Last Day in Bellavista

July 22

This morning we woke up with a lot of mixed emotions. We had requested to leave earlier than usual for Bellavista so we could get more done on our last day. We were excited and eager to work, but we were feeling sad knowing it was our last day. It’s hard to believe that we leave Minga Lodge tomorrow. One bonus was that we got to go back to Bellavista in the afternoon to visit their women’s group.

We arrived at the build site very motivated. It was hot and humid, but we were determined to finish some of the tasks we started. Instead of working with rebar, we were assigned a new task of sawing boards and nailing them together to make a mold for the concrete pillars which will hold up the computer lab. Koren was a bit over enthusiastic and bent one of their saws. She did learn the error of her ways and modified her sawing technique.

Aubrey was back on the cement crew, mixing over two loads of concrete. Once mixed, the concrete was then hauled over to and poured into the foundation. Once several loads of rocks were added and the foundation smoothed and pressed, another foot of the foundation was complete. Last, we poured a wetter concrete into the freshly cut and nailed into place wooden box surrounding the rebar towers. When the concrete reached the top of the box, the first concrete pillar was wet but completed. A few small goals and milestones were reached for our group during our week here, all of which is a small but essential part of the bigger project of the computer lab. We all contribute essential or important pieces of a larger puzzle.

Everyone, including the kids, took turns hauling bags and wheelbarrows of sand from the pile by the water. By the end of the day, except for a layer covering the grass, the load from the two canoes had been moved to the build site.

When our work shift was over, all of us, and the community members in the Minga, stood in a circle and exchanged thoughts through a translator of what this week meant to all of us. We, the voluntourists, were totally inspired by the community members and their commitment to making changes to help the children in their community thrive. They had to sacrifice a lot of time, energy and materials to join in this partnership with Free the Children, but they knew it was going to be worth it. They welcomed us, were patient with our lack of skills and knowledge, and let us be a part of their Minga, their team. This work together is something we will always treasure.

After lunch, we returned to Bellavista to meet the women in the alternative income project group. They showed us how they extract the fibres from local pineapple-like plants and turn them into thread. The dried and dyed thread is used with natural seeds to make jewelry, baskets and other handmade items. We were invited to make our own macrame bracelets, with their help. When we finished the two activities, they presented a traditional dance and then invited us to join them. We all had a great time dancing to the Kichwa music with the community members, some of whom we had been working with on the build site all week.

Getting back in the canoe was hard because we knew it was the last time we would see everyone. When we returned to Minga, we visited the brand new (air-conditioned) store filled with Ecuadorian handicrafts, including those made in Bellavista.

After dinner we were treated to a dynamic show put on by a local family. They dressed in traditional Amazonian costumes and explained some of their ancient traditions through music and dance. The dancing was incredibly lively and the costumes and makeup were quite elaborate. The performers were all in the same family, the grandparents and even one of the granddaughters was in the show. At the end, we all joined them, and had another big dance party. It was hot and humid, and it was hard to believe they were able to keep up that level of dynamic dancing for an hour and a half. We were all exhausted after just one song.

Every day, we share in a ritual of relating our own highlights of the day. Tonight we also shared our highlight of the trip. Much was said of the impact of working with the Bellavista community and with each other.

We ended the day with a “Happy” song with new camp-style lyrics directed at Sandra, Kristin, and Miguel. We said some goodbyes and looked forward to our long canoe ride down river to the airport in the morning.

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