You need a basic working knowledge of Spanish. Spanish proficiency is one of the considerations in deciding where to place the volunteers between the 3 shelters. The most important skills are listening comprehension and speaking. It is more important that you can express yourself than that your Spanish is grammatically accurate.
VILA is committed to making international service work financially feasible for every student. VILA covers all program costs except your plane flight down to Ecuador, and VILA helps you fundraise for the plane ticket (which is around $800).
VILA is a 2 year commitment: there is a mandatory 1 unit seminar in the spring before you go, and after your summer in Ecuador you serve on staff for the following school year. VILA is entirely student initiated and student run, so this requirement ensures that the program continues to provide opportunities for others to volunteer.
It is possible to volunteer the summer after your senior year only if you will be coterming or for another reason will be coming back to Stanford for a full year.
see our placements page for more information about the shelters that VILA is affiliated with. In addition to the three shelters described, this year there is also an opportunity to volunteer for half the day at one of the shelters, and work on an independent project for the other half. This project can range from conducting original research, to volunteering at another organization of your own choosing, to filming a documentary about life in Quito. Volunteers who opt to work on an independent project will design it in the spring, and have the opportunity to apply for mini-grants from VILA.