Sleeping for four days in a hammock underneath a large wooden structure, open and exposed to all of the Amazon’s elements beckons for a post. Three of the nourishers (including myself), worked with members in a community on the outskirts of the rainforest to build a greenhouse in order to grow vegetables. Due to the infamous amount of rain the region receives, vegetables are nearly impossible to grow without some sort of roof to grow under, and of course, protection is necessary to deter the large array of pests.
The community was roughly two hours from the city, Puyo, where we were staying. Thus, to be more efficient, we decided to stay in the community with a host family for a week as we helped build the greenhouse.
We painted a mural in our free time:
We played in waterfalls, picked bananas and cocoa beans, hiked in the rainforest, and had our faces painted with tribal art:
But more importantly, we made an impact within a community composed of the most welcoming and liveliest people, all while creating a bond between us three that continue to this day.
Only have a day left in Ecuador now. I meant to blog more than this but the time went by so fast. I’m definitely satisfied with how the trip went. We worked hard and I felt we had a positive impact on the communities that will be long lasting. I liked being able to experience Esfuerzo, Chuya Yaku, and teaching at a few of the schools. The Esfuerzo community was always very welcoming and thankful for the work we were doing. The people at Chuya Yaku seemed invested in carrying on the completion of the garden.
I wish we had explored more of the country but long travel times and short weekends made it difficult.
Overall, a great experience.
One of our projects, the planting of the garden, takes place in a school called Chuya Yaku. This school is situated deeper into the jungle, 2 hours away from Puyo. We decide to spend the night in Cuya Yaku because I gets very difficult to go back and forward from both locations. The Chuya Yaku community were very welcoming and hospitable; they cooked for us, gave us a plece to sleep, and helped us make progress with the garden and the green house.
This is a picture of the cooking area in their hut. The program provided them with the ingredients to cook for us while we stayed in their community. We had a root vegetable soap and sweet plantain. We enjoyed it!
This next picture is showing an energy tea made with guayusa leaf– indigenous drink this tea at 4:00am at least once a week:
We decided to buy hammocks to sleep in during the night. I can attest that sleeping in a hammock will be some of the most comfortable moments of your life. The right sized hammock and the correct hanging angle can make your sleeping experience in hammocks quite rewarding =)
At about 3:45am we were woken up by a roster…it was the funniest moment! At that time, all we wanted was to find the nearest machete and get rid of that roster. Lol
We all had a great time together in Chuya Yaku( Ellie, Caterina, Jehireh, Devan, Brandon, and I).
It has been almost two weeks since we arrived to Puyo, Ecuador and started our wonderful experience. As many of you know, our mission is to support the children and families of the Ecuadorian Amazon by improving infrastructure and participating in community development.
The project was divided into two teams: The first team (my team) is focusing on the subjects of Health and Hygiene– our mission is to build a restroom at one of the local schools (Esfuerzo)and provide health and hygiene awareness. We’ve been working on the restroom for a week already; it’s almost done and ready to be used!
The second group is going to focus on planting a garden at another local school, called Chuya Yaku, in order to make vegetables and fruits available for the school community.
With regard to our host families, they’ve been very welcoming and supportive. We get to learn about their cultural ways, taste real ecuadorian food; It’s a good cultural emergence =).
The second day after we arrived, my friends and I visited the Botanical Garden, Omaere.
The name Omaere means “Nature of the Rainforest.” The park was founded in 1993 by two French women and a Shuar woman– Native Ecuadorian tribe. Omaere houses many of the most important medicinal plants to amazonian people.
A plant that caught my attention was the walking palm tree: This species of palm tree is capable of walking up to 4 meter to obtain sunlight.
I hope everyone is doing well!
Meet Christina Gutierrez, Nourish student from Cornell University and 2013 Bridge Scholar recipient, an amazing leader who fully embodies the values and mission of Nourish International. Christina tells it best!
My name is Christina Gutierrez, a sophomore at Cornell University studying History with minors in Latin American studies and Inequality studies and I love to travel and combine my love for cultures with my passion for international development.
We asked Christina, “Why Nourish”?
