¡Hello, Saludos, Imanalla!
My name's Joshua (UK) and I'm the founder of El Terreno. At the start of this new year, I'm writing our first blog post as a warm welcome to the project and to share the inspiration that drives it. In the coming articles, I will step aside to allow the volunteers, visitors and locals who pass through to share, in their own words, their experience and learnings from their visit.
A Traveller No More
I had always wanted to visit South America, I never knew why, but it felt like destiny. Nine years after having first set foot on the continent as an enthusiastic backpacker, it turns out I was right.
My mother always told me there were two types of people in the world - travellers and farmers. If you asked me a decade ago, I would have passionately exclaimed how I would always be walking the earth. But for now at least, I am putting down roots (both literally & metaphorically) to dedicate years of my life to express all that I have learned from those travels.
What Is El Terreno?
On the surface, El Terreno ('The Land') will be a Cultural Exchange Centre located in the rural Andes of Ecuador, just outside of the colonial town of Guaranda (famous for its indigenous culture, local Pájaro Azul licor and its annual carnival celebrations). We are building the accommodation, restaurant, gardens and activities for volunteers and tourists to visit this largely unknown yet beautiful province of Bolívar. They can enjoy spectacular landscapes and learn about the fascinating culture from the warm-hearted people of the surrounding communities while simultaneously supporting the local economy. Activities are focussed around sustainable tourism, culture, ecology and education.
But under the surface, the goal is to support the sustainable evolution of humanity through the mutual celebration of difference, using different perspectives as an opportunity to learn and grow. We hope to begin breaking from the traditional charitable model where foreigners come to 'help' poor people in need. While a noble gesture, I see how it can set up a cycle of dependence for some and the abandonment of indigenous cultures for others.
Instead, I want to engage in a genuine dialogue and exchange of customs and worldviews, so that we can learn from each other, enriching ourselves and contributing to others. Money is undoubtedly a factor, but rather than begging for a handout, local people are provided with opportunities to empower themselves through dignified work and the restoration of their native culture and ecosystems.
What Have We Achieved So Far?
In nine months from having purchased the land, we have been generously lent the casa comunal (village hall) by the community and invested in comfortable accommodation for volunteers. We have already received 23 people since July from all over the world, including; Ecuador, Brazil, Ukraine, USA and a surprising number from France! These volunteers have been engaging in cooking exchages with the local community, dancing in mud to mix adobe plaster, planting native trees and leading a wide variety of workshops for children in the area.
What Are Our Hopes for 2022?
While there is a lot of uncertainty and responsibilities on our shoulders (COVID seems far from over and we are happy to announce we have a baby on the way!), we are building a team to continue fulfilling our mission. By the end of this year, we hope to have completed the transformation of a 150 year old adobe farmhouse it into a cafe & multi-functional space, installed essential irrigation and water storage systems, planted a food forest and implemented our first social impact programmes through our soon-to-be-announced foundation, as well as numerous cultural exchange activities with the local people throughout the year.
How Can You Get Involved?
To fully realise this vision, I see us being here at least 20 years - nothing of real value was created overnight. It will require passion, sweat, dedication, business savvy, personal growth, interpersonal compassion, cultural sensitivity, mentorship and financial investment. The road will be long and often hard, but there is nowhere else we would rather be!
In these early stages, any support is gratefully received:
Passing the Baton
That it for this post, I am now going to sign off and open the floor for other voices to share their story, which I hope will become a repository of inspiration for those with a similar vision to create a more meaningful, sustainable and prosperous world.
Thanks for being one of the early supporters; until next time.
Joshua Holmes Founder, El Terreno
Up Your Game
If you're a social innovator and want improve your impact in the world while supporting the evolution of El Terreno, consider becoming a patron and receive exclusive access to content, community and courses from the founder, Joshua Holmes.