Volunteering in Salasaka, Ecuador – Katitawa School

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I have arrived four days ago to a big spacious volunteer house where I am sharing a room with a French and a Swedish nicest girls and the rest of the house with a girl from Portland, a guy from Germany and from Ecuador and Robert.

ROBERT: Let me tell you about Robert because when I grow up I want to be like him. When I was in contact with him through e-mail I thought he was 40, when I met him in-person, I thought he was 60, but when he told me he was 80, I almost fell on the ground. He is probably one of the very few elder Americans I know who keeps going and doing good no matter what.

He gets up at 5:30am, makes oatmeal for the whole house, leaves to school before 7, teaches at least 2 classes, helps with the library, and fixes whatever needs to be fixed including solar power panels and water pipes. He gets home by 8pm. We normally cook dinner but if not, a bowl of pop-corn makes Robert happy.

He is not one of those volunteer coordinators that make s profit out of having foreigners to work for him. He is one of those leaders who says “Let’s do it together” and is always there if we need him to cover. He is fully present in conversations and knows what he is talking about. He walks faster than I do and you should see him working with a shovel on a roof. He is truly awesome!

SCHOOL: I haven’t taught at the school yet as the children are on vacation but from what I have seen it seems great. There are two solar panels (one needs to be fixed and we are actually raising money) and two water pipes (one has to be fixed as well and we are also raising money). Here is the link if you are interested in helping. http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/193328. Anything starting at $1 is greatly appreciated. The school was build about 8 years ago and has 6 classrooms, a garden and a cafeteria. I can’t wait to work there.

WORKING WITH KIDS: Because of the vacation we have been working in the library that was also organized by Robert. It has WI-Fi, four computers; quiet a big collection of books a few classrooms as well. I have been mostly teaching Math and Algebra which I love!! However, the indigenous kids are hugely lucking the discipline. I have been pretty strict.  I am pretty sure some of them are terrified of me and probably dislike me; but on the other hand, I believe the most important they can get out of the education is being a respectful and responsible citizens and be able to learn and work.

FOOD: Is absolutely horrible. When I arrived I heard five people killing two pigs. They suffered for about 3 minutes but the sound was heartbreaking. Then, those two pigs spent a night on a library table with the blood dripping on the floor. The next morning, the whole community, or 120 people got together to fix a community center roof and celebrated the finished work with the pigs baked in a dirt whole. That day I pilled about 30kg of potatoes but couldn’t eat anything because everything smelled like pig. A few days later we went out to eat where for $1.75 we got a soup with a piece of pig and rice with beans, potatoes, salad and a big piece of a P-I-G!!!! I couldn’t eat anything and had to stuff myself with bread from a nearby bakery. At the house we don’t eat meat, and from now on, NO PORK FOR ME PLEASE.

WEATHER: You would think that being a few kilometers from Equator would make this place the hottest on Earth. We are freezing cold here. You almost get burned on the sun during the day but at night you have to put every single winter warm cloth you have on. We don’t have hot water in the house either. Showers and laundry with cold water and cold air become a daily challenge. I think the last time I took a shower was three days ago.

OVERALL: I love it!!! The people who I am staying with are great! Most of us are in our mid-20s, business majors who quit our jobs and went on a year quest to help others and learn ourselves. We make dinners together, drink lots of tea, listen to music and play games. We are also grateful to live in a huge house with a beautiful view of Chimborazo (The closest mountain on Earth to the Sun) and have Robert as a boss. And, of course, it’s great to know we are doing not much, but what we can to help the local community.