After the reflection week in Cuenca, my travel group headed up north to the Chimborazo region of Ecuador, about a half hour outside of Riobamba, for two more weeks of field work. We stayed in a very rural pueblo called Pulinguí, located at the foot of the Chimborazo mountain. Words cannot describe how beautiful the surroundings were. The families in Pulinguí were mostly farmers that connected through women’s organizations to sell products and entertain tourists. The women’s organizations sold herbal shampoos, quinoa, and alpaca and sheep products. The women worked diligently to provide for their families and support one another through these organizations. My mom, Escolastica, is the president of the women’s organization that sells alpaca and sheep products and herbal shampoos. She had a total of six children, five that live in Quito and are studying at the university, and one daughter that lives at home and is 15 years old. My homestay came fully equipped with a (semi) functioning outhouse, cows, pigs, donkeys, guinea pigs, rabbits, and, best of all, a pregnant cat.
View of Chimborazo from Santa Anita, Pulinguí
The first day I spent in Pulinguí, I worked with my sister, Jessyina, in the hierba fields to cut grasses to feed the cuy (guinea pigs), conejos (rabbits), and cow. We talked a lot about her life and her goals for the future. She explained that she wants to be a doctor when she grows up because she wants to help people in the hospitals and provide for her mom and her family. I was surprised at the number of responsibilities she had as a 15 year old. She normally prepared breakfast and lunch and sometimes even dinner. She woke up early each morning to tend to the animals and take them to one of their fields about 20 minutes down the road. Her maturity and focus were impressive and inspiring. I later understood where they came from after a long dinner conversation with Escolastica about the importance of faith in God. These two women had had very difficult lives– losing a brother and a son only a year and a half ago– yet their faith carried them through the hard times and kept them focused on the blessings they had been given and those that are yet to come. Escolastica talked to Jessi and me about the importance of not only an education but also using that education to provide for your family and better the world around you. Her insights reminded me of my own ambitions and my reason for sitting in her kitchen: I want to use my education to make a social impact.
David’s mom with Anderson on her back while shearing a sheep.
While in Pulinguí, we completed a total of three campaigns. One of the campaigns, located in San Miguel, raised the most money in all of Social Entrepreneur Corps – Ecuador history, making almost $1000. We worked with the AC Rosa who took home over $300 to her family. We did our final campaign with Yolanda, another AC who’s work ethic and ambition were exemplary. She explained that she began working with Community Enterprise Solutions because she needed extra income to cover the costs of her husband’s expensive medical bills. We got to spend a lot of time with her and got to know a lot about her struggles and her family. Despite all of the hardship in her life, she had a heart of gold and was always working in the best interest of others.
Cuy and Conejos on the first floor of my house
Pulinguí quickly became my favorite part of being in Ecuador, the culture and my family really challenged me to grow as an individual and a person of faith. My life in Pulinguí was simple and mimimalistic– I brushed my teeth outside with the birds and became best friends with my cow, which I named Daisy, because each time I went to the bathroom (outhouse) I passed her. After a few days, Daisy would approach me as I went to the outhouse and wouldn’t let me walk past her until I petted her and said hello. (When I got internet, I asked my Marge if we could get a cow and she protested. I’ll keep you updated on the status of Daisy 2.0) My cat, Rosita, sat next to me at the kitchen table at every meal and I would share leftover bits of chicken and eggs. She snuck into my room every night and slept at the foot of my bed, just like my cat at home. In Pulinguí, I could feel the real sense of community between all of the women and their faith in God was clear in every action and interaction. Watching them inspired me to be conscious of how my actions are reflecting my faith and the ways in which I can make my faith present to others. Unlike the other parts of Ecuador, I really saw the strength of faith in the people that has continuously drawn me back to Latin America.
Daisy, my cow and new best friend
During my second week in Pulinguí, my health took a turn for the worse, probably because of poorly washed or cooked food. My friend Sydney and I, after having eaten lunch and dinner together the previous day, ended up in an Ecuadorian hospital in Riobamba with needles in our arms and E.coli in our stomachs. It was a less-than-pleasant experience, but it definitely taught me the importance of patience and flexibility.
Ecuadorian hospital lobby
My final weekend in Pulinguí, my mom and sister had to go to Quito for a wedding, so my aunt and cousins watched the house. My 13 year old cousin, Anita, and I stayed up for two hours one night talking about America and Ecuador. I taught her words in English and she taught me the same words in Quichua, the native language of the indigenous women in Pulinguí. Most of the adult women in Pulinguí do not speak Spanish as their first language but rather Quichua. For some, Spanish is difficult and broken, and for others they speak very fluently. When other family members came to visit the house, my host mom immediately switched to speaking Quichua– it was always interesting to listen to the children speak to their parents because their parents would address them in Quichua and their children would respond in Spanish. My host mom explained that almost all of the children understand Quichua, but none of them actually know how to speak it. On my last morning in Pulinguí, my cat, Rosita, had her four kittens (as a goodbye gift to me.)
Rosita and her new babies
Leaving Pulinguí was upsetting, becuase I know I probably won’t get to return and spend more time with my family, who I grew to love. For our final week in Cuenca, we worked on and presented our final projects. My group presented all of our deliverables for the Tiendita Comunitaria project. In the end, we gave Community Enterprise Solutions a: step-by-step guide, contract, list of suggestions, list of field consultant responsibilities, surveys for community members, tienditas, and ACs, list of challenges and opportunities, benchmark requirements and financial analysis, flyers, product information cards, information sheet for potential TCs, inventory and consignment sheets, incentive scheme, and training guide. All of these tools were created by me and my working team so that in the future Community Enterprise Solutions can establish Tienditas Comunitarias in which CES products can be permanently sold and more social impact can be made by selling more solutions. These TCs will be established not only in Ecuador but also in Nicaragua, Guatemala, and the Dominican Republic. It was exciting and relieving to present our final, completed project after putting in countless hours to find solutions to the obstacles of poverty in Ecuador.
Sunset in Pulinguí
At the end of these eight weeks, I can certainly say that I have grown intellectually, personally, and spiritually. My time in Ecuador allowed me to shape my plans for the future; I know I want to be a person that works for social and economic change in developing Latin America. At the beginning of this summer, I was a completely different person that the girl that is writing today. This growth was due to the challenges, struggles, successes, and failures I experienced here in Ecuador. This summer was by far the most formational experience of my life– it has shaped who I am and who I want to be. I am so grateful to my parents and to Notre Dame — both the University and Our Mother, Mary — for making this opportunity possible!
Sydney and me at a campaig
I’ll be spending the next 10 days relaxing in the Galapagos and exploring Quito with Jenny before I return to the states on August 5th.
By Emily Campbell