On Tuesday evening, I got back from a trip to Quito, Ecuador, where I and a handful of rockstars were scouting the possibility of starting a second location for Manna Project International. The trip was a smashing success, thanks to a lot of lucky connections and some incredibly helpful people. A little bit of what we learned, excerpted from our forthcoming trip report:
“Located in the northwest corner of South America, Ecuador is one of the region’s richest and poorest countries: overflowing with natural resources, but struggling with a poverty rate of forty percent. Its capital, Quito, lies in a valley in the Andes Mountains, a range running the length of South America. Those mountains divide Ecuador into three distinct areas, with the Pacific coastal plains flanking the highlands on one side and the Amazon jungle spreading out to the east towards Brazil.
“The capital city itself is a long, sprawling mix of urban and rural, rich and poor. At its heart is Old Quito, a Spanish-styled town center overlooked by a statue of the Virgin Mary, who stands atop a hill bordering the historic district. In the last half-century, Quito has expanded far beyond its original footprint, spreading farther and farther to the north and the south. From end to end – and in these ends live the poorest of Quito’s poor – Quito measures over fifteen miles.
“Quito rests between the two ridges of the Andes Mountains, a geographic feature that has limited its east-west expansion. As the city has grown, however (now numbering around 1.8 million), urbanization has spilled out into two valleys east of Quito. The first, Tumbaco, is a miniature representation of the economic disparity in the country. Next to huge mansions of Quito’s professionals are crowded tin-roof dwellings, and only a little farther out are rural areas in which buses only began to travel in late 2006.
“To the south of the valley of Tumbaco is the valley of Los Chillos, a lesser developed and more rural area. Like Tumbaco, the weather in Los Chillos is about fifteen degrees warmer than the city; like Tumbaco, it also looks toward Quito as the driver of its economy and the great magnet which draws its children. Unlike Tumbaco, Los Chillos has experienced a much more modest migration of Quito professionals, and continues to be a primarily agrarian and traditional society.”
Why Ecuador, why Quito?
“The process of searching for a location for a new MPI site began in the spring of 2006, when Luke Putnam and the MPI Board asked former volunteer Mark Hand to assemble a team to investigate the possibility of expansion. The choice of Ecuador was a natural one: of the Spanish-speaking, stable, South American countries in near enough proximity to the US, Ecuador and Quito specifically stands out as an ideal location for a Manna site. Quito is a large city with ample resources (including access to healthcare and emergency services for volunteers) but, as with any Latin American capital, ample need as well.”
You can see a select bunch of pictures from our trip on my facebook profile by clicking on this link:
Thanks again for visiting, and thanks to all of you who helped make this trip such a success. Stay tuned!