More Than Humbled

I write from an entirely different world. One where graciousness and compassion take precedence over all other. The differences between hillsides are overwhelming; cultural traditions, cooking styles, and language dialect are some of the many observed changes. Corn fields sections off various haciendas, plantations, and ensure that the original class systems protect the mestizos. The influential ones in the Ecuadorian community maintain their power and status through oppression of the (poorer) indigenous peoples. As a result of this structure, the poor remain in this cycle of poverty because of being indebted to the owners of these haciendas they work on. These divided lands do not hinder the kindred spirits of our Ecuadorian families, though. They openly welcomed all of us into their homes and treated us like their own children. We all will carry  their lessons of openness and love with us back home and beyond.

Humbled cannot accurately describe just how greatly I feel. With every new REACH experience I am able to detect the change within myself, but on this three week international adventure, I was able to grow and learn with my closest peers on a pragmatic level. Learning capabilities and newly acquired skills emerged, and we all became more grateful and thankful than ever before. Our homes in the States pale in comparison to our homes here in Ecuador. The distinct differences at first sight include material items and stray farm animals. Instantaneous bonds with energetic children produce a warming environment and a bit of chaos. Their culture and basic principles were noted to be of much higher significance than any washing machine, television, or car could ever compare to back at home.

I am proud and honored to have been presented with the opportunity to work so closely with the people of Ongalango and surrounding areas. The experiences and challenges overcome will remain with me forever and serve as a reminder for what others are able to do. The lives we're given do not dictate how far you will go or where you will end. Ecuador, I will see you again.

With so much love,

Kayla Marie Marshall



A "Minga", is basically a community work party. A member of each family in the Agualongo community comes together to fix, build, and improve the valleys infrastructure. Imagine how well you'd know your neighborhood if everyone in the area got together to fix the potholes outside your house, and then had lunch together.

REACH, Tandana, and of course the Agualongo community got together to share a Minga, check it out!

A water tank was on the verge of collapsing. Juan and Noah load up a wheelbarrow with rocks, dirt and cement to build a retaining wall. 

But Jessica had to carry it up to the tank. Interesting fact, everything is uphill in Agualongo. 

Debbie (left) and Kayla (right) determining who has to take the next load, by seeing who is shorter. You were so close Debbie!

Minga's are fun for all ages!

Barney, local sheep legend looking regal as usual, oversees most logistics around the minga. 

The Agualongo Shower Experience: An interview between Beatriz and Kayla

The Agualongo Shower Experience: An interview between Beatriz and Kayla

Kayla: How badly did you smell? (this question is of course to get the reader up to speed. As her roommate, Kayla knew exactly how bad she smelled)

Beatriz: I smelled so badly that my host mom suggested more boiling water for my shower.

Kayla: How was the first shower?

Beatriz: Well, I poured the hot water into the wash bucket, went to get my clothes, came back to se the wash bin was half empty. (*Pro Tip* check you r bucket for holes) Once in the shower area, I held the bucket with one of my legs to stop the flow of water. It was hard not to notice all the bugs, and curious neighborhood children outside.

While showering, my clothers kept falling onto the floor, and I realized I forgot my shampoo. My shower came to an end when their was more bugs than water in the bucket. Once I finished dressing, I was followed into my room by six curious children, where I was promptly told to hurry up so we could all play. Overall I would describe the experience as, “cold, naked, and afraid”.

Kayla: Will you be showering again?

Beatriz: No!!!!

Post Interview note: The group voted and Beatriz had to shower again.

Salsa and Weaving

An afternoon of learning how to weave traditional clothing, and salsa dance.


Kayla Marie on the loom

Noah and Lily perfecting the spin

Herman and Arley (purple shirt), demonstrating some advanced dance moves. 

Questions we wish people would ask us...

About REACH?

How does REACH Continue?

What is the legacy of REACH?

What makes REACH Special?

Why did you stay in REACH for 4 Years?

What experiences were your favorite?

What was your cohort like?

Anything you regret about your time at REACH?

How are you going to miss REACH?

In 3 words, describe yourself before and after REACH?

Your favorite memory that changed how you viewed yourself?

How did a program like this help you transition into college?

What has been your most meaningful experience, and why?

How much more important is nature to you now?

What activities have been most important to you?

How have you personally grown?

What fears have you overcome?

How has REACH helped you comprehend the world around you?

How confident are you with your finances, and managing debt?

Do you feel more comfortable with yourself

How has your experience been without technology?

How was your time with REACH helped you with your relationship skills?

Does REACH prepare you for the real world?

What does REACH provide that’s not in the description?

In what ways have you grown through the guidance of REACH?

How has the REACH program impacted your current life, and your future?

Why do you keep coming back and participating in REACH activities?

Why should anybody care about listening to a group of unbathed, disheveled college student?

How can you use the skills you learned in REACH to better the world?


About my experience in Ecuador?

How did I approach this trip differently?

Once we leave, what changes here?

What did we learn?

What are the people like?

Was it an overall positive experience?

What was the town like that you stayed at?

                Sense of community?

                Were the people caring/loving/genuine?

                Did the people have a fraternity de umanidad?

What was your greatest obstacle while in Ecuador?

What values did you notice were different between the people in Agualongo, and back home?

What fascinated you, caught your attention?

How has this experience helped your self esteem?               

Is this what you expected?

What about the world are you more aware of because of this experience?

How does going to a different country and learning a different culture help you?

What values will you take home with you?

What made you smile during your time abroad?

Did you shower, and did you do laundry?

Did your experience teach you somethingthat you can’t learn in the states?


Beginning the Adventure

After days of traveling we met our house parents. It was remarkable how despite our stark differences we have unified. The host families are very gracious and went out of their way to make sure we felt comfortable.

Today we went on a hike to a point that overlooked the surrounding communities. We learned about the systematic oppression of the indigenous population and the implementation of the hacienda system. This brought up many questions such as, "Who are indigenous? What can we do about it? Is the situation in the U.S. that much different?". I have a feeling that these questions will be on our minds the next few weeks.

- Noah Nance