During the COVID-19 pandemic, the facemask became a part of our daily outfit. Wearing a facemask protects you and others, and helps prevent the spread of the virus. In Ecuador it is obligated to wear a mask, you could risk a fine or even jail time if you don’t. However, a lot of families in this region don’t have great financial means, and the masks they have to buy are often an impossible extra cost.
So our sewing teacher Martha went to work. After a process of buying fabrics, trying out different designs, sizes, colors, and what not, we finally came up with a durable, washable and re-usable mask. She made over 2000 masks that we handed out here in Guamote and in the surrounding communities to friends, neighbors, and anyone else that didn’t have a mask.
We were also able to donate some fabrics to a women’s organization where we teach sewing classes in a nearby community called Jatunpamba. The 20 women of the organization practiced their sewing skills and made masks for their entire community.
We were able to make this project happen thanks to many donations of our loyal Inti Sisa friends!
We also started making face masks to sell, embroidered with a logo or a coold design. Once tourism gets a boost again, we hope to sell these to tourists to assure them of a safe trip and give them a unique souvenir in the process!
Around mid-March 2020, Inti Sisa´s daily routine came to a brusque stop. Ecuador started taking very strict measurements to try to limit the dramatic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet the country was strongly affected.
Our kinder garden teachers kept teaching our kids through whatsapp or phone contact. This is not easy with kids living in remote areas. But they did their very best and it went well. In the meantime, our hotel team was catching up on some maintenance work, trying new recipes, doing English classes and Kichwa classes… But more than anything we were rethinking our social engagement and adapting our community projects to the situation.
Although Guamote is a very agriculturally productive region, after 7 weeks of quarantine, more and more families started to struggle to get the necessary food. Not all people had their crops ready to be harvested, the weekly local market was suspended for months and food prices went through the roof, some more than tripled. Additionally, there was barely any transportation available due to the license plate restriction. This made it very difficult for people up in the mountains, who would have to walk for hours, to buy supplies in Guamote.
Many families lived from extremely simple meals like coladas (porridge meals) or just plain potatoes. To help out these families, we started raising donations through social media. Many Inti Sisa friends helped us out and also Better Places helped us raise donations. We were so overwhelmed and happy with the incredible amount of donations coming in. We ended up putting together over 350 food packages with basic but varied food like rice, pasta, cereals, oil, eggs, sugar, salt, fresh vegetables etc. It was a very busy time with shopping in different places, looking for the best deals, overloaded pickups, converting the hotel into a warehouse and a lot of helping hands to make it happen, but in the end all the effort was more than worth it. Some people of the communities were so grateful that they donated some of their harvest in return, which we donated to the people of Guamote, since people in town often don’t have any possibility to cultivate crops.
The gratefulness of the families humbled us every time, many couldn’t even believe it was all for them! We are extremely thankful for every donation, big or small, every little bit helped the families of Guamote and surroundings!
Inti Sisa works closely together with the primary schools of 3 communities. Communities are small villages, located in the mountains. Every community has its own primary school for the children of the village. The smallest school we work with is located in Palacio and has only 8 students and 1 teacher, the school in Chan Chan has 28 students and 2 teachers and the school in Ozogoche has 32 students and 3 teachers. With income from the hotel as well as donations from Inti Sisa friends and guests, we have been able to maintain these three projects for several years now.
Donation of school materials
Start project: 2015
In the beginning of the school year, teachers give every student a list with school materials that are needed for the school year. The total cost of school material for a child can even go up to $100. For many parents, especially for big families, this is a lot of money, so Inti Sisa decided to offer a helping hand. Before the start of the new school year, Inti SIsa bulk buys many of the materials that appear on the list like colored markers and pencils, notebooks, rulers, scissors, craft materials and many more, we also receive many donations throughout the year from tourists that bring something from home, or even better, buy materials in Ecuador to donate to Inti Sisa. We work closely with 3 primary schools in the mountain communities, in total, these schools have almost 70 students. For these schools, we provide all the necessary school material. Apart from that, we also donate school material to families that most need it in Guamote, for example big families, single-parent families, or families with no steady income. Even though we cannot always provide all the items on the list, it is often a big help for parents. At the beginning of the school year in 2019, we provided in total about 300 students with school material.
