A little over two months ago, Caleb and Nina Longenecker Fox left the United States for Ecuador. As leaders of the upcoming Study-Service Term units, there is a lot to accomplish before the students arrive in the fall.Caleb and Nina Longenecker Fox have been excited about this opportunity for a while.
Caleb Longenecker Fox went to Nicaragua for SST when he was a student at Goshen and has been interested in leading SST ever since. The pair have always wanted to live abroad for a more extended period of time. With this in mind, Caleb Longenecker Fox said that leading SST grew to be a dream of theirs.
Their departure was delayed several months as a result of the coronavirus, but they are now getting settled in Quito, the country’s capital city. Their plan is to stay in Ecuador through July of 2022.
In that time, they plan to lead three separate SST units.
COVID-19 has had a significant impact on SST units for the last year, but the situation is looking brighter moving forward with international study. There are restrictions in place and Caleb Longenecker Fox expressed that he and Nina Longenecker Fox often feel safer in Ecuador than they did when they were in the U.S.
While Nina Longenecker Fox pursues her graduate degree in Ecuadorian history at the Universidad Andina Simón Bolívar in Quito, Caleb Longenecker Fox has been preparing things for when the students arrive. One of these tasks is setting up Casa Goshen, the headquarters for Goshen College SST in Ecuador and both of their homes while they’re there.
Language is a vital skill for navigating life in another country so Caleb Longenecker Fox is also spending time working on his Spanish and said he is trying to catch up to his wife.
Another task that he is working on is meeting with SST contacts and strengthening those connections. Good connections have proven to be important for international study over the years.
“Along with building connections, I have been helping with our church’s refugee programs which include food distribution and extreme mountainside gardening,” he said.
One of the big projects in progress is some work with a vanilla startup company that Caleb Longenecker Fox has been assisting.
“One of the main considerations and goals for the vanilla project I’m helping out with right now, is to create sustainable livelihoods for indigenous growers in the Amazon,” he said.
The Amazon basin climate offers a lot of potential for vanilla bean farming and typically produces great results. Longenecker Fox explains that with high yields and a strong product, one of the main ideas of the vanilla startup company is to include the growers as direct shareholders and profit sharers within the business, in addition to being suppliers.
“We are trying to double down on equity and also build a market pipeline for them within Ecuador and eventually export to the United States,” he said.
Currently, the Electric Brew in Goshen is selling this product.
In their advertising of the new product, the Brew wrote, “These vanilla beans come directly from indigenous farmers working to preserve the rainforest ecosystem in Ecuador. Through the Amazonia Vanilla Company, producers are able to be direct shareholders and beneficiaries of your purchase.”
The project hopes to create sustainable and equitable livelihoods for those involved.
While students are on SST, they will have the opportunity to be involved in a variety of service placements with the potential to get involved with the vanilla company.
Caleb and Nina Longenecker Fox are busy getting ready, but they are excited for students to finally join them in Ecuador this fall. There are currently vacant spaces in the Fall Ecuador unit and they invite anyone that is interested to sign up through MyGC.