Expressing talents with the local communities

As many people already know, La Hesperia is a place where one can not only learn about other cultures, but where one can also come and express their talents and skills to the local communities which surround the reserve. 

One of our current volunteers has been able to do that a lot lately.  Since her arrival one month ago, she has been teaching dance and gymnastics to local children at our school twice a week.  Not only has she been dancing since her childhood, she has also been teaching dance to children in her hometown of Toronto for the past few years.

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Yesterday was another great day for Amy to share her talents with local community members.  During the celebration of sports teams at the nearby Toachi-Pilatón Hydroelectric Project, Amy demonstrated to over 300 staff members, comprised of locals from 7 neighboring communities, her years of hard work and natural born talents through an aerial dance routine on silks.  It was quite amazing, and the reactions of the crowd during her performance and afterwards showed her that she was truly able to give something valuable to the local community members around La Hesperia.  

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We all have wonderful talents that many people around the world have never seen or experienced.  Volunteering with La Hesperia gives everyone the opportunity to participate in not only a cultural exchange, but an educational one too.  We encourage others to be part of our program and offer their gifts.  We promise that these gifts will be rewarded with a gift in return.

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The many things that have been experienced in just a short period of time.

Hello all!  This is Stephanie, the current volunteer coordinator at La Hesperia.  Over the past few months a lot has taken place here at La Hesperia.  We have had the pleasure of working with wonderful, passionate, and energetic people from various places around the world such as Canada, the USA, the UK, Germany, Norway, Denmark and of course, Ecuador.  Amongst our volunteers, we have had enthusiastic people with a multitude of interest and experience in areas such as eco-construction with materials like bamboo and cob, organic farming with concepts of companion planting and composting, reforestation and conservation of our forest, environmental education and field research, and renewable energy such as our projects with a bio-digester and solar energy through plastic bottle panels.  Without the desires and dedication to learn about the work being done here in the Cloud Forest of La Hesperia, so much of what we do here could not be possible.

The work within the veggie garden in order to understand organic farming within the Cloud Forest of Ecuador has definitely continued.  We have continued to grow the crops which we know grow well such as radishes, Swiss chard, lettuce, beans, cabbage, tomatoes, turnips, and carrots.  At the moment we are trying to get the eggplants, squash, and zucchini to survive in the veggie garden once they have been transplanted from the seedling nursery.  We continue to practice mulching which is a technique for preventing weeds around crops and maintaining moisture in the soil – essential this time of year which is the dry season.  The ideas of crop rotation and companion planting are still important concepts for maximizing the potential of the soil which holds nutrients from previous crops and utilizes some crops’ ability to ward off the pests of other crops by planting them together.  Currently we are not planting seeds directly into the beds unless they are root vegetables because birds seem to be eating the seeds once planted.  So, we have continued with previous actions of planting in the seedling nursery and then transplanting in the veggie garden once germination has taken place.  We are also waiting for recently planted sunflowers to bloom so they can help attract useful insects to the veggie garden.

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It has been a true pleasure learning about all that goes into the production of so many different types of foods which we all enjoy and may take for granted back in our home countries.  Although coffee-harvesting season seemingly ended about a month ago and volunteers cannot currently learn about the harvesting of coffee beans, several volunteers got to enjoy that experience for about two and a half months, and we are still enjoying our morning coffee from those already roasted beans.  In addition, volunteers and tourists have been able to learn about and have an active role in the production of chocolate from start to finish – from beans to a creamy, spreadable delight to go on top of sweet biscuits or inside crêpes.  We have also had the fabulous opportunity of making cheese from our freshly produced milk and enjoyed a lasagna from pasta made from scratch.  Of course none of this is meant to overshadow the delicious, homemade bread baked two to three times a week and enjoyed daily for breakfast.

