Hola! I’m Stephanie, the slightly older of the typical interns at Runa Foundation, just entering now into the last of the 9 week I’ve spent here in the Amazon, and starting to feel the inklings of sadness as I know the goodbyes will be coming soon.
After finishing a master’s in environmental science and management back in 2013, I spent the next few years working in marine conservation and then switching gears and teaching abroad. I came to Runa with an interest re-engaging in the non-profit environmental sector, and also exploring a new facet of environmental work in learning about sustainable agriculture in the Ecuadorian Amazon. It has indeed been an incredible learning opportunity and in more ways than I had even anticipated.
This internship is such a great balance of work in the office and time out in the field. In the office, you get to challenge your brainin a variety of different ways that span across Runa’s livelihoods, landscapes, and plant research programs. From designing infographics about jungle peanuts, to developing guayusa seed experiments, to creating a gender study survey, there’s always new and interesting things to do. And the opportunities to accompany staff out to the field are frequent and numerous, and is absolutely the best part of work with Runa. From attending community bank meetings, to living in a community and helping plant trees, to participating in a multi-day forestry workshop, to mapping chakras, these are the moments when you learn with your senses and can really begin to understand the realities of the local Kichwa producers. Moreover, you see firsthand how Runa’s work and collaboration with these communities can make a positive impact that benefits both the people and the environment. It is through these experiences, when you’re welcomed time and again into the friendly Kichwa communities or maybe when you’re stuck knee-deep in mud taking in the immensity of the forest, that you can foster a connection with the people and the place here, and where the value of Runa’s work takes on even greater meaning.
I am so grateful to Runa and all local producers and families I’ve met along the way for making this such a rich experience. Wishing the very best to all the Runa staff, my lovely fellow interns, to future interns, and to the many Kichwa communities. Muchísimas gracias y kayakama ☺