There’s a new focus in schools across the country over the past few years; social justice, both locally and abroad. In Neepawa, the community has seen that translate in to several community initiatives headed by youth, including students combining to raise around $10,000 for the Roxy Theatre’s upgrade fund in only about eight months. And now, people in Ecuador are getting the same message after NACI student Daniel Heschuk spent 17 days this past summer traveling to that country to, along with 26 other Canadian students, help build a school, learn culture and see some of the more unfortunate happenings in that part of the world. The majority of Daniel’s time in Ecuador was spent building the walls of a new school for the community of Llullin. With guidance, the students built the four walls for the first floor of the school. Other groups will also visit the community to ensure the rest is completed. Daniel’s four main labour jobs entailed mixing cement by hand, laying brick for the walls, carrying bricks and painting tiles for the roof. “It was really hard work, especially because our altitude was at 10,000 feet,” Daniel explained. “But it was really rewarding. Our last day our goal was to finish the walls for the one floor and when we got the last brick up it felt great. The people there even came and congratulated us.” While there, the Canadian students also spent time with people in the community. One of Daniel’s fondest memories is the youth from the area, their excitedness to be with the students and their kind demeanor. Daniel also has less fond memories from the trip. His group travelled to the Amazon and he was taken aback by the density and beauty of the jungle. However, the mistreatment of the environment was disappointing. “On the way it was so neat. There were different ecozones right after each other; like farmland, bare rock, a cloud forest (lush vegetation area in a mountainous area), straight planes and then the Amazon,” Heschuk recalled. “But there’s a lot of deforestation there and destruction by the oil companies. There’s even one place we passed called “Shell-town”, where you saw the Shell sign everywhere.” Another eye opener for Daniel was the group’s trip to one of the hundreds of factories in the country that use child labour. Roses are one of Ecuador’s largest exports and - at least in some cases - child labour is employed in the factories that prepare the flowers for export. Daniel saw people his age and younger dipping roses in chemicals for smell, picking thorns and sorting by beauty, among other responsibilities. “It was upsetting because I don’t think I could stand doing that all my life,” Heschuk said. He found that roses that weren’t as “perfect” stayed in the country while the “beautiful” ones were prepped for export. The group found out one other interesting fact; at the factory 50 roses were sold for export for $5. The price increase for roses in North America comes after the factory level. Daniel also spent time experiencing the bartering system, tasting local cuisine and making friendships with his fellow students. “It was a really great experience. I’d like to thank everyone who came out to the piano concert I held to support me, and to my sponsors for letting me take part in this.” Daniel expects his humanitarian efforts to continue, as next summer he will be heading to Kenya to help with a clean water project. NACI has 56 students - 52 HOPE members and four senior high student council members - as well as four staff attending this year’s We Day event in Winnipeg Oct. 30. The aim of the event is to inspire youth movement for global change. Aside from Daniel’s efforts, last year’s HOPE group from NACI raised money for a new water well in Africa to help aid people suffering in that continent. The group also fundraised and donated to several initiatives in the Neepawa area. HOPE is now one of NACI’s largest student groups.