This July, Vitanova co-founder and Creative Director Timothy Rose and his son Luca traveled to Rio Blanco, Ecuador, to help build a community school, plant trees and learn firsthand about sustainability in the world’s most biodiverse region.
Ser is a hand-constructed, green school deep in the Ecuadorian Amazon rainforest. It is a small, community-owned space nestled in the jungle that promotes intercultural, nature-based free learning for children five and up with a heavy focus on environmental, botanical and healthy living. This artistic learning community was founded in 2010 by a group of families seeking to create a harmonious living space and a respectful learning environment for their children.
Vitanova became aware of the school recently during the founders’ trip to Ecuador to visit the Shuar community. Since Vitanova has been paying forward 10 percent of all its proceeds to help indigenous peoples maintain their languages, cultures and botanical wisdom, Vitanova cofounders Kamal El-Wattar and Timothy Rose thought this would be a great project for the brand to support.
“We were looking for something that would really make a difference in the lives of this community and something physical we could do to help that happen this summer.”
Rose brought his teenage son, Luca, with him and got to work.
“We literally grabbed plants, shovels and heavy gloves and got to building. Many companies throw money at things, but it is something really special to be there on the ground making a difference.” Rose pointed out.
Ser teaches the community not only techniques of sustainability learned from the local Shuar tribes but also how to create an edible forest from a permaculture perspective. They believe that education should include a deep love and appreciation for the environment and a healthy, harmonious balance with nature.
“We have designed and adapted four hectares of Amazonian forest to permaculture. An environmentally friendly place where it is produced onsite and the reuse of organic waste and biomass in general is implemented.” says Ser family investor Julián Larrea Arias.
With the participation of the Shuar, Achuar and Quichua families (indigenous Amazonian peoples), the school has planted an Amazon vegetable garden where yuccas, bananas, tomatoes, lettuce, citrus, ginger, guava and other plants grow organically.
The Ser school also participates in the National Reforestation Program of the Ministry of the Environment and are developing actions for the protection and conservation of more than 30 hectares of native forest, home to one of the greatest diversity of plants and animals found in the world.
In addition to the 100 trees planted since the project began, more than ten one hundred-year-old pituca trees 35 meters high bear fruit and self-fertilize.
“We strengthened the forest by planting native trees at risk of extinction, such as mahogany, cedars and cannelloni,” adds Arias.
Apart from the botanical commitment and positive educational opportunities for the community, the school also employs bio-construction using bamboo canes (native bamboo) harvested on their land. The cane is ecological because it is