Question of the Day: What does it mean to be poor?

Quote of the Day: “Overcoming poverty is not a task of charity, it is an act of justice. Like Slavery and Apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is manmade and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings. Sometimes it falls on a generation to be great. YOU can be that great generation. Let your greatness blossom.” ~ Nelson Mandela

Today was one of the best days we’ve had collectively on this trip. Not only were we able to taste and make handmade chocolate (yes mom, I bought you some ~Tay), but we also were able to bond together as a group. We listened to a speech by Simiatug Samal women talking about how they have taken charge of their own lives and have been making hand knitted items like ponchos, handbags, oven mitts, and wallets in order to help support their family and gain some independence. Traditionally, in Ecuador, the role of women is at the home taking care of children, cooking, and homemaking. The courage and drive of these women who hand-make everything they produce in order to help provide for their family on top of all the other responsibilities they have at home is truly inspiring, especially for the young women in our group. We were then given the opportunity to buy their items, which everyone took advantage of greatly.

Buying gifts!

Next, we went to the chocolate factory and saw how chocolate is made. The cocoa beans are picked from the coast of Ecuador and then vetted through a quality control process to make sure the beans provide the best aroma and taste in the chocolate. After this, they are transported to the factory and toasted to make sure the peels can easily come off. Then they are put in a machine that grinds the beans up to smaller pieces to fully break the shell; which they are then put into a vacuum machine to remove the peels. The cacao is then put into a food processor to make cocoa nibs. The nibs are then placed in a machine where they are spun and pressed by a spinning metal wheel to create the liquid mixture. The main chocolates they showed us how to make were white, dark, black, and milk. For white chocolate, powdered milk, sugar, and cocoa butter is added. While for milk chocolate milk and sugar are both added, and dark only the sugar is added. For the black chocolate, it is pure cocoa nibs.

Making chocolate!

We then were taken into a tasting room where they gave us samples of milk and dark chocolate, which were delicious and very fragrant. We then saw how the chocolate is put into the molds by spooning the liquid with a rubber spatula and spreading the chocolate across the molds and making sure no bubbles were present. Everyone got a chance to try, and Becca did so well it was even recommend she could be a chocolatier! We then were able to buy the chocolate from the store, there was definitely a lot of splurging, so expect some Ecuadorian chocolate when we arrive home!

We then were able to shop around the shops in Salinas to buy some more of the Simiatug Simal womens’ items. There wore these adorable knitted alpaca keychains and Zoe essentially cleared the stores of their supply. We then went into a different store that sold the Ecuadorian jams, salt, cheeses, and other locally made items. Everyone was able to buy a souvenir to bring back home to remember this amazing day.

At the nightly meeting, we discussed what it means to be poor. After observing the beautiful culture of Ecuador and how much family and community means to the people of the country, we realized that being poor isn’t about money at all. The richest people are those who have the biggest hearts, emotional connections, and true appreciation of life. Life isn’t about status, materialism, or having the best of the best; it’s about the lives we touch and those we love. To be poor is to not have these things; and to be rich, is to have love despite any financial struggles.

Pizza and love!


“If there is anything Ecuador has taught us thus far, it’s that love conquers all and there is nothing more important than the lives around us. Whether they’re strangers, animals, friends, family, or teachers – We need to give love to everyone if we want to live happy and rich lives.”

~Taylor Johnson

“Since I have been on this trip, it has taught me to step out of my comfort zone and feel better about myself. I have made a lot of friends who have impacted my life and have similar characteristics as I. As a result of these friendships, my life has become richer.”

~Jake Goldberg