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As previous volunteers know, there is a constant need for ongoing projects in order to maintain a level of efficiency here at La Hesperia.  Some recently completed projects have included the expansion of the compost area (this was created due to the large amounts of compostable waste produced at La Hesperia, especially from yard clippings), repairs to the two current chicken coops due to the need to prepare for the new chicks once they can be moved from their current, incubated area, and the creation of another bridge in the Laguna Trail which will make the exploration of one of our beloved nature trails more enjoyable without the fear of sinking into almost a meter of mud.  Some current projects include the reparation of our fences which surround cow pastures and the veggie garden.  For anyone who has worked on a farm before knows that fences need upkeep in order to prevent the livestock from taking over;)  Also, we are still clearing, cleaning, and preparing our laguna for our tilapia in order to make it their home and a natural ecosystem for other creatures.

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La Hesperia is always involved in conservation projects all over the reserve.  Reforestation is a very important aspect of La Hesperia due to the fact that this area was found, upon purchase several decades ago, heavily deforested.  Therefore, we are constantly planting trees in hopes to bring back the forest which was lost.  However, it is currently the dry season here in Ecuador which means it is not the season for planting trees.  But because many trees have been recently planted and weeds grow faster than the trees, we have had to, like always, go into the forest where young trees have been planted and clear the areas around the trees so they are able to receive sufficient sunlight and not the weeds around them.  However, the transplanting of trees and plants does not always result in their successful growth.  Therefore, when doing this tree-care maintenance, some trees, which did not survive their transplantation, need to be replaced with live baby trees from the nursery.  In the last two months we have planted approximately 75 additional trees in our forest.  In addition, we have planted approximately 25 heliconias and 20 ginger plants.  The plants are very important for our ecosystem because they provide the needed energy (a natural sugar) for hummingbirds so they can pollinate numerous plants in La Hesperia.  Heliconias, gingers and Carludovica palmata (another plant recently transplanted in an area which does not receive a lot of sunlight however, they do not need a lot of sunlight for their growth) are very interesting because they constantly sprout baby plants either near or in their leaves which when removed can be transplanted and grow into a tall plant of their own.

Since the 1980s, La Hesperia has been a place for research.  Karen Kirk, executive director of the Tangaré Foundation, has been conducting research on dung beetles in the Cloud Forest of La Hesperia for awhile now.  Dung beetles like several amphibians such as frogs, are excellent bio-indicators.  Due to their sensitivity to slight changes in the environment, they can give us insights into things such as climate change.  At the moment, Karen has over 4000 dung beetles in a laboratory being examined and identified.  So far Karen has discovered two new species of dung beetles.  Just a month ago, Karen returned to the forest with several volunteers to educate and demonstrate how she conducts her field research for volunteers interested in entering similar fields of research in the future.

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It is equally important for our volunteers to view the beauty of La Hesperia’s Cloud Forest while obtaining its knowledge.  Therefore, it is essential that volunteers hike areas of the forest while they are here – volunteers go on an extensive hike at least every other Friday.  In the last few months, volunteers have hiked the trail to our second campsite (approximately 3 hours from the main working area of the reserve).  Here tarantulas the size of i-phones can be found, a variety of orchids native to Ecuador can be spotted and the sap of the Sangre de Drago can be rubbed onto the skin for dermatological benefits.  We have also hiked to one of many cascades which lies within the parameters of La Hesperia and enjoyed the fun of sliding down it.  In addition to the Sangre de Drago, after only a thirty minute hike into the forest, several volunteers have had the pleasure of rubbing a red clay on their skin which also has dermatological benefits.  Moreover, a recent volunteer spent over eight hours hiking the parameter of La Hesperia where he was able to see the primary forest of La Hesperia and observe the three different levels of vegetation.

