This is discussion about Yachana: Geotourism Lodge and School.
Yachana is simply unique. Many times you read about the great things that companies or people do and when you go there you realize that it isn't that great. This is not the case with Yachana: what you experience is truly what they say they do.
I chose Yachana as one of my case studies for my master's thesis "Contributions to poverty reduction by the accommodation sector: case studies of local lodging facilities in Ecuador". I have visited Yachana two times, talked to the students, the employees, the guides and the tourists. Their testimony has been extremely valuable to my work and my personal learning. Particularly, the students are brilliant, they are proud of their culture and willing to learn and share their knowledge. I was surprised by the ease with which they manage themselves, their confidence to speak up and do things.
I conclude that Yachana is one of the best examples of tourism for local development in the country and, without doubt, in the world. The lodge invests in the future managers and entrepreneurs of the Amazon region and through tourism they support the sustainable use of resources. Yachana’s project is very inspiring, innovative and revolutionary. I believe they will continue to succeed and expand their positive impacts to a larger community.
Yachana is TRUE eco-tourism. The indigenous naturalists share their immense knowledge about the natural and the cultural aspects of this Amazon jungle area in Ecuador. The high school students develop skills and knowledge that can help them rise out of the poverty that is so prevalent in the area. They learn more about their own culture and how to help preserve this culture while at the same time improve the health and economy of their own peoples. For example, they manufacture water purification systems that are then distributed to the local community - access to pure water is all-important to prevention of dysentery and other illnesses; they learn to grow crops organically - this is a sustainable agricultural practice and does not deplete natural resources; they learn English so they have more opportunities to make a living; they are engaged in microenterprise and learn food preparation and hotel management skills when working at the lodge. Our stay at Yachana Lodge was a truly enriching experience and the work done at the lodge and high school is commendable and deserves the highest recognition.
We visited Yachana in December of 2007. It was truly a trip of a lifetime. We learned so much about life in the rainforest. It was such a beautiful location and Ecuador is an amazing country. The students at the lodge are there to learn, but they have so much to teach the tourists. The projects at the school are just amazing, the water purification is such a huge contribution and relatively simple to do. I am hoping to take my teenage sons to visit Yachana because the lessons learned are invaluable.
I visted Yachana last year on a site visit evaluation for a global competition, and was extremely impressed. Yachana High School is transforming a generation of indigenous young people in the Amazon rainforest into skilled, competent social leaders capable of negotiating with the external world. One of the most important characteristics of the school is that students are held responsible for themselves and their work, required to explain and to teach to both each other and to tourists visiting regularly from Yachana Lodge. Yachana places an emphasis on learning English; students are obliged to practice with tourists and correspondents. The difference between students in their first year at the school and students in their third (and last) year is remarkable: they go from timid, quiet children to confident, articulate young adults.
The school effectively transfers knowledge to indigenous, rural young people, and teaches them to pro-actively organize themselves around that knowledge for the betterment of their families, communities, rainforest environment, and themselves. In the context of the indigenous cultures and environment of the Amazon, neither of these parts is easy to accomplish. Yet Yachana High School does both with an extraordinary level of quality, teaching young people to speak English, interact confidently with outsiders, develop job, life, and computer skills, and value their own knowledge and diversity.
Ashoka: Innovators for the Public
I have followed the work of Yachana over the past 11 years, and have visited five times. The tremendous effort and positive results of their work with the technical school are now becoming evident in the graduates who will launch their work in other communities, beginning with their graduation in late summer. It is an exciting time for the school.
The entrepreneurial frame of mind that is cultivated at the school will undoubtedly become part of these young people's leadership style as they embark upon their experiences in their communities. Speaking with these capable and adept young people is truly an honor and privelege.
Their learning has already provided their communities of origin with information about use of biodigestors, water purification, and environmental preservation. I can't wait to continue visiting to see more outcomes of this impressive educational and community effort.
All the best and keep going!!
