A Lewis Center Resident Experienced Education in Ecuador with The Tandana Foundation and the University of Cincinnati
Spring Valley, Ohio — After learning about the Ecuadorian education system and culture in a semester-long course entitled “Ecuador: Immersed in Culture and Education,” 11 students and two faculty members from the University of Cincinnati (UC) spent eight days in highland Ecuador visiting schools in different indigenous communities and working with local students. The program was organized by The Tandana Foundation. The UC students gained a lot from their time in Ecuador.
“I valued being exposed to new cultures and being able to connect with individuals that live such different lives from mine,” said Lewis Center resident and UC student volunteer Sydney Butcher.
The group was with Tandana from April 29th to May 7th. They stayed at a hostel in the city of Otavalo and visited schools in the surrounding indigenous communities of Guachinguero, Panecillo, Motilon Chupa and Muenala. Some of the students also went to the La Joya school for children with special needs in Otavalo.
At each of the schools they visited, each group first observed a class to see what an everyday class was like. Then each group taught local students a lesson in English that they had prepared during their course. One group’s lesson was about the seasons in the United States. The second group’s lesson was about sports in the United States, and the third lesson was about the scientific method.
Along with visiting the schools, the UC students participated in numerous other education related activities. They listened to a talk on the importance of teaching the Kichwa language in schools. Kichwa is the language spoken by the indigenous people. The UC students also toured the University of Yachay and learned about its history and mission.
Before traveling, the UC students read the book The Queen of Water, by Laura Resau and Maria Virginia Farinango. The book is a true story about 7-year-old Virginia leaving her indigenous community and being forced to work as a servant for a mestizo family. While working for the family, she secretly educates herself. Later, she was reunited with her family, but had a hard time readjusting to the indigenous culture. While they were in Ecuador, the UC students met Virginia and had the opportunity to ask her questions about the book.
When they were not involved in education activities, the group had plenty of time to learn about the culture of highland Ecuador. They had a basic Kichwa lesson and a salsa dancing lesson. The UC students visited the Afro-Ecuadorian community of El Juncal. The group learned about traditional medicine and participated in a Pachamanka ceremony, which involves preparing food with heated volcanic rocks in a hole in the ground. They enjoyed natural beauty at the Peguche waterfall and the Mojanda lakes. Everyone had fun making delicious traditional Ecuadorian food during a cooking class at the Cocina Kawsaymi Cooking School and trying out their bargaining skills at the Otavalo market.
The Tandana Foundation is a non-profit organization that supports cross-cultural volunteer opportunities, scholarships, and community projects in highland Ecuador and Mali’s Dogon Country. For more information or to sign-up for a volunteer venture, please visit www.tandanafoundation.org.