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Slinger students experience Ecuador through service learning trip

posted May 2, 2016, 5:04 AM by Jeffrey Wolf

By: Elysia Dowd, News Editor

Posted May 2nd, 2016

During spring break this year, 15 Slinger students travelled to Ecuador for a service learning trip. This journey incorporated both sight-seeing and meaningful volunteering. They left Slinger bright and early on Friday, March 25, and arrived in Quito, Ecuador at 6:00 pm that same day. On Saturday they toured the Mitad del Mundo (or Equator) park, and On Sunday they left Quito for a town called Mondaña on the Rio Napo in the Amazon rainforest. On their way they visited a migratory hummingbird habitat. Monday and Tuesday was spent serving the Mondaña community by moving five tons of concrete blocks and two tons of sand across the Rio Napo to help with construction of a medical dormitory. It wasn’t all hard work though; they also enjoyed a game of soccer with the local villagers. On Wednesday the left Mondaña and arrived in Baños, where they visited a Catholic church and enjoyed natural hot springs. On Thursday they zip-lined over the Rio Blanco and toured the Avenue of Waterfalls. During this excursion they rode in a Chiva, which is essentially an extremely colorful tour bus. By the end of the day on Thursday they returned to Quito. Friday was spent in a town called Otavalo in the Andes Mountains, where they bartered in outdoor markets, watched an artisan weave cloth, and toured the home of a flute maker and musician. By Saturday, April 1, they returned to Slinger. This was an incredible trip by all accounts, and I wanted  to gain a better understanding of what these students experienced. I asked them a few questions, and here are their responses.

1) Why did you choose to go?

There were many reasons that they chose to go, the most common being a desire to experience a new culture, see new sights, and help people in need. In the words of Jenna Arts, “I figured ‘When would I ever get the chance to travel to Ecuador and work in the Amazon again, so why not?’"

2) How did you like it?

The response was entirely positive superlatives. Everyone thought it was fun, inspiring, life changing, or just plain old amazing. Victoria Volkmann even went so far as to say, “It was honestly the best experience of my life”.

3) What was the best part?

Slinger went on quite a few excursions, so there were many events to choose from. Interestingly, everyone seemed to have a different favorite experience.  Some chose playing soccer after helping the people of Mondaña, some said gaining perspective about their own life by touring Ecuador from a Chiva was the best part, others loved standing under the waterfalls at Baños, for some a week unplugged with amazing people was what made it great.

4) What did you learn?

Almost everyone learned more Spanish, but they learned many other things too. They learned about themselves, they learned about how good we have it in America, they learned about the culture, they learned to work together. Since they spent much of their time off the grid, and some chose to leave their phones behind all together, they had a whole new perspective that enabled them to learn about the world and each other. Noah Hardy said, “If you take the time to peel your face away from a screen, it’s amazing what you can see, learn and discover”.

5) Is there anything else you want to add?

Everyone recommended the experience. Thomas Melius added, “ I have heard that there is another one of these trips coming up again in two years, and I would suggest to anyone to go on this trip because you get to meet new people who you never thought you would get talk to and you make life long friends”.