Co-founding and helping run Nación Urku has been one of the best experiences of my life, and perhaps the thing I will most remember about my time spent in Ecuador. The program was conceived one evening in the Boada’s living room, during a long and involved conversation about the nature of organized crime in Quito, Ecuador. The result has exceeded all of my expectations. As an organization, we have certainly faced challenges, but they have been vastly outweighed by our good fortune and success. As I move back to the United States, I could not be more satisfied with where Nación Urku stands, and how it is progressing, or more excited about what the future holds.
There was a period of time early on in Nación Urku’s history when all of our students had to use Pablo and my personal climbing equipment. This was limiting, since, between us we had about one and a half ropes, 3 harnesses, and 2 belay devices. Clearly, if we were to have an impact, we were going to need more gear. The responses from the groups that now sponsor us were both unexpected and extremely generous. Black Diamond, Gear for Good, and Outdoor Outreach provided us with slings, ropes, carabiners, helmets, harnesses, and shoes. With this equipment we were able to increase our class sizes, as well as diversify and deepen the content of our lessons. This has led to much more interest in our programming, allowing us to have a much broader impact.
Even with the gear and the students, I was worried that Nación Urku’s life would be limited. I knew that if I left without finding a strong and responsible figure to lead the organization, things would likely degenerate. Luckily, Ryan Madison, our current Executive Director, has taken the organization to new heights even during his brief time with us in Ecuador. The experience and savvy he brought with him to Nación Urku changed the way the organization operated, and all for the better. We have been transformed from a group of friends that did some interesting volunteer work on weekends, to a real institution complete with mission statement, bylaws, and legal recognition.
Just because I am leaving Ecuador does not mean I am leaving the project. I am looking forward to remaining very involved with Nación Urku from the United States, continuing to share our mission, and learning more about the goals of similarly-minded potential partner organizations. I hope to have the honor of serving as one of the founding members on our board of directors when the time comes for us to take that step. My time in Ecuador could not have been better spent than on this project, and I am very proud of how far we have come as students, instructors, and as an organization.