The Adventure of a Life Time: Chisholm Academy in Ecuador


The adventure of a life time began as fifteen Chisholm Academy students and two teachers, Mr. Mooney and Ms. Andrew, met at Toronto Pearson Airport at 8 am on March 10th. Their destination: Ecuador and the Amazon jungle for a week long service learning trip with ME to WE travel. Here is the story of our adventure together:

The excited students said goodbye to their parents and a long day of travel began. The team landed safely in Quito and were greeted by our wonderful facilitators, Hilary and Raquel, who brought the team a much-needed snack of late night pizza. Arriving at the hotel in Quito, the sleepy students quickly settled into their rooms for some rest before embarking on another long day of travel. To reach the Amazon River, the team rode by bus through the mountains and the cloud forests- the roads were winding and a little rough, but the views were spectacular!

After several hours on the bus, and a few spontaneous sing-a-longs- the team arrived at the Amazon River. We loaded our bags into the motorized canoe and took the 25 minute ride down the mighty Napo River to our final Destination- The Ming Lodge where we were greeted with a traditional welcome by the staff and a fly by from the wild parrot, Yolanda.

The next morning marked our first full day in the jungle and the team ventured into the Amazon to visit a local fruit farmer. Here students learned about the challenges of farming in the Amazon and even got a chance to try planting yucca and pick coffee beans. Students taste tested some of the fruit grown on the farm and learned more about fair trade products. The team also learned about the importance of clean drinking water in the Amazon and the challenges local villagers experience in their quest to achieve clean water. Mr. Vargas, the farmer whom we were visiting, lost one of his children as a result of unclean drinking water. This reinforced the importance of the clean water project the Chisholm community has been fundraising for this year back home in Oakville.

In the afternoon the team travelled to a local community to visit their school rooms and see where we would begin our build project the next day. Students were taught about the tools we would be using and discussed safety measures while on site. The next morning the Chisholm team broke ground on what will become a new school room for the local students. Chisholm students worked hard all morning, digging holes for the foundation, sawing and bending rebar and moving dirt and rocks off site. The progress which was made in just one short morning was astounding. It will still be several more months before the school room is finished, but knowing we made a contribution to the final product was quiet something.

Other cultural highlights from our time in the Amazon included the visit to the Shaman, or local healer who explained how he used plants and traditions passed down from generations before him to heal people. Then students learned how to use a replica of a traditional blow dark gun and spear as they tried to hit a papaya mounted on a stick. Our aim wasn’t perfect, but the team had fun trying out their skills.

Our final day in the Amazon culminating in a visit to a local women’s artisan group where students learned how women could work together to create an alternative income for themselves and support their families. Students tried their hand at weaving bracelets and making fiber from leaves. That night we were treated to a traditional dance performed by local school children.

Bright and early the next morning, the team packed up and said goodbye to the jungle. We headed back to the capital city of Quito and the next day, we took a walking tour of the historical center, learning about the city, its language and customs. Our final afternoon in Ecuador culminating with an exciting trip to the centre of the world as we visited the Equator. Students tried various experiments such as balancing an egg on the equator and learning how the equator impacts the flow of water. Then we tried walking along the equator, which is far more challenging then it seems.

Tried, but happy, the team made its way back to the Quito airport for our red eye flight home. After a long night of travel, we arrived safely back in Toronto, filled with memories and an experience of a life time.

Thank you to all the amazing Ecuador team members: John, Hamid, Mikhaela, Kelly, Katelyn, Ted, Alex, Daniel, Miles, Peter, Jay, Ganesha, Lizzie, Thomas, and Tristan. You’re hard work, enthusiasm and willingness to try new things which were out of your comfort zone made this trip incredible. We’re so proud of you!

A special thank you also goes out to my fellow chaperone, Mr. Mooney, for your enthusiasm and support throughout the trip. Another thank you goes out to our facilitators Hilary and Raquel and Me to We for helping to make this trip possible!


Alison Andrew

Chisholm Academy Teacher