From the Andes to the Amazon

Grades 9 – 12
Palugo, Ecuador

Shiwacocha is a traditional Kichwa community in the Amazon basin. Under assault from impending oil and mining companies, the people of Shiwacocha are holding on to their tribal traditions and striving to preserve the environment on which their way of life depends. Shiwacochas hunt the forest and fish the river from their dug out canoes, plant yuccas on their Chackras (plantations) and harvest the abundance of the jungle. They build sturdy palm-leaf thatched huts and make beautiful crafts with shells, gourds, bamboo, bones and seeds. The Calapucha family will be our host in the community. This visionary family is able to balance their traditional way of life with maintaining a healthy relationship to the modern world. To reach Chiwacotcha we will hike for three hours from where the road ends, south of Misahualli.

Once in the village we will stay in simple but comfortable thatched huts with mosquito netting and woven bamboo mattresses. Our meals will be prepared in a beautiful traditional kitchen, where the chicha drink is made and the ever-present plantain dishes are served by mamma Isolina.

Our community service will consist of Mingas (community work parties) where we will help individual families or the community as a whole. In the past we helped with building a school and family homes, planting yucca and harvesting the gifts of the jungle. Village craftspeople will teach us how to make traditional jewelry, woven baskets and pilche (gourd) bowls.

Saying farewell to our new friends we will experience the jungle river travel as we navigate rafts loaded with bananas and yucca down the Arajuno River back to the modern world. Jungle – the wild and mysterious place have shared a few of its secrets with us.

Our stay and work in the Chiwacotcha community plays an important role in preserving these people’s native customs, their forest and arts, and gives people hope in the face of the struggle they are facing

Before and after jungle expedition the group will stay at Palugo farm. While at the farm our curriculum may include participating in daily chores, food preparation and preservation, felting, clay bowls and making healing balms. In addition we can arrange a visit to old Quito. Two weeks will fly by as one day.