Ecuador opened doors

By By Caleb Braley and By Caleb Braley

By Caleb Braley

Have you ever been in class, trying to focus, when a sudden deep yearning to escape the confines of civilization creeps into your brain, making you consider just running for it and not looking back? That might not be the best decision regarding your academic career, but if you are looking for a change in routine, you could swing by the office of the Hinckley Institute of Politics in OSH Room 253 or check out its website at

I served a Hinckley internship with Ascend, a humanitarian alliance in Cuenca, Ecuador, during the summer. I didn’t think there was any way I was going to be able to fulfill my travel and Spanish addiction and escape to South America again this summer8212;considering my acute state of college poverty8212;but with some hard work, scholarship applications and a commitment to Ascend, I was back in the Andean Highlands before I knew it.

I landed in the charming colonial city of Cuenca and my internship was soon in full swing. Ascend Alliance is a humanitarian nonprofit organization based in Utah, with satellite offices in Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia and Mozambique. Our mission is to empower those in need to save their children and ascend out of poverty. Ascend accomplishes this mission internationally through programs in education, health, microenterprise and basic technology.

As an intern, I was delegated a gamut of responsibilities: I taught English classes; planned, marketed and administered an elegant fundraising gala; worked on sustainable agriculture projects; and sought and built relationships with new needy communities. I also camped in the mountains near an active volcano and helped lead an expedition to rural communities, built a school and a playground, administered dental and medical campaigns and served as a translator, graphic designer, mediator and friend. I was even interviewed on Ecuadorian TV and still had time to greatly improve my salsa dancing and discover that you can cook corn in quite a few more ways than I had previously imagined.

My internship was a multi-faceted enrichment experience. I received the gratification of donating my time by working in humanitarian projects to help improve the lives of others, while at the same time I gained valuable skills and experience and accidentally walked through the door to a promising and fulfilling career path. My time in Ecuador afforded me a priceless cultural perspective on Latin America, improved my business Spanish and introduced me to amazing people who I know will be lifelong friends.

Sure, there were some seemingly never-ending work-weeks and a few awkward moments, but my summer wasn’t all work. I made it to the Amazon basin and didn’t even get eaten. I learned how to navigate absurd South American traffic, saw the most beautiful mountain landscapes of my life, ate a guinea pig and even escaped to explore Colombia’s unparalleled Caribbean beaches and the notorious city of Medellín.

So if you’re jonesin’ for an escape from monotonous Utah life, or if you just love to travel and want to make a difference in someone else’s life while scoring yourself some PolySci credit, think about a Hinckley internship. Everyone wins; it will change your life and give your résumé a makeover, and I’m certain that my friends down in the mountains of Ecuador would be more than delighted to have a new English teacher.