Last week our wonderful writer Kim brought you highlights from Free The Children and ME to WE staff’s experience in Kenya. Now, check out some pretty cool moments from our staff trip to the Amazon!
From the moment the plane landed in Quito, Ecuador’s capital, it felt like a second home. Forty staff made the trek to the lush, green jungle, and everyone was excited for the adventure that awaited—and to get our hands dirty on some volunteer projects. Here are some awesome moments we just can’t get out of our heads!
1. Breaking a Sweat on the Worksite
We spent three days finishing the floor of a school kitchen in the community of Mondana. One of the biggest challenges we learned about was how difficult it is to get materials to the rainforest. Just for our work alone, we had to gather gravel and rocks from one side of the river, carry it to the boat, bring it up to the construction site and then mix it all by hand. Filling bucket after bucket with cement, we watched as the floor of the kitchen slowly took shape. It was a lot of hard work, but definitely worth it when we saw what we’d accomplished.
The school kitchen isn’t quite finished yet—the walls need to be painted, doors and windows installed and appliances put in. But one day soon, it will be a safe, clean place where school lunches will be prepared for students in Mondana, giving them a boost of energy in the middle of each busy school day.
2. Living A Day-In-The-Life, Jungle Style!
A quick boat ride up the Rio Napo brought us to the family farm of Don Vargas and his wife. They invited us into their home and taught us about the different types of fruit they grow. Did you know that oranges are green in Ecuador, and not orange? We got to sample a variety of fresh fruit. All I can say is BEST FRUIT EVER.
Later on, we trekked through the jungle to a river near Don’s house where water pools into a natural spring. It’s where the family and several of their neighbours collect water to use for drinking, cooking and cleaning. Unfortunately, this is an unreliable source because it could dry up or overflow into the rest of the river when it rains. We filled our plastic jugs and hiked back on the muddy trail lined with towering trees and brightly coloured flowers, thankful that we could simply turn on taps to get water at home.
The experience at Don’s house was a great way to get a look at what day-to-day life is like for families in the rainforest. We loved seeing how proud Don was of his farm and all he had accomplished.
3. Meeting Girls’ Club Members from Chimborazo
One of the surprises on the trip was when seven girls from San Miguel and Gulahuayco in Chimborazo came to the Amazon for the last couple days. Maria Angela, the leader of women’s groups in Chimborazo, also came down to talk to us. We learned about the projects in Chimborazo, especially the girls’ clubs and their impact. There was also a workshop with the girls’ club members where they shared the types of projects they do in their different communities and taught us about the crafts they make. We got to try beading bracelets and necklaces, and also weaving Cintas—it’s way harder than it looks!
It was amazing just to see those girls in the Amazon who were once shy and reserved. It was the first time they had visited and to see them confident enough to come all that way and speak to the group was incredible.
4. Sharing Smiles
Our trip was packed with adventure and volunteering—an experience that all of us will remember for a lifetime. One thing that stuck out most was the beautiful smiling faces of the Ecuadorian kids. They were always happy and that energy was something you felt every day. It was extremely gratifying to work on a volunteer project and be part of something that could make their futures better.