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I am definitely looking forward to what is still to come… :)

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One day at La Hesperia…

Sometimes nature dictates the tasks of the day when you’re living in the forest. We had such a day last week here in our cloud forest. A heavy storm overnight knocked out both the electricity and the water, and worse knocked over a tree close to JP and Alexandra’s house. Luckily the tree only clipped the edge of the roof so major damage was avoided. However it did leave one large tree in the middle of the lawn that required clearing. This of course had to happen on a Friday night. With the arrival of Monday morning one team was dispatched to fix the water supply, engineers arrived to fix the electricity and the rest worked chopping and chainsawing the tree and fixing the roof. By the end of the workday the question that was being asked was… what tree?
In fact the tree is now providing new sides for the beds in the vegetable garden, the sawdust is in the hen houses making it a little cosier for them and one night soon a bonfire will be lit using lots of the small twigs. As they say, when life gives you lemon makes lemonade. Which by the way, we just did.

 

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Latest from La Hesperia

Two birds at the volunteer house. The first sat on the line for a couple of days before unfortunately dying – we think he was in a state of torpor. In better news, the toucan which flew into one of the windows was treated by the magical hands of Freddy and soon recovered to fly away.

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In other news, La Hesperia’s resident pig “La Peggy” was the focus of much attention this week and one of the volunteers, Anna, tried to artificially inseminate Peggy. The event included Freddy catching teh bus back from the animal supply store with the, ahem,,,,required stuff, a quick look at a video on youtube to work out what needs doing and lots of food to distract Peggy while she lost her virginity (sort of). We’ll keep you posted as to how things work out.

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La Hesperia – great place for hanging out

Latest update from La Hesperia Reserva Natural.

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Volunteers this week enjoyed a walk to the High Point, taking advantage of the man-made and natural swings along the way and tried out the medicinal properties of the Sangre de Drago sap.
There was a new visitor to the dining room who decided to (literally) hang out there for a few days.
Macro lenses have been out in force for some close up shots of some of the innumerable insect species that can be found in the reserve. Though some of them are rather large for insects…
Beetroot and radish are stable ingredients for lots of meals currently – and they taste seriously good…

The garden is looking particularly great this week – there are eight beds planted with various goodies and the never ending battle with the weeds was aided this week by the cutting down of lots of the old Agave plants – the leaves from these have provided complete coverage between those beds.

This week we also planted some soya and corn in the areas where the Pig (La Peggy as she is affectionately known) has helpfully provided nutritious and weed free earth. Gracias La Peggy.

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New Internship: Teach English at La Hesperia Cloud Forest School

Cloud Forest School

About the Role:

La Hesperia is seeking an English teacher for students aged 3 to 8 at our Montessori school in the cloud forest of Ecuador. The teacher should be open-minded and comfortable working in new environments. The position is scheduled to start in May 2013, and the individual should be able to commit at least 6 months to the project. Training will be included in the role.

The individual will live in our volunteer house on-site with other volunteers from around the world. In addition, outside of teaching the volunteer will be free to work side-by-side with our other volunteers, undertaking sustainability activities such as reforestation and working in our organic vegetable garden.

Essential Characteristics:

Medium / Advanced Spanish
Flexibility
Willingness to live in a relatively remote part of Ecuador

Additional Characteristics:
Prior teaching experience
Familiarity with the Montessori philosophy

Benefits:
Training
Accommodation and three meals a day

HOW TO APPLY
If you are interested, please send a cover letter and resume to Alexandra Hoeneisen at ahoeneisen@lahesperia.org. At a later stage, the application process will include a criminal background check and a child abuse history report (required to teach in the U.S) or letter of reference of your previous work.

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This week at La Hesperia

This week La Hesperia welcomed a group of students from Denmark who came to enjoy some hikes around the reserve, learn some Spanish and enjoy some relaxation in the White House. Unfortunately the Danes v Volunteers/Staff football game was called off due to bad weather, but they did enjoy making some chocolate from cacao beans and a night camping high up in the reserve (the weather behaved too allowing a traditional campfire).

For the volunteers, work continued on improving he garden and nursery, we spent one day high up in the reserve reforesting and the Pond Trail had shiny news information boards posted around it.
The reserve welcomed a new addition this week with the birth of a baby calf (another expected any day), and Filomon the mule has maybe gone into retirement (or at least he is having a well earned rest – he is 20 after all).

Any suggestions for a name?

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