Written by Green Empowerment Operations Manager, Martin Olza and Trip Participant, Danielle Keerbs
This spring, students and faculty from Washington State University traveled to Ecuador with Green Empowerment to help advance our projects in Imbabura. The trip was a unique opportunity for this environmental studies class to apply lessons learned in the classroom and learn new concepts related to global sustainability, environmental stewardship and more.
Over the course of two weeks, students worked side-by-side with community members to install five household biodigesters. Biodigesters are an environmentally friendly technology designed to turn waste into usable, renewable usable energy for homes. Students talked extensively with families and with a group of students from the university in Quito who also lived in Ecuador, sharing yummy food and learning about their views on environmental management, local culture and politics. They also visited several local businesses including a soap and lotion making business and a loofa factory, both of which were run by women. During the last two days of the trip, students also visited Otavalo and Quito and spent time exploring the cities’ historic and artisan districts.
Takeaways from Danielle
This trip changed the way I view my life as a United States citizen in relation to the rest of the world. There are so many things that we can learn from each other, so many ways that we can help build a better future for the world together. I saw so much passion and dedication and determination in the local people, and it inspired me to look at our local and global issues with a different attitude. This trip made me realize that I have access to so many luxuries just because of where I was born and not because I earned them, and this realization has motivated me to eventually pursue a path of community service so that all people can access these luxuries, not just those born in the right place at the right time.
Takeaways from Martin
As trip leader, I must say this experience was one of the most rewarding I have had in my adult life. The opportunity to connect with a great group of students and amazing community leaders, to problem solve and overcome challenges as a team, and to learn about Green Empowerment projects first-hand was life-changing. I encourage everyone, especially students and professionals, to participate in a trip of this kind, because the value to both participants and the communities we work with is one-of-a-kind.
Does your school or employer have an alternative spring or winter break program? Service-learning with Green Empowerment may be the perfect fit.