Me to We Ecuador

The 2018 Me to We Ecuador trip took place November 24th-December 9th

Back in 2009, 12 TCS students, accompanied by three teachers, travelled to Ecuador from December 9th-22nd in partnership with Me to We. After raising the $10,000 in funds required to build a school in Ecuador, the group spent two weeks in the San Miguel community in Chimborazo province helping to build a much-needed new school there. They also spent time connecting with the local children, playing games and participating in English/Spanish lessons with the Grade 8 class of the school. After a week of working in the community, they headed off to the Amazon to reflect upon their experiences and participated in empowering leadership sessions aimed at capturing their talents and interests to create an individual plan for each student to take home and make a positive change.

Each December since 2009, a new group of students has eagerly taken on the personal challenge of the Ecuador service learning trip. In addition to empowering students with respect to the impact they can have in developing areas of the world, this annual trip also facilitates learning about indigenous cultures and issues such as access to education, gender, fair trade and the environment. Along with the annual build project, which allows students to work alongside community members on a project of significant importance, students have the chance to visit grassroots community organizations, participate in science experiments at the equator, and finally take the time to reflect on their experiences during a retreat at the end of the trip.

The Ecuador trip is part of the School's Week Without Walls initiative. Week Without Walls is a program which has all Senior students and faculty members leave the classroom for three days to engage in community service opportunities aimed at both contributing to the greater community and helping students to embrace their potential to make a difference. The Week Without Walls was initiated as part of the School’s comprehensive service learning program, which supports our mission of “developing habits of the heart and mind for a life of purpose and service.”

WE (formerly Free the Children) is the world's largest network of children helping children through education, with more than one million youth involved in their innovative education and development programs in 45 countries. Free the Children co-founder Marc Kielburger has shared his thanks with TCS "for all the students and staff and families for their remarkable fundraising efforts" in support of this international initiative.

Updates from our students' journey to Ecuador, November 24 to December 9, 2018:

December 7, 2018

Hola from the lungs of the planet, the Amazon!

Wednesday, early morning, we drove through the Andes, contemplating the magnificent Tungurahua volcano from the window. We had a delicious lunch at Baños de Agua Santa, a little town surrounded by waterfalls!

Finally, after some hours on the road, we made it to the Amazon!

Thursday, we joined a local farmer across the river from the Minga Lodge, to show us what a day in his life as a farmer in the Amazon is like. We trekked water from the river up to his farm, where we emptied the water into a tank for him to use in his home. While there, we learnt about his tragic, yet inspiring story regarding the trials he faced to get access to clean water in his home.

In the afternoon, we went to visit the community of Bellavista, where we met the amazing Sumak Warmi artisans group. They taught us how to do handicrafts with natural fibre taken from a plant called Pita. It was a lot of fun to learn how to do the string that is used to weave bracelets and other products.

During the night, our jungle guide Robert took us on a night walk where we could see a lot of different species of insects and other animals. We will definitely tell you a lot more about this when we see you.

We can't believe our trip is almost over, but we are looking forward to seeing you soon and telling you all the stories from our journey through Ecuador.

TCS Ecuador Team

 

December 4, 2018

Hola amigos!

Monday morning, we went to Pucaratambo, located in a place called Cacha, where we were welcomed by Maria Luz who gave us a tour of the property and a lesson on the Cacha culture and history. Cacha is one of the oldest Indigenous communities in Ecuador.

After that, we met Margarita, a member of the WE country team in Ecuador who works closely with the “Health and Food” pillars in the communities in Chimborazo. We learned more about those pillars and she also prepared a cooking lesson where we learned how to make a local dish, commonly made by mothers in the Andes to send with their children to school. Chapo is made from roasted and then hand-ground barley (which we all got the chance to do) and then mixed with cane sugar water. The sweet treat was definitely a reward after the hard work that took to make it, although it’s hard to imagine waking up every morning to roast and grind barley by hand to make a meal for your children. It was a great experience though to get to try another local dish and get to have a better understanding of the communities we are working in.

Later that day, we drove to Gulaghuayco, a community of around 300 families who produce milk and a variety of crops. Here we met Mercedes who told us how, up until a few years ago, community members had to walk up 30 minutes or more to retrieve fresh water, often doing this many times a day. This is something that people from remote communities in the highland of Ecuador need to do in order to have water. We were touched by her story and that’s how our water journey began; we grabbed our jugs and started walking through fields of grass and cows until we reached a stream where we filled our jugs with water. The way back was very difficult as the altitude and the weight from the jugs made us tired. But we made it! We helped her bring water to her house, even though this community already have access to clean water thanks to WE and groups of kids just like us who helped build the water system.

Tuesday, our final day in the region, we again spent the whole day building and were able to get quite a bit of work done! We were very happy to see the progress in the school and felt proud to be the ones responsible for all those smiles we saw earlier that day while playing a soccer match with the older kids from the school who are also our age.

After dinner, we were surprised when a local band called Chusik Andinos (Owl from the Andes, in Quichua) played some music for us.

This band works hard to preserve local Andes music and we were happy to be able to share this moment with the group. We ended the night on a high note with lots of dancing and laughter!

As we head out to Minga Lodge in the Amazon Rainforest, we are feeling so happy for our experiences here at Inti Sisa in Chimborazo. Looking forward to telling you about the next part of our journey!

