.
  • Pray that drought and frost don’t compromise the crops and livestock of families in this region.
  • Pray for the control of the violence and delinquency in some cities of the region.
  • Pray for the health of the children who live close to flower plantations; they generally suffer from the consequences of the chemical products used in that industry.
  • Pray that the children can stop working and attend school instead.