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Amy Greeley sitting in front of a computer

"It brings me back to my days in Ecuador," Amy Greeley says of volunteering at the Honorary Ecuador Consulate in the Twin Cities. "It's one of the best things I've done."

U volunteer helps run Ecuadorian consulate

By Bob San

Aug. 22, 2006

When Amy Greeley lived in Ecuador for seven months through the University of Minnesota's Minnesota Studies In International Development (MSID) program, she was greeted with open arms and treated warmly by her host family and the Ecuadorian people. Today Greeley, an associate advising director in the university's Learning Abroad Center, is returning that favor as a volunteer at the Ecuadorian consulate in the Twin Cities. In response to the rapidly growing Ecuadorian community in the Twin Cities, the Ecuadorian Ministry of Foreign Affairs opened a consulate in Minneapolis this March and named Juan Moreno, a diversity program director and inclusion specialist with the University of Minnesota Extension Service, as the honorary consul. Located on Lake Street in South Minneapolis, the consulate allows local Ecuadorians greater access to passport and legal document services. Operating the Twin Cities consulate is a labor of love for Moreno and a group of volunteers, who receive no salaries for their service. When Greeley learned that the consulate needed volunteers, she jumped at the chance. "It's a way for me to meet the people, practice Spanish and to give back what the Ecuadorian people gave me when I was there," said Greeley, who interned in an indigenous co-op and assisted the people in marketing their handmade tapestries when she was in Ecuador. "Amy has been there since day one," Moreno said. "She has been a wonderful volunteer for us." The consulate is open on Tuesday and Thursday evenings and the first Saturday morning of each month. Greeley volunteers one night a week. She is joined by about 10 regular volunteers--including several University alumni--who help visitors process passports and power-of-attorney documents. When the consulate first opened, there was a big rush of Ecuadorians seeking services and the place was crazy, Greeley said. Since then, things have settled down. The consulate now averages 10 to 12 cases a night. Greeley is happy to help, but she also enjoys just being in the consulate and visiting with the people, even when it's not busy. "It's really nice and homey," Greeley said. "You are on official Ecuadorian soil and it really feels like you are in Ecuador. You are speaking Spanish, and the way you greet and talk to people, the way jokes are made, the way you make popcorn and pass it around the room, everything is very Ecuadorian. It brings me back to my days in Ecuador. It makes me smile. It's one of the best things I've done." Greeley's tireless volunteerism has endeared her to the Ecuadorian people. Recently she was asked to be a judge in the Miss Ecuador Minnesota Pageant. "Amy es una persona maravillosa (Amy is a marvelous person)," said Gustavo Bernal, a fellow volunteer at the consulate. "This place would not have worked without her." Things are going well at the consulate but it can always use more volunteers. A volunteer should have a good knowledge of Spanish, since all the documents are in Spanish, but other than that, Greeley said the only qualifications one needs are an interest in Ecuador and a willingness to help. Those interested in volunteering can call Moreno at 612-625-5252 or contact the consulate at 612-721-6468. The consulate is located at 1304 E. Lake St. Minneapolis.