Director of Service-Learning
Office of Service-Learning
4200 54th Avenue South
St. Petersburg, FL 33711
Ecuador: Spring Break 11
Eleven students along with ECOS President Lauren DeLalla and staff member Makenzie Schiemann traveled to Ecuador to perform service work at Saraswati Ahimsa Vana. Saraswati Ahimsa Vana is operated by a Bhakti-yoga orientated family. The family and their team are working to start up an organic farm and nature reserve to protect part of the Amazon rainforest and its animals. The farm is located in the Amazon Rainforest, approximately 30 minutes from the town of Tena and 6 hours from the capital city of Quito.
While at Saraswati Ahimsa Vana, the group assisted in furthering the farm's community outreach and educational programs. The group's main contribution was clearing the land and hauling the materials to build a pavilion used to teach classes to local schoolchildren. At the outset, the group's goal was to clear the land and complete the structure prior to their departure. Unfortunately, this goal was not fulfilled as there was a death in the local town that brought all construction to a halt. Instead, the team spent the rest of the week helping the farm harvest and process sugar cane and cocoa beans. The sugar cane and cocoa plants were used to make fresh sugar and hot cocoa - they were delicious!
The group also had the wonderful opportunity to take the knowledge that they learned from Saraswati Ahimsa and pass it on to a group of English students at the Cambridge School. Sarawati's goal is to work with the local community schools throughout the Napo Province and Ecuador to teach alternative sustainable ways of living and create a better future for Ecuador and its people. As the farm is fairly new and most of the worker's time is spent planting and harvesting, they haven't had the chance to go into the schools and start their educational programming. Eckerd's team helped the farm develop their first two lesson plans that can be used in the schools to teach about processing sugar cane and cocoa beans and also how to effectively compost and recycle in the rainforest. The group then taught the lesson plans to two groups of children ages 8-12. Interacting with the children, teaching them about sustainable ways of living, and helping them practice their English was an unexpected addition to the trip's itinerary that proved rewarding and most memorable.
The group also bonded over long hikes, mile long treks through mud to the "Grand Canyon", cliff diving and late night hikes to see the amazing bioluminescent tree roots. In every aspect, the trip was rewarding, challenging, and fun. Most notably, the group was able to contribute to Saraswati's mission of educating the local community by starting the project for an education pavilion and helping them develop lesson plans to utilize in this space once it is finished.