Jérémy, France - 2017
I have spent a bit more than 4 months in Salasaka and now don't have so much time left, so it's kind of a summary post.
I have had an amazing time here, in Katitawa. The children are amazing: smart and so endearings. Salasaka is a small mountain city, so pleasant to live in: people are nice, colours amazing and being in the center of the country makes it so easy to travel (the bus network is amazing and very cheap by the way). Ecuador is perfect. Travelling almost every week-end, I couldn't even see everything I wanted to. So much diversity with the mountains, coast, jungle. And you can go everywhere for just a couple of dollars. And last but not least, sharing these moments with volunteers from all around the world makes it an even more interesting experience.
I had never felt I would miss something in my life a single day before it's actually gone. Well that was until Katitawa. It has been a month now that I fear my departure. Guess it's proportional to the well being of the time spent here. So thank you so much to Katitawa, Salasaka, Kids, Volunteers, Donators; well, everyone that made that incredible experience possible.
Shaun, UK - My First Week at Katitawa - 2017
Ecuador had welcomed me with open arms. The people were welcoming to a halt and arriving in Salasaka in the pitch black was no different. The bus from Quito dropped me off away from the centre so I went into a local store to ask for some directions. Without even asking the family running the store rang a friend, a local taxi driver, to give me a lift to the volunteer house. Whilst waiting the kids played games and I talked with their mother. Although at this point I could comfortably get by with my Spanish, I noticed that I still had a long way to go to be able to really have a deep conversation.
After about thirty minutes of waiting, Marcelo, the driver, arrived and took me to the volunteer house. The building was in the dark and for a moment I thought I'd arrived at the wrong place but at a hunk of the horn Jérémy, who had been the volunteer coordinator for three months already, appeared and welcomed me into the Mangiwa. After a quick tour I found myself a room and got settled in for my first night in Salasaca.
I woke feeling refreshed after a long nights sleep. I met Jérémy in the common area and we made our way into to town to pick up some groceries. I had accumulated plenty of laundry in the ten days since I left home so I spent the next few hours washing my clothes by hand and hanging them out to dry. Not before long, the other volunteers, Anita and Javier, arrived back and I spent some time drinking coffee and getting to know Anita, a volunteer from Norway who would be here for eight weeks.
At Anita and I opened up the library to begin teaching English. I didn't know before I arrived that the majority of students were bilingual speakers of Spanish and Quechua. I quickly realised that Salasaca was a hub of Quechua culture where many of the local population spoke Quechua first and Spanish second. It was clear that volunteering here at Katitawa was going to be a cultural exchange.
In Salasaca, you can experience the four seasons in a day. In the morning it's Spring but come the late afternoon you are met with cool Autumn breezes. This morning while the sun was up we went into Pelileo, a nearby town about 20 minutes away, to pick up the weekly groceries and stop by a local restaurant for some food. Here I got to experience my first Embollada, an Ecuadorean sea food soup that's packed full of flavour.
I spent the afternoon at Katitawa school, about 15 minutes from the volunteer house. On the way we picked up all of the kids and then they received an art class and English lesson followed by playtime. As usual, the kids were full of questions and were more than intrigued about who I was and where I was from. Upon returning from Katitawa I did an English lesson in the library before heading upstairs for dinner with the others.
Volcanoes are everywhere in Ecuador. In fact, from the roof of the volunteer house you can see both Chimborazo and Tungurahu. Today, we went on a 5 hour hike to Patate, along the way taking in the views of these two formidable volcanoes! The sky was relatively cloudless which meant that the volcanoes stood proud above The Valley floors. The weather also didn't disappoint, with clear skies and warm sun for the length of the walk. Salasaca certainly provides a wonderful base from which to see the mountain and experience some wonderful hikes.
I was to be working in the library again this afternoon, however after an hour and a half I realised I was too ill to work and had to go up to bed. Fortunately, Anita and the other volunteers kept checking up on me and bringing me cups of tea, even if I was in no shape to drink it.
I hadn't felt as sick as I had that last night for a long time. After a night of tossing and turning and what can only be called delusional dreaming I awoke to feeling considerably better. I spent the day before heading to the library relaxing, taking a warm shower, and eating a little at a time. Despite how ill I had been the precious night, I was feeling almost human again.
The library session that afternoon made everything worth it. The students were engaged and it was a pleasure to work with them and teach them English. After the lessons were over, there was also ample opportunity to practice my Spanish and to get to know the students some more.
I was finally feeling human again and one more good night sleep should have me back to my old self. The morning was a relaxing one. I packed for my weekend trip to Baños with a friend I'd met back in Quito and then Anita and I headed into town to pick up some essentials. We made a lunch of fried eggs on toast, a British favourite, and chatted some more about our lives back home. Before heading to the school again I took a short walk to the river, about 15 minutes away. Kausai, a volunteer's best friend joined me, and I took time to appreciate the wonderful views of a cloudless Chimborazo and to take some photos.
