I said 'yes' in 2015 to chaperoning an environmental cultural experience to Ecuador, although I have never been to South America or speak Spanish. I now have lifelong friends with MC Silva and the Taft's, along with special shared memories with the group members. I returned in 2016 and am going again in June 2018. I take high school students and adults to experience the simple, giving, colorful culture of the indigenous peoples around Otavalo, as well as provide an environmental service that is desired by the indigenous group. I have helped build a seedling table at their tree nursery, put up a barbed wire fence, plant native species and build the foundation of the school's gazebo. I feel pride in my accomplishment (without electric tools!) and happy that I can help others.
Crossing paths with The Tandana Foundation truly has been life changing. I volunteered as a healthcare provider four years ago in highland Ecuador and never would have imagined prior to my first trip, that this will be my fifth year returning to Ecuador to volunteer and continue to provide care to this indigenous population..I became hooked! I love the relationships formed, it is truly a connection to the land and to its people..Anna Taft has become such a part of these communities, laying a strong foundation so that all volunteers who join are essentially welcomed into these communities as family. I have just returned from a Tandana volunteer vacation to Mali- I was so inspired by our work in Ecuador that I had to explore the work being done in Mali as well- We built a grain bank in the village of Sal Dimi, and a latrine in another small village. We sat in on the first women's literacy class taking place in the village of Kansongho (amazing!), we formed friendships and became fully immersed in the culture of Mali's Dogon region while providing aid for truly sustainable projects..and most importantly we worked WITH the community in the finishing of such projects, truly a collective effort- allowing us to weave lasting friendships. The appreciation and welcome we received from these communities was like none other Ive ever experienced! TERRIFIC ORGANIZATION.
I went with my 8th grade class to Ecuador and it was the most eye opening experience I have ever had so far! We did community service with a small Andean community called Padre Chupa and so much more. The kids and people are amazing, Tandana was so much more than helpful. Natalie is amazing! She translated when our meager Spanish skills were insufficient, she was just a joy to have with us. Tandana helped get us food, and pretty much planned teh entire trip. Thanks So much!!
My experience with Tandana was awesome! The accommodations were great and there was a great mix between tradition Ecuadorian food and other more "familiar" types to our US group. We travelled to Ecuador on an Alternative Spring Break trip from Northeastern University in Boston for a one week service project. Tandana did very good planning before hand and were ready to put us to work! Our group really felt welcome into the community and its very rewarding knowing that our filtration system will be in the village for a long time to come!
My experience with Tandana Foundation was truly life changing. I visited Otavalo with a group of college students as part of an alternative spring break. During the week, we had the opportunity to work with members of the community to build a water filtration system to improve the quality of water in the community. I can honestly not give one shred of negative feedback... Not only were the people in the community and organization welcoming, friendly, caring, and enthusiastic--they were hardworking and an inspiration to the students. Tandana Foundation perfectly balanced teaching us about the cultural aspects of the community and Otavalo, Ecuador while making sure we got down to business and did work. When my group left, I could tell how valued our work was to the community.
Tandana was amazing. The staff, community, Ecuador in general – everyone is so friendly and willing to help you whenever you need it. Five staff members from Tandana were available for our group, but we mostly had three staff personnel with us at all time. I miss them dearly, and I am sure when you meet them too, you will, as well! It was fascinating learning how Tandana got started in such a quick amount of time (less than 10 years ago). All the people you will meet on the trip have fascinating stories, so make sure to listen and ask questions. It will make your experience that much better. Everyone has the best intentions in Ecuador, and it was comforting knowing we were leaving with having met the best of people in the world; it was nice knowing that we could keep in touch with almost everyone we met via Facebook group (Tandana FB group) and Tandana’s website. Furthermore, Tandana was so helpful and accommodating, not to mention that they were extremely quick with e-mailing us back. Tandana was reassuring when we were planning our trip, and always listened to/tried to process our requests. It was also helpful to know they have had thousands of previous volunteers. Tandana also has other opportunities available through them, so students may wish to return to Tandana for a Co-op or vacation in the future (they have healthcare volunteer vacations, in addition to water infiltration/Public Health initiatives we partook in). The trip doesn’t have to end after your service with Tandana. We told them we love them and they said they would be more than willing to have us back. They have plenty of work to keep us busy, and a community is always in need. The indigenous people of Ecuador are very inspirational, and everyone should have the opportunity to work with them. A fantastic opportunity for anyone, for sure.
