During Harlem Prep High School’s (HPHS) service trip to Ecuador, scholars were invited to a film screening and a meeting with the United States Ambassador to Ecuador, Todd C. Chapman.
Prior to being appointed to his current role, Ambassador Chapman served in the U.S. Foreign Service and was a diplomat in Afghanistan, Bolivia, Brazil, Costa Rica, Mozambique, Nigeria, and Taiwan.
“The ambassador inspired me to explore the world instead of staying isolated to only one
culture,” said Jessica Rojas, an HPHS 10th grade scholar in attendance. “It was an honor to meet someone of such a high authority and [who] works in an organization that helps those in need.”
Chapman spoke with the scholars about his job in the U.S. government and how his career path led him to his current role.
“Meeting the ambassador was an amazing experience for me because he taught me about politics in Ecuador and how the government is set up,” said Pamela Ramirez, another HPHS scholar.
The HPHS scholars were on a seven-day service trip through Ecuador as part of Democracy Prep’s . For three full days they assisted with a mobile medical clinic and painted a school for young disabled students within indigenous communities in Riobamba. The remaining days were spent participating in ecotourism activities, including white water rafting down the Pastaza River, touring Quito and El Mitad de Mundo, meeting Mr. Chapman and much more.
“I felt very honored because [the film screening] was a V.I.P. event, and we had an opportunity to meet the U.S. ambassador,” said Momodou Jaata, an HPHS scholar. “He told us what he does and how much work it is to actually go to other countries and maintain relationships with them,” he added. “I felt that he had faith in the youth, and he gave me inspiration to take risks even though others may say I’m too young to make a change.”
The HPHS scholars viewed the film DreamTown, a documentary following the life of a young Afro-Ecuadorian as he pursues his dream of becoming a soccer player. The producer of the film spoke at the event, and professional soccer stars and government officials were also in attendance.
“After watching the movie, I had a wakeup call to be on a constant grind,” said Najee Traore, an HPHS scholar. “People who don’t have much can still reach prestigious goals. If I can just focus, I have endless possibilities.”
During the same trip, scholars had the opportunity to volunteer with the nonprofit FIBUSPAM, an international charity working in Chimborazo, Ecuador, to provide health care to marginalized and economically disadvantaged communities. The scholars helped provide medical care to more than 500 children and adults during this year’s trip, along with support to beautify a school for disabled children around Riobamba, Ecuador. Read the reflections of To’Niya Arzu, FIBUSPAM’s Student Ambassador of Year here.