At 9 a.m., PJ, Luis and I crammed into a a dusty red pick-up truck. An hour and a half later, we arrived in Galte Yaguachi, an indigenous community swallowed by hills and clouds in the Chimborazo region where MEDLIFE Ecuador is expanding the community’s one-room schoolhouse. Over 90 children receive their primary education here, from first through sixth grade. When we arrived, a crowd of small children in red wool ponchos were giggling and tumbling over one another, precariously balancing metal mugs of a nutritional, sweet, light gray-colored drink made of quinoa. But the community seemed emptier than usual. Apparently an indigenous festival drew many of the adults to another side of Guamote.
That’s where Maria Antonia Yasaca Ortiz’s husband, Carlos Puculpala Pucuha, was. She is a 27-year-old mother of three young children (above) who attend gradeschool in their community. Her family works in agriculture, like the majority of those living in Yaguachi. She spoke softly and tended to look at her feet when interviewed, but wrangled her children into a line for a photograph like an expert sheep herder. Maria spoke to us in the local language, Quichua, about how the school is terribly overcrowded. She said she would love to see all of the children be able to learn in the schoolhouse.
Manuel Yasaea Ortiz, 36, expressed similar concerns, though not for his own three children, who are teen-aged and attending school further away at the Unidad Educativa Nacion Puruhua. Manuel has three small cousins who attend school in Galte Yaguachi, and he worries for them, loudly and eloquently in Spanish. He said that the schooling opportunities there were seriously lacking, especially for any child who wants to enter into a profession outside of agriculture. Manuel excitedly talked about how grateful the community was for the new construction. In fact, he was so elated, he heartily volunteered to repeat exactly what he said in Spanish in Quichua as well, with the same enthusiasm and booming voice.
School construction in Galte Yaguachi is set to begin in about two weeks, on November 26th, 2012. The community has two months to complete the project, which will be a large, one room school situated next to a line of three new bathroom stalls also made possible by MEDLIFE Ecuador. Once built, the school will more than double the amount of space for students in the community.
Rachel Hoffman is a MEDLIFE year-long media intern working out of Riobamba, Ecuador