Since 2007, Sage tutors (Mill Valley and Larkspur) have taken several of their students on a summertime volunteer trip to Bahia de Caraquez, a city in Ecuador that was devastated by 1998 mudslides. Working with Planet Drum Foundation to re-vegetate and educate the city, this journey has proved life-changing not only for the impoverished residents of the area but for the Marin County students themselves.
Six Sage tutors four Tam High students traveled to the small oceanside town of Bahia de Caraquez, Ecuador. We stayed there for two weeks before traveling around the country, making stops in Canoa, Mindo, Otavalo, Quito, Tena, and Banos.
Since 2007, Sage has developed a partnership with Planet Drum Foundation’s Eco-Ecuador Project in Bahia de Caraquez, Ecuador. After mudslides devastated Bahia during the El Nino storms of 1998, the coastal city committed to ecological sustainability, and Planet Drum has helped in this transition through revegetation, education, and thoughtful development. In our trip to Bahia, Sage volunteers participated in a range of activities: collecting and preparing seeds to be planted, collecting and cutting plastic bottles to make pots for seedlings, mixing compost and soil to nurture the seedlings, planting trees, watering revegetation sites, and using machetes to create trails. We also assisted in bioregionalism classes for local teens.
Although the volunteer work was challenging, it was also very rewarding. We could see the positive impact that Planet Drum was making on the town. After our volunteer work was done, we had some memorable adventures: zip-lining over the rainforest in Mindo, enjoying the beautiful beach in Canoa, rafting down an Amazon river in Tena, visiting (and even crawling behind) a massive waterfall in Banos, and shopping at a massive outdoor market in Otavalo. We also got to see the President of Ecuador when we stumbled upon a political gathering in the capital city, Quito. You can see more about particular highlights on our blog.
Particularly in Bahia de Caraquez, we experienced living conditions that were much less comfortable than those we were accustomed to at home. In particular, clean water is a scarce resource there, so we had to learn how to live with less. This meant taking the shortest possible showers, using bottled water to brush our teeth, etc. We even ran out of water for several days and had to live without running water. This meant toting jugs of bottled water from a local store and using it very sparingly until our home’s cistern was refilled. In addition to the living conditions, the volunteer work was rigorous. Our adventures with the machetes were somewhat perilous—we even had one girl slice her ankle with the machete and get carried out of the jungle on a homemade stretcher! (She got stitches at the local hospital and was fine, but it was a scary moment.) We really had to come together as a team to ensure that everyone stayed safe.
We had 24 hours of straight travel to reach Bahia de Caraquez. First, we flew from San Francisco to Atlanta, then from Atlanta to Guayaquil, Ecuador. We arrived in Guayaquil around midnight and then waited for several hours in a bus station before boarding an early-morning bus to Bahia. That bus ride lasted for about six hours. It was a long trek. Click here for more info about that.
Who would you recommend this experience to?
Anyone who is looking to go off the beaten path. Planet Drum had a number of young volunteers from around the world, and all seemed to be energetic, adventurous, and unafraid to get their hands dirty!