Service & Exploration in Ecuador

Marvelwood's delegation of three students and one faculty member were in Ecuador, participating in the Round Square International Service Big Build Project. Justin Deconteau '19, Amelia Marshall '20, Natasha Nash '19 and John Russell '88 were with a group of fifty students and educators from around the world in Ruta de Spondylus, working with the local community to improve educational facilities and infrastructure.

Scroll down for blog updates and photos from their two week adventure, July 9-22, 2018

Day One: Arrivals Day

It’s been a busy few days and we are pleased to announce that (after a very long day) all students arrived safely in Ecuador! All students were met by our wonderful team of adult leaders at the airport and escorted back to the hostel to relax and to get to know the rest of the team.

About the team

The RSIS Team in Ecuador is led by Carlos from UWCSEA, Singapore and with him on the adult leadership team is Nina from Schule Schloss Salem, John Russell '88 from Marvelwood, Tony from UWCSEA, Manisha from DAIS, Holly from Felsted, and Sarah from Latymer Upper School.

We are excited to have Round Square students from schools across the globe join us on this project including Ballarat Grammar, Bayview Glen, Bridge House School, Brookhouse School, Chadwick School, DAIS, Ermitage International School, Felsted School, Fountain Valley School, Glenlyon Norfolk School, Gordonstoun School, Herlufsholm Skole, Hotchkiss School, King’s Academy, Lower Canada College, Milton Abbey School, Providence Day School, Roedean School, Schule Schloss Salem, St. Cyprian’s School, Stiftung Louisenlund, The Athenian School, The British School Jakarta, The Shri Ram School - Aravali, The Marvelwood School, UWCSEA and Westfield School.


Day Two: Arriving on the project site

After a relaxing evening at the hostel, the team were on the move again! After a 4.5 hour journey the team have arrived safely at Camp Costa; the project site and their home for the next two weeks.

Students were given a tour of the project site, met the local team and have received a safety brief as part of their orientation.

Students have now settled into their bunk accommodation, and getting to know their new room mates.


Day Three: Camp Costa

Happy Birthday! Yesterday was a double celebration, not only was it the team’s first night at Camp Costa but it was also Abbey and Obi’s birthday. The team celebrated with plenty of cake and a piñata.

We wish both Abbey and Obi a very happy birthday, we hope it was one you will never forget!

Student blog update

By: Amelia Marshall '19, Benjie, Max, Matthew and Justice

After a breakfast of scrambled eggs, we were split into two groups and introduced to the construction sites where we would be working for the next eight days.

One group was assigned the task of clearing the grass around the soon to be Children’s Center as well as digging a trench in order to build a ramp.  The other group had to dig foundation holes, and fill them up with cement that was mixed by hand.

After lunch, the groups switched locations and continued on the same tasks. Some of us had a brief encounter with a few of the local children from the primary school and we ended up playing a nice game of football together.

After a hard day of work, we were introduced to the concept of “bucket showers” which were necessary due to the limited supply of running water in the area. The experiences we shared helped bring us all closer together, and we ended the day with a birthday celebration for two of the campers.

Overall, the first day was an opportunity for us to have a new experience with leadership positions as well as the opportunity to meet and interact with new people in new surroundings, and we can’t wait to discover what the rest of our trip has in store for us!


Day Four: The Early Childhood Center

Students have started work in earnest on the construction of an Early Childhood Centre, which will provide much needed day care for the growing population of the local community. The Centre will help provide a safe space for young children and babies. The centre will have its own toilets, a kitchen, a vegetable garden, greenhouse and a playground for all ages.

The team has been split into smaller work-forces and are taking turns to lead their groups. The groups are rotating in tasks with some helping build either the Children’s Centre, or the Multi Use Building or helping to refurbish the playground, fencing and landscaping.

Down time

Students have been enjoying evenings gathered around a campfire with marsh mellows; a fun and delicious way to wind down after a long day on the project site. Talking of delicious; the team have developed a taste for locally produced passion fruit! YUM

The team are kept on schedule by their own personal alarm clock - the community rooster. He has made it his own personal mission to make sure no body over sleeps!!

Student blog update

By: Chamilla, Shawn, Matthew, Helena and Andrew

It was the second day of our service project and we were excited to work in our groups and get some work done. We had learnt from our previous leaders and realised that giving water breaks more often was important.

We ate pancakes for breakfast after our wake-up call at 6:30am. Then we immediately went to our respective worksites in our groups and were pumped up to overcome any obstacle that we faced.

We started to build the fence at the Children’s Centre by first cleaning the bamboo and then attaching it to the structure of the fence. We also added cement and rocks to the ramp at the children’s centre as well as the foundation at the multiuse centre which was an extremely difficult task.

