Camp Esmeraldas is located in a special place; you could actually say a magical place. This is not to exaggerate. The reasons to fall in love with this little place are many, for example the Afro Ecuadorian roots of the people, the music and the simplicity of the people. All of this surrounded by rich tropical fauna of immense value for the rest of the country.
The camp is in a small community in the Esmeraldas province and is populated mainly with people of African descent, who arrived in Ecuador during the Spanish conquest. What makes this community interesting is that the culture and traditions of the people here clearly echo those of certain people in West Africa.
The level of poverty here is high, and there are hardly any basic services available to the population. Although the River Esmeraldas passes in front of the community, water is scarce and hugely valued by the people. Even though life is difficult, you can’t help but be effected by the joy of people and how full of life they are.
If you are going to fall in love with something in this place it will be the humility of the people. You can appreciate daily life here and especially the warmth with which groups are received into the community, who always feel at home.
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Music is incredibly important in the community. At every event, whether it be celebrations, religious festivals or inaugurations, “los arrullos” are an integral part. This is an indigenous music form from the area consisting of improvised rhythms accompanied by drums, cununos, maracas and the unisonous song of the women, carrying the music along with the pace of the drum beat. The music has such energetic force that it is impossible to stand still and dancing is inevitable.
Those of you who came to Camp Esmeraldas in the summer will know exactly what we mean.
It’s impossible to talk of the camp without mentioning the children. They will steal your heart with their wit, their smiles and their willingness to help with everything that we do. They are always there on projects helping where possible and if not they are there just to be with the volunteers. They always include our volunteers in their games and somehow make you feel like a child again.
We live in a country where deforestation is a problem and constant reality. However, arriving into Camp Esmeraldas you would be forgiven for thinking you had arrived in another country. The camp is surrounded by green mountains and fertile soils that makes this place great to see wildlife, especially the birdlife. The landscape and the River Esmeraldas, one of the most important rivers in Ecuador, greet you from the moment you arrive.
It is for this reason and a hundred more, that I believe Camp Esmeraldas is a place that will remain in your heart forever.
Paola Jumbo, Camp Leader
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