Unfortunately my time in Ecuador is quickly coming to an end. I’ll be flying home this Tuesday, and I’ve travelled to Quito to visit some friends before leaving. I've been pretty busy exploring the city, but I've also taken some time to reflect upon my last few weeks at Yachana.
When I got back from my trip to the coast and to Ecuador’s highland, Yachana High School’s vacation had begun. I moved my belongings back to Yachana Lodge, where I helped plan some new projects which the foundation is setting up.
One of these projects is called the “Discovery and Experience Park.” Students from schools throughout Ecuador will visit Yachana High School for three days, and learn about science through hands-on activities and experiments. The topics covered will include rainforest protection, tropical agriculture, renewable energy, the Amazon region’s culture and history and Ecuadorian geography. It will be a chance for students to benefit from practical and interactive learning, and to see the agriculture projects which Yachana students work on. The program will be run using peer-to-peer learning – Yachana’s students will be instructing the visiting students. We are hoping that the Discovery and Experience Park will make a significant profit, which will provide Yachana High School with badly needed funding. The park’s success will avoid a potential shut down of the school due to financial difficulties.
While Yachana’s staff planned the Discovery and Experience Park, the school’s seniors prepared for their graduation. It was Yachana High School’s third graduation since it opened in 2005. It took place at the lodge, where dozens of guests gathered to watch the graduates receive their diplomas. The event started with speeches by director of the school, the mayor of the province, and the executive director of Yachana Foundation. After the graduates received their diplomas, they gave an impressive demonstration of drama and theater activities they’ve been practicing. This was followed by a traditional Kichwa dance presentation by the 11th graders, and a juggling presentation by some visiting artists. Then the graduates posed for pictures with their diplomas. At the end of the event all the guests were served pork for lunch, from a pig which was raised by the students themselves. Many of the graduates plan to look for employment in the tourism sector, at lodges similar to Yachana’s.
As I packed my bags to leave for Quito, I thought about Yachana Foundation and my experience as an intern. There’s no doubt in my mind that I learned a lot in the past two months. Doing on-the-ground development work allowed me to gain genuine insight on the challenges which development projects face.
It wasn’t easy to say goodbye to all the great people I’ve gotten to know in the past two months, and much less to leave Yachana behind. Yachana is a very dynamic organization, which is constantly expanding and planning new ventures and programs. I’m looking forward to seeing how it changes in the next few years and to hearing about the exciting projects its working on.