After a really productive day, we returned to Camp Costa and ate vegetable stew and rice for dinner. We ended the day in style with a bonfire next to our camp. It was definitely refreshing!

Overall, we all had a wonderful experience leading our groups, learning more about Ecuadorian Culture and interacting with our other group members from different parts of the world. This experience allowed us to grow as individuals and understand the very difficult task of being a leader, but at the end we all enjoyed the sense of fulfilment of working in a team.


Days Five & Six: A Very Busy Weekend

Work on the bamboo fence and the foundations of the multi-use centre are now complete and students have started work on some fun playground furniture. Students are also taking time to complete their thoughts and reflections in their RS journals, helping to track their development and progress while in Ecuador.

Student blog update

By: Robert, Zayaan, Margherita, Léna and Anushka

After a refreshing tropical fruit salad and bowl of cereal, we were invited to a very special day at a local Primary school in the Puerto Rico community. It was aptly named ‘Dia De La Familia’ or the Day of the Family. Both students and teachers demonstrated their work over the year as well as performed a couple of musical pieces for all. The Round Square Big Build team participated with four performances of our own: two songs and two dances.

We then split off into our groups to work on the two project sites. Group A, which consisted of members from Tony, Carlos and John’s groups, finished off the inner layer of the bamboo fence for the Children’s centre as well as preparing more concrete while Group B, which was made up of students from the Manishan’s and Super 10, prepared the rebar for the concrete, painted beams for the roof and as usual, toiled in the back-breaking concrete mixing area (how fun!).

After a very needed lunch of fajitas and freshly prepared salsa, we swapped sites and continued to work on the outer layer of the fence and the wiring of the reinforcement bars. Group A also had to rearrange the benches of the Church next to the site to make space for the mixing of the concrete.

We came back to the camp site to enjoy a delicious meal of empanadas. After dinner, we were treated to Salsa class. It was really fun to watch everyone try to follow the Ecuadorian instructor. Because of the heat that was generated of the large number of moving bodies, it took quite a while for all of us to cool off and chill out before heading back to the rooms.

On behalf of everyone on the trip, parents – you do not need to worry! We’re doing great :)


Day 7: Machalilla National Park

Students enjoyed a day away from the project worksite and had the opportunity to visit Machalilla National Park, a preserve in the Ecuadorian Manabí Province near Puerto López.

As the only coastal national park in Ecuador, the Machalilla National Park sports protected beaches and tracts of dry forest, cloud forests and a cluster of islands. This makes it one of the best stops along the Ecuadorian coast to explore.

Students visited the small museum filled with archaeological artefacts that have been discovered on the site, and went for a hike to take in the beautiful views.

This cultural trip was not only a great adventure but a good opportunity to get really messy! The trip finished with a visit to the lagoon. Mud is routinely collected from the bottom of this pool so guests can apply their own facial mud masks.

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Student blog update

By: Abby, Aubrey, Jana, Justin Decoteau '19, and Mélanie

After four long days of hard work, it was time for an exciting excursion away from the worksite.

Our groups travelled to the local village of Agua Blanca that sits in the middle of the Machalilla National Park. We traversed through the mountains on a hike that lead us to Los Frailes beach and many other coastal destinations that were perfect for taking pictures with our new friends. The tour guides showed us wonderful views, and gave us the chance to try a local mud mask at a sulphur lagoon. We also visited the highest point of the mountain range to look around at the surrounding beauty.

Although there was a language barrier for some with our Agua Blanca Native tour guide, we had a translator that made learning the culture and history a breeze. It was quite a surprise for our group that we walked 3 km on our “rest day,” but it was all worth the effort in the end when we got to take in the gorgeous Ecuadorian landscape.

And to close off the day, we had the opportunity to buy ice cream to balance out the effort of the long trek, and we were able to buy souvenirs for parents, siblings, and friends alike, be prepared for your special gifts from South America!

Day 9: Teamwork and leadership skills

30 sacks of cement, 30 wheelbarrows of sand, 42 wheelbarrows of gravel, and a group of motivated students working towards a common goal!

Students have been uniting as a team on the project work site and divvying up tasks such as mixing cement and varnishing the completed bamboo fencing. Students have been taking it in turns to lead the whole team, developing valuable leadership and communication skills.

Slowly but surely, their work is paying off and the concrete slab foundation and its pillars are taking shape.

The team also spent some time sorting through the materials they brought with them to donate to the community and have started to package them into kits for teachers.

