Last summer, my team and I were welcomed into the Afro-Ecuadorian community of Tumbatu by our hosts, Esperanza and Adela. Their kind, smiling eyes told me we were in good hands with this mother-daughter team. They arranged host families for us so we really got to experience life in the village firsthand.
We saw the community members as they headed off to work in the nearby gardens each day, and on one special occasion we were treated to a long walk through the farms and down to the river by an outstanding community member named Marisol. She has been host to several of our teams since the beginning and was happy to talk to us about her community. She introduced us to a community elder who started a cultural center in Tumbatu to tell the story of the Afro-Ecuadorian people. He performed a traditional dance for us and showed us the weaving he does in order to make straw purses, baskets and other decorative items.
About an hour drive from the nearest town, traversing curvy, cobblestone roads, you will find the sleepy village of Tumbatu. It’s a charming community surrounded by mountains and isolated by the Imbabura River. If a bridge were built over the river, it would connect the village to the Panamerican Highway in 5 minutes' time.
This trip impacted me in ways I could have never imagined and connected me to people who will be friends for life.
The children play in a park there that was once just a plan on paper and that became a reality through a long-standing partnership between the community and Global Citizens Network/Xperitas. Over a number of years, team after team has worked side by side with the community to add to the park project, leading up to last year’s project where we worked in partnership with the folks of Tumbatu to install eight lamps to illuminate the park in the evening. We worked with the local government to plan the projec, then our work was directed by a couple of local “maestros” who showed us where to dig the holes for the lamp post footings. We dug trenches for the electrical wires and mixed cement to hold the footings in place. The whole time we were surrounded by children who brought excitement to the project – and a few even became little helpers!
Every day we gathered for meals in the primary school’s kitchen, where Esperanza and Adela cooked breakfast, lunch and dinner for us. We were treated to fresh juices, homemade soups and a variety of dishes each day. We got to know the school’s principal and a couple of teachers who travel to the village from the nearest town to run the school five days a week. Our particular team was comprised of educators who were excited to do activities with the children during down time on the project.
My time in Tumbatu was a unique immersion experience. I got to live in the home of a kind and generous host family where they shared their day-to-day life with me. I got acquainted with several community members and learned about them and their culture. I also learned a lot from my fellow teammates as we processed our experiences in the village together. In the end, this trip impacted me in ways I could have never imagined and connected me to people who will be friends for life.