When young people see a future for themselves, an entire village is lifted with hope. In 2017 the Intag Valley of Ecuador did not have access to higher learning, and university education was not an option for young people in the area. A study conducted by government officials found that 87% of locals live at the poverty line and only 40% of them have a high school education. This meant that 95% of young people in the area were not continuing their academic studies and as a result poverty was persisting for families.
Those numbers are improving, thanks in large part to the collaborative effort between the Advancing Life Foundation and CHOICE Humanitarian to fund and begin building a school that would provide opportunities for education and training of the locals, especially the youth. The impact this has had on the community has been powerful.
Building a Dream for Many
Construction began in 2017 on a breathtaking plot of land in the Andes mountains called Apuela, home to a farming and mining community with roughly 17,000 residents. The first Advancing Life service expedition was held in July of that year and consisted of volunteers and local villagers working together to learn new skills and lay the foundation of the school. The task was to lay the foundation of the school, including a 100-meter fence along its perimeter. Boys from an hour away drove to help with the project. An 82-year-old man showed up to dig with the volunteers.
During the second year, the expedition team constructed the workshop which would be used to teach welding and auto-mechanic skills. Volunteers who had been on the previous year’s service trip were amazed at what the locals had accomplished since their last visit. They let the momentum motivate them as they constructed brick walls, dug drainage trenches, poured sidewalks, and completed the perimeter fence. They also installed roof panels and moved large boulders.
To see the campus now is nothing short of inspirational. With the construction of a multiple-use room and kitchen, it looks like a professional facility with endless possibilities. Steel arch beams make up the workshop roof, giving it a modern, state-of-the-art look and feel. One can see why it shines as a beacon of hope for the community.
New School, New Opportunities for All
During the month of October 2019, the first training course began at the Inta-Kara Center. From October 2019 to November 2020, four courses were taught by the Institute. The students who took the welding course supplemented their training by taking industrial safety and metrology courses. The in-person welding course focused on good manufacturing practices and, because it ran in conjunction with a bakery workshop, it also covered handling techniques. Twenty-seven women and one man participated in this course.
A total of 44 students from different communities participated in the courses offered at the Inta-Kara Center. To date, all who graduated from welding courses—and later complemented their training with industrial safety and metrology—have been able to earn money through their welding skills. Eight of them are currently employed or have started their own welding business. The others are either farmers or laborers that are back at their trade with the added skill of welding, which has greatly increased their value in their work.
A Boundless Impact in a Community
Humanitarian and government workers in the area have noticed a change in attitude in the inhabitants of the La Playa community. Families are participating in decision-making and planning activities to improve their community. They have organized themselves and are working together on community development projects. A collective goal is to construct a new bridge across the river for vehicles.
In advocating for their community, and through their eagerness to help with the work, the surrounding communities, local governments, and other public institutions have assigned resources to carry out studies for the implementation of drinking water, public lighting, improvement of access roads to the La Playa community and to the Center. The community leaders have broadened their vision on the importance of education and community. For example, leaders prioritized the provision of internet service in the La Playa community where the Inta-Kara Center is located.
Young people are optimistic about the opportunity to access continuing education offered in their area and at a minimal cost. It has become a motivating place in the community and is raising the bar of the standard of living. The locals are taking better care of their land and homes, with a new sense of purpose and hope infused in the community.
Pledge to Make an Impact
To help make a difference in Ecuador and with other Advancing Life Foundation services initiatives worldwide, visit the Advancing Life Foundation’s Make a Pledge page to become a monthly donor. Your dollar goes further in 2021 when ASEA is matching every donation!