default avatar
Welcome to the site! Login or Signup below.
Logout|My Dashboard

Lodi High School graduate Sean McDonald helps needy community in Ecuador

Font Size:
Default font size
Larger font size

Posted: Wednesday, February 13, 2013 12:00 am

Santa Ana, Ecuador, and Lodi do not have many things in common. They are a few thousand miles apart, in different hemispheres and different countries. But they share one person: Sean McDonald.

McDonald, 26, a graduate of Lodi High School's Class of 2004, joined the Peace Corps in February 2011. Before his life in the Peace Corps, he was a mentor with Big Brothers and Big Sisters in Sacramento from 2009 to 2011. He studied business administration at California State University, Fresno.

"Living and working with the native Amazonian peoples to preserve their cultures is a rewarding experience," said McDonald. "They have amazing motivation and can do so much with so little."

Santa Ana is located in the eastern region of Ecuador, and is home to a mix of four different indigenous cultures. It has fewer than 200 residents. The Kichwa, Shuar, Achuar and Zapara peoples still hold on to many cultural traditions, from the use of natural remedies and medicinal plants to face painting with natural dyes and living in traditional huts, with roofs made of jungle leaves.

The modern world's fast development has put new pressures on the community, especially the younger generation, resulting in them leaving behind their ancestral ways to work outside of Santa Ana.

In order to fight threats to their culture, one group of families has formed an association called Yaku Runa. The association name means "River People" in the Kichwa language. They are developing a tourism industry to share and promote conservation of their culture.

"Tourism has great potential here, and brings work to the community and promotes preservation of our culture and nature," said Yaku Runa President Telmo Rodas in comments passed by McDonald.

McDonald's work in Yaku Runa began in 2011. He works as a business adviser and teaches concepts such as business planning, marketing, accounting, sales and leadership.

The Peace Corps was founded in 1961 by President John F. Kennedy. Volunteers live in traditional homes, often with local families, and live at the level of the local population.

McDonald joined the Peace Corps to learn about and live in another culture, and to use his business education to support communities in need.

More than 50 percent of tourists coming to Ecuador are Americans, so English knowledge is essential. McDonald and volunteer Wendy Murray are forming Yaku Runa English School to prepare community members to communicate with and better serve tourists.

With students ranging from 5 to 20 years old and representing all four cultures of the community, McDonald and Murray teach classes with few resources available to them — a few children's books, improvised whiteboards made on cardboard, and whiteboard markers. Classes are held 12 times a week in three different language levels — early introduction, basic and intermediate.

Students learn through hands-on activities, often involving art, games and songs. Students at the intermediate level have shown rapid growth in a short period of time.

"I have learned much more rapidly in these classes than in the traditional English classes provided at school," said 16-year-old Javier Ushigua, in comments passed on through email by McDonald.

Currently, classes are taught at multiple locations, primarily in community members' homes. Construction of a physical schoolhouse, using local resources, is planned for completion in April of this year.

"We envision a special place where teachers can create an environment that surrounds the students with learning opportunities," said Murray. "As of now, our classroom fits into one canvas bag that we tote to class each session. With an actual school, we will be able to grow and provide the students with a more focused learning environment."

To make a donation to Yuka Runa English school, visit www.facebook.com/YakuRunaEnglish and click the link "Yaku Runa English School Fundraiser."

Contact reporter Brian Ratto at brianr@lodinews.com.

More about

More about

More about

Rules of Conduct

  • 1 Use your real name. You must register with your full first and last name before you can comment. (And don't pretend you're someone else.)
  • 2 Keep it clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually oriented language.
  • 3 Don't threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
  • 4 Be truthful. Don't lie about anyone or anything. Don't post unsubstantiated allegations, rumors or gossip that could harm the reputation of a person, company or organization.
  • 5 Be nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
  • 6 Stay on topic. Make sure your comments are about the story. Don't insult each other.
  • 7 Tell us if the discussion is getting out of hand. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
  • 8 Share what you know, and ask about what you don't.

Welcome to the discussion.


  • Sean McDonald posted at 1:44 pm on Thu, Feb 14, 2013.

    Sean McDonald Posts: 1

    I´m in a great place here. Thanks for the support!

  • Todd Oesterman posted at 12:24 pm on Wed, Feb 13, 2013.

    Todd Oesterman Posts: 18

    Sean, you were an incredible student-athlete-leader at Lodi High. I'm glad your Peace Corps trip to Africa was detoured--seems like your in the right place at the right time. We're all very proud of you.



Popular Stories


Should graduations return to the Grape Bowl?

Lodi Unified leaders are moving Lodi and Tokay high school graduations from the Grape Bowl to the Spanos Center at UOP in Stockton. They cite limited seating, costs and unpredictable weather at the Grape Bowl. But others say graduations at the Grape Bowl are an important Lodi tradition, and one reason many supported renovating the stadium. What do you think?

Total Votes: 64


Mailing List

Subscribe to a mailing list to have daily news sent directly to your inbox.

  • Breaking News

    Would you like to receive breaking news alerts? Sign up now!

  • News Updates

    Would you like to receive our daily news headlines? Sign up now!

  • Sports Updates

    Would you like to receive our daily sports headlines? Sign up now!

Manage Your Lists