Students build foundation for empowerment in Ecuador

An enthusiastic group of Trinity College School students journeyed to the “middle of the Earth” for the annual Me To We Ecuador service learning trip, November 23rd to December 8th.

The group of 16 students, along with chaperones Mr. Brent Hurley and Ms. Jacqui Priolo, arrived in the capital city of Quito late the evening of November 23rd, enjoying a good sleep before a busy following day that included a walking tour of the Old Historic Quito. This was led by a woman playing the role of a charismatic purgatory soul (“Limbo Spirit”) who came from the XXI century to share some secrets of this amazing city. She was very knowledgeable and taught the group about the religion, medicine, art and history of the area. Among the sights of the city were many beautiful baroque churches. Then the group travelled up to Itchimbía Park, which provides a stunning view of the city, before heading to the Equator. There is a museum at this location and the chance to learn about the culture of Ecuador as well as scientific properties related to the Equator.

On Tuesday, the group headed into the Andes, to their base for much of the trip, the Hosteria Pircapamba in the small town of Alausí. There, students learned more about the country and the community in which they would be serving. The build site itself was located in Shuid, a village in which TCS students have worked before. Students worked alongside the community members on activities including mixing cement, painting tiles and painting wooden beams. They even learned how to make bricks! Among the projects undertaken was the foundation for a water station. The people of Shuid welcomed our students, sharing their knowledge and experience, including Segundo, our foreman (maestro). And the young people of the community enjoyed several games of soccer with our students.

Each day included the chance to work on the build site and also the opportunity to take in more of the Ecuadorian culture and the work that WE is doing in the area. For example, students took part in a cooking class and learned about the importance of guinea pigs as a local food source; they were tasked with going to the market and discovering how to feed a family on a budget of just $1; they were taught how to shear sheep and spin wool into yarn by the Sumak Ahuana women’s group; spent time working in the potato fields; made bracelets with a local girls’ club; and experienced the long walk families would take to fetch water each day prior to the construction of new water systems. One special trip was taken to Sablog, where TCS students served last year.

These activities were structured around different aspects of WE’s five pillars, which are education, water, health, food and opportunity. The pillars guide WE’s development activities, laying a foundation for the empowerment of local people. Our students were privileged to learn from the people of Ecuador, to hear their stories, to understand their challenges and to be inspired by their resilience.

Evenings included the chance to debrief and have important discussions on themes of social justice and community development. Through these activities, students came to understand the value of consensus and inclusion in decision-making. There was also time for games and chatting, creating lifelong bonds amongst participants.

The trip concluded with a short stay in the Amazon, based at Minga Lodge, and the chance to experience new aspects of life in Ecuador. Students tasted fruit and hot chilies, and learned about the importance of clean water at the local farm of Don Bargas; crafted bracelets alongside the women of Sumak Warmi; and explored the rainforest, learning about the diverse plant and animal life of this precious ecosystem.

The group returned to Canada on Sunday, December 8th, filled with memories and new friendships, and eager to apply their newfound knowledge to actionable plans. Thank you to the 2019 Ecuador group members for the enthusiasm, resilience and empathy they displayed throughout their journey: Wyatt Woloshyn, Nicole Wang, Jonathan Xu, Natalie Lane, Loretta Hu, Ayuho Negishi, Jack Moser, Jessica Saunders, Sarah Bailey, Waverley DiNova, Malte Pommer, Jayda Simmonds, Taylor Hagen, Mark Zhang, Olivia Hill and Anthony Soles.