I visited Yachana Lodge as part of their Youth to Youth program from February 9th, 2007 through February 15th, 2007. Being welcomed into the Amazon Jungle by the Yachana Lodge made me realize the beauty of the South American Rainforest and its people. Every one of the tourists that I spoke with was impressed by each and every aspect of the Geotourism program which has been established. I myself got to pick peanuts, carve beads for jewelry, and dig pools for fish farms with the Ecuadorian natives who were close to my age. That week that I was in the deep in jungle I was made to feel right at home as students invited me to social and sporting gatherings where we laughed and played. I realized that the sustainability that Yachana is accomplishing in that community along the Napo River is precisely what will protect the rainforest as well as the humble village and it’s of compassionate, knowledgeable, and gracious people. As I departed on the canoe with my group, it was clear to me that in the mighty jungle lions, as well as fellow humans, would sleep there that night.
I had the wonderful opportunity of visiting the school and staying at the lodge last year. The lodge is run by the students like a 5 star hotel. These kids are not only being given the chance to learn a vocation, but to spread knowledge of their culture to the universe. I found them to be warm and gracious hosts.
My wife and I visited there in 1997. We were very impressed with the activities, training and organizing of the local people. I helped erect an antenna to allow communication with other villages up and down the river. The food was great, the guides knowledgeable and friendly. At that time the accommodations were perhaps a bit rustic but ever since our visit I encourage others to visit and support there operations. If you would like to see pictures from 1997 go here. Pictures of our 1997 trip to Yachana.
I visited Yachana Lodge in March 2006 for a week. I was in Quito studying Spanish and living with a family for 3 months and I wanted a rainforest trip. I chose Yachana from an entry in a guidebook based on the description of the good works they were doing - ecotourism, environmental sustainability, health care, agricultural supports, making chocolate (!). When I got there I found all of that was true, and so much more! The high school program is an excellent example of how to promote appropriate, culturally sensitive education for a group. In the case of Yachana, they are providing opportunities for students to learn agricultural and entrepreneurial skills and still support their families, providing jobs for the students and for local people, providing hands-on learning that relates to daily living, studying the biodiversity of the rainforest, conserving the rainforest, preserving and respecting indigenous crafts and traditions, learning to prepare nutritious and locally grown foods, providing water purification, modeling solar energy use, the list goes on and on. I am eager to return, and bring students from the U.S. It really is as beautiful as their photos indicate. Yachana is a most amazing place and deserves recognition for the good work they accomplish every day.
I had the opportunity of visiting the Yachana Lodge towards the end of 2006. What a tremendous opportunity. I found a world class facility that not only educates tourists, but teaches life skills to the indigenous rural young people through their hands on high school curriculum.
In your invitation to: "Join the global search for innovations in tourism that sustain enhance and preserve local culture and place", you need look no further. During my visit to the Yachana lodge I found precisely THAT!
My friend and I went on a trip around Ecuador, ending up in the Galapagos.
Yachana Lodge was the best part by a long shot. It was a very interesting visit, which not only showed the flora and fauna, but also how people interact with the rainforest.
The visit to Yachana was the definate highlight, even beating the trip to the Galapagos!! And the eco-benefits were clearly being put into action.
Yachana is beautiful. It's also the real deal. The world abounds in pie-in-the-sky ecotourism projects, some well-meaning, some plainly exploitative. Yachana stands out as a carefully thought-out model for sustainable ecotourism that offers real hope for the region's future (and a truly great experience for visitors.)
I had the opportunity to volunteer at Yachana lodge in early 2002, in between high school and college. This experience had a profound impact on my decision to become a cultural anthropologist, and instilled in me deep appreciation for the complexities of eco-tourism. Yachana lodge embodies a vision of cross-cultural cooperation and empowerment that brings me tremendous hope in this challenging world. This is the standard to which I hold all other 'eco-tourism' claims-- few have come close to the success and compassion that exists at Yachana. This is truly a remarkable place, and I sure hope that National Geographic recognizes it as such!
education is about exchange and visitors can learn from the students at the lodge as we learn from them. This invoves exchange of ideas and a growing understanding for the students of how they depend on the rain forests. this goes hand in hand with western visitors seeing the rain forest that we hear so much about in action and being part of it as we are part of the whole ecology of the world.
Our visit there in 2007 was with the galapagos the highlight of our trip to ecuador. we are from a scuba diving club in ireland and range in age from 40 to 65. the food cooked and prepared by the students was the best we had on the trip and their dedication to learning is to be admired.this project deserves accolade and the opportunity to train ecuadors own students to teach, develop computer skills and international recognition.