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Student blog update

By: Lucas, Michelle, Harriet, Jenny and Armaan

Feeling slightly rested, we began our day with excitement for the second week of work. Through all the difficulties we faced, we managed to persevere and complete the tasks that were set for us. On the children’s centre, we finished most of the train, varnished the whole fence, cemented the kitchen counter, planted a beautiful landscape and made sure the new centre would last for many years to come.

On the second worksite, the multi-use centre, we had made lots of progress towards the structure of the building. Due to our strict time limit, we managed to finish all of the pillars of the building and even the ground of the foundation. Our teamwork and co-ordination was tested due to the huge volume of cement to mix that was difficult to complete given the short time period. Through the incredible leadership and devotion of today’s writers, we finished the cement with flying colours (please be proud of us). We are excited to see the building progress in our last few days of work as we continue our tireless efforts.

The highlight of our day after hours of hard labour was a visit by the children of the community, Puerto Rico, who were eager to play games with us. We had an amazing time playing many different games including soccer, frisbee, “hula hula” (with hula hoops) and catch. The smiles of the children’s faces will work as our motivation for the rest of the week.

See you soon and hasta mañana amigos!

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Having a Whale of a Time

July 20, 2018

Student Blog

By: Obi, Aryan, Julia, Georgia and Olivia

Today was the first day that all five groups would be combined, leading to the 49 of us all working together at the multi-use centre. We knew that today was going to be a chaotic day because of the large number of people at a single site filling the floor of the multi-use centre with concrete. Even so, we all marched to breakfast with our spirits high excited to devour French toast and cereal.

Motivated by the prospect of finishing work before lunch, all groups worked extremely hard to make the seven mammoth batches of cement, which can be a gruelling task. Even though we were all exhausted and famished, we agreed to push lunch back by an hour to complete the job. With the music blasting and motivating us, we pushed on and the sense of community among the fifty of us became very evident. This decision was crucial, as it allowed the maestros to finish the floor as soon as possible. Despite the cement batches required increasing in number, we surprisingly finished the job and got a well-deserved afternoon off to relax and socialize. The day was tough, but it was very rewarding to see the finished floor.

After a lunch of chicken sandwiches, we raced outside to play football and frisbee with the local children. As some of the children played with a frisbee for the first time, they improved very quickly which surprised us all. The afternoon off was very useful, as it allowed us to catch up with our friends and prepare for the next day.

After dinner, we got into our five groups and reflected on the day with our adult leaders and everyone agreed that working together made the task more enjoyable.

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Student blog update

By: Yvana, Natasha Nash '19, Annissa and Sadeen

Today was a welcome break from hard work after yesterday’s long hours of working with cement. We started the day off learning how to lay bricks – a detailed process - for the multi-use centre’s walls. Others took it upon themselves to put the final touches on features of the children’s centre. Naturally, the workload was light compared to the previous days. Surprisingly, leadership was more challenging to keep everyone motivated and focused.

Everyone had the chance to engage in a coffee making activity which included a walk to local coffee trees and an observation of Puerto Rico’s traditional coffee bean roasting technique – a unique process which involves adding sugar towards the end of the coffee roast. Afterwards, we were treated to a delicacy frequently enjoyed by the locals: roasted plantain with goat’s cheese.

After chatting in our groups and reflecting on our day, we headed downstairs for a student favourite: banana milkshakes and homemade blackberry juice. We readied ourselves for our exciting excursion tomorrow by packing our bags for the early day ahead.

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Student blog update

By: Natalie Nash '19, Annissa, Charlotte and Alberte

We had a very early start today as we prepared ourselves for an epic day of snorkelling and hiking.

We woke up at 5:15 and left the camp at 6:30. Firstly, we arrived at the fishing dock to catch the ferry boats in Puerto Lopez. On the long hour and half boat ride, we had the chance to see humpback whales and even some dolphins.

When we arrived at the island, Isla de la Plata, known for its diverse population of birds, we were excited to start hiking. With help from tour guides, we were able to go on a two-hour hike around the island and saw many species, for example, the blue-footed boobie, the frigate bird, and many more. At the time, many of these birds were in mating season so we got to see babies and couples. We also saw many different parts of the island and some beautiful views.

After the hike, we ate lunch on the boats and started to make our way towards the reef where we snorkelled. We saw a variety of fish, and even some sea turtles, eels, sting rays, and octopi.

Proceeding this, we made our way, on the boats, back to the fishing docks while stopping to see whales again. After the ride back, we were given an hour and a half to shop along the beach, where we all scored some great souvenirs and enjoyed an ice cream.

Next, we made our way back to Camp Costa for dinner, where we had fried rice with vegetables. As the leaders, we found it was quite a relaxing day to lead the groups and we had a great time.

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