Aug 26 2022

The lessons we take home

Other Stories of Impact

Three lessons from Verde Sumaco that we’ve taken home with us.

You never really leave Verde Sumaco

After four expeditions to Verde Sumaco over the past three years, 220 Academy Mortgage team members have paved a walkway through the remote Amazonian village and helped construct a women’s center to give the village’s women a place to gather, work, and teach.

Those long, sweaty days working in the jungle have also taught us important lessons that we’ve taken back to our lives at work and at home.

Lesson #1: Personal growth takes personal sacrifice

This truth has been repeated by so many Academy team members who’ve made the trip to Verde Sumaco. And even for veterans of numerous international service trips, like Elsa Jensen, a Brand Media Manager from Riverton, Utah, this expedition was truly a step outside her comfort zone. 

“I have been on about 10 humanitarian trips in many different places and countries similar to this one throughout my life,” she said. “I thought I was an expert, but this trip still succeeded at pushing me outside of my comfort zone. It’s the small things: What’s the boat ride going to be like? Will I have easy access to a bathroom? How hot will it really be? What if I get sick?”

But it’s the act of facing those fears, and stepping into the unknown, that truly changes people’s lives and perspectives. 

As Elsa said, “In the village, there are no distractions, no security blanket of our phones or our jobs, so we take the time to be with the villagers, and with each other. It was very unifying to take the time to really see someone and learn about their life, whether it be a villager or a fellow Academy team member. It really showed me that we often don’t take the time to understand one another, and you can really see the difference it makes when we do take the time to understand each other better.”

Lesson #2: It takes a team effort to truly Inspire Hope

All Academy Corps service projects are driven by our commitment to Inspire Hope. We’ve learned that the best way to Inspire Hope is by helping communities bring their own vision for the future to life. That means working collaboratively and always following the lead of the local people who know their challenges better than we ever could.

We’ve learned this lesson over and over whenever our teams travel to Verde Sumaco. Elsa explained it this way: “When I talked with a few villagers, they told me that when Academy comes to work, the whole village comes and helps in whatever way they can. To me, that showed how important the project was to them. It has opened their eyes to the possibility of what else can be done and how much it can change their lives.”

Amy Forbush, a People Operations Specialist from Lehi, Utah, added: “​​I loved how the projects were decided on by the village rather than by us. The best trips for me are the ones where you get to connect with people’s hopes and dreams, and that is exactly what we were able to do.”

Lesson #3: Always put people at the center of everything you do

At Academy Mortgage, our unique “families, not files” mindset extends to all our community service initiatives. We will always place the wants and needs of the individuals we serve ahead of our own, even if that means we have to put on work clothes and get our hands dirty.

Reflecting on her experience in Verde Sumaco, Elsa said, “It helped me understand Academy’s vision to Inspire Hope, to build and strengthen people, families, and communities. And that’s why they offer employees these experiences — because they want us to have opportunities that inspire us to work harder in our own communities.”

Andrea Galewater, a Lock Desk Specialist from Salt Lake City, Utah, felt the same way after her trip. “It helped shape my work life because now I understand we are all truly like-minded people just trying to do the right thing.”

It just goes to show that a group of people that puts others before themselves, and always stays focused on doing the right thing, can truly change lives for the better — around the world and here at home.

Academy Mortgage Corporation
"​​I loved how the projects were decided on by the village rather than by us. The best trips for me are the ones where you get to connect with people’s hopes and dreams, and that is exactly what we were able to do."
Amy Forbush

People Operations Specialist, Lehi, Utah

More Ecuador stories