People and Prose-Volunteer of the Week

Nicole Boriski

As part of my job at Lead-Adventures I make point to find volunteers who have spent time at one of the many projects going on in Ecuador.  I do this to find out how their time at the project was and keep updated about how specific projects are running presently.

Lead is serious about people getting the most out of their time in Ecuador.  They stay ahead of the curve and constantly are changing where they send people based on the current conditions at the projects.  They also are looking for new projects to undertake and my research with volunteers gives us ideas for people to partner with in the future.  Some of the projects that they have started recently have involved people and places that I knew before I started the job.

This is an interview with Nicole Boriski who spent time in Ecuador at Escuela Katitawa, a school in an indegnous community near Banos.

Q. What was the name of the project? Where was it located? What were you doing and who was the coordinator?

A. Escuela Katitawa. Experimental school for elementary-middle school students in an indegnous community in the highlands called Salasaka, near Banos (in the highlands near to Ambato). Teaching English/Maths classes, gardening, recycling project with the kids. Coordinated by two locals: Rufino and Luis. Last names unknown to me. Robert is an American who provided lots of funding and started some projects like building an Andean sundial. Also without a surname that I know of.

Q. How do you feel now about the overall experience? In regard to Adventure? As far as safety and comfort are concerned?

A.I absolutely loved it. Adventure is always what you make of it, we went on a four day hike on the Incan trail that was pretty awesome. Living in the community is definitely rugged, electricity was limited and water isn’t a consistent luxury, sometimes it gets pretty cold (especially at night) and infections aren’t uncommon. Also food borne illness. But nothing fatal that I know of. Rustic. It’s important to have an open mind and not be too concerned with hygeine or germs.

Q.What about the project impressed you? How was it organized? Do you feel that you were an active part of what they were doing?

I was very impressed with the interconnectedness with the community. Volunteers felt like part of the town, buying from locals and partying with them at their festivals and holy days. Living and working side to side with them. The school was run and organized by locals, funding came from an individual donator who worked very hard and expected the same from the volunteers, but without being overbearing. We were given lots of freedom with curriculum and our own activities, which made it a very creative experience, and ultimately more rewarding than being handed a list of tasks. Everyone was able to participate in a way that was mutually beneficial.

Q.If you were in charge of the project, what would you change or do differently?

A.If I had been in charge, I may have given the volunteers a few more resources, such as what had been taught before (the curriculum may be open, but it does need to have some structure to be effective)

Q. What were your hardest challenges and biggest achievements?

A.Hardest challenges were accepting certain things about Salasakan society, like the fact that many adults are alcoholics and their festivals only exacerbate these problems. Girls have babies at a young age, and we aren’t there to impose our cultural values onto them, but sometimes it’s hard to accept that it’s normal for them to be young mothers and very heavy drinkers, to the point that it seems to us a hindrance.

Q.What kind of preparation and information did you get beforehand? Was it accurate? What would you have liked to know that you were nor informed of?

A.I received very little information upon starting, and I think maybe if the blog were better updated and more specific it would have helped. But I also think that coming in with broad expectations makes the whole operation more organic and personal as well. It’s important for people to know that they should leave their biases at home and not judge, that they are there to serve a community that has existed a certain way for ages and the only changes to be made should be practical ones tha involve the locals, not idealogical ones.

Q.Anything else you want to add? Transportation, food, communication, etc!

A.Learn Spanish. Don’t be fussy about food. Get to know the people whom you will be affecting or they will see you as an imperialist gringo. Have an amazing time!

One Response to “People and Prose-Volunteer of the Week”
  1. Mr.Saeed says:

    Being volunteer is something good.

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