I became involved in Nourish almost immediately upon my arrival at Cornell because I thought that the goals and values behind Nourish International fit very closely to my own. I became a SAB (Student Advisory Board) student representative during my freshman year and now am the IP (International Projects) director for my chapter.
Finding an organization that truly empowers students to make meaningful changes in the world is just amazing. I have always had a passion for helping others and would really like to travel the world, meshing these two desires together seemed difficult until I found Nourish. Nourish makes me feel as if I have the ability to change the world; right now, as a student.
What project did you go on this past summer and why did you decide to participate?
I went on the Cornell-UPenn project in Managua, Nicaragua to partner with a grassroots non-profit ATRAVES. We worked in the small barrio of Camilo Ortega specifically within Barrio San William Galeano. Our project had three tiers; computer literacy, agriculture and health. I loved the project and really wanted to participate. I would not have been able to participate due to lack of travel funds this summer had it not been for the generosity and faith that NINO (Nourish International National Office)had in me. I was awarded a Bridge Scholarship, a competitive scholarship program that Nourish National Office offers to students wanting to volunteer abroad.
What did your project team achieve?
We taught dozens of classes in Nutrition, Environmental Education, Computer Literacy, Health and Sex Education. We planted hundreds of seedlings and created three new garden beds. The health group saw dozens of patients. We also collectively helped to complete the first ever electrical system in Camilo in the health center.
What did you learn from this experience ?
This experience helped me find my passion. I can make an impact doing what I love to do. It was an amazing feeling working and living in the community and I cannot wait to do it all over again, hopefully for the rest of my life!
I also learned how to chisel into a concrete wall with a hammer and pike, how to plant effectively, how to hoe and clear idle land, how to climb a volcano, how to bucket flush, how to dig huge holes, how to wash clothes on a pila, how to bargain with everyone, and how to enjoy all the little things.
What I learned from this trip cannot be measured, but I hope I will carry it with me forever and use my experiences to help me fulfill my dreams.
How do you hope your involvement in the Project will impact the area?
I hope that the electrical system we helped install will carry the Casa de Salud on its way to becoming a state recognized health clinic. I hope (most) of the seedlings we planted will survive and help provide more fresh produce to the community. I hope that the areas we cleared will be used to grow necessary plants and food for members of the community. I hope that the mosaics we helped the children make will make them feel as if the nursery is their’s as well. I hope the students took away a lot of valuable information from the lessons we taught; that they remember how to use Google docs, to type with both hands, that avocado is a fruit not a vegetable, that soil erosion can be treated with less deforestation, and that they are just kids. Most of all, I hope that they remember me and the whole team with a smile.
Just over a week ago Cornell and U Penn completed our summer project with ATRAVES in Barrio San William Galeano, Managua, Nicaragua.
During our five weeks in the community, three focus groups made incredible impact and progress with their respective projects. The Health group taught sex education and health classes, walked with community health workers to patient homes, and further developed an existing community health assessment. The Computers group taught classes in computer literacy to students of all ages and worked with community and staff members in developing excel skills. Additionally, the Vivero group taught nutrition and environmental education classes along with creating multiple areas in the community for gardening and agricultural development. All together we taught almost 30 classes, planted over 100 seedlings and sprouts, and helped install an electrical system for the Casa de Salud, ATRAVES’ home base.
One of our group reflections during our time with ATRAVES was based on values, forcing participants to narrow down our most important values and choose what was most important to us. One of my top three was “Building Relationships”. During the five weeks that I spent in Nicaragua, I got to know a lot of amazing people. The students, families, and community members that I had the privilege of working with in the community made this project so meaningful to me. Don Fran and Don William, brothers from the community that are so dedicated to the work that ATRAVES is doing and hold so many talents to make every project possible. Yami and Griselda, the conductors of the prometoras (community health advisors) who found passion in their work and shared with us the secrets of maintaining that same happiness and passion. Leticia, one of the fearless leaders of ATRAVES that inspired us all with her brilliant orations and told us that we would forever be members of the ATRAVES family.
