After 14 years, 37 units and over 600 students, this summer’s Study-Service Term in Peru will be the last for the country. Instead, beginning with the fall 2019 unit, Ecuador will become the South American location, making it the 25th country to be part of the SST program.
The decision was first announced to students on Tuesday evening at a meeting with the fall unit. By the end of the night, all those signed up for Peru SST for the 2019-2020 school year had heard the news.
Tom Meyers, current director of international education, explained that the decision had been something that the college administration has been discussing for the past two to three years.
Meyers explained that moving from one location to another is part of the normal history for SST.
“There is nothing wrong with the country of Peru. We’ve had excellent programs there,” said Meyers.
He explained that logistical problems with Peru, as well as a new partnering opportunity and focus on sustainability in Ecuador, are the main reasons for the change.
Ecuador has much the same geographical features as Peru, including three distinct regions — the coast, the mountains and the jungle. Being close to the equator, the sun is intense, but temperatures remain temperate, averaging around 70 degrees Fahrenheit year-round.
The college will become official partners with the Cofán Survival Fund (CSF), who Jerrell Richer, professor of economics, has previously worked with for May Term trips to Ecuador. According to the foundation’s website, the organization is “dedicated to the survival of the Cofán indigenous culture and its Amazonian rainforest environment.”
Andrew and Ruth Hartzler will be the first to lead the Ecuador SST. The pair have yet to visit the country, but Andrew plans to do so in late May or early June to meet with Richer and the CSF.
“Ruth and I are thrilled to be leading the first groups to Ecuador for GC,” Andrew said. “It will be a unique opportunity for the students to be the first to experience the full SST experience there.”
Meyers traveled to Quito, the capital city of Ecuador, two weeks ago to meet with Randy Borman, the director of CSF. Meyers explained that the SST program will be based in the organization’s building as students will go there upon arrival in the country and take classes there during the study portion of the term.
Meyers also spoke of the important links that the organization has with projects in the Amazon, which supports the college’s commitment to sustainability. Units will travel to the Amazon as part of an extended field trip during the SST program.
“The Amazon is one of the most fragile ecosystems in the world. It’s in real danger right now as well as the people who live there,” Meyers said. “The [Cofán Survival Fund] has been working to preserve the land that’s being defiled by oil companies, mining companies and also to try and protect the land for the people who live on it.”
Meyers believes it to be an exciting opportunity to partner with an organization who will link the college to significant issues that the students will be able to learn about.
He also explored the possibility of an ASL program.
“I met with the president of the Federation of the Deaf in Ecuador, and they have 18 affiliates around the country,” Meyers said. “He was fairly certain that we could partner with them as well.”
Along with these meetings, Meyers was able to explore the city of Quito and visit art and ethnic history museums. He described it to be a “lively city surrounded by mountains” with an “excellent transportation system.”
As with the Peru SST unit, students will be placed in smaller towns across the country for the six weeks students are on service.