The horse picked its way carefully, seeking steady footing as it made its way across the Andes Mountains, far from any village. The teacher knew that his destination was an adobe (mud) school building recently built by a community spread, distantly, throughout the region. There was no road, no electricity and no potable water.
That was 22 years ago. Today, there is a road, a trail, dug by hand across the mountains, each stone of its surface carefully placed by school community members . Despite that, negotiating an SUV required care. It was a slow, bumpy ride. There is now an electric cable running several miles from the nearest village, along the road, delivering electricity to homes nearby. Children still walk and ride horses to school but a community organized small pickup truck traverses the mountains packing 19 of them into its carrying space each trip. A system for collecting and purifying water is also in place at the school. The adobe school house is still standing but is now used as a storage building. The new school, overlooking the old on the mountain is made of cement blocks with sheet metal roof and is furnished with locally built desks, chairs and benches. Colorful art and crafts taped to the walls and hanging from strings crossing the rooms is evidence of the vibrancy of elementary school activity. That teacher, Senor Nicolas Pineira , riding, solo into the distant mountains is now the Principal. There are also 3 other teachers attending to 62 students.
I was with a group of Rotary Club members from Quito, the Capital of Ecuador, scouting the site where we are going to build a children's playground with all modern play structures familiar to North Americans. As is always the case when visiting the indigenous of the Sierra, our reception was sincerely warm. In the spirit of friendship and levity, I could not resist the a challenge to belie my almost 65 years by playing hop scotch in the school yard.
By the time we got back to Quito late that night we were exhausted but deeply satisfied that we were helping people in need in an ambiance of warm friendship and mutual respect.
Click RSS Icon to automatically follow Andre's Blog.
Follow Andre on Twitter