Ecuador 4 – Yachana

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The Challenge:

A 20 day trip by a small group of independent school youth leaders during the March spring break, early summer, or the Christmas holidays. The trip consists of a visit to Quito, an intensive six-day trek around the Mt Cotopaxi area, a memorable trip to the ecologically rich, but endangered Amazon Rain Forest, staying at the award winning Yachana eco-project, and rendering service at the Yachana Technical School AND a trip to one of nature’s most beautiful locations, the spectacular Galapagos Islands.

The Galápagos Islands are a fascinating microcosm of natural life and home to some of the most astonishing creatures found anywhere on Earth. With spectacular cinematography from land, sea and air, and blending rugged volcanic landscapes with intimate animal behavior, the BBC’s Natural History Unit brings this remarkable archipelago to captivating life in a series of videos.

The Galápagos are no ordinary islands. They sit astride the equator, almost a thousand kilometers off the coast of South America, and are connected directly to the heart of the planet. The product of a volcanic hot spot, from the moment they are born, the islands are carried on a remarkable millenia-long journey before sinking back beneath the waves.

The opening episode below chronicles the many fascinating stages of the island chain’s existence, and reveals how creatures have developed enterprising ways of dealing with life on this restless Pacific outpost.

Witness the dramatic eruption of the largest of all the Galapagos volcanoes, Sierra Negra, blowing smoke and ash seven miles into the sky; marine iguanas, the worlds only seagoing lizards, leaping off lava cliffs into treacherous surf; Galapagos giant tortoises, the largest on Earth, being groomed by Darwin’s finches, and the magical courtship display of the waved albatross.

The rest of the episodes are equally stunning! If you can watch them in HD mode (with a fast Internet connection), you will see amazing footage from this BBC series. Relax, enjoy!

>>>>>>> To view the rest of the videos produced by the BBC on the Galapagos Islands, please click here. <<<<<<<

Funds raised will support the exceptional work at the Yachana Technical School, a non-traditional boarding school providing a practical and relevant experiential learning approach. It is forging a new generation of green leaders and entrepreneurs and is sparking students’ interest and desire to continue their education. The program is promoting conservation of the Amazon’s biodiversity through teaching sustainable use of natural resources, providing professional skills to improve employability, and mentoring management of student-run ecological enterprises. Subjects include eco-tourism, sustainable agriculture, forest and wildlife management and environmentally sustainable micro-enterprises.


  1. To raise funds to provide educational support to young children, so that they may break the endemic cycle of poverty and become tomorrow’s leaders.
  2. To allow the independent school community to better understand development issues, including education, poverty, human rights issues, and HIV/AIDS, through talks, group sessions, etc. by student participants before and after the trip.
  3. To enhance the leadership qualities of North American student leaders, arming them with an enormous sense of accomplishment that they will cherish for the rest of their lives.
  4. To empower students with a world view that they can take into account when considering their career choices.


  1. Improved physical fitness through pre-trip preparation.
  2. The opportunity to make new friends and network.
  3. An appreciation for the incredible beauty of Ecuador’s Cotopaxi area through a tough but spectacular trek, spending time in the fast-disappearing Amazon Rain Forest, in-depth exposure to the culture and people of Ecuador during the trek as well as the community service project in the rain forest, an amazing trip to the world famous Galapagos Islands and lots of fun and environmental and other learning.
  4. The opportunity to experience the local people and culture in an authentic manner.
  5. A far better appreciation of the development challenges in the world, and how participants can find their own ways to help communities solve some of these issues.
  6. Being an inspiration to others: family members, friends and local community.
  7. A far better appreciation of the development challenges in the world, and how participants can find their own ways to help communities solve some of these issues.
  8. Opportunity to fulfill Duke of Edinburgh Gold Level residential and expedition requirements.
  9. Contribute to the local economy wherever possible by working with local suppliers.
  10. Select one environmental project in the host country to which 5% of funds will be channeled.

NOTE: Schools that are part of Round Square will notice the similarities in the overall philosophy and service components. However, the physical training, tough trekking and fund-raising challenges differentiate the Climb for Leaders program from the highly regarded Round Square projects.

Trip supervision:

Besides two staff/faculty escorting the small group as responsible seconds for the whole trip, the trek will also include two experienced local Head Guides. An English speaking tour guide will accompany the group at all times.

For the service component in the rain forest, the group will be accompanied by facilitators of the project.


  1. Students must be in the final two years of high school. Exceptions may be made for Grade 10 students on a case by case basis. Students must be 16 years or older at the time of the trip.
  2. Students must be in good overall health.
  3. Students must complete application forms and waivers per deadlines.
  4. Students are required to submit a 1,000-word essay entitled “What are the top three development challenges facing the amazon rain forest in Ecuador(or the Galapagos Islands), and how would I find permanent solutions to these challenges?”
  5. Students must be willing to participate in learning sessions before the climb, and to share climb and travel experiences after the climb.
  6. Participants must meet the minimum fund-raising requirement each, except for faculty/staff who are participating as “responsible seconds”.
  7. Participants must pay for all costs by the deadlines outlined.

Detailed program:

To obtain a detailed program including detailed itinerary and costs, please contact us.

To apply:

Complete the online form at Space is limited and will be available on a first come first serve basis, so long as each applicant meets the application requirements above.