Engineering students bring education to disadvantaged children in Ecuador

Sam Tenka traveled to Ecuador with the Honors GO team to aid the Street Children Work project.

Engineering students in Ecuador Enlarge
Honors GO students playing with children in Ecuador

CE undergrad Sam Tenka traveled to Ecuador with a team of four multidisciplinary engineers to work with youth who have not had the chance to attend school. As part of the Engineering Honors GO program, the team stayed in the city of Quito for two weeks to aid the Street Children Work project.

The team of engineers  interacted with about 30 children each workday, teaching them a variety of basic life skills. Their lessons included hand washing, fine motor skills, and expressing their feelings through words and art. Many of the kids who participated in the program were accustomed to 12 hour shifts in local markets, lived in abusive households, and lacked opportunities to develop socially. When first presented with toys, Sam says, many would play solemnly and alone.

“It was isolation, abuse, and insecurity – not ignorance – out of which we worked to lead the children,” says Sam.

One of Sam’s proudest accomplishments from the trip was witnessing children in his group begin to open up and share their toys during playtime. “That behavior was unusual,” he says. “That behavior was what we worked for.”

Sam Tenka with Ecuadorian child Enlarge
Sam Tenka plays with an Ecuadorian child

Honors GO takes students abroad to perform service work in a variety of disadvantaged communities. Last year, the program sent a team to Peru. This year’s team brought together CE, Aero, Mechanical, and Nuclear students to tackle problems they had never encountered before with other volunteers from around the world.

“We were united by our excitement to learn about a new culture and have a positive impact,” Sam says of his team. “The trip challenged us to apply our engineering mindset towards understanding the challenges of our host community.”

The Street Children Work project is organized by the International Volunteer Headquarters (IVHQ), an organization that provides opportunities for service work around the world. Sam’s trip was sponsored in part by Electrical and Computer Engineering.