Aug 26 2022

How we’re bringing a vision to life

Other Stories of Impact

Learn more about a typical Academy Corps day in Verde Sumaco, Ecuador.

Humility means we don’t assume to have all the answers

When Academy Mortgages gets involved in a service project, we start by asking the community one simple question: How can we help? By approaching service with humility, it helps ensure that we’re providing things people actually need, not the things we assume they need.

This approach to service is especially important when it comes to our ongoing work in the remote Amazonian village of Verde Sumaco in Ecuador. When we began our relationship, the villagers made it clear that they wanted help with two initiatives: paving a walkway through the village and constructing a women’s center so the village’s women had a place to work together and pass down their knowledge to the next generation.

With that vision firmly established, every group of Academy Corps volunteers that arrive in Verde Sumaco works side-by-side with the local people to bring their vision to life.

Paving the path to school

A typical day in Verde Sumaco begins early, usually around 5:30 a.m., when breakfast is served. After team members eat, they receive that day’s assignments, and then they are split into groups and head to the village to work.

One of the factors that makes traveling to the jobsite difficult is the same reason the village was so enthused about building paved pathways: the mud.

“Mud is a constant problem in the village,” said Elsa Jensen, a Brand Media Manager from Riverton, Utah. “It’s thick, deep, and hard to avoid. Because of this, the villagers all wear rubber rain boots year-round, and that causes some issues, like fungus and bacteria on their skin. The mud also breeds more mosquitos.”

The group most affected by the mud is the village children — and their parents. The muddy conditions make walking to school difficult, not to mention the mess parents have to deal with when the children arrive home. Education is very important to the village, and so building paved pathways to the school was their top priority.

Digging the future out of the Amazon

In order to retrieve the sand needed for the concrete pathways, groups of Academy Corps volunteers and villagers are ferried by canoes upstream, where they retrieve sand and load it into the canoes, and then the sand is ferried back downstream. The sand is often buried beneath layers of rock, which is also needed to make the concrete. The rock is set aside, and sometimes even harvested from the sand using levers. 

In order to get the rock back to Verde Sumaco, the villagers have constructed a cable pulley system. Academy Corps volunteers and villagers load buckets with rock at one end of the cable, and then the people at the other end unload the rock on shore. 

As Amy Forbush, a People Operations Specialist from Lehi, Utah, put it, “It was extremely difficult work, especially in the hot, humid weather. However, the positive attitudes of our group made the work enjoyable.”

Laying the foundations for new opportunities

While one group works to retrieve the sand and rock, another group is busy building forms for the pathway, mixing the cement, pouring the cement, and smoothing out and finishing the pathway. A few decorative rocks are added to the top of the pathway to connect it back to the patterns of nature.

The concrete is also used for another project: laying the foundation for a new women’s center. This will provide local women a place to call their own, where they can gather, work on crafts together, and pass down their traditional techniques and practices to new generations.

Seeing their vision come to life

Academy’s work in Verde Sumaco all stems from our commitment to Inspiring Hope. But to truly Inspire Hope, we need community partners with a vision of their own that we can help bring to life. And when it comes to working together with our Academy Corps volunteers, the people of Verde Sumaco are ready and willing to do whatever it takes to make their community a safer and more prosperous place. We’re not there to do the work for them—we’re there to provide a spark of energy and a helping hand.

As Amy Forbush said, “No matter what project we were working on, the villagers were involved and willing, from toddlers to young mothers with week-old babies strapped around their backs to 80-year-old women. The involvement was a manifestation of their desire to finish these projects and better the community.

Academy Mortgage Corporation
"Education is very important to the village, and that made building paved pathways to the school their top priority."
Amy Forbush

People Operations Specialist, Lehi, Utah

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