I will never forget the relationships I forged during my summer in Nicaragua, nor will I forget the love and openness our project team was received with. On our last day inthe community so many of our new friends and students would not tell us goodbye, only hasta luego, “see you later”. The appreciation that the community showed to us everyday along with the immense gratitude that I have towards the community for such kindness,truly represents the relationship that Nourish has formed with San William Galeano. A relationship that I hope to foster in the coming years through work with Nourish or on my own.
The Vivero team with their fearless leader Don William
Christina, Olivia, Jaime and Jean with their Nutrition students.
The whole ATRAVES family and students.
Christina with jack of all trades, Don Fran, and his children, Franklin and Diana.
The trip has now concluded and we’ve all returned home. Since my last blog quite a lot has happened. We visited Omatepe to hike the volcano Maderas, hit San Juan Del Sur a second time for beach fun, and visited Granada to cap off the trip. All three were a great time.
The electric system is up and running and looks great. Only thing left now seems to be painting.
It was difficult saying goodbyes, especially to the Atraves staff, the children of the community, and my host mother, but all things must come to an end.
I think I will have to return to Nicaragua at some point, but I do not know when or for what. One thing I would definitely like to do is visit the northern parts of the country.
Since the last time I blogged I hiked and camped on a volcano, tried out the computers and vivero groups, and visited San Juan Del Sur. The hiking was pretty tough, especially since I had very little traction on my shoes and we all know that hiking is all about traction. It was pretty amazing being at the top of the volcano and honestly it was a little scary being so close that you could easily fall in to your death. Pretty cool for a first hiking experience I think.
The computers and vivero groups were both fun experiences. It was neat being able to work with different members of our group and to take a stab at the different work that we as a group are doing here. This week I have switched back to the medical group. This turned out to be good timing because we are now trained to give blood pressure and measure blood sugar levels so visiting patients with the promotoras is now more interactive instead of simple observation.
San Juan Del Sur was a nice beach town. We went to a beach called Maderas which was beautiful. One of the girls got stabbed by a stingray in her foot and had to leave early. There was concern over whether it could be venomous but thankfully it wasn’t. On the last day of the trip the boys and I went on a fishing trip. Turns out we only got one bite on the trip and we didn’t even reel that in successfully. Even so, being out on the water was a great experience and we got to check out this little private beach where there were tons of crabs and hermit crabs. We manage to capture one crab and played with him for a little while, before of course letting him free.
Moving in on week 3 of Cornell-UPenn in Nicaragua and our third work week is in full swing. No one can believe how fast time has been passing and 2 students from the University of Southern Florida have been added to the adventure!
Our partner organization, ATRAVES, has a strong foundation in the importance of solidarity as a community value. Your problems are my problems. The problems of the world are each of our problems. Etc.
Our volunteer coordinator and site cheerleader, Corey, based our last reflection off of the idea of solidarity. How we see it in our daily lives, how it applies to the work we are doing in Camilo, and most importantly how it can change and empower communities for the better.
I have been thinking about how closely this aligns to the work that Nourish accomplishes all over the world and really valuing the sense of solidarity I feel amongst our student group as well as within the community. Everyday we work in small teams in daily tasks such as electrical construction, gardening, teaching and planning. But behind all of this execution is a whole lot of team effort and sacrifice, whether that manifests in terms of time, work, sleep or personal preference, it is a sacrifice nonetheless. And it is valued by everyone involved because it allows us to contribute more to the community as a strong united front.
Reflecting on how solidarity has helped our group become closer and stronger, we set off to trek a volcano this past weekend. And let me tell you, solidarity has amazing effects. Especially when my loyal compadre, Jaime, refused to leave my side as I held up the back of the pack on our 4-5 hour hike up the volcano. Although the trek was difficult and some struggled along the way (i.e. me) everyone was incredibly encouraging and positive with one another. When we finally reached our campsite and climbed to the crater, we could not have been more proud of each other and it definitely made the long journey more than worth it.
Jean, UPenn Chapter Leader, and I the morning after camping on the volcano.
Olivia and I (Cornell) very excited to be watching the sunrise
Cornell-UPenn-USF is stronger and better than ever, ready to show the power of solidarity this week as we continue executing our plans!
The whole shibang (+ one of our amazing Sonati tour guides) before leaving our beloved volcano and beginning the journey down.