The Study Abroad Office and the Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning (CCESL) together launched an Alternative Spring Break – Service Abroad trip over the 2018 Spring Break. Elizabeth Huskin, Director of Study Abroad and Krysti Turnquest, Assistant Director of CCESL accompanied 13 UHD students to Ecuador to participate in service projects and learn about the rich culture of the indigenous people living on the equator. The students included, Michael Crouch, Melody Hall, Byanna Aguilar, Lucy Alfaro, Cynthia Andrade, Alejandra Carmona, Yaisa Dodd, Erika Dominguez, Selena Morales, Nidia Palacios, Josnarie Gonzales, Rebecca Alexander, and Alejandro Martinez.
The participants landed in Quito on March 11th, and enjoyed a beautiful sunset dinner at El Mosaico. During their first day of service, students planted indigenous trees on farms outside of Nono and later visited the agricultural and husbandry farm belonging to the Universidad de Las Américas (UDLA). On the second day of service, participants visited Casa Saber Pega Full in the Historic Centre and became familiar with the organization’s work of offering programs such as crafts, music, dance, and parkour, while providing counseling about sexual, mental and physical health to young people. Students visited local barrios and spoke with families about the service abroad program. Participants also spent day three visiting with a local land owner who grows avocados, guavas, and other fruits on her land. UDLA students introduced UHD students to the projects that helped the people of Chavezpamba turn their produce into higher value items for sale.
During days four and five, UHD students soaked in the beauty of the Amazon. While visiting the community of La Libertad, an indigenous community of Kichwa people, the students were led up a mountain where they planted native trees to help combat deforestation. Students later stayed with another indigenous group, Sinchi Warmi, and harvested cacao, planted corn, and completed several other projects. Pupils also visited the towns, Misahualli where monkeys roam the streets and Tena, a beautiful river town.
The Study Abroad participants received certificates from UDLA for completing the week of service and headed back to Houston filled with memories of amazing experiences.