Skip to main content

Dayton Engineer

Jenna’s Journey: Ethos Experience Brings Clean Water to Rural Communities in Exchange for Cultural Appreciation

Meet Jenna Ladd, a senior mechanical engineering student, who, along with a team of students, embarked on a life-changing journey during an Ethos breakout in May 2023.

Directed by Ethos executive director Kelly Bohrer and assisted by graduate assistant Molly Savage, the team undertook a mission to enhance clean potable water access in the rural, indigenous community of San Juan de Inguincho, just outside Otavalo, Ecuador.

The team's daily routine began with breakfast with host families. Some families lived close enough for the students to walk, while others — like Jenna — required pick-up. They worked from 8 a.m. to noon, with breaks to navigate the challenges of the high altitude. 

On the first day, Jenna and the team jumped right in, digging trenches for pipes to be laid. They had discussed some of the ground work with the Ecuadorian engineer on Zoom prior to their arrival.

The Flyers enjoyed the local cuisine, eating lunch together at a different community member's house each day. One meal included a chicken potato soup with popcorn added for a unique twist. Cultural learning activities extended beyond the job site, including experiences like milking cows and making cheese, as well as learning the art of bracelet weaving. 

One culinary adventure involved trying guinea pig, a delicacy that is a norm for the locals. While Jenna immersed herself in the local culture, she mentioned that although this meal was surprisingly tasty, she wouldn't be indulging in guinea pig back home.

The team didn't just bring water infrastructure to San Juan de Inguchi — they also participated in local festivities. Jenna and her team were taught a cultural dance for Carnival and engaged in the tradition of throwing water for good luck. What started as a cultural activity turned into a full-fledged water fight, involving community members of all ages, from the old to the young.

After a day of hard work and cultural immersion, evenings were spent with host families. Jenna, along with two other students, got to know their host family — mom, dad and two girls aged 5 and 7. The family dinners became an opportunity for mutual learning about each other's lives, fostering a deep connection between the visitors and their hosts.

Jenna Ladd's journey in Ecuador was more than just an engineering project — it was a profound cultural exchange. The breakout provided an opportunity to not only contribute to a community in need, but to also immerse in the rich traditions and daily lives of the people of San Juan de Inguincho. 

The experience left Jenna with a deep appreciation for Ecuadorian culture and a sense of fulfillment that transcended the success of the water project. 

Jenna passionately said, “If you are on the fence about doing an Ethos experience, DO IT! This was hands down the best experience of my life and I am so excited to incorporate what I learned into my daily life and career.”

Previous Post

Senior engineering student inherits beloved Red Scare pilot costume

Whether he is sporting blue body paint or the beloved Red Scare pilot costume, senior electrical engineering student Ryan Peaco can be easily spotted at the front of the student section cheering  the Flyers to victory at University of Dayton basketball games.
Read More
Next Post

Associate Professor Receives Kern Entrepreneurial Engineering Network Rising Star Award

Last week, associate professor Dr. Sidaard Gunasekaran from the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering traveled to the Kern Entrepreneurial Engineering Network (KEEN) National Conference in Austin, Texas to accept the organization’s 2023 National Rising Star Award.

Read More