TCS Ecuador Team

 



December 3, 2018

Hola fans and followers!

On Friday we continued with the work at Sablog. We got to mix the cement for the sidewalk, paint the walls, dig trenches and bend wires. It was a productive day for all of us because we finished the first part of the sidewalk. We were really happy to see the progress in the community.

Saturday, we returned to Sablog to keep up with the work in the community. Throughout our day we got to mix the remaining part of the cement to finish the sidewalk – and we did it! Also, we started painting the second floor and finished the trenches for the new building.

On Sunday we drove through the patchwork of green that characterizes this part of the Andes mountains. We arrived in Pulingi, a small village close to the foot of the Chimborazo volcano, the mountain closest to the sun due to its location on the equatorial bulge. There we visited Sumak Ahuana, a women’s group dedicated to handicrafts and female emancipation. We learnt about their difficult, yet inspiring story. They had overcome enormous obstacles to acquire their own freedom and secure control over their own lives. In the evening we went with one of the ladies, Cristina, to help her with one of her daily chores and learn about how life in the village looks. We worked in her field and got an insight into how hard their lives are.

Tomorrow we’ll be having another cultural day. In the morning we’ll have a cooking class and in the afternoon we will be going on a water walk. We'll let you all know how it is in a couple of days. Stay tuned!

TCS Ecuador Team
 



November 30, 2018

Hola familia!

Trinity College School is checking in from the Andes!

On Wednesday, we returned to Sablog for another day of work in the community. Throughout the day we got to continue working on the foundations for the classrooms; painting the walls for classrooms 3 and 4; we also cut and bent rebar, to only mention a few things. It is hard work, especially considering that we’re almost at 3,400 metres above sea level. But being surrounded by majestic mountain peaks and having the children come up to us and talk to us provide a motivation which is unparalleled.

Thursday, we spent our morning exploring the Guamote market, which is the second largest market in the highlands. The night before, we were divided in groups and assigned a family profile and a budget to buy a meal for our family. At the market we needed to buy food for our family. The catch was that we only got 50 cents and $1 (according to our budgets) to buy our food with; an amount which is quite normal for families in Ecuador. Needless to say, the task was hard and it put into perspective the food we take for granted. Also, it was a unique experience to be able to participate in what would be a reality for many of the indigenous people of Ecuador.

In the afternoon we found ourselves surrounded by clouds as we drove through the rolling mountain landscape on our way to the girl’s club in San Miguel de Pomachaca. San Miguel is one of the first communities which WE started working with in Ecuador and a community which TCS has been a pivotal part on helping build. It was exciting to see what a finished community looks like and knowing that we are part of the same process with our work in Sablog.

At the girl’s club we learnt about the life of teenage women in rural Chimborazo and the value they put on education. These girls, who are our age, make and sell their own handicrafts to afford to go to school and finish their education. We got to try to make bracelets and necklaces, and had the chance to interact with them, despite the language barrier.

Tomorrow we’ll be heading back to Sablog for another full day of working!

Until then, hasta luego!

TCS Ecuador Team
 



Click here for more photos.

November 28, 2018

Hola familia!

It is hard to believe that we have already completed day three and four. What an experience we are having. Everyone has been so friendly and kind, and we continue to learn more and more each day.

Monday, November 26th, was a long travel day. We had a six-hour bus ride from the city of Quito to Riobamba. We were thrilled to finally arrive at Guamote Town and start exploring our “home away from home.” It is beyond beautiful here and we seem to be loving every minute of our adventures.

Tuesday, November 27th, was our first day on the build site. We are working in the community of Sablog, only 30 minutes away from the hotel. Our special project is helping with the foundation of classrooms 5 and 6 for the school. It’s so exciting for the community, but also for us to be working so hard to make a difference in this place.

We are in love with the food we have tried at our hotel Inti Sisa, it is really delicious. It’s amazing to try new fruits and new flavours. We are having a great time.

Sending all our love from the Andes… Stay tuned for more adventures!

TCS Ecuador Team
 

November 25, 2018

Hola amigos!

Hope you are having a nice time at home – we hear it’s rainy!

As you know, we made it safely to Quito Saturday evening, and we have been on a whirlwind of an adventure since!

Sunday was our day to explore the city of Quito. After breakfast, we took to the streets for a guided historical walking tour. As we walked through the cobblestone roadways of La Ronda we were met by a man in traditional indigenous garments. He called himself a Barbero and we learned about how he took care of people’s health aside from his regular job of cutting hair.

During the tour we had the opportunity to visit an old hospital museum, where the Barbero taught us about traditional methods of healing different from the medicine we know nowadays. We ended our time with our guide in the main square, where he played some local instruments like a rondador, made with a very specific type of bamboo.

After the tour we had lunch with a view at Itchimbia Park, before heading off to the museum on the equator. What an experience the museum was. We learned a little bit more about the traditional life of indigenous communities of Ecuador, their tools, beliefs and daily lives. But, who knew the equator could affect us so much! When we get home, ask us about trying to balance or use our strength on the equator; you couldn’t imagine the interesting things we learned at this interactive museum!

Tomorrow (Monday) we will be up bright and early to head to the province of Chimborazo, where we will settle in for the next days and volunteer at the community of Sablog.

Hasta Luego! See you later!

TCS Ecuador Team