Megan Nix: Once In a Lifetime Trip to Ecuador
September 11th, 2017
Frederick R Miller help with fundraising to send Megan Nix to Ecuador.
Megan has written her own blog post about the once in a lifetime trip, which you can find below the pictures.
Ecuador: My Once in a Lifetime Adventure
Hello readers, I’m Megan and over the summer I had the most incredible opportunity to travel to Ecuador for a month with my school as part of an expedition with Camps International. Fundraising was the slow and steady beginning of the journey, and Fredrick R Millers played a tremendous part in helping me along the way. Sponsorships are hard to come by and I was so grateful for them being so generous.
The first part of my trip took place in the province of Esmeraldas, where we were situated at the satellite camp of Chankama. The camp itself reflected the lifestyle of the local community; rural and basic. The project work we were involved in was to help the community’s school, where maintenance work was needed as well as giving them a place to play. During the two days we were there we repaired all of the desks and tables, built the children some monkey bars and fixed their basic style bleachers.
At the school it was very alarming to see the conditions the children learn in; there were three classrooms for the 60 children attending the school but there were only two teachers. One of the teachers would have to flit between classrooms, attempting to teach two classes at once due to lack of staff.
At Esmeralda’s main camps we had two projects to work on: the local town of Chura’s school and the medical centre. The work at these two projects was heavily cement based. You name the place, and cement was there. At the school we made cement to plaster the walls and at the medical centre it was used for making the main poles of the structure of the building. Both of these projects were a year behind and our strong minded team made a huge difference. The community was so appreciative for our efforts, and the children constantly seemed to be smiling no matter what situation or setting they were in.
The Amazon rainforest was our next destination after a week in Esmeraldas. The climate was very hot and humid, with dense rainforest on one side of the camp and a beautiful river on the other. We did a variety of different projects and cultural activities. The project work was in the community centre – which had only just started to be constructed – so we were making the floor out of rocks; creating a path through the rainforest because it was too slippery to walk on the bare ground; making a fire pit for the school kitchen so the children could eat properly at meal times; building the head teacher of the school a proper house (his current one bedroom house was totally inadequate for him, his wife and his 6 children to live!). The community thanked us by involving us in cultural activities such as tattooing, cultural dancing and Ecuavolley (the Ecuadorian version of volleyball), which were all thoroughly enjoyable and taught us more about their culture.
To get to the next camp, it was a 6 hour trek through the Amazon rainforest. Camp Chili Urku was yet again another satellite camp which was in need of a lot of work. Majority of the people in this remote town didn’t even have toilets, and had to go into the jungle to do their business. That made it all the more rewarding when we learnt that we would be building some of the toilet block at house of Chili Urku’s president. We also did maintenance work at the school including painting and building a rock path to the school, as it was currently unsafe to walk on because of the muddy conditions due to the rain. I also volunteered myself to go on an additional trek into the jungle – when we had to wake up at 5 in the morning! – to collect saplings and plant them back in the community. This meant that they could ultimately gain from their produce and earn themselves some money for the families to live on. It was a very meaningful to plant my own saplings as I knew how much it would give back to the community and its economy.
The mountain camp, Cayambe, was probably the most well built community. During our stay, our projects were mud walls, water storage containers, community kitchen and a dry toilet. I was only involved in the first three. The mud walls were built for security around houses, and mud was much cheaper to use than cement. To build the walls you physically had to be inside the wall ‘template’ and press down the mud with what looked like a giant cotton bud. Again, the water storage unit was made in a more economical way. This was by using plastic bottles filled with dirt instead of using bricks, using cement as a mortar. Our last day of project work was creating a space for an orchard so that the community could grow their own produce. At the end of our last day of work, the community hosted a buffet lunch for us with all of their own dishes. We even got the chance to try the local cuisine of guinea pig! This was all they had so it was so meaningful that they were sharing this with us, and this people were so kind and considerate even when they had very little.
The last week meant one thing: time for the trek. We were camping at the edge of the most beautiful lake –Laguna Mojanda – and it was very cold and reached below freezing most nights. This was the most challenging part of the trip, not just physically but mentally as well. I have a very big fear of heights and climbing the three peaks really put me to the test. The first day we trekked up Cerro Tolillas, which was the smallest of the three, but was spectacular all the same. Cerro Negro was the most challenging for me, as the edges were very exposed and you had a clear view of the deep drop. There was also a small rock scramble to get to the summit, which itself was only around 5 square meters. I don’t think you could ever beat the feeling you get when you reach the summit of any mountain, no matter the height, and Cerro Negro gave me the best feeling because of how afraid I was on the journey upwards. Trekking up Fuya-Fuya, the highest mountain reaching 4300m, was the last thing that we did on the trip and the reality started to kick in that we would be going home the next day. That thought was what made it worthwhile: when would I ever get to have this opportunity again? Reaching the final summit really was the cherry on top of the cake, as the views were truly spectacular and it was a great end to the most incredible trip.
This trip has probably been the greatest experience of my life, and that all leads back to the beginning and how I got there in the first place. I was so lucky to have Fredrick R Miller to sponsor me and help me along the way. Their generosity has meant that I could be part of a team that has helped hundreds of people in the projects carried out by Camps International. A tremendous thank you goes out to them, not just from me, but all of the Ecuadorians too.