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Fort Macleod students travelling to Ecuador to build school

amy and nicole

Amy Cook and Nicole Quinlan will leave this week for a trip to Ecuador to help build a school in a village.

Two young women from Fort Macleod will spend their Easter holiday helping out in a foreign country.
Amy Cook and Nicole Quinlan, both 17-year-old Grade 12 students at F.P. Walshe school, will travel to Ecuador as part of a Me to We initiative to help build a school.
“I’m nervous,” Amy said. “It hasn’t quite hit me yet that I’m going. This is something that I’ve always wanted to do. As a child it’s always been in my dreams but I didn’t think there would be a day this soon that I got to do it.”
Nicole is also nervous, and expects to experience a culture shock.
“That’s not really anything you can prepare yourself for,” Nicole said. “I don’t know what I’m going to see. I’m excited. I’m grateful that I have the opportunity.”
The idea of a trip began to take shape two years ago when Amy and Nicole accompanied other students to We Day in Calgary.
The two girls planned to go to Kenya as part of a Me to We initiative, but that trip was cancelled due to the Ebola outbreak in Africa.
Instead, they settled on a trip from April 3-12 to Ecuador where they will help build the foundation for a school and work on other community projects.
The trip is not a school-based initiative, but F.P. Walshe school teacher Susan Stacheruk will accompany Amy and Nicole on their journey.
“They are just awesome girls,” Stacheruk said. “They are very giving, willing to help in any way they can, the type of people that you can depend on.”
“They are well rounded, involved in all areas of life,” Stacheruk added. “I hope this is a life changing experience for all of us. I just feel fortunate to be able to take these two girls because they have worked hard to fund-raise money and help the Me to We organization.”
Amy and Nicole were instrumental in collecting $1,000 in pennies for a clean water project in Kenya, and they also sold Valentine’s Day buttons to raise money to adopt a village in Kenya.
Amy, Nicole and their teacher will fly from Calgary on Friday with layovers in Houston and El Salvador before arriving in Ecuador.
Once in Ecuador they meet up with about 18 students from Richmond, Ont. and their supervisors.
They spend a night in the capital city of Quito before moving on the Amazon, where they will build the foundation of a classroom and help out with construction of houses in a village.
They get a chance to interact with villagers and have been working on their Spanish, learning enough key phrases to get by.
In addition to working in the community, Amy and Nicole get to tour the capital city, visit a cacao farm, help out on a farm, visit a local shaman and learn to use traditional jungle weapons.
A night time jungle walk, a meeting with women’s community groups, a traditional cooking demonstration, a visit to a local market and a celebration dinner are also planned.
They will also discuss their experiences and social issues with the students from Richmond.
The students can’t take their cell phones and will not have any contact with family and friends while they are away, even though Amy will mark her 18th birthday while in Ecuador.
“For me personally, the global citizenship part of it is big,” 17-year-old Nicole said. “For me it’s going to be knowing and learning what that looks like and what we can do about it.”
Amy and Nicole have participated in food and clothing drives and fund-raising initiatives in Fort Macleod.
“I think it’s really important to take that a little bit further, to take the time to go and to travel and to learn,” Amy said. “I don’t think we are able to gain that kind of knowledge and perspective here. I think it’s a really important perspective to have.”
Nicole agreed it is important to help out at home, but said the experience of planning the trip and doing international work will benefit them both in their lives.
“I think it’s something we can utilize through the rest of our lives,” Amy agreed.
Nicole plans to start working on an education degree next year at the University of Lethbridge and expects the trip to Ecuador will help in her work as a teacher.
“If I end up on a teaching path, I would like to bring programs like that into my schools,” Nicole said.
Amy also said the experience of working in a foreign country will help her, even though she hasn’t yet settled on a career.
“I’ve always been interested in travelling and the idea of going and helping people,” Amy said. “That’s always been huge for me. I would like to have that be a part of the rest of my life.”
The trip will cost each girl about $4,500, which they raised in part through donations from businesses, contributions from family members and part-time jobs.
“It’s been nice to have the support of the town and our families,” Nicole said.

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