Hi everyone!


We’ve had another great day in Guaranda! Our theme for today’s activities was education. This morning we took the bus to the community of Las Gradas to tour a school in the local area. Unidad Educativa Communitaria Intercultural Bilingue Rumiñahui is a small school located eight kilometers from Guaranda in an area composed of seven indigenous communities. The school was founded in 1981 to support the needs of children in the area. The inspector/Dean of the school told us that the first classes were provided in a communal house with 58 students. Since then, the school has gone through at least seven reorganizations and today provides education for about 360 students. After a brief overview of the history in Las Gradas, we had the opportunity to learn a few basic phrases in the indigenous language (Kichwa – 80 percent of students speak it). Some greetings include imanalla (hello), and alli puncha mashi (good day friend). With the help of the inspector and some students, Asha and Josue demonstrated a conversation in Kichwa. Crystal and Madison translated the same conversation to English.
After a brief introduction to the purpose and values of the school, we went on a tour of the premises. The property is largely composed of agricultural spaces including gardens maintained by the students. Students in each grade spend a few hours maintaining the gardens twice each week. There is a clear emphasis on sustainability in the projects that students work on. Today we learned about their organic farming methods and students told us their strategies for making natural fertilizers and insecticides. One major crop grown at the school are uvillas (a yellow grape/tomato fruit that is high in vitamins). Las Gradas grows 300 uvilla plants and hopes to sell the fruit at local markets in the near future. Several students presented to us about the agricultural emphasis at their school and it was very impressive seeing how much they knew. The students, who were 7th graders at the school (I think the equivalent of fifth grade in the U.S.), described the life cycles of insects in the garden and demonstrated a moth trap made from a plastic jug with a candle and water. Also, it was interesting to see the variety of animals on the school property. From what we saw, there were several chickens, pigs and dogs that roamed around on their free will.
After touring the farming portion of the school, our group got to meet a group of students from first through seventh grade. Immediately after entering the school yard, we were greeted enthusiastically by this group of children. Some greeted us shyly, while others hugged us right away. One girl attached herself to Ellery and wouldn’t let go for the next ten minutes. We were greeted very warmly by the school officials, and gathered in a line to introduce ourselves.
Each grade level demonstrated a game for us and we had fun participating with them. Some highlights included watermelon head-rolling races, chicken fights (two kids ran around trying to read and sound out a letter on someone else’s back), and a game involving whipping spinning objects. The kids were very friendly and were curious to know as much as they could about us. They asked some pretty funny questions, and several girls enjoyed playing with blonde hair.
After meeting the students, we had the chance to ask questions we had prepared for the school administrators. Our group did a great job speaking in Spanish and we got a better sense of the needs of the community through these interviews. Some key issues at the school included problems with the sewage system, a lack of technology such as computers and internet connection, and a need for improved trash and recycling deposits. They also mentioned a desire for beautification, possibly involving murals and repainting. We still need to determine our goal for the Community Action Project, but it seems there are many possibilities. Still, even with a lack of resources, we realized that a quality education is definitely possible. Although the students at Las Gradas may not have access to the same privileges we have, they have an equally admirable connection to nature and their culture. In our reflection tonight, we discussed how many of us take our education for granted, and sometimes it’s beneficial to take a step back to put our experiences in context.
The rest of our afternoon was pretty relaxing after returning to Guaranda. We ate a lunch of chicken/fish/pork with a meatball soup and flan, and spent the rest of our afternoon discussing and planning our lessons for English tutoring. Even with descriptive lesson plans, it was difficult customizing our lessons and deciding what was important. After a few hours, our conversations divulged and we ended up talking in groups. Even since yesterday, our group seems to have gotten so much closer. We finished the day with a delicious dinner and passion fruit mousse. Finally, Emily and Lucy showed us an elaborate handshake to earn the leadership torch for tomorrow. Thanks for checking in today and I’m so excited to see what tomorrow has in store!
Thanks and love to Marley (and those who wrote on his behalf)!
Emma P.
P.S. If you haven’t written a comment yet, I know there are many students who would love to hear from you! -GGLs 🙂