KWEST Ecuador Service Project: Walk! Not Trek to School
After months of waiting to start in business school, the Kellogg class of 2013 is finally in full swing here at Kellogg. But before any of the on campus chaos ever began, students had the once in a lifetime opportunity to go to KWEST (Kellogg Worldwide Experiences and Service Trip). As part of KWEST, most of the trips took part in a service activity abroad. Well the point of this article is to tell you a little bit more about how KWEST Ecuador is changing the world.
In general, students could tell by the description which trips were more heavily focused on service than others, and some students used that when helping to decide which tirp to take part in. Some trips focus heavily on service. For the leaders, it’s a way to give back and so spending a few hours is something they definitely want to do. For other trips, the leaders aren’t necessarily as focused on the service activity. Those trip will put in the service time but often do activities that may not be as high value. And other trips would prefer not to spend as much time on the service component. These trips will often do an activity simply to check the box. And this year, some did their components in Evanston before the trip, or in some cases after the trip.
In terms of Ecuador, our goal was to really have a substantial service portion. Not only only did we want our KWESTees to meet new students and have a blast in Ecuador but also find a way give back to the community we were visiting. To show that Kellogg students aren’t just about doing well, but also doing good.
To hear more about the actual activity, see our short article about the experience below.
KWEST Ecuador – October 06, 2011 - Tena, Ecuador
WALK! NOT TREK TO SCHOOL
Written by Mansi Agarwal and Giovanni Gallo
Crossing rivers, climbing up and down hills, cutting across thick undergrowth and marshes while braving the heat of the equatorial sun at times and heavy tropical rains at others- sounds like an exotic, adventurous holiday to most of us. But, this is what children in rural Ecuador must overcome to reach school every day. Very obviously, attendance on most days is very low, which has led to dire consequences for the nation’s future and economy.
Poverty in the nation’s coastal and mountain regions has increased by 80 percent over the past decade. A recent UNICEF study indicated that only 67 percent of Ecuadorian children finish elementary school. Though the cost of primary and secondary education is borne by the government, families often face practical challenges of taking children to school because of the lack of basic infrastructure.
With this in mind, on August 24th 2011, the KWEST Ecuador family of 25 helped locals in Kuaupo Macana village nearTena, Ecuador to build a path that children can use to walk to school every day. Escuela al Campo #238 is a school of 30-35 children and attendance has been very low in the past – especially during certain parts of the year when the path leading from their homes to the school is too wet with deep mud to navigate.
A new path was built by KWESTees alongside Ecuadorians as part of their “MINGA” (community work day where at least one parent of children attending the school must be present, send someone in their place or pay a fine). Local village engineers had planned the half day project in two stages.
The first half included cutting back vegetation and carrying rocks up from Inchillaqui River to the end of the muddy trail near the school. A human chain was created and after a few hours of labor the ground had been cleared and rocks ranging from 5-50 lbs. had been collected. After a short break of fruits and a refreshing Yuca drink provided by the school the KWESTees began the second phase.
All rocks were laid in place and rammed to finish a usable path. While one group finished the path, another continued to supply small rocks and logs to construct steps where required. A few more laborious hours later the KWEST family ended up with a largely finished pathway as well as some cuts, bruises and insect bites- battle wounds true to the spirit of a jungle warrior! The group focused on covering the most critical and treacherous parts of the path while the most labor was available. With a strong start and a large, visible improvement, the village will work to fill in the gaps on the easier-to-traverse patches over time.
The project ended with a thank-you speech by the village head on the school grounds. While the community was grateful for our hard work we were appreciative of getting this opportunity to work alongside the indigenous community and contribute to their future growth. The school expects to grow in numbers and the new trail will only help the cause.