Villagers in both highland Ecuador and Mali's Dogon Country have no shortage of will and ideas for improving their communities. Communities sometimes want buildings as gathering places for events, meetings and workshops, storehouses for grain or cotton banks, fences for gardens or to protect schools, or playground or sports equipment to invigorate community life and spirit.
They are ready to work hard to achieve their goals, but are often short of the cash needed to purchase materials or hire skilled contractors if that is necessary. Tandana responds to the requests of villages that have demonstrated their ability to work together and make use of projects, supporting them in making the changes they envision to strengthen their communities. Tandana may provide materials in-kind and hire contractors when the community members don't possess the skills or equipment to complete the project on their own. Locals provide the materials they can and an impressive quantity and quality of labor. Sometimes these projects also provide an opportunity for villagers and visiting volunteers to work together and get to know each other.
Previously, when members of the community of Cutambi wanted to meet they had to gather in a dilapidated building or an empty field and were only able to meet when good weather allowed them too. If it started raining they all had to leave and progress was lost. Now, that they have a new community center they can meet with confidence and more regularly as well as hold special events like weddings and host visiting volunteer groups such as Tandana’s health care teams. The community constructed this building in many different phases, often with support from Tandana volunteer groups.
Villagers in Kansongho had long dreamed of having a large meeting room where they could hold village assemblies, in any weather, and also host meetings with representatives of other villages, such as when the 14-village environmental association Ologuelemo holds its annual meetings. In memory of the late chief Seguemo Tembiné, who was a great leader, Tandana helped this dream become reality by hiring a local contractor to provide technical expertise and imported materials. The villagers, meanwhile, supplied the labor and local materials. They are very excited to have this community meeting space and to be able to host inter-village assemblies.
Since 2006, in collaboration with The Traveling School and Carpe Diem Education, we have been able to assist the community of Agualongo de Quichinche, Ecuador with a number of improvements to their community center, including painting it, paving a patio, constructing a bathroom, replacing the roof, replacing the ceiling, and tiling the floor. This community center not only houses a daycare center but also serves as a gathering place for community events and meetings, a place for Tandana doctors to see patients during Health Care Volunteer Vacations, and a focal point for community pride and activities. Community members, working in mingas alongside visiting volunteers, have provided labor for each project. They also offer a wonderful cross-cultural experience to each group that stays in their community.
La Banda, Ecuador
In 2010, we helped the community of La Banda add cement edging, a patio, and gutters to their community center. The center serves as a daycare facility on a daily basis, as well as a location for community events, meetings, and a place for Tandana health care teams to see patients. In heavy rains, the building would formerly flood, but now it is dry and well-protected. A group of Tandana volunteers from North Carolina and Georgia worked with community members to complete the work.
In 2015, community members asked Tandana to collaborate with them on a community bathroom. A group of volunteers from Northeastern University worked alongside community members to build it and install sewer pipes. Now there is a public bathroom to use during community events, soccer games, meetings, and celebrations.
The community of Panecillo constructed a kitchen, where they can cook huge quantities of food for events such as Inti Raymi festivities, other celebrations, and meetings. Panecillo's president asked Tandana to help with part of the construction, including plastering the walls, paving a patio in front of the kitchen, and constructing a large grill that can hold the immense pots used to cook for community events. A group of volunteers from George Washington University worked alongside community members and Tandana scholarship students to complete that phase of construction. Community leaders and students then inaugurated the grill by using it to cook soup for a farewell ceremony. Now, community members can cook for large events and keep important traditions, such as Inti Raymi, alive.
“I have been very happy. I have felt this friendship—that I am a friend, that they are my friends, even though I don’t understand anything of what they’re saying. This work as a team has been really pleasant for us.”
–Norberto Oyagata, master mason who worked with Tandana volunteers
La Banda, Ecuador
Many members of the community of La Banda commute to work and school by bus. At 8500 ft. elevation, the sun is very strong on some days and on other days cold rain showers down. The community decided to build a covered bus stop, so that they could wait protected from the elements. With the help of many community members and an alternative spring break group from Northeastern University, we built a covered bus stop in 2011. Now children and adults can wait for the bus in peace.
The teachers at the Ulpiano Navarro School in Quichinche thought that if they could provide a safe and beautiful space dedicated to reading, children would use it and improve their reading skills. The reading gazebo, is located on the highest elevation point on the property of school, is surrounded by ornamental plants that Tandana volunteers planted alongside students, and has stunning views of dormant snowcapped volcanoes and expansive farmland. The teachers at Ulpiano Navarro wanted to increase the use of the library and recognized that sometimes the classroom is not the most inspirational place to sit and read. It is the first place on the school property that was designed specifically for students to read as a pastime. Tandana collaborated with the school on construction of this attractive reading space with the support of multiple visiting groups.
