Eighteen Burnsville High School students, teachers Allison Millea and Paul McDevitt and Youth Service Coordinator Brianna Ostoff embarked on the school’s first-ever Global Service Adventure to Ecuador during spring break.
Students and staff members at the trench site.
The trip was spent mostly in the heart of the Amazon working with the community of Los Rios, though there was a day of sightseeing around Quito and the equator. "While working with Los Rios residents, students truly learned the meaning of the Quechua word, 'minga,' which means the coming together of people for the greater good of the community,” said Ostoff.
The group participated in the Los Rios minga for clean water through the organization "Me to We." The purpose was to offer a hand up, not a hand out. Together with Los Rios community members, students and staff dug a trench that ran through the community, enabling a route for a water pipe to eventually be installed and bring clean water to each home.
Additionally, the group encountered a variety of people who showed them what daily life is like in Los Rios. They visited a local farmer and helped him harvest grapefruits and oranges; visited a cocoa farm and learned about the process of making chocolate and the importance of fair trade products; were introduced to a local group of female artisans who showed them how to re-purpose trash into beautiful bags and leaves into stylish bracelets for the purpose of providing each family in their community with a bathroom in their home; and met a local healer who showed them his traditions.
The experience enabled each student to be fully immersed in the culture, engaged in experiential and service learning and inspired to bring some "minga" back to their own community.
"It meant so much to assist the people of Los Rios in a project that was so needed in their community," said Elizabeth Russell, a junior. "It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I don't know if I'll ever have that kind of opportunity again."
The spring break trip was open to all BHS students. Many of them volunteered to earn money for the trip, local businesses and organizations sponsored students or provided them with gear for the trip.
Sierra Trading Post, the Burnsville Lions Club, Ritter & Ritter Inc., Shippers Resource Center, Valley Natural Foods, Kwik Trip and many individuals made it possible for the students to experience this amazing learning adventure, according to Ostoff.