Daily school lunches
Start project: 2015
Malnutrition is a big problem in this area. Though many people have their own terrain to grow something, because of the high altitude, products that grow best in this region are potatoes, beans, carrots, and grains. As a result, many people are limited to these products. Good nutrition is important and also known to help kids study and focus better. That’s why we started sending food to the schools every week. We send different vegetables, fruits, rice, pasta, beans, and sometimes tuna or meat. The teachers organize the parents so that every day, one of the mothers of the students comes to the school to cook lunch for everyone. This lunch that they receive during school hours is for a lot of children the best meal of their day. In this case, we even see that children go to school more often now that we provide lunch. In rural areas it is not uncommon that children have to help their parents on the field, sell things on the market or take care of smaller brothers and sisters, but we noticed that, since starting the program in 2015, school attendance has gone up.
Start project: 2015
Children in these communities don’t often go outside of their village, some of them know Guamote or the biggest nearby city: Riobamba, because they can buy different things or sell their crops on the market with their parents. Unfortunately, they often don’t know much of their country besides this. That’s why, every year, at the end of the school year, we organize school trips! In general, if a child wants to join the school trip organized by their school, they have to pay for the trip, money the majority of the parents in communities don’t have. Instead, Inti Sisa gathers donations throughout the year to finance some trips. We take the children and a couple supervising teachers or volunteers to Baños, a beautiful valley surrounded by waterfalls. We visit the zoo, or the famous waterfall, Pailon Del Diablo, cross a ravine with a cable car where we have a delicious lunch and go to the pool in the afternoon. These children have probably never seen a tiger, a waterfall or been to a pool. Nobody can swim, and it is a whirlwind of activity, but the kids are very excited and look forward to the school trip all year long. For them, this is a once in a lifetime experience. We try to take as many schools as possible each year but that depends on our budget. In 2019, we were able to make the trip with the students of 5 community schools!
Want to help?
If you would like to bring something for this specific project, we could use colored markers and pencils, notebooks, rulers, scissors, sharpeners, ballpoints… Please do not buy notebooks at home, unfortunately we can´t use those because schools here have very specific requirements when it comes to notebooks.
We would like to emphasize that all kinds of contributions are entirely optional and that you should not feel obliged to buy or bring something. Many visitors mentioned that they consider it a missed opportunity to only hear about the project’s needs during their visit. For this reason, we would like to share this information with you.
Start project: September 2019
In August 2018, Eugenie Kortenhorst and her husband visited Inti Sisa. Impressed by what she saw in the Indigenous communities and the work Inti Sisa does to improve the quality of education in the region, she mentioned the foundation she is part of in Holland: StartUp4kids (www.startup4kids.com) and the possibility to combine forces. StartUp4kids wants to offer extra education to disadvantaged children worldwide to help them to develop their talents and skills and take advantage of opportunities. In developing countries they provide financial support to local foundations that support socially and educationally underprivileged children with extra schooling stimulating their financial, social and personal development. StartUp4kids uses the Aflatoun methodology: a program of social and financial education. The Aflatoun teaching methodology encourages “learning by doing” through fun games, activities, songs and workbooks; children are encouraged to take an active role in the learning process. This includes school-wide savings clubs, financial and social enterprises, and group activities within the community
Guamote is a textbook example of the regions that could benefit enormously from this educational program.
So forces were combined. In February 2019, Tamia (trainer in Inti Sisa), Laura (kindergarden teacher in Inti Sisa) and Eva (coordinator Guesthouse Inti Sisa) participated in an Aflatoun master training in Quito, organized by the Aflatoun International NGO (www.aflatoun.com). With coparticipants from all over Latin America we spent and explorative and inspiring week, learning about the content and method of the Aflatoun program.
