Yakima’s fierce summer heat usually sends me running, but I’ve never made it nearly as far away as I did this year.

This summer, I was given the opportunity to spend six weeks in rural Ecuador with a program offered through Amigos de las Americas, which is a nonprofit organization that arranges immersion-based service trips for teens. My program in Ecuador ran from June 25 to Aug. 6.

During my time living in the highlands community outside the city of Guaranda, I got the chance to run daily workshops for area youths there and facilitate the development of an entrepreneurial service project in the community. Five days a week, a volunteer from the region joined me in planning and conducting games and activities that were designed to match weekly themes about self-esteem, teamwork, sustainability, equity and equality.

I couldn’t be more grateful for this experience or for these lessons I learned from it:

  • To slow down and melt into the present moment
  • To value relationships and connections above all else
  • To turn discomfort into a launch pad for growth
  • And how to make humas (the Ecuadorian version of a tamale) from fresh maiz.

Kathryn Conley, a 2018-19 member of the Unleashed team, is a 2019 graduate of Davis High School who is now attending Williams College in Massachusetts.