The afternoon at the school was a fun one. It was clear in day and all the kids came together to pick up litter and clean the rooms. We then played hide and seek and drew and learnt about the body parts in English. There was even an opportunity to learn some Quechua from the kids. They drew the animals and then translated them into Spanish, Quechua, and English. Upon returning to the Mangiwa, I spoke with a student who had been coming all week and the collected my belongings to head off on my next adventure to Baños.
Chris - 2011
I am not a big speaker but i can say that the time in Salasaka with the local Katitawa community was the most intense part of my one year lasting journey through Latin America. I felt like having a lot of responsibility but the kids gave so much back that it was just pushing me to be there for them. People like you, Fabiola and Rufino are so important for the community because stand by for so many years already. Volunteers are the liquid resource but you and the other local long term teachers and helpers are the foundation of Katitawa. I found it impressive and motivating to be part of that. For me it was almost unimportant what I did there it was all about caring for a special place which is surrounded by a time and a world that usually has no eye for special places anymore. I hope that Katitawa kids will keep the balance of there beautiful place and the influence of the fast and superficial mainstreaming world.
Emma Gore-LLoyd - 2010
I was only at SKY for a month in 2010 but it was so inspiring and meaningful for me that it's never that far from my mind. In fact, after volunteering as a teacher there, I decided to change career when I got back to the UK, qualified as a TEFL teacher and I am now in my second year teaching English as a foreign language in Spain. (I'm actually hoping/praying that I might be able to come back to Katitawa next year for some time...)I really can't put into words what my time at SKY meant to me and I just hope that it means as much to the locals. Thank you, Robert!
Megan and Eddie Quantrill, New Zealand - 2010
We think of Katitawa all the time and have sincere intentions of returning, I am a school teacher now so it would be great to continue teaching!
Nicole, USA - 2010
Going to Salasaca and volunteering at the Katitawa School started off as a way to travel cheaper, figuring that for that one week I would spend only the $10 donation and then whatever I needed for dinner and the occasional cold adult beverage. I couldn’t foresee how much I would adore the children, love the town and appreciate the beauty and simplicity all around me. After arriving in town, I headed for the library connected with the school, where I met a few of the volunteers and was taken to the house where everyone lives. At that time there were 15 of us from all around the world, although mostly Americans and Europeans. The view from the back deck had me actually chuckling with awe at how stunning it was, and I settled in for my first of many tremendous sunsets. Volcano Chimborazo (elevation 6,268 meters or 20,564 feet!) is visible and even though the peak is the farthest spot from the center of the earth you can possibly get (due to the equatorial bulge), it is always covered in snow and is breathtaking in its solitude.
I loved Katitawa School, the town of Salasaca and the other volunteers so much I decided to skip seeing the coast of Ecuador and stayed there for 2 weeks. Well worth it, wish it could have been longer! If you are at all interested in making a difference in this community and the individuals in it, please consider donating to the Katitawa School! Here is a link to their website (and blog) where you can easily make a contribution securely through PayPal. There is no middle man of wasting of finances here – everything goes directly to and for this lovely little school.
Sean Haggerty - 2010
Katitawa was the most peaceful experience in South America and I find myself thinking about it a lot lately.
Rob Bell & Jennifer Himmelreich, Australia - 2009
For us it was a nice time to be at Katitawa and the school, as we were the lucky ones that had first use of the hostel and the cooking, and Roberts porridge in the morning.
The experience one got at the school and the community centre will never be replaced and its my hope to get back there one day soon and complete some things, like a park out the front of the community centre. Its truly amazing what has happened in the three years since Jennifer and I were there and its testament to the work of Robert and all the volunteers.
There are times in your life that are never forgotten, and Katitawa for us is one of them times.
Ganga, England - 2007
I volunteered at Katitawa in 2007. I met Roberto in Baños where I was volunteering at a small organic farm. He suggested I might like to come and help with the english classes for a couple of weeks as he was down one teacher. He described the kids as being the sort who would come and hold your hand before you'd said hello and told them your name. My experience was just that. Children who radiated warmth and love from deep inside them. You could see very clearly in their large, wise eyes, and honesty and strength as well as a strong desire to learn. I haven't been back in five years but the memories of my time there remain as clear as ever. Coming from such a multiculturally mixed country such as England where it is seen by some as racist to be proud of your own country Salasaca was a new experience for me. It was thrilling to be amongst a group of people so sure of their ancestry and proud of their present day community and keeping their traditional way of life alive.
The school is also a unique little pocket of paradise where children are taught skills that will help them in their locality but also to have a greater understanding of their place in the world. There are few men such as Robert in the world. His dedication, as well as the other staff members, still remain as an inspiration to me.
John Lynskey, Ireland - 2007
Working at Katitawa is and will always be one of the best experiences of my life. I have very fond memories of the people on the project, the kids in the school and the people of Salasaca. Robert, your kindness and character are inspirational!