Community Education

Commmunity Involvement

Community Involvement is one of the most important parts of ECO-tourism.  Is tourism helping the area?  Are we sensitive to tourism’s effect on the community?  Tourism needs to benefit the local population and culture. 

We (Michelle and Andres, the owners of Black Sheep Inn) have lived in the town of Chugchilán since 1993.  Some of our employees have been with us since the inn opened.  Some of our employees we first met when they were 4 years old.  We are invested in this community.  This is our home.

Our intent has always been to help Chugchilán prosper, sustainably, by taking advantage of the astounding natural resources that surround this area.  We are very proud of the local businesses that have developed since we started our inn.  Local drivers, local guides, horse providers, bike rental shops, and more hostels now find a home in Chugchilán.

When political leaders in the area ask us how to improve tourism, our answer is always the same: educate the kids, clean up the streets, provide better communications, roads, sanitation, water and services to the citizens. In short, what’s good for the regular community is exactly what’s good for tourism.

Education

For over 15 years we have been living in Chugchilán and we are a part of the local community.  Michelle has taught English and Computers in the local high school since 1997.  Andres often repairs the town water system and phone lines and has been on the water committee for 4 years.  We have donated computers, phone lines and a copy machine and to the local school, health clinic, and police station.  With the help of a generous donation, we have subsidized school textbooks and teachers salaries since 2002.  Three local students have received scholarships for continuing education.

Library and Learning Center

One of our most successful projects has been establishing a local Public Library/Computer Learning Center stocked with over 1000 Spanish language books and 8 computers.  Students now have a resource for research and investigations.  Young children are becoming interested in reading.  High school students are getting hands-on experience with computers.  British School of Quito has led computer workshops at the library and assisted with technical difficulties.  All of these projects have been supported with the help of Black Sheep Inn guest donations.

Workshops

Black Sheep Inn has sponsored numerous workshops with tech assistance from US Peace Corps Volunteers: family planning, guiding skills in native flora and fauna, guiding ethics, first-aid for hikers, nutrition and women´s health, and knitting.  Locally knit crafts are displayed and sold in the lodge and proceeds go directly to the artisans.

Tourism and the Local Economy

We have encouraged community members to participate in the growing local tourism industry by opening hostels and restaurants.  We also provided an interest-free loan to a neighbor enabling him to start a horseback riding business.  We have organized a tourist transportation cooperative with local vehicle owners.  Native Guides take tourists hiking.  We now have a musical instrument lending library to help bring traditional Andean Folkloric Music back into the area.

A competent local staff of 9 full-time workers run the Black Sheep Inn.  All staff members have been working with us for many years, and have become our �family�.  In 2000 we offered a continuing adult education program for staff to improve reading, writing and mathematics skills.  In 2004, we took the entire staff whale watching on the coast of Ecuador.  For some of them it was the first time they had seen the ocean, let alone whales!  In 2008 the staff traveled with us to the orient (Amazon area) of Ecuador and to Papallacta Hot Springs.

Being part of the small, very rural community of Chugchilán has been very rewarding and is an integral part of our lives.