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IBH in Ecuador

One of the many perks of the Integrated Business and Humanities program is the second year trip to Ecuador. The trip is facilitated by the Me to We organization based out of Toronto and runs during the Fall reading week. As the inaugural class, we had the honour of being the first to experience the trip. It was meant as a fun and interactive way to gain cultural understanding and business struggles in the developing country as well as learn more about social enterprises such as Me to We. (A side note, you can check out this article to learn more about the trip's preparations!)

Without any hesitation, I think the whole class would say that the trip was a fun bonding experience for all of us. As a smaller class, we are always with one another in classes and assignments - but this was living with each other! As expected, we got along perfectly and all had a great time getting to better know one another while learning outside of the typical classroom setting.

The trip was from the 5th to the 14th, with the first and last day being designated solely to flights to and from Quito. While in Quito we stayed at the lovely Hotel San Francisco de Quito, which made being away from home super comfortable! We spent a full day in the beautiful city of Quito upon arrival, taking in the sights, going to the Equator and to a local market. We shipped out the next day out to Mondana in the Napo province, stopping at a pizza place along our travels through the Andean range. We made it to the Los Rios port around 4pm and then had a short (motorized) canoe travel to the Minga Lodge, where we would be staying until the 13th.

Over the next five days, we enjoyed visits to the following...
  • Me to We Agricultural Learning Centre where some of the Me to We products come from.
  • A local fruit farmer where Me to We had completed a community water project
  • A nearby school where Me to We was building a new schoolhouse and a water tank 
  • A local neighbourhood where Me to We was building a kitchen for a school
  • A local artisans group, who make many of the bracelets for me to We to support themselves.
  • The home of the Shaman, where we also had a brief 'weapons training' session.

In addition to this, our professors arranged for relevant case studies to be covered and evening discussions. This allowed us to reflect on wherever or whatever we did earlier in the day and provide thoughts or critiques on it. We were fortunate enough to have a nearby female grocer come for one of our evening discussions to go over her struggles as an emerging entrepreneur in her community.

On the 13th we started our trek back to Quito, stopping along the way as an awesome little restaurant and at the Universidad de Las Americas. We made it back to the Hotel San Francisco de Quito for a quick break before a last venture out in Quito. We stopped at a great market, went next door for dinner and then went on a group walk around the downtown area. We reminisced about all the fun that we had and took a few more photos to round out the trip. We caught a few hours of sleep before we were at the airport with a group of us heading home. It all went by so quickly!

It was a very fun trip with great interactions, It was certainly not the trip if you are a handy(wo)man, but it was more than educational and eye-opening. It left the class with a very different thought on the situations that these people are in and the role of social enterprises. There are many questions about Me to We as a company, but as trip facilitators, they did a superb job.  The facilitators were very open to questions, explained if we had any concerns, and as a result, it all ran rather smoothly. Below are a few more photos as it was hard to take a bad shot in such a beautiful place!

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