High school classes

One night, hanging out at the house, my old buddy Morelia came to me and asked if I could help her with her English.  She really wants to learn and was one of the high school students that missed out on English in primary school.  I told her that I would love to help but want to make the help available to all of the high school students.  So we made a plan and started an English class for these kiddos.  We started the classes the next day at the house I’m living in.

I wanted the class to be fun and functional so I started by introducing them to The Beatles.  I printed out all the lyrics to Help and Yellow Submarine and had them sing along with these songs.  We had drawing sessions where we labeled body parts and drew trees labeling the leaves, branches and the stem.  As it turns out these guys are hopeless romantics and simply love the movie Titanic (try not to judge).  I bought a copy of it for them in Quito and we watched it with Spanish subtitles.

Most of these guys are interested in pursuing careers in ecotourism so they asked me to take them on a tour of the biology station up the road.  We made arrangements and hauled off to check out the station.  We checked out the caterpillar house, had a tour of bird nests and then went for a walk in the forest.  We were lucky enough to run into Freddy who was staying at the station and studies snakes.  He happened to have one at the station and spent some time talking to us. He was able to dispel a lot of myths the children had regarding snakes and lizards.  As we walked back to town one of the girls shared with me that she really wants to get ahead in her life instead of just having children at an early age like her sisters.  I was so happy to hear this as so many women here see their only possible future as a housewife when the real possibilities are endless.

The classes outgrew the house and I felt there was a need to have a more formal setting so that the students would take it more seriously.  I asked the Presidente de la Paroquia (political leader) if we could use the “junta” (community building) for classes.  He had a set of keys made for me and we started to hold classes there.  The room helps the students to take the class time seriously and we can lock up and leave if they are late (an Ecuadorian tradition).

They are quite interested in going rock climbing with Rachel and I so we are organizing a trip for them in a couple of weekends.  We’ll keep you posted on that adventure!

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The kiddos from Cosanga. 

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English for Cosanga’s Kids

When I left Cosanga three years ago I asked what they needed in the town.  My friend Enmita told me that they desperately needed an English teacher because students from the primary school went to high school severely behind the students from surrounding towns.  Our team discussed all the possible ways of getting an English education to the kids in Cosanga, teacher training in the town, or maybe a volunteer, or trying to find a teacher from the city to bring out to the town.  Our team finally decided that we should start an after school program to teach English. 

My first day in Cosanga, I went to the school, after classes were over, to discuss the idea with the director of the school and decide where to start.  I told her about my history in Cosanga and we discussed the need for an English teacher.  To my surprise she wanted me to serve as a formal English teacher in the classroom aside from the other program goals. She asked when I could start teaching in the primary school.  I gave myself a week to plan and started teaching classes on October the 18th.  Thus begun my education in education.

These kids are amazing and beautiful, but also challenging.  I’m sure it’s the same the world round but as I have no formal teaching education I’m learning everything on the fly.  Also, I started teaching without a formal curriculum so I had to invent everything from scratch.  The supplies and books that everyone had donated were lifesavers for this work.  I used everything I had available and it worked out well for classroom materials.   Discipline was a problem I had to learn about in the moment.  One of the first classes I taught all of the kids left to go to the bathroom at once I had to have one of the little girls bring them back and then learned the “one at a time in the bathroom” rule.

I ended up taking the kids on a few walks in the afternoon which were the beginnings of the after school program.  These guys are so curious and want to know about their natural habitat.  I cannot take them out like this by myself though because they end up getting separated and not coming back when I call them.

Rachel’s arrival was just in time.  Her fresh perspective and experience working with kids was exactly what we needed.  She saw the needs of the classes and we began working together to make a better plan.  We came up with an incentive plan for behavior that changed the classroom atmosphere immediately.  With her help we will be able to take the kiddos on walks in the afternoon and start a formal afterschool program in the next few weeks.

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Some of the quito sights.

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Welcome to Ecuador

I arrived in Ecuador October 6th checking the BBC website for news of the turmoil in the capital city of Qutio.  One week earlier there had been rioting and the president had been “kidnapped”.  I was pretty nervous traveling but when I arrived I found that everything was calm and the city was safe to travel in.  This, for me, was an education in exactly how volatile countries like this can be.  I’ve been traveling here for years and always knew about the possibility of this kind of turmoil, but it became very real flying into the capital city under an emergency warning. 

The next step in my adventure was to register my visa.  Anyone that wants to travel in this country for less than three months can simply enter the country and get their visa at the airport. Because I want to stay longer I had to first drive to LA and apply for the visa and then figure out how to register it here in Ecuador.  I first went to the immigration office that I had been to in the past but this was not the right office.  After traveling across Quito to find the right office and waiting in line for an hour and a half I found out that I could not register my visa until I had deposited ten dollars in a government bank account.  A few hours later I had tracked down the location of the right bank and made the deposit I barely made it before the bank closed at 5. 

The next day I returned to the visa office with my deposit slip in hand and got the process started, I had to leave the office to buy a folder for my paperwork and make copies of everything.  Finally I was able to leave my passport with them to register my visa.  This was on a Friday so I had to wait until Monday to pick up my passport and finish the process.  On Monday I went to the office and waited in the long line again to get my paperwork, I asked the woman if this was all I had to do and she said “No, you have to get your censo, right over there, the policeman will help you.” (censo is an identification card) 

I filed over to the policeman in the office and asked if I could get my censo, he told me I had to make copies of everything (again) and then I needed to put my address on the paperwork, this was a problem for me because I didn’t know my address at this point.  He asked where I was staying and I told him in a restaurant between the towns of Baeza and Tena that I have to go there to get the address.  He told me that if I wanted I could get my visa registered in Tena. So I was finally able to leave the city and head for Cosanga.

After staying in Cosanga a few days I headed for Tena to get my censo.  I tracked down the immigration office and went in to start the process.  I had the address of the restaurant in hand and the officer told me to go make copies of my passport and visa paperwork. I came back to the office and had to wait another hour or so to get the actual censo card because the Internet connection was so bad.  This particular office never even asked for my address.  This is Ecuador. Welcome.

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Some of the great kids in Ecuador!

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Quick Update

It’s the end of November, and both of the girls are on the ground in Cosanga. The kids can say “Yellow Submarine”, everyone in town knows how to say “good morning”, and reforestation is well underway. It’s be hard to ask for more right now. Hopefully this thing will help spread some word.

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Sustainable Roots is dedicated to environmental preservation and sustainable development in communities of Latin America. We strive to enable communities to develop a healthy, sustainable, local economy and environment, all while maintaining their cultural pride and heritage. We work hand in hand with communities and see our role as facilitators of projects born from the communities ideas and needs.


We are currently working in the community of Cosanga, Ecuador. In the Fall of 2010 we will be hosting a series of workshops for adults, and an after school program for children to begin working together towards our common goals.

Posted by ryanlynch