Employees from our Davy Process Technology business give their time to support a community project in rural Ecuador

volunteering_in_ecuador

In October 2010, ten employees from Johnson Matthey's Davy Process Technology business set about raising £15,000 to enable them to support a community project in rural Ecuador to renovate a school and build a local nursery. After several fundraising events, generous donations and more office cake sales than the 'health' element of the sustainability programme ever envisaged, the team set off to Ecuador in July 2011.

The project was located in the Shuar village of Nyam Ensta in an area of rainforest. The Shuar are an indigenous people of South America, with a distinctive culture. The volunteers received a donation from both Johnson Matthey and Davy Process Technology to support its fundraising efforts and employees were each given three days holiday leave by the company.

Leila Fahmy, one of the volunteers from Davy Process Technology's London office, tells the story:

" We were immediately greeted by our host families who sported traditional black face decoration for the occasion, before being offered their traditional drink, chicha, which certainly was an acquired taste!"

The volunteers found their accommodation – basic wooden huts – comfortable enough, " but not sufficient to keep out the giant cockroaches."

Leila describes the work of the Johnson Matthey team. " On our first day we were taken into the jungle, up a long hill slick with mud, to find timber beams. The task was to 'simply' get the beams back to the village. It was made more painful by the fact that we were regularly passed by villagers, at twice our speed, barefoot."

The wood was to be used for the new nursery. The volunteers also helped with the sanding and painting of the school buildings. No trip to the jungle was complete without the use of machetes – although using them to scrape paint off the walls as well was not what the team had imagined the task would be.

The trip ended on a high. "We were shown traditional Shuar music and dancing on our final night and offered more chichi and some of us had developed a taste for it by then. We were asked to show our host families traditional UK dancing but fear we may not have left them with the best of impressions on that particular topic."

By the time the team left, the school buildings had been renovated and were ready for use. All the wood needed for the building of the nursery had been collected. For the volunteers, it had been hard work but wholly rewarding and had given them the opportunity to show real concern for community wellbeing, whether that community is on the doorstep of the company or far away.