In September 2019 we started with the application of Aflatoun in different schools and communities surrounding Guamote. We see that more and more children go to school. But the quality of education is very low compared to other regions in the country. The Aflatoun program puts emphasis on developing the self-confidence of the children and learning about entrepreneurship. In a region where children grow up feeling inferior because they are Indigenous. Kids never learn how to handle money because they grow up in families who always struggle to deal with their debts, Aflatoun is the perfect tool to stimulate children in a creative way to be more self-confident, to save money, to start micro-businesses,…. The Aflatoun method engages a very active way of teaching. It stimulates creative and critical involvement of the children, which is very different from the classical pretty static and dominant educational method. It encourages children to participate, and it teaches them to think different about themselves and their future.
We work in 3 different communities: Santa Theresita (primary school), Chanchan (primary school) and Jatunpamba (informal group of children and youngsters who come together on Sunday). We even started the program with the toddlers in our kindergarden. We reach a total of 204 children. Our biggest achievement is to see these children develop from shy, insecure bystanders to self-confident, proud, active partipants in the program. We definitely encourage the change in girls who are still a lot less confident than boys. Sadly enough, we had to stop the program in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 emergency measures which included closing all schools in Ecuador. But we are confident that in September 2020 we will restart the program bigger and better than before with renewed energy, helping even more children to express their dreams and reach their goals.
Project date: November 2016, October 2019, December 2020
Just like in a lot of Ecuadorian cities and villages overpopulation of dogs is a big problem in Guamote. It leads to aggression towards people and other animals, garbage disposal problems with dogs searching through the litter bins, and dogs in very sad conditions roaming around looking for food…. Some dogs have owners, but in general people don’t have the financial means to get veterinarian aid for their pets. Castration costs minimum (during campaigns in cities like Riobamba) $25 per animal, which is too expensive, besides that, there is also the difficulty to get with their pets to Riobamba.
The best solution is castrating and sterilizing, to prevent further propagating and to make the animals more docile. Thanks to Eva´s (Inti Sisa coordinator) big love for dogs and the good contacts she has with Diego Barrera, the head veterinarian of the PAE Ambato sterilization/castration program, Inti Sisa managed, in November 2016, to organize a free campaign for the first time in the history of Guamote. Ten American veterinarians and vet assistants, and 3 Ecuadorian veterinarians from Ambato, came two days to Guamote. We were a bit worried that people wouldn’t bring their animals, because most of them didn’t even know what sterilization/castration was but our expectations were exceeded. And we were absolutely stunned by the outcome. People from all over Guamote, and from further communities came to get their pets sterilized or castraded for free. In total, we managed to operate on 204 cats and dogs.
Over the last years people kept asking when we would do it again. Apart from changing these animal lives, we managed to change the mentality of people. So we planned something bigger this time. In October 2019 we organized a second, even bigger campaign: 3 days in Guamote and 2 days in Cebadas (another village at 20 minutes from Riobamba) with the same motivated team of veterinarians. The ones who were here in 2016 loved their stay so much last time and managed to convince more vets to come. This time we got a total of 430 animals spayed and neutered.
Because we still received many requests about sterilization, we organized another campaign. It wasn’t as big as we would’ve liked because of corona, but with a team of 3 veterinarians, local youngsters that volunteered, and the help of Soul Dog Rescue, we managed to castrate and sterilize another 100 dogs! (and we still have many more dog-and cat owners on our waiting list)
Now, several months after the campaign, we still have people saying thank you and asking when we will do it again.
Alltogether, with the animals we did during a mini campaign around Christmas 2018, and all the dogs and cats that we took on several occasions to campaings in Riobamba, we managed to change the lives of roughly 700 animals. A lot, but not enough.
A new campaing was planned in April 2020, but due to measurements taken because of the COVID-19 emergency, we will have to postpone it. However, we keep raising awareness and donations. And we are optimistic that we will come back bigger and better: with new campaigns reaching yet more remote regions and even more needy animals.
Start project: 2018
Since the beginning of the Project in 1999, we have been teaching sewing classes in our educational center in Guamote. Women (and some men) come weekly to learn how to make beautiful embroidered blouses and other clothing. Two years ago, in 2018, the women from the women organization in Jatunpamba came to ask if we could teach sewing in their local community. And as it easier to bring one teacher up, than to bring all these women down to Guamote, we were very excited by the idea. We installed sewing machines in their community house and started weekly Sunday classes. Every weekend about 20 women meet up with our teacher. They started with learning how to embroider and make blouses.
