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Flagler Students Travel to Ecuador for Sustainability Project

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February 18, 2011

Flagler College students will be taking an alternative break trip to Ecuador from April 24-May 6. The purpose of the trip, entitled "Sustainability in Ecuador '11," is to aid in building a sustainable garden that will produce food for the people in Ecuador and for Flagler students to learn about the Ecuadorian culture.

Kristin Nelson, director of student activities at Flagler College, will be traveling with the students as their adviser. Ten Flagler College students will be participating, and the site leaders will be Flagler students Chryssha Guidry and Olivia Williams.

Nelson said that the Flagler students will participate in a knowledge exchange project with an organization called the Foundation for Indigenous Community Development in Pastaza (FUNDECOIPA).

"We will be working with the Shuar Indians, a tribe that lives in the Amazon Basin of Ecuador," said Nelson. "The Shuar [Indians] are subsistence farmers and have a lot of knowledge about farming in the tropics and the complex ecosystem at the site, while we [Flagler students] have the knowledge of techniques in our community. By working side-by-side with the Shuar, our students will get a good insight into farming and agricultural systems in the tropics, as well as provide the Shuar Indians with some new angles and techniques on farming."

Nelson said that the Flagler students will be helping the Shuar Indians build a sustainable garden.

"Our hope is that we will bring back what we have learned from the Shuar Indians and teach others these skills," she said. "This Alternative Break will enable us [Flagler students] to create numerous partnerships on and off campus with organizations such as Slow Food First Coast, Ketterlinus Elementary School, City Sprout, The Flagler College Hunger Initiative and the Flagler College Student Government Association's Green Committee."

Nelson said that alternative breaks have become popular with colleges and universities across the United States in the last few years.

"Traditionally, many college and university students across the country have participated in alternative break programs during their [students'] spring, winter, summer and weekend breaks," she said. "Students participate in these alternative breaks as a way of expanding their [students'] knowledge about different social issues, cultures and philanthropies. In 2006, an estimated 35,000 college students from across the country volunteered to participate in an alternative break program."

Nelson noted that alternative breaks have many positive outcomes for the students involved.

"By dedicating their time, hands and hearts to a meaningful week of service, they [students] not only greatly impact the people they encounter, but are also influenced on a personal level," she said. "Alternative breaks shape students into more educated and valuable members of society - people who value the community and strive to take purposeful action to make the world a better place."

Funding for the alternative break will be provided in part by the Don's Friends 5K Run/Walk being held on Saturday, April 9, at 8:30 a.m. at St. Augustine Beach.

For more information on the alternative break trip, or to donate to the trip, please contact Kristin Nelson at (904) 819-6459, or e-mail KNelson4@flagler.edu.