In November 2017, while in Ecuador for the Third Cultura Viva Latin-American Cultural Congress, Ivo Peeters and Piotr Michałowski, from the ENCC team, along with Nora De Kempeneer, director of De Markten Cultural Centre (Brussels), visited the Inti Sisa Art Guesthouse.
This unique cultural centre was founded in 1997 by Greta Coninckx, a very active Belgian nun, after her first trip to Guamote in 1991. Guamote has 5000 inhabitants and is located 3056 m above sea level, in the Andes; the surrounding Chimborazo province counts about 40 000 inhabitants. The town is famous for its weekly Indian market, which almost the whole province attends.
Today, Inti Sisa Centre is run by two Belgians, Eve Gielis and Tom Schelstraete, and employs seven local inhabitants who manage the handicraft studio, work on ecotourism and educational projects, and cook and look after the rooms. The project also includes a cultural centre and a kindergarten, located in the close surroundings of the main building.
The centre functions as a self-sufficient cooperation between the Inti Sisa Foundation, which runs the cultural and educational centre and the Inti Sisa Art Guesthouse, which offers rooms and sightseeing programs for tourists. Visitors can join guided eco-tours in the Andes to experience the traditional life of local, indigenous farmers who live off their pieces of land (planted mostly with potatoes and several kinds of beans). High in the Andes mountains, only a few primary schools offer education to children, who are torn between keeping up the agricultural traditions of their parents and their new tasks at school. Inti Sisa does not having a direct connection with the local authorities, yet it is well recognized by the locals for its kindergarten, cultural centre, and the warm meals it provides for pupils of the mountain schools.
Inti Sisa works as a great example of how a socio-cultural project can be adopted by a local community, being as well self-funded, mostly from activities for tourists, but also from private donations. The centre is bridging the gap on the educational and cultural levels in the village of Guamote. And the fact that the computer courses offered by Inti Sisa, and which counteract digital exclusion, are organized on what are probably the only computers in the village, lifts their social work to a further dimension.
Read more about the centre here: http://www.intisisa.com/ or http://www.intisisa.org/