Thanks to a fabric donation of Plan International, we could even start the production of warmer clothing. Sadly enough the machines they were using were not strong enough for these new, thick fabrics. But in January 2020 we got some very good news from Wim Holtermans, he visited us in October 2019. He ‘got stuck’ in Inti Sisa for 8 days because of big strikes paralizing the country with roadblocks preventing people to leave Guamote. But Wim, together with 55 other tourists made the best of it. Once back home Wim, impressed by what Inti Sisa can do for the local people, decided to support the workshop in Jatunpamba with his Wilde Ganzen organization. They donated 2 professional sewing machines which gave an inspiring upgrade to our sewing classes. The gratefullnes of these women is immense. We are looking forward to expand our classes and the women are now even dreaming about starting their local entreprise producing clothing and handicrafts they can sell.
START PROJECT: June 2014
The community Bayushi de San Vicente, high in the Andean mountains and around 5 kilometres south of Riobamba, consist of 65 families. People grow corn, potatoes and quinoa and some have guinea pigs, a cow or a pig. The economic situation is rather bad and people are poor in the sense that their yearly income is far below the minimum. A lot of the women do not have a husband (he is gone or dead) and that makes them (alone) responsible for the income and their children. Some elder women receive help from their independent living (married) children. Other women work as a cleaning lady in families in Riobamba and earn about U$180,00 a month while the minimum income is U$366,00 a month. They do not dare to stand up for their rights afraid as they are losing their job. In that way, their employer can do what he/she wants. Their income is too much to die and too little to live on. If one of the animals is sick they cannot e.g. call a veterinarian. They are not in the health insurance fund and most of them have no education.
START PROJECT: October 2016
Byron is 19 years old and our neighbour and lives with his sister/brothers and mother in Guamote, at the other side of the street were the Inti Sisa Art Guesthouse is located.
Byron has 4 brothers and one sister:
*Norman, 23 years old and currently living on the Galapagos.
*Holger, 21 years and living at home.
*Alex, 17 years old and living at home.
*Diego, 15 years old and living at home.
*Juanita, 14 years old and living at home.
Byron´s mother looks after the children and his father works at the municipality. However, he has to end his work in December 2016, due to the bad financial situation of the country.
Since we operate the Inti Sisa Art Guesthouse with 24 rooms the brothers are helping us and through this way they take advantage of the tourism. They started helping to take the suitcases of the tourists inside, later they did some easy jobs in the Guesthouse and after that they helped in the kitchen cleaning the dishes, serving the food in the restaurant and preparing the tables for breakfast next morning.
START PROJECT: November 2016
On November 18th and 19th 2016, Inti Sisa organized, together with Snap Spay and Neuter Ambato Program and the municipality of Guamote, a free dogs and cats sterilization – castration campaign in Guamote. As in a lot of Ecuadorian cities and villages, also in Guamote, there is a problem of overpopulation of dogs, living and causing annoyance in the streets. The best solution is castrating and sterilizing, to prevent further propagating and to make the animals more docile. Thanks to Eva´s (Inti Sisa manager) big love for dogs and the good contacts she has with Diego Barrera, the head veterinarian of the program, Inti Sisa managed to organize this campaign for the first time in the history of Guamote. Ten American veterinarians and vet assistants, and 3 Ecuadorian veterinarians from Ambato, came two days to the village to operate in total 204 cats and dogs. We were a bit worried that people wouldn’t bring their animals. But we were absolutely stunned by the outcome. People from all over Guamote, and also from further communities came with their pets.
START PROJECT: February 2015
Since February 2015 we provide healthy school lunches to 130 elementary school kids. Every week we send loads of fresh fruits, vegetables, meat, chicken, rice and grains to three different mountain schools. The parents and the teacher have rotated cooking schedules so the kids get a nutritious meal every day. For a lot of children, this meal is the best meal of the day. As studying with an empty stomach is very difficult this food project is giving very good results. It is inspiring to see how these kids come running to the car to check out which food they will get that week.