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Dayton Engineer

A group of UD students posing for a photo with a local Ecuadorian man.

Kind People, Meaningful Work: My Unforgettable Trip to Ecuador

By Caleb Herbon

This blog was originally posted on the Tandana Foundation Blog.

 Our experience in the region in and around Otavalo, Ecuador with The Tandana Foundation was nothing short of incredible. From the first moment that we touched down in Quito, Kuri and Omar, Tandana staff and our guides for the trip, were there to welcome us to Ecuador and accompany us on our bus ride to Otavalo. Their knowledge and experience throughout the entire trip were indispensable and highlighted the value of every moment and activity that our group experienced. From start to finish, Omar and Kuri, along with the other Tandana leader that we worked with, Gaetan, were extremely well organized, personable, and helpful. 

These individuals were only the tip of the iceberg that were the many beautiful people that we met and had the blessing of spending time with while in Ecuador. Once in Otavalo and then subsequently the mountainous region of Yambiro, the community members welcomed us with open arms. The families we met and stayed with were nothing but loving and kind throughout our stay with them. They will forever have a place in our hearts.

Our project consisted of working with the women’s group in Yambiro and other community members to install a freshwater pipeline for a new tilapia production facility for the community. We worked each of the weekdays in the morning to accomplish this objective. The work with the community always felt meaningful and productive. One of our biggest takeaways was how strong and determined the women of the community were. Try as we might, none of us could come close to their level of work. Each member of the community that we met was incredibly kind and welcoming, and working with them was one of the highlights of the experience.

Besides working on the project, Tandana had a very intentional and well-planned itinerary for our trip. After the workday, we would have lunch with our host families and then partake in an activity with the community or explore another part of the greater Otavalo region. Examples of the activities we experienced included making humitas and colada, playing sports with the children in Yambiro, exploring Quichinche, and listening to a talk about the fascinating topic of indigenous justice presented by one of the community leaders, Fabian. After the activities, we would return to our host family for dinner. All the food that was graciously prepared for us by the families was delicious and unique to Ecuador. The meals and time to bond with our host families were some of the best moments of the week.

During our stay in Yambiro, no time was wasted. Every moment of the day was filled with something beautiful and valuable. The Tandana staff that accompanied us on our journey were fantastic. I can speak nothing but praise for their leadership and aid throughout every step of our journey. This experience opened all our eyes to the beauty of Ecuador, specifically in the indigenous communities surrounding Otavalo. Yambiro and its people will always be in our hearts and minds, and the experience that we had will never be forgotten. We cannot wait to hopefully return one day.

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