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Building a School, Building Lifelong Friendships

  • May 10, 2019

Academy Mortgage offers all employees a unique opportunity two times a year—a chance to participate on a Service Expedition to Ecuador with The Academy Corps. This group of volunteers pays a travel fee and travel expenses out of their own pockets and uses their paid Volunteer Time Off hours to be a part of this experience.

The Academy Corps has completed two Service Expeditions to Pucará, Ecuador, where they have assisted the village with the construction of a much-needed vocational school. They dedicated many days of manual labor—mixing concrete for walls and fencing, painting building exteriors, and digging trenches to better accommodate water usage. They experienced the culture, learned about the history, and connected with the people. All the participants came home with memories to last a lifetime.

But they also returned to their personal and professional lives with another, perhaps unexpected, benefit—closer relationships with their co-workers.

“My co-worker who went on the first trip to Ecuador suggested that I go and experience this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” said Business Support Manager Rebecca Carvajal (pictured on the right). “I was terrified, not knowing anyone who was going and what I was getting into.”

Rebecca’s fears were echoed by Human Resources Generalist Kellie Savage (pictured on the left). “Normally this wouldn’t be something I would do; it’s way outside of my comfort zone,” said Kellie. “I was worried that I wouldn’t be brave enough to do it.”

The two were paired as roommates on the trip.

“I know my experience wouldn’t have been the same without Rebecca,” said Kellie. “She and I bonded in so many ways, and we got each other through the tough stuff. She was patient with me when I got really concerned about small things, and wherever I lacked, she made up for. Yin and yang. I think the universe put us together for a reason, for sure!”

“I know Kellie was someone I was meant to meet and have in my life,” said Rebecca. “Meeting Kellie was the last thing I thought was going to happen on this trip. We were there for each other throughout the entire experience, and you would never even know we had just met. We developed a friendship that we will have for years to come.”

Kellie and Rebecca’s new friendship is not unusual. Academy has watched firsthand how deep bonds are created between team members on our Expeditions as they work side by side in the service of others. These types of experiences unite our company, building camaraderie and providing a common cause to get behind.

“This experience has taught me that you can walk into something not knowing almost anyone and come back with a bigger family than you had prior to the experience,” said Kellie. “These people are changing the world with the love they hold in their hearts and that is something to be proud of.”

In addition to building relationships, initiatives like the Ecuador Service Expeditions result in true personal growth, which is an important priority at Academy.

“Going on this trip made me realize that Academy really does care about me and my wellbeing,” said Rebecca. “They want me to get the most out of life and are happy to help in any way they can.”

“What I gained from this experience cannot be described in words,” said Kellie. “It changed who I am as a person. Getting outside of ourselves and viewing the world from a new perspective is invaluable.”

For more information on The Academy Corps Service Expeditions, contact

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