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Ecuador Program Students Get Dirty

Professor Dan Rogers — Doing a service project during the summer is hard work. Doing a service project south of the equator in 90-degree heat and 100% humidity is harder. Having to watch out for tarantulas, wolf spiders and other assorted denizens of the Amazon Basin while you do it is priceless.

Students from professor Doug Calisch’s Ecuadorian Studies Program group have spent the last week working in a small village on the Napo River.

Click here to see photos from Mondana.

Mondana is tiny with a population of around 40 families huddled on the banks of one of the largest tributaries of the Amazon.Most are Quichua ethnicity and speak Spanish as a second language. Unemployment, contaminated water, and limited health care are everyday challenges in Mondana.

Our Wabash group has teamed up with Funedesin – a foundation dedicated to sustainable development in the Ecuadorian Amazon. Wabash students are working with local high school students, building a small dam to provide electricity, and participating in local mingas. A minga is a community project that brings together local residents to improve the commons.

Last Saturday our students gathered with local high school students and others for a minga of monumental proportions – clearing a field for planting.In this climate, any land left fallow will be waist deep in secondary growth within weeks, so students used rakes, machetes, and their hands to clear huge mounds of unwanted vegetation from the area.

Next week, if everything works out, we’ll post photos of the completed dam and small reservoir our students are building.

But it hasn’t been all work and no play. We’ve carved out time to practice blowgun target shooting, visited a local healer for a traditional cleansing ceremony, and spent time looking at flora and fauna in the primary rain forest around us.