Best wishes Ann McAvoy. Bray Divers. Bray . Ireland
I have been volunteering for Yachana since January this year (2008), and what an amazing experience it has been so far.
Besides running an eco-lodge for tourists and a chocolate company to help Ecuadorian farmers, it also opened a High School in 2005 and educates 130 students year round. Now try to visualize this school in the middle of the rainforest - away from any power grid, road, or Shoprite for that matter. You can only get to the school by canoe. This is a boarding school- the students not only go to class, but sleep, eat, and shower at the school. In terms of the classes, they learn everything from Calculus, a foreign language (English, but also a little bit a French thanks to one of the volunteers - Roman!), and hands-on agricultural courses on the school's own farm. The farm contains chickens, ducks, pigs, and fish stocked in their own ponds.
In terms of learning experiences for volunteers, their endless. Besides learning Spanish, and interacting with the students (some incredible stories); I've learned about composting, taking care of grey and black water issues, and the Biodigestor - an enclosed area on the farm containing pig waste, which when mixed with a little water produces butane, methane, propane - which they use for heating baby chicks. This is only a small fraction of the projects here...
The school is also very progressive harnessing the education of computers and the internet, as well as using solar power and hydro-electric energy. Thanks to a recent donation, the school was able to install 20 computers running Ubuntu Linux off 8GB CompactFlash cards. The computers are specially designed to withstand the region's elements (humidity and bugs), and only use 8 watts each (not counting the monitor which uses another 17). Still, in total, we need about 600 watts to power these things...where? __Running out of space, will continue in another comment...
continued from above...
So where do we get 600 watts from. Well, we are trying Solar and Hydro, but its been very difficult. The way those work, is they charge car-like batteries which put out 12v DC and need to be inverted to 120v AC. We've "blown" about 3 inverters so far (one literally lit on fire and started smoking), and we are not sure exactly why - theory is because we let the battery charge get too low (figure that out - low charge = overblown inverter - not an electrical engineer, still need to look into this). Anyway, working in an environment like this makes you think alot about energy. How is energy stored and distributed in metropolitan areas? How much energy is wasted? For example, when we run off a generator, it produces say 1000 watts, but we might only use 600 of them, what happens to the other 400 watts? Answer: nothing - unused. This is something we are constantly thinking about...
Anyway, before I ramble too much, I'll throw some links out. Two weeks ago, Yachana was visited by a NY Times journalist, Nicholas D. Kristof, a two-time winning Pulitzer winner - not too shabby (for him and Yachana). He wrote a two-part article in the NY Times - Sunday part1 and Thursday part2. He has some pics in a slide show, and a good video in part2.
My wife and I are volunteering together. I'm working on the IT side (website, comptuer lab setup, etc) and she is teaching English. We are maintaining a website with some good pics and vids here.
Finally, experience all this for yourself by visiting The Yachana Lodge. You can tour the High School, go birdwatching, eat fish cooked in a leaf over the open fire, go tubing down the Napo river, relax in a hammock off your balcony, and much more...!
I have followed the development of the Lodge and the model for alternative and sustainable development that Yachana Foundation has demonstrated, and it should be recognized as a success story. The long-term plan for sustainability and the shorter-term objectives of income generation and skills development through education and entrepreneurship combines with outreach and education to people outside the community. Eco-friendly tourism and micro-small business development must be encouraged as proven drivers for improving the lives of local people in the developing world and elsewhere.
In a time where very few people worried about conservation and respect of wild areas, I met Yachana Foundation and Douglas (Yachana's CEO). I was on my teen years when this happened.
Concepts such are organic agriculture, permaculture and ecoturism were introduce to me there. Also I was able to learn english because this contact.
I must say that I become the person that I am, part because through Yachana I was in touch with people who respect, loved and work for marginal rural areas and environment issues. Inspired in them I choose my university degree and my masters. Like them I commit myself to work and put all my energy to follow the same path: create sustainable livelihoods in rural areas.
I will turn 30 this year....soon! I will be again in contact with Yachana -at the Yachana Technical High School-.. this time working there. I truly hope to return back all the skills which I learn because I was able to enjoy Yachana since young.