I feel that Tandana is very organized and accomodating to volunteers. They are flexible in working with concerns, needs and interests with each volunteer while still meeting the needs of the communities they serve. At the same time they provided opportunity for local, cultural and personal interaction. One personal example is that I was the only first time volunteer to stay for both weeks of their March trip and therefore had free time on the day others were leaving or arriving. They made special arrangements so that I could go on an activity of my interest with a guide on the day between groups.
Tandana Foundation's work in Ecuador is an important contribution and an inspiration to the disadvantaged of Quichinche and La Banda communities of Imbabura, and beyond. I am in awe of Director Anna Taft's infectious devotion and commitment. Tandana's remarkable volunteers embellish their tenacity with humor, charm and great spirit. They are of The New World and am so glad to be a small part of it.
In February 2009 I spent about 10 days with the Tandana Foundation in Mali. I had found this small charity looking through the entries of idealist.com trying to find an organisation I could do some voluntary work with rather than visit Mali just as a tourist. The Tandana Foundation offered exactly what I had been looking for. They are a small american charity, which is run by its founder a young woman called Anna Taft, who works with one village in Mali and another in South America. The journey with this small and very motivated group was truely amazing. The village we travelled to is called Kansongho, which is on the plateau of the Pays Dogon. Anna had helped to finance the rebuilding of their well and the village had put on a festival in honour of the Foundation. We had a huge welcome when we arrived, with a big crowd of the villagers walking with us chanting and playing drums. Ancient flint lock rifles were set off and I was fearing for my ears, it was that loud. A few days later we were shown, how they make the gun powder from raw ingredients. In fact most things are done from scratch. A huge amount of work goes into almost everything they do, from cooking to building. One day I observerd the couscous being made for a lunch time meal. I did not see the part when the millet is ground/pounded to the right consistency, but I saw the process of steaming it three times and always stirring it inbetween to keep it fluffy. All this is done in big amounts for many, many people on open fires, very hot work using big clay pots and wide enamel pans. All the women are physically very strong from carrying water and pounding millet every day. Our group had a go at all the different tasks that are done by the women each day and we noticed how quickly our strength faded in comparison. We carried water from the well, which is a few hundred meters. We carried stones that had already been cut in preparation for the building work from an area outside the village. We howed millet plants in preparation of the gathering of the stalks for animal feed and fire wood and to prepare the ground for the next sowing. We carried stones to build retaining walls that help keep the water and the top soil in the fields during the rains. A group of us went further afield to collect fire wood. The stones we moved for the construction of the grain bank were further cut with very simple tools by eye to exact sizes and a beautiful building was being constructed dry with these stones with great skill. We only looked on. The inside of the building was covered with banco, softish clay that was thrown onto the walls. We were able to help with this. In the evening there was dancing and during the day we arrived they did some special mask dances and the children did some theatrical skids fo us, the women a symbolic ceremony. We visited people in their homes and saw women spinning, men weaving and other types of textile work. We spent a truely wonderful week with the villagers. An experience I would not want to miss.
I've been on two 'service vacations' with the Tandana foundation. I don't like the fact they call it a vacation. It's true that our accomadations were very comfortable, our food was also excellent. (I have gone on other medical missions, and slept on cots in warehouses...frankly I'm over that.) I am a physician and I can tell you I worked hard! We did usually have a few free hours in the afternoon, and usually went on hikes in the mountains. Anna, the director of Tanadana, is a phenomenal woman. Her main priority is bringing excellent healthcare to the indiginous people of Ecuador, and she accomplishes this through an unusual sensitivity of the native people, along with a lot of hard work. We saw a wide variety of patients, lots with chronic problems like arthritis and hypertension. We were usually able to give them enough medication to last them until the next Tandana visit to their villiage. These patients are a delight to treat, they are grateful for whatever we can do for them. They are also open to education, and non-medicinal suggestions.
I think that this is one of the most respectful non profits working in 'developing' countries! They work in solidarity with local communities.