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Pachaysana: Arts fos Social Change in the Ecuadorian Amazon

Fair Trade Study Abroad (FTSA)… It is possible!

After an intense and invigorating pilot semester of Rehearsing Change, it is time for a brief reflection. A more complete summary can be accessed by taking 5 to 10 minutes to read our SEMESTER REPORT, available on line at our website. You can also check out a gallery of photostestimonials and detailed program information.

Let us start with the WHAT and WHY of Fair Trade Education.

Pachaysana: Arts fos Social Change in the Ecuadorian Amazon

Fair Trade Education… what is it?

We choose the term "Fair Trade" because of its common application in the trade industry, and without a doubt, whether we like it or not, education, especially study abroad, is part of this industry. While this is somewhat of an oversimplification, coffee is considered fair trade when the producers (or farmers) are paid a fair price. In essence, because everyone in the coffee production-to-sale process seeks income, we must measure Fair Trade in monetary terms. What about education? Money is certainly involved, but what we seek, in broad terms, is opportunity for quality education to better ourselves as people and to prepare ourselves for the future. In this sense, we cannot measure fairness based on income; rather, we must measure access to opportunities for quality education. Making this more complicated, since the meaning of “bettering ourselves” and what we seek for the future is relative, based on culture, community and the individual, those opportunities must be broad and inclusive. Thus, Fair Trade Education seeks the transformation of structures in our education systems, which promote, albeit often unintentionally, a colonial dynamic in which opportunities for quality education are concentrated within a select population.  

Pachaysana: Arts fos Social Change in the Ecuadorian Amazon

Fair Trade Study Abroad… why do it?

Thousands of international students receive the opportunity to study in developing nations like Ecuador each year, and there are many programs that provide those students with a top-notch education. Yet, we cannot forget that these students learn from, within or because of Ecuadorian communities. What do these Ecuadorian communities receive in return? (We speak not of the fortunate students who are already studying at Ecuador’s premiere universities, but of the community members who either serve that university, or directly serve the students.) We do FTSA because it strives to provide equal or greater educational opportunities to an equal or greater amount of community participants. Thus, if you believe that education has the power to incite social change, then you should support FTSA because it plays a role in changing the very structures of how we do education in a globalized society. 
Pachaysana: Arts fos Social Change in the Ecuadorian Amazon

Statistics from our first semester of FTSA.

Three international students participated in our pilot semester. They completed 4 courses, taught by highly qualified faculty, focused on examining the problems and opportunities of our globalized society, yet from a local perspective. Three local counterparts completed the exact same 4 courses with the added benefit that out content was applied to the reality of their own communities. Additionally, 17 other local counterparts participated part-time in the semester, completing between 1 and 3 of the courses. If we measure this in terms of total contact hours: 3 international students participated in a total of 540 hours of quality educational programming versus 20 local community members who participated in a total of 1800 hours of quality educational programming. In other words, without sacrificing quality (in fact, participant evaluations suggest that we increased quality), we provided over 3 times the amount of access to local participants. 

Pachaysana: Arts fos Social Change in the Ecuadorian Amazon

FTSA should be practical and applied

Our semester includes the design of local development projects. We recognized the dedication and quality of the work done by investing $2000 into the implementation of two of these projects. They are currently being carried out in our partnering Amazon communities of Tzawata and Mariscal. Additionally, our community partner in Quito, Nina Shunku, was provided financing to travel and work in these communities in order to develop their skills for project design, implementation and evaluation. We are happy to report that Nina Shunku is carrying out several projects, including one with Tzawata, as a direct result of the coursework. 

Pachaysana: Arts fos Social Change in the Ecuadorian Amazon

What our participants are saying?

We believe that FTSA requires a transparent sharing of participant evaluations. Please see our Final Report for a summary of evaluation results or write us for more information.

  • “This was the most liberating educational experience I have had in my 21 years of learning.” – Bronte Velez, Brandeis University
  • “A give and take of knowledge, experiences, problems, and to realize we are fighting for a free world and a greater level of consciousness.” – Daniel Acosta, Nina Shunku Association
  • “I uncovered my personal story, the power of creativity, liberation through art, organization, and ecology, and the need to use new relationships as a foundation for an alternative future.” – Anthony Torres, American University
  • “An incredible experience. I never imagined that an Ecuadorian and North American had so much in common.” – Edil Cabrera, Community of Mariscal Sucre
  • “It especially inspired me to continue my pursuit of something I wasn't entirely sure I could achieve - sustainable community development and cultural empowerment based in mutual relationships.” – Ellie Rice, Juniata College
  • “ (I am now) able to support my community with the knowledge I gained” – Andres Alvarado, Community of Tzawata

Spread the word about FTSA and Rehearsing Change. Applications for spring 2015 are now open on our website!

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