This newly constructed training center and adjoining Yachana Lodge, an eco-lodge school, are the culmination of the Yachana Foundation’s 24 years’ experience in community-based solutions to poverty and environmental conservation along the Napo River in Ecuador’s Amazon region. US born Douglas McMeekin struggled without support for his dyslexia to succeed in earning his BA at age 28. In 1986, following business failures in Kentucky, he visited friends in Ecuador. He became aware and appreciative of the wealth of knowledge of the indigenous peoples. Intuitively he realized his purpose was to contribute to solving the social and environmental problems in the Amazon. He founded the Yachana Foundation in 1991. Yachana in Quichua language means “place of learning”. Failures of the existing bureaucratic educational system and its prejudice against indigenous and rural children focused his efforts to education of the youth. The foundation has improved lives through: building local community schools, health clinics, pharmacies, agricultural organizations, micro-finance projects, environmental sustainability programs, eco-tourism management and community development initiatives.
McMeekin proposes “a vocation should hold meaning and passion for the learner and education should be relevant to the vocation”. He further believes the young people of the Amazon to be the most effective agents of positive change for the social, economic and environmental stability in the region. As one of its guiding principles, The Yachana Foundation, advocates “the future of the tropical forest is inextricably linked to the well-being of its inhabitants”. To learn more visit: http://www.yachana.com
The first school, the Yachana Technical High School opened as a non-traditional boarding school in 1995 serving youth who live 3 or more hours travel from a public school. Government restrictions and factors beyond control of the foundation forced its closure in 2010. But new and greater opportunities awaited McMeekin. Selling the original lodge to a non-profit organization opened the way to create the new facilities within the foundation’s remaining 2500 acre reserve. The emergent education model McMeekin believes, “holds the greatest promise for educating Amazon and all remotely located Indigenous youth”. The lodge school and training center offer hands on, experiential learning in practical occupations for learners in 7 Indigenous tribes. These include: entrepreneurship, permaculture and organic food production, cutting edge yet simple, feasible technologies such as compost toilets, unique solar hot water, and bio-digester system, and a terabyte server system that runs
25 computers with LED screens and 514 watts total energy consumption with low heat production as a side benefit. The hotel school is Ecuador’s only eco-lodge that trains Amazon youth in hotel management and leadership and has received numerous eco-tourism awards. In close co-operation with the Ecuadoran Minister of Education, it employees certified teachers who provide long weekend classes in basic academic subjects preparing learners to meet traditional high school diploma requirements. Combined, these efforts develop leadership and technical skills that enable Amazon youth to remain in the rain forest region, find work or be entrepreneurs: a concept that could serve many remote regions around the globe. Ecuador’s Minister of Education currently cannot meet the minimum requirements established by law in the remote rainforest and fails to serve this portion of its youth; a gap Yachana may well succeed in fulfilling.