In July 2010, Taylor Hartrick (PC YR 31) and Caroline Laroche (PC YR 32), together with students from other UWCs and Jacobs University Bremen, founded the Yachay Initiative. Named after an indigenous Ecuador word for "learning," the Yachay Initiative is a registered non-profit organization dedicated to providing young people with opportunities to empower themselves through leadership programs and sustainable development projects.
The project came together three years after Taylor left Ecuador as part of Pearson College's "Three Year Option" (3YO) program. Through 3YO students had the opportunity to spend a gap year volunteering in developing communities around the world. Taylor worked in several rural Ecuadorian communities in the province of Chimborazo, including Cruz del Arenal, where a school was founded with the support of Pearson's Japan House several years back. These same communities are now the site of one of the Yachay Initiative's pilot projects.
Over the last five months, the Yachay Initiative has expanded to include current projects in Germany, Canada and Ecuador, with additional upcoming projects in the UK. Yachay's current projects include:
A leadership program and nutritional awareness initiative currently underway in Chimborazo, Ecuador.
A leadership program in Bremen, Germany, organized by the Jacobs University chapter of the Yachay Initiative.
A presentation series developed for high schools and youth groups on topics ranging from Understanding Poverty to Critical Perspectives on Development and Youth Action.
A workshop series under development as a basic training for young people who will take part in volunteer abroad programs.
After two preliminary visits to the communities in September and December 2010, the project in Ecuador is now underway, continuing the support Pearson students had offered to the communities until 2007. Over the next few months, Yachay will undergo a consolidation and evaluation of its existing programs, with a view towards further development and improvements in the future. Caroline and Taylor would like to invite everyone to follow their work through the Yachay website and Facebook page and to send them your feedback and questions.
View a video about the Yachay Initiative Pilot Project in Ecuador: