Week 2 - Community project - Expedition Leader program

Expedition Leader program - Blog Post #2- June 16th, 2019

Alli Punta (good morning) from Sin Chi Pura
By: The Expedition Leader Program Team

The Expedition Leader Program is truly one of a kind in the world. Not only do we get to experience adventure travel at the international level, but we are also provided with the opportunity to connect with communities along the way in manners that will leave a mutual, long-lasting impact. After meeting in Quito, our group had its first travel day and made its way to Tena, Ecuador. There, we were tasked with preparations for our first community project in the Serena region, but more precisely, in Sin Chi Pura. Many things had to be considered before our departure to the community.

The leaders of our group, John Melson and Chloe Saulnier, were in regular communication with our project coordinator and liaison, Tim. Tim works for an adventure tourism company in Tena and grew up in the Serena region, thus he is quite familiar with the area, its history and the people. Him and his father were able to provide us with a thorough briefing on all of this, but also on what our main tasks during the project would be.

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Serena is a small region of Ecuador that holds about 100 families. Over the last 15 years, mining companies have begun to make their way into the region and are destroying the ecosystems of the area and the indigenous people are the only thing left protecting the land. Unfortunately, their resources are limited and many indigenous communities in the area have already had to sell their land to the mining industry due to this, but the people of Sin Chi Pura have big dreams to develop the tourism industry in their community to help sustain themselves. The land and biodiversity of the area makes it a truly unique place, with great potential for tourism, and existing cabins for tourists are already in place, but a few improvements will help the community turn tourism into a more sustainable source of income.

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Our main contacts in the community were Oswaldo (the president) and Ronaldo (first speaker of the council). They helped guide us throughout the week, teaching us about the community, their history, medicinal properties of the flora, the language (Quechua) and so much more. Most of our work ended up consisting of gardening, painting, replacing the roof of a cabin used for tourism, learning about the culture and designing a long-term vision plan for sustainable tourism. Of course we were unable to accomplish everything the communication dreams of doing in just 5 days, but our hope is that other groups similar to ours, including future ELP groups will continue to support Sin Chi Pura through community service initiatives.

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While the majority of our time with the community was dedicated to the project, we were also fortunate enough to have the opportunity to build real connections with the locals. Our Quechua and Spanish language skills were quite limited, but it did not stop us from really getting to know them. It is truly incredible what body language, a few inside jokes and knowledge of keywords in a foreign language can do for human connection. By the end of our time their the locals had given a few of us funny nicknames and practical jokes were becoming a common occurrence. The people of Sin Chi Pura are some of the hardest working, kindest and most intelligent people we have ever met. They made us feel at home as soon as we stepped foot on their land and provided hospitality that went beyond anything we could’ve ever imagined. We know for a fact that the tourism industry has the ability to thrive in this community and we hope to get the word out there for the world to know. These people deserve to keep their home, culture and traditions. They simply need us to support them through this endeavour.

 


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