25 ODSS students, 4 teachers leaving Friday for Ecuador

February 16, 2018   ·   0 Comments

By Mike Pickford

Following a hugely successful inaugural service trip to Costa Rica this time last year, four teachers at Orangeville District Secondary School (ODSS) are looking forward to “making a difference” once again this month as they accompany 25 students on a 10-day mission in Ecuador.

The group includes many who are going for the second straight year to experience what the world is like away from the home comforts of Orangeville. The group will spend time in three different communities in the South American nation, with the bulk of their time being deep in the Amazon Forest.

Speaking to the Citizen on Tuesday prior to their departure, ODSS teachers Susie Chamberlain and Koven Padayachee said they were excited for a trip that will be a lot more focused on service work this time around.

“This trip to Ecuador has been in the pipeline for a while. Even before going to Costa Rica last year, we were pretty sure we were going to go ahead with this trip. If last year served as something of an introduction to service work, this trip we’re jumping right in. We’re going to get our hands dirty,” Ms. Chamberlain said.

During a similar 10-day excursion to Costa Rica last February, 36 students spent three days volunteering at a wildlife sanctuary in Coastal Puntarenas, planting trees in Monteverde and engaging with children at a local elementary school. This time, they will be helping out with a water project in an indigenous community in the Amazing basin.

“We don’t know for sure what we’re doing yet, all we’ve been told is that it’s to do with water. I’ve told the students to expect lots of digging and to be prepared to get dirty and wet,” Ms. Chamberlain said.

Having planned their trip with Educational Tours, students will be working with social enterprising organization ME to WE, who have a headquarters in the Amazon. The organization has a lot of experience when it comes to assisting and delegating service groups traveling down to Ecuador, says Ms. Chamberlain.

Coming in at a cost of approximately $3,500 per student, it isn’t exactly a cheap trip. But it’s one that will bring the sorts of experiences money simply can’t buy according to Mr. Padayachee, who has long believed in the value of completing service work overseas.

Leaving Toronto on Friday, the group will fly down to San Salvador for a quick pit stop before moving on to Quito, Ecuador. They will spend two days touring Quito, with trips to museums and a 16th century church already planned. One of the coolest things about the trip according to Ms. Chamberlain, students will have the opportunity to straddle the equator in Quito and participate in several “cool” experiments.

On day three, the group will take an eight-hour bus and canoe ride to the Amazon Basin and up the Napo River to Minga Lodge, home base for ME to WE in Ecuador. There, they will be directed to the community where they will complete the service aspect of their trip. Students will have a chance to do some sightseeing towards the end of the trip, spending a night each in Banos and Otavalo – communities known for beautiful waterfalls and a vibrant arts scene. They will travel back to Quito ahead of their flight home on Feb. 25.

“This is going to be something the kids are going to remember for the rest of their lives, being a part of a service trip like this with their friends. Making a real difference for an entire community of people,” Mr. Padayachee said. “As great as the trip was last year, we’re really looking forward to this one and seeing how the students interact with the people in Ecuador.”

And it’s that potential for multiple learning experience that brought Ms. Chamberlain and Mr. Padayachee together with fellow educators Darryl Stevenson and Angie Litzen to offer the trip this year.

“This is something, prior to Costa Rica, we had talked about for years. Eventually, we decided to just go ahead and do it, and I’m so glad we did. It’s a neat thing to bring the students into. Having the opportunity to connect with a world that seems so big and impossible, yet here we are with this amazing opportunity,” Ms. Chamberlain said.

You can follow the group on their journey on social media, as Ms. Chamberlain will be updating a Twitter page whenever she has chance. Search @ODSSEcuador on Twitter for more information.

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