IOI Galapagos endemic and native garden project

(Marc Martorell – Conservation Department Coordinator)

In cooperation with the Galapagos National Park, IOI has designed and built a garden with native and endemic species of Isabela Island. The garden was built with local soil and used materials such as  volcanic rocks, and gravel for delineations of flower beds, trails, and planters.

The main objective of the project is to set an example and create an educational tool for the community.  To that extend, phase two of the project will have a community outreach component. We are using our  eco-park to serve as a model for our green city gardens project, in which our staff and volunteers are  reaching out to encourage and assist local families to establish gardens around their homes. 

Within this project, we are planting several species that are currently growing in nurseries in the  highlands via our cooperation with the Galapagos National Park. These species are chosen depending on  their ability to adapt and survive in the coastal region.

In executing the project we had the help of students from the Fray Agustin de Azkunaga Highschool  (within a project between the Ministry of Education of Ecuador and the Galapagos National Park) and  students of the University of Miami as part of their service learning projects.

The main species we are choosing for the project are:

  • 4 species of mangroves: White (Laguncularia racemosa), Jelí or botton (Conocarpus erectus), Black (Avicennia germinans), Red (Rhizophora mangle)

  • Algarrobo – Prosopia juliflora

  • Jelicillo – Dodonea viscosa

  • Rodilla de caballo – Clerodendrum molle

  • Uva de playa – Scaveola plumieri

  • Muyuyo – Cordia lutea

  • Chala – Croton scouleri

  • Pega-pega – Pisonia floribunda

  • Verdolaga – Portulaca oleracea

  • Nolana – Nolana galapagensis

  • Cactus Opuntia– Cactaceae Opuntia

  • Escalesia – Scalesia cordata

Radio Program

(Nuria Ladera – Social Development Department)

The head of our social development department, Nuria Ladera, attends to the mental and emotional wellbeing of our community. IOI proudly announces that Nuria now airs on Isabela radio with her own program “Tu voz guía” (Your Guiding Voice). The forty five to sixty minute program is produced weekly and airs on Thursday at nine in the morning and is rerun again on Tuesday mornings due to popular demand.

The program is meant for heads of families and parents at large to help them deal with common family issues and difficulties related to family life and parenting. A few common topics include: normal behaviors of children at specific ages, how to set limits and rules in the home, how to effectively communicate within the family, how to avoid drug use as well as aggressive behavior, how to build self-esteem of children and how to help them with their studies and place value on education or the importance respecting a set schedule for children (eating, sleeping, etc.).

The community is encouraged to call in making the show a highly interactive forum. The show is meant to be a form of conversation for the entire community in which they can call, text or message through Facebook to ask questions, give comments, share their own experiences, etc.Furthermore, the show receives input for topics of discussion from the public.

IOI Brings Medical Professionals to the Galapagos

From 2013 to 2017, IOI hosted a group of volunteer dentists from the University of Connecticut. This project is a cooperative effort between IOI and El Ministerio de Salud Publica on Isabela. During the week the dentists are on the island they do cleanings, extractions, fillings, x-rays – whatever needs to be done. It is a busy week. The dentist can see well over 400 patients in their short time on the island. Providing dental services is essential as residents often have to travel off island to receive dental care.


The success of the dental clinics paved the way for additional medical clinics to come to the island. Ophthalmology, another medical service that is out of reach for many residents of Isabela, is incredibly important. Ophthalmologists, in cooperation with Miami’s Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, come to Isabela for one to two week long clinics to perform eye exams, and provide ocular care to those in need. In the very first ophthalmology clinic, held in June 2016, 269 patients were seen in the first week. In 2017, we set out to ensure that 100% of the population of Isabela had an opportunity to be seen by an ophthalmologist. 


These clinics are supported by the Ecuadorian Association of Ophthalmology and the impactful contribution they bring to the community are a key piece of our commitment to the social development of Isabela. 

We are working on expanding these field clinic programs to our other locations. If you would like to help us, you can donate to ioi


Costa Rica is one of the most important places in the world for sea turtle nesting and hatching.

The three sea turtle species that inhabit El Jobo’s beaches are all on the endangered species list. In order to ensure that these beautiful creatures remain safe and thriving, meticulous details about their behaviors, locations, and diets are required. This information is essential for the protection of sea turtle nesting beaches, and ultimately the future of the species.

In partnership with Equipo Tora Carey (ETC), we have established a strong network of local and international volunteers who are dedicated to supporting this research.


