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  • Writer's pictureSebastián Araya

Agroecology Mentor Interview: Sebastián Araya

Originally Published on Go Abroad, 2023

Sebastián Araya Mentor Agroecology Ecuador

Originally from Guaranda, Sebastián graduated from Zamorano agricultural school (Honduras). He has participated in agricultural & development projects in 14 Latin American countries and has worked on private & public projects throughout Ecuador. He now runs his own farm and honey business.

What inspired you to work for El Terreno?

The main thing that inspired me to work with El Terreno is to be of service. This means in service to the interns, the communities we work with, and the natural world. Here we work on ecological issues, using community principles and values.We aim to educate interns in about organic agricultural practices and community management. Meanwhile, we carry out research projects that adjust to local reality and the problems the communities face. We create solutions in coordination with key community members, leaders, and stakeholders, alongside the interns who join our program.

How do you use your education and international background in your current role?

Having traveled extensively throughout Latin America, I can see how communities can be greatly enriched by the contribution of different techniques and methodologies from around the world, to support the regeneration of ecosystems and the development of communities.

I feel we're in a new era, where human beings of different cultural origins and beliefs can be greatly enriched by the diverse lived experiences. This has the potential new ideas for paradigms of society, beyond the typical capitalist, socialist, communist or free market models. We need a new approach which creates harmony between nature and communities.I have also worked as a leader in various corporations, foundations and enterprises with a focus on community values. With that experience I am able to adapt and build processes that are maintained in the longer term, with a positive influence on the communities that surround El Terreno.My English has also developed as a result of my travels, which has enabled me to communicate fluidly between the interns and the communities. Even for those who speak less Spanish.

What advice would you tell your pre-travel self?

I would tell myself to always begin as an observer before developing processes and proposals when restoring ecological and socioeconomic systems. I would remind myself not to judge any activities that are already underway, but focus on the expansion of consciousness and creation of a more respectful society.

Why should someone choose your organization over competitors?

Aspiring interns should choose El Terreno if they are looking for an authentic and practical experience in the field. They will have the freedom to create projects with the community, supported by the guidance of professional mentors.

They will have genuine experience with communities, in which they will also be able to enrich their knowledge and put it into practice and evolve to new ways of thinking for their careers. They will also have the freedom to experience what Ecuador is really like; the culture, landscapes, climates and natural beauty.

What is El Terreno's mission and how do you continue to work toward it?

My hope is that we begin to research, develop and implement more impactful projects that benefit the local communities that are in harmony with nature. Especially in areas such as agroecology and permaculture which local communities can implement themselves.Likewise, together with the communities and the interns, together we are delivering projects in other areas such as gender, sustainable construction and community organization so that the inhabitants that surround El Terreno can live more harmonious and abundant lives. To be involved in this mission fills me with a lot of enthusiasm, motivation, and focus.

What do you hope participants take away from your programs?

I hope that all interns take away in their hearts and minds the contribution they have made to the local communities and ecosystems. That they are deeply aware that we are part of humanity and the natural world; and this knowledge can be brought to their home countries, where they can continue to implement collaborative, empathetic, and supportive practices.

Why is it important for people to travel abroad and experience new cultures?

Traveling to new culture is important because it expands the heart and knowledge. It helps people break out of their bubbles to see new perspectives and ways we can create new societies in harmony with nature. It also opens their hearts to new traditions and cultural identities, and these experiences will enrich them and make lifelong memories.I hope that the interns here at El Terreno find the passion of their lives: what they want to study, research and dedicate themselves to, so that they can make a change wherever their life takes them. For me, that’s a dream come true; when each intern can be helped to find their passion.

What issues do you see in the world of international education that don’t line up with your values and expectations for mutually beneficial & educational relationships between providers/programs and the communities in which they are located within?

One of the main problems I see in international education as a whole is that it is overly intellectual. It often only prepares professionals to serve business interests, but not the human or environmental aspects of life. This can be seen in projects that focus on economic gain over harmony with nature and human wellbeing.Paternalism is what has done the most damage to communities. This is when they are given external solutions developed theoretically from behind the desk. The correct focus should seek to facilitate the processes in which the communities themselves are the ones that present the solutions and that this is something that the community feels empowered by. In summary, there is help from external professionals within the relevant field, but the community is always at the center.I always try to ensure that there is no paternalism towards the communities I work in. Instead, I try to ensure that the communities are responsible for their problems and are empowered to create their own solutions. As the fundamental stakeholder, the community, its inhabitants and the ecosystem are ultimately responsible for its own development.

What does meaningful travel mean to you?

A meaningful travel experience is a journey that’s enriching. I look for an experience that helps me expand my consciousness, mind, and fills me with wisdom and knowledge.

An adventure that helps me harmonize and recognise the abundance of the life I lead. A trip enriches the heart, mind and spirit.

If you're looking to develop your career, make an impact and travel the world, explore our international internship programme and book your discovery call today to personalise your adventure of a lifetime!

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