Highlighting A Visionary Collaborator: Maria Clara Espinosa

I recently had a chance to interview our collaborator for Ecuador adventure travel, Maria Clara Espinosa, an athletic, intelligent, bilingual mom with a ready smile, who never seems to run out of energy or enthusiasm. Maria Clara was born in Quito, the 5th of 6 daughters. Her father, a doctor, practiced mountaineering, and her family had a farm outside the city where they rode horses every weekend. This set the stage for her interest in the outdoors.
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Maria Clara came to the U.S. for the first time in high school, as an exchange student who spent a year in Westerly, Rhode Island. The Rotary Club sponsored 400 students from around the world on a bus tour of the United States at the end of that year, and Maria Clara says it changed her perspective of traveling – “I felt that it was not so difficult anymore.” She returned to the states in her 3rd year of college at the University of San Francisco de Quito. An exchange program at UNC – Wilmington offered the chance to study marine biology. This sparked a deep interest in the environment so she decided to double major in Environmental Communication and TV production. After meeting her husband, Ricardo, in their last year of college, she went with him to New Mexico for his internship. They did a lot of rock climbing out west and they learned how to raft. This led to a job: They trained over two summers to be rafting guides in Idaho on the Snake River and the Salmon River. In the fall, winter, and spring, they guided groups in Ecuador for US travel companies.
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This is where it all comes together. Guiding in Ecuador sparked an interest in getting local children to understand and value their own country.  She realized that kids are the future and we must help them “find out what they are passionate about because it changes your life and gives you a direction – this is important for them to understand while the have the time to commit to it and pursue it.” Thus, Maria Clara and Ricardo started a summer camp for Ecuadoran kids in 2002. They run the camp for about 60 Ecuadoran kids per summer. They also coordinate and plan academic field trips for local schools during the school year. In order to enhance the experience for the groups, she and her husband and team went for Adventure Based Counseling training in 2003.
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Now Maria Clara divides her time between being a mom to her 4 year old and 2 ½ year old daughters, running trips for Chill Expeditions Ecuador adventure travel, summer camp, field trip planning, and now running a small organics store in the city. Remember the family farm where she learned to ride horses as a girl? They now keep goats, sheep, and hens there and she has plans to do a vegetable garden as well. I am fairly sure that Maria Clara doesn’t sleep. How could she possibly have the time?

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