Destination: Ecuador

My COOL week experience


Kyle Gehman

Here is my aunt and I at the top of Illiniza Norte. It was a beautiful eight hour climb but very scary at times as several people have died trying to summit.

by Kyle Gehman, Editor-In-Chief

Last week seniors from all around LISD were given the chance to do week long internships at jobs all around the state, country and world. This week is called COOL week and was implemented to allow seniors to learn about jobs they are possibly interested in for after college. This way they could get a small taste of these careers which would give them a better idea if they actually do want to pursue these jobs. During this week we will be featuring columns from several seniors who participated in COOL week. Here is mine:

All around the world so many people are denied their basic rights by governments who oppress them for racial, ethnic and political reasons. However, how do these groups fight back and become empowered to advocate for their equality? This is a question that interests me and due to being fortunate enough to have travelled to see many different countries and cultures I have witnessed some of these inequalities in Rwanda and Sri Lanka for example. That is why for COOL week I wanted to learn more about non-governmental organizations (NGOs). NGOs are typically non-profit groups that are independent from government control and work to help promote development.

One of these NGOs is Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA). They work to promote equal distribution of power and resources throughout the world and to teach people that they have the ability to change their government. Luckily for me my aunt and uncle have been working for NPA for over a decade and I was lucky enough to travel to where they are now in Quito, Ecuador. I got the chance to interview the staff at the NPA office as well as go into the field and meet with the indigenous organization, Movimiento Indígena y Campesino de Cotopaxi (MICC), that is trying to help the indigenous people of Ecuador gain more freedoms and rights. During my time there I was able to better understand how the NGO community operates and specifically NPA.

In Latin America their main focus is to help give civil society a voice. Civil society is the realm between state and economy, so basically culture and people within it who function by things other than laws. The way that they do this is by pairing up with already existing national organizations and then empower them to achieve their goals by working with donors to get funds. To do this they have to evaluate different organizations and try to learn what their goal is. If they approve of what this organization is trying to do they create proposals that explain to donors what is happening and why this organization needs their money.

This experience was very helpful because while learning how NGOs operate and some of the tips that these professionals had for somewhere aspiring to participate in aid work, I also got to ask what kind of things are needed to be hired for this job. This was really helpful because by doing this I know more of what I need to study in university.

Because I was in Ecuador I also couldn’t pass up the chance to take advantage of the amazing activities. I went for a 35 mile bike ride in a cloud forest, climbed part of the second tallest mountain in Ecuador and climbed to the top of a 16,818 foot mountain called Illiniza Norte.

By getting the opportunity to participate in COOL week I definitely got a better understanding off the career that I would like to be in after college. Being an NGO is one of the most dangerous jobs in the world as working in a developing country and sometimes challenging the authority of the government can lead to assassinations which unfortunately happens too often in this line of work. However, I love travel and I think there is no better job than enabling people to have better lives.