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Posts Tagged ‘Andes’


Recently, I spent 2 full weeks visiting and doing some volunteer work with Free the Children / Me to We in Ecuador. I had the pleasure and honor to meet and work with a number of outstanding leaders, they may not consider themselves leaders or pioneers, but they are to me.

In the Amazon village of Bella Vista Baja next to the Napo River, I along with 26 others helped to build a school. This community in the Amazon is in its first year working with Free the Children to build a school to serve Bella Vista and the neighbouring communities. The leaders we met here were:

  • Robert, our project coordinator and field guide. He was an energizing bunny … when we all stopped to take a drink of water or rest our arms, he continued to work in various capacities, showing us what to do, repairing the brokenĀ  foundation forms, cheering us on or being the translator between us and the villagers. He has intimate knowledge of the rainforest … he demonstrated this amply during our night hike. He proudly shared his culture with us through his cooking demo (in the dark by the fire) … the majority of our team tasted the delicacy valued by his people, the grub. Most of us tried the grub, cooked; only 3 brave souls tried it raw and alive. We were honored to visit his village, Mondana, and met some of the folks who proudly showed us their woven products.
  • Ellie, our facility manager at the Minga Lodge, who took great care of us with her smiles and grace.

The term “minga” means that if something needs doing, the whole village comes together to help. I love this concept.

After 7-8 hours on the bus up and over the Andes mountains, as high as 14000 ft in elevation, we arrived and stayed at a lodge near Alausi (near Riobamba). Our work was in the village of San Miguel, which has been working with Free the Children for 5-6 years. Our group helped to build classrooms # 9 and 10. The villagers were very grateful that we, the foreigners, cared enough to come and help them.

Even though I couldn’t understand what was being said, I felt the thankfulness, emotions and tears shared by one of the male elders of the village. One of the leaders in this village was Maria, she helped to form and maintain local girls clubs and women’s groups … the females traditionally did not go or stay in school because of their expected roles in the households (doing the work in the fields, taking care of the home and children). The girls clubs and women’s groups helped these girls and women to find their voices, to learn to express their interests and thoughts, to be heard, to stand up and be counted despite opposing challenges typically by the males. Many only spoke Kichua, the indigenous language, and not Spanish in this remote village.

The girls and women found and learned ways to earn additional income (through their weaving and knitting) so that they could become more independent and contribute to their own welfare. It was simply amazing to hear their stories through our translator, to celebrate with them how far they have come with their accomplishments. The girls were extremely shy; they didn’t know how to respond to our compliments and encouragement.

This trip was very different than the Kenya experience, but no less amazing and profound.

One of the most AWESOME aspects of this trip was that I was able to share this experience with my husband and son. What a gift!

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