..It is just a way to show the circle of life and the influence of Yachana in one life...
The Technical High School is a great example of new education.. hard to find. That is why I think it is very important to attach it to other nets that can help it to grow and improve it even more!!.
I visited Yachana in March of this year with the Phils group (Williams and McDonnell). I would just like to say thank you, it was an amazing experience, everyone was incredibly kind and knowledgable.I learned so much while I was with you, the incredible devotion, hard work and genuine care and determination. I have taken this knowledge and passed it on to my children, my family and the school I work at.
When I need a peaceful moment in the hustle of the western world, I just close my eyes and watch the sun set over the Napo.
I am sure I have taken a small part of Yachana with me in spirit and hope fully I will have an opportunity to be able to visit again.
Thank you and God bless.
If Juan remembers Barnaby Bear, he is still wearing his headress he made for him!
Lisa saunders X
I spent 6 days at Yachana doing research on community-based ecotourism and was extremely impressed by this project, and by Mr McMeekin's contributions to both the environment and the communities of the Ecuadorian Amazon.
Great to see that complete write-up of the innovative, significant work you are doing! To other readers, let me say that I have known Doug for many decades, our both living in Ecuador and working here. His work, as often opposed to so many other nominees, really exists. It's phenomenal what he has been able to accomplish and the students are really learning something significant.
If something were to happen to you, could this school and the Lodge continue? You know, even you aren't immortal. I saw the school is approved by the Ministry of Education and Cultures, do and will they fund it? Of course, the funding from the students´production/participation is even better..
I am moved by the effort your foundation is providing for the education of Ecuadorian youth! I think you should "advertise" within the Ecuadorian society the enormous sacrifice, plus your creativity and insight, in organizing this technical school. Congratulations, because Education and our children are the solutions for the survival of our planet. Carla Vorbeck de Cornejo
I visited Yachana Lodge several years ago and was most impressed with the sincerity and idealism of its founder-director, Douglas McMeekin. He speaks quietly about the work he has done in the Ecuadorian Amazon region,setting up various inter-related nonprofit humanitarian ventures to preserve the region and the way of life of its indigenous people. Yachana eco-lodge and tours is only one of these activities. He hires and trains only local people as guides and staff,teaching them how to operate an environmentally friendly local tourism business. The most recent accomplishment is the creation of a nearby high school in the jungle to educate the young people of the area so they can contribute to a sustainable economy of the region.
Hi, I had the opportunity to visit Yachana a month ago and I was very impressed by the way the community is involved in the project and the positive impact of the technical high school on the local community as well as on other communities around Ecuador since students come from different provinces. I was also amazed by the pristine condition of the reserve and the efforts of the research station to study and understand such a complex and unique ecosystem.
Msc. Gabriel Jaramillo
On May 28, 2008, the judges reviewed the entries for the Changemakers “Geotourism Challenge” and would like to pass on this feedback for your entry. Thank you for applying and for your hard work in the field. We are excited to archive your entry to serve as a leading solution for the worldwide community of sustainable tourism innovators. We wish you continued luck with your sustainable, innovative, and socially impactful initiatives.
All the best, The Changemakers Team
“Many international schools attempt this approach, but I can see this innovation exported and replicated across the world. There is a granular aspect to this program. The rotation of kids from school to their family is really creative. Students share knowledge and contribute to clear community building.”
“Schools are a crucial aspect of our society. The government, however, is the largest provider of schools and we would like to learn about how this program is working with the government. Are they looking at replicating this model to other regions of the country?”
-Changemakers Geotourism Judges: National Geographic Society, Past President the Ford Foundation, whl.travel - World Hotel Link, ICICI Foundation for Inclusive Growth.
This entry won the competition because the Yachana: Geotourism Lodge and School is an outstanding program that educates over 128 young people from the Amazon per year. This entry has a clear focus and leaves nothing ambiguous. I hope that this school continues persevering in spite of any difficulties and barriers it may face in the future. The visionary for this school, Mr Mckeekin is helping the local community by providing education for the youth, raising the education level of a portion of the Ecuadorian society and providing the youths with opportunities to obtain jobs. As a result, the locals are highly dependent on the school and its continued operations.