The teachers and parents at the Guachinguero school are committed to providing the best possible education for their children. They are working hard on rebuilding and expanding a building at the school to create space for a computer lab, office, and community kitchen. They asked Tandana for help with materials, and we are pleased to be able to contribute to the various phases of this project. Several Tandana volunteer groups have also had the opportunity to work alongside community members and interact with the children. Some kids were so excited that they joined in the effort during recess, helping to mix and carry cement. The building is now beautifully rebuilt and functioning with a kitchen, office, and storage room. Community members and school officials invited Tandana's representatives to celebrate completion of the first story with an inauguration ceremony. They have plans to continue construction of a second story.
For the community of Gualapuro, education is the biggest priority. The community raised funds to build its school building without government support and then requested that the government send teachers to work there. As the school expands, they need additional space for classrooms as well as meeting space for workshops and a computer lab. They have shown tremendous long-term commitment to this project, tirelessly providing volunteer labor and seeking high and low for donations of materials. Tandana is pleased to be a contributor to this project. Several Tandana volunteer groups have also had the chance to work alongside community members and interact with the students at the school.
Padre Chupa and Minas Chupa, Ecuador
The schools in both Padre Chupa and Minas Chupa had problems with livestock entering their school yards, damaging school property, and disrupting learning. Both communities, parents associations, and school directors decided to build fences to keep the livestock out and also to install gates for added security and to present a better face to the public. Tandana assisted with materials for these projects and volunteer groups from Headwaters Academy and Northeastern University worked alongside locals to build the fences and install the gates.
The community of Gualapuro has worked hard to build a school and a daycare center for the education of its children. The daycare center has two nice classrooms and a kitchen and dining area, but had no play equipment for the children, who range in age from one to four years old. So the director of the daycare and the president of the community asked Tandana for help with playground equipment. With the help of an alternative spring break group from Northeastern University, Tandana built two play structures, one for older children and the other for younger children. The daycare teachers say the kids now refuse to come inside since they just want to keep playing on the new equipment. The community provided a wonderful welcome and farewell ceremony, and during the week the Northeastern students had a chance not only to play with and take care of the children but also to harvest chochos with the community president, make bracelets with a local woman, and make bread with community members. It was a cultural exchange experience that left a lasting source of fun for the local children and wonderful memories for the visiting students.
Guachinguero Elementary School, Ecuador
The elementary school in Guachinguero, Ecuador had old playground equipment, but it had fallen into disrepair. The swings were missing from the swingset, the teeter-totter was broken, and the slide was dangerously split in several places, with sharp edges. Olimpia Pillajo, the school director who is always mindful of her students' well-being, asked for help to repair the playground. Volunteers from George Washington University got to know some of the kids while working on a construction project at the school and resolved to help repair the playgound toys. After returning home, they donated funds for the repair. Now, recess is more fun!
La Joya Special Education Center, Ecuador
The community of La Joya is home to a wonderful special education center built by Fundacion del Valle. There, about 280 children with special needs receive quality care, individualized attention, and the tools and supplies they need to live life fully. The center's administration wanted a playhouse for the children to enjoy and was able to purchase materials, but lacked the skills to design and build the structure. They asked Tandana to help, and we provided skilled volunteer labor to bring the dream of a playhouse into reality.
The community of Agualongo is serious about soccer. They host tournaments, play pickup games, and enjoy sports as a way to foster community pride and unity. In highland Ecuador, the sun goes down every night just after six, and games must come to an end. The community of Agualongo, however, decided that with stadium lights they could play longer, host larger tournaments, and spend more time together as neighbors and friends. A student who had spent a week in Agualongo with her Traveling School class during a Tandana service project decided she wanted to thank the community for their wonderful hospitality by helping achieve some of their goals, including acquiring lights for the soccer field. Another Traveling School group was able to help install the lights, and yet another visiting group helped paint the light posts and goal posts patriotic Ecuador colors. Let the games continue!
Padre Chupa, Ecuador
The Provincia de Tungurahua school in Padre Chupa, Ecuador not only educates the community's children but also serves as a focal point for community activities in this remote mountain village. The children have few opportunities to travel away from their village and limited resources at home. The students, parents, and teachers all decided that having soccer goals and a volleyball net at the school would be a great benefit. The kids could enjoy them during recess, learning skills that would help them succeed in the wider world and having fun together at home. Adults could also enjoy playing sports on the weekend. Tandana hired a craftsman to make the goals and posts, and Headwaters Academy students worked alongside local parents in a minga to install them. Right away, the goals and net received a tremendous amount of use.