A Conversation with … Eden Recor
Sky-Hi Daily News
In late December, the Sky-Hi Daily News featured the story of Grand County and Boulder resident Pam Gilbert and her accomplishments in Malingua Pamba, Ecuador, a village inhabited by members of the Quechua tribe . Since she first happened upon this community high in the Andes a few years ago, she has provided philanthropic aide to its people, now extending to nearby villages. Two new schools, a shower facility, composting toilets and water infrastructure are among the projects she helped begin there.
After hearing about Gilbert’s projects two years ago, Grand County’s Rotary Clubs and other local residents have also been instrumental in furthering community goals in that region. Rotary’s Grand County Assistant Governor Eden Recor and his wife Petra of greater Grand Lake, for example, each have visited the village on separate occasions.
The Rotary Clubs of Grand County now are working on a large grant through Rotary International to try and fund the water infrastructure component, at a cost of $25,000.
They also hope to provide funds for a stove project and satellite learning, each at a cost of $5,000. Here, Eden talks about his trip to the village of Malingua Pamba, Ecuador, during which he became familiar with the needs of the village beyond education. He also met with an Ecuadorian Rotary club with which Grand County’s chapters plan to partner.
How long have you lived in Grand County?
Our family moved here in May 1995. I was raised in Colorado and moved away after graduating from Denver University. I lived eight years in California and 20 years in Germany before returning.
What is your profession?
I am an Internet Service Provider. My company is Grand County Internet Services. My training and professional career is in electrical engineering and computer information systems.
How did you come to know about Pam Gilbert’s school in Malingua Pamba, Ecuador?
She made a presentation to the Winter Park/Fraser Valley Rotary club in early summer 2006. I then brought her to the other three clubs in Grand County ” the Granby, Grand Lake and Kremmling clubs. We were so impressed with what she had done we decided to support her on her next visit in November 2006. We raised $1,850 between the four clubs for supplies for her new school.
Why did you decide to visit the community?
My wife, Petra, joined Pam on her trip in November 2006. She came back with four hours of video and over 1,000 pictures. I knew then I would visit the village in the future but I did not think it would be very soon. This spring our Rotary Clubs were visited by a team from Mexico. Two members of this team described programs they developed with the universities they worked at. One was an ecological stove and the other was a remote learning platform via satellite for grades three on up. We had been discussing with Pam a water project she is doing with the Denver chapter of Engineers Without Borders. The scope and cost of this project was beyond the fundraising she had been doing. Rotary clubs have access to grants for international projects that basically can turn every dollar a club can raise to $3.50. This takes the cooperation of a local club in the country the project is planned for. Pam had been having difficulties in communicating with this club to get their interest in participating. All of this made me decide in last summer that I would go down with her on her next trip. I went with Pam from Oct. 28 – Nov. 4, 2007.
Had you ever been to Ecuador (or South America) before?
When I lived in Germany, Petra and I had vacationed in Senegal, West Africa, and Kenya, East Africa, and had witnessed the poverty there. I do not speak Spanish; therefore I never had an overpowering interest in visiting South and Central America.
What was your first impression of the village?
We came into the village just as it was getting dark. The people knew Pam was coming and when she comes, there is a big celebration. So, we were greeted by everyone who lives in the area with a big party. Since I had already seen pictures of the village area I recognized things. But what I had not seen in pictures was that there is a new elementary school and another house owned by the community leader, Paulino, that had been finished in the year since Petra visited. I recognized the poverty level because of the lighting ” everything is in semi-dark because electricity there is very expensive and therefore very little in the way of lights.
How did the people react to you?
Everyone is very friendly. There are always smiles on their faces and they try to communicate, even if you do not know the language. They treat each other with respect. This even applies to the children of all ages, and they take care of each other. The children do not mob you like I have seen in other places.
What is their impression of Pam Gilbert and her work there?
Pam adopted the village and they love her. Pam has brought a secondary school to their village. This gives about 80 children the possibility of school beyond a very elementary level. Because of her efforts, the government provided materials to build a second classroom building for the elementary grades. Note that the people provided the labor to build both schools. It was not done for them. Pam also has brought clean drinking water to most of the people in the area through the Engineers without Borders. Again, the people have provided most of the labor digging the trenches the pipes are buried in. Now Rotary is working to help bring irrigation to all the surrounding fields, ecological stoves and additional outside learning through satellite connections. On our trip we met with the local department of Education to get the secondary school accredited so that the Ecuadorian government will pay the teacher salaries. Up until now, Pam has done all the fundraising to pay the secondary school teachers. It will be a major accomplishment if the government will take over the salaries. One of the most important things I heard was that Paulino, the mayor of the village, told the people when we arrived and after meeting with the Department of Education that, “We now have our dignity.”
Do you think the projects she’s accomplished for the people there are warranted?
There is no question about it!
What’s the new school like?
It is two stories. Downstairs, there is a large classroom, a room with sewing machines so that the men and women can learn to sew, and a room where a teacher can stay when he or she is there for classes. Upstairs, there are two smaller classrooms, a library room, and a computer room with about eight computers. The new elementary school has two large classrooms, and a second and possibly third floor can be added.
What did you eat mostly and where did you sleep?
In the village, I had my own room, not completely private, above the General Store. The volunteers who were there ate together for breakfast, lunch and dinner in Paulino’s house around a large table, family-style. Paulino is building a second story to his house for use by volunteers and eventually a hostel. The only shower is in the lower floor of the secondary school, and the toilet is an ecological recycling toilet (basically a very large outhouse).
What did you personally take back with you after visiting there?
I am very excited in continuing to work with this village. I would like to see that our current and future Rotary projects can be cloned to other villages. When I wake up early in the morning, or can’t sleep at night, I think about the village and the projects we could accomplish there and by helping them, hopefully encourage them to pass this forward to other villages in Ecuador.
Do you plan to return?
I accomplished all my goals on this trip. I met with and got cooperation of the Latacunga Rotary for the three projects I have in mind. These are: Water for safe drinking and irrigation which can improve the economic level of the community, ecological stoves that mean cooking in smoke-free rooms with possible other usage such as power generation, storage, and low power lighting, and the satellite learning system to give the people of the village better educational opportunities. I met with the village leader Paulino and discussed what he would like to see happen in his village. I got a very good idea of the resources available and quite a few ideas about future projects. So the answer is, yes. I hope to return as often as possible to work with this village and also the Latacunga Rotary in some of the projects they showed me.
What could the average Grand County citizen learn from the people who live in that modest village?
We in America are blessed with what we have. Most of this comes to us because we were just born here. I think that Brett, our Australian cook who lives in Peru, best expresses it in his e-mail to our group after the trip: “Living where I do in Peru, I have to some extent become less sensitive to phenomenal poverty. Although I am not poor myself, I am constantly surrounded by it and therefore, not shocked by it or at least less sickened by it these days. What does all this mean? Good question. It means that for me, in going to Malingua I was able to see, without an emotionally clouded head, what Malinguan life means to Malinguans. I was able to glimpse, and I say glimpse as it would be ignorant and arrogant of me to say otherwise, the culture, the heritage, the lifestyle, community spirit, sense of belonging, ownership, shared responsibility, and the willingness and want to challenge the ways of the past to bring about a brighter future. And I was able to do all this without a sense of pity or sadness for what they have or lack therein, with the obvious poverty not the focus. This brought a richness to my experience and an unexpected sweetness.”
” Tonya Bina can be reached at 887-3334 ext. 19603 or e-mail email@example.com.
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