Like IOI, ETC—whose mission is to mobilize and empower local communities […] to end the destruction of habitats and species on Costa Rica’s coast through science, education, conservation, and action—is committed to building a community of educated, environmental advocates.

As with the coral restoration project in Cuba, this collaboration with an established, local organization provides an opportunity for IOI to invest in conservation and social development through a local lens, and for volunteers like you to jump right into the heart of the work.

Coral Restoration, Cuba

Off the southern coast of the Isle of Youth, live two species of coral that are on the critically endangered list. 

With the support of local experts and volunteers, we are committed to an ongoing effort to improve, monitor, and ultimately ensure coral reef health in this precious and ecologically diverse place.

Coral gardening is the process of cultivating coral fragments and planting them among struggling reefs. It has proven to be a successful and critical step toward large scale coral reef restoration, and requires a great deal of support from IOI volunteers.

Shireen Rahimi

Shireen Rahimi

These coral gardening efforts are critical not only for the specific reefs they are supporting, but for the ecosystem as a whole, as coral reefs are nurseries to the world’s oceans. 

Coral reefs are also very important in socio-economics. “The value of coral reefs has been estimated at 30 billion U.S. dollars and perhaps as much as 172 billion U.S. dollars each year, providing food, protection of shorelines, jobs based on tourism, and even medicines.”

By teaming up with CariMar, pioneers of international marine research and conservation in Cuba, as well as local community members are actively participating in the restoration of this indispensable ecosystem.   

Visit our Volunteer Cuba page for more information.

Mujeres Con Futuro, Costa Rica

In partnership with Fundación Horizontes we have launched a new chapter of Mujeres con Futuro in our host community of El Jobo, Costa Rica. The three part program is designed to offer innovative and sustainable solutions that contribute to the reduction of poverty, exclusion, and unemployment for women in Costa Rica.

Mujeres Con Futuro

Mujeres Con Futuro is a program that supports 1,200 Costa Rican women each year in a two-step program. The program includes workshops and trainings, and is split into two distinct phases:

Phase One (habilidades para la vida) is an empowerment program that enhances the participants’ confidence and skills to confront the numerous challenges of everyday life. Twenty-nine women of El Jobo completed this phase in Fall 2017. As a result, some graduates have started implementing what they learned on their own initiatives. For example, one woman started a restaurant and another opened a clothing store.

Phase Two (montando negocio) teaches the participants’ the basic skills required to start a business. The women are eager to learn the skills necessary to implement the ideas they generated in Phase One. Due to two major natural disasters that hit El Jobo in late 2017 and early 2018, funding is now short and IOI is currently fundraising in order to carry out Phase Two.

IOI is taking the profoundly relevant and critically important program one step further to include an additional phase:

Phase Three (micro-financiamiento) Sets up a business loan option through micro-financing and community banking for out participants, who would otherwise not have access to credit due to lack of collateral. 

When it comes to empowering isolated communities to grow in sustainable ways, supporting the women, tangibly and thoughtfully, is key. In this sense, the Mujeres Con Futuro, Fundacion Horizontes, and IOI partnership is a quintessential part of our social development efforts in Costa Rica. IOI has a similar program in the Galapagos, Familias del Buen Vivir.

New Soccer Field

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Soccer field progress.png

Recently, in agreement with the municipality of Isabela, IOI donated a synthetic grass multi-sport field valued at over $50,000 to the Jacinto Gordillo Elementary School. This, like the playground, is designed to provide a space for children to engage in sports – realistically mostly soccer) in a community setting. The field directly benefits 280 students and their families, and construction was finished in February 2018. 
These additions to the local infrastructure, and future projects like them, are contributing to the social development of the island of Isabela, as well as to the health and education of the children who are growing up there.


Jacinto Gordillo Elementary School Playground 

For years, at Jacinto Gordillo Elementary School on Isabela island, students did not have a place to play during their lunch break. As a makeshift alternative to a secure, well-constructed playground, children would seek out and climb the trees, and often end up getting hurt. 

Play is essential to development because it contributes to the cognitive, physical, social, and emotional well-being of children and youth.
— -Pediatrics January 2007, VOLUME 119 / ISSUE 1

To address this, IOI organized a group of University of Miami students and professors to create a safe and fun “tire worm.” The “worm” is made from brightly painted, recycled tires that are set into the ground. 

As you can imagine, the addition has been a big hit. For the first time, Jacinto Gordillo Elementary School children have a designated place to run, climb, and play that is safe and right outside their classroom doors!