BUILD Latin America is working on expanding the KoomBook program to three additional communities in Ecuador by Matthew Johnson

by tuftsigl
Jul 07

After meeting with the Canadian embassy in Quito Monday morning, BUILD members Cristina, Cami, and I and our contact at Libraries Without Borders (LWB), Kat, flew to Loja that afternoon and drove to Los Encuentros the morning after to meet with Lundin Gold, a Canadian mining company that operates there. Los Encuentros is a parish in the province of Zamora Chinchipe, which is essentially where the Andes end and the Amazon begins. I reached out to Nathan Monash, a Tufts alum who runs the company’s corporate social responsibility efforts, last fall to see if Lundin Gold would be interested in funding a KoomBook program in Ecuador. Throughout the rest of the school year, BUILD and Lundin Gold remained in contact and arranged this two-day visit to Los Encuentros as a way of exploring a partnership. During the trip, we met with Lundin Gold employees and school officials in the community, attended a round table discussion with community members, and visited towns within the parish that could be implementation sites.

The round table discussion stood out to me as a highlight of the visit. Every six weeks, Lundin Gold hires a third-party mediator to hold a weeklong series of talks with various members of the community. Each talk centers around a different theme such as infrastructure and the environment. We attended the discussion on moral values where we presented the KoomBook program to the community. This intensive process of round table discussion signaled to me that Lundin Gold genuinely takes corporate social responsibility seriously. They recognize that mining is an inherently disruptive industry to local communities and therefore they work to implement various programs that promote development in those communities.

At the very end of our two-day visit, Lundin Gold decided it is interested in funding three pilot KoomBook programs in the towns of Nankais, El Zarza, and Río Blanco. Nankais is an indigenous Shuar community close to Lundin Gold’s offices in Los Encuentros. The goal of a KoomBook program there would be to provide digital resources that could reignite interest among children in the community in the Shuar culture and language. Many children in Nankais do not wish to self-identify as Shuar due to the discrimination that indigenous communities in Ecuador experience to this day. El Zarza and Río Blanco are two remote communities closer to Lundin Gold’s mine and the border with Peru. The goal of KoomBook programs in these communities would be to provide them with educational resources that they do not currently have due to their isolation and lack of internet connection. Overall, this visit to Los Encuentros felt very successful to me in that we were able to get to know both Lundin Gold and the communities of Los Encuentros better and begin the process of establishing three pilot programs there.