Last Monday and Tuesday the six students on my track and our coordinator Jacky went on a trip to see potential internship sites in Latacunga and Cotopaxi. These regions of Ecuador are a little further South and fairly chilly. It was overcast and rainy during our time, but what we saw was interesting. The goal was to find places for each of us to participate in six-week internships from mid-March to the end of April. None of the sites we visited resounded with me and I actually found an internship in Quito that I will be doing, but I want to post some photos and short descriptions of what we saw. The first cooperative we visited, in a town called Pukara, had a huge water reservoir they use to save water for times of drought, like right now. When there is plenty of rain each family in the community gets water daily, but right now it is parceled out once a week. The community has used micro-credit to start businesses in which each family cares for a shed full of cuis (guinea pigs: a common- and tasty- meal). They also grow various edible plants with the goal of “sobrealimentacion”- providing nutritious food for all.
The next two sites we visited were more or less offices that provide savings and credit services for the popular sector (poor people who can’t afford traditional banking services). The offices were in very small, empty towns and it happened to be cold and rainy. I must admit I felt a similar distaste for working at these places as I did when visiting prospective colleges a few years ago. The last site, however, really fascinated me. It was a carpentry trade school for young boys from very poor families. They boys live at the facility Monday-Friday, taking classes in the morning and having “talleres”- workshops- in the afternoon. They also receive religious formation and recreational time as well as rotating between domestic chores and outdoor farming duty. They produce gorgeous craftmanship- intricately carved frames, plaques, furniture and articles for the church. The second-year boys, no more than 11 to 13-years-old, each worked at his own table covered in wood curls, creating wooden boxes with floral inlays. The more advanced students included tables and altars fitted together cleverly without nails, all high quality. The institution enables boys whose families can’t afford to send them to school to get an education that will provide them with job opportunities when they are done.
I will be working at GSFEPP- Grupo Social del Fondo Ecuatoriano Popularum Progressae. It is an NGO, non-profit, ecumenical organization in Ecuador that runs many different businesses all oriented towards helping the lower-income sector. They have a division that shows campesinos how to register their land legally, for example. Another sub-group within FEPP help construct clean water sources and still another is working on developing technological infrastructure. All of these businesses operate under the same vision: that of “la economía solidaria,” an economy that centers on human beings and their needs instead of profit, keeping in mind the need for sustainability. I will be helping develop a marketing campaign for some new service or initiative that FEPP is starting. I don’t know a lot of the details but I should be visiting next week, so I’ll have more information soon. I’m looking forward to having a purposeful, full-time “job” here. The pasantilla will be Monday-Friday, roughly 8 a.m- 5p.m. for six weeks. I will be staying with my host family here in Quito because it’s only a half-hour bus ride to FEPP. I plan to continue on the soccer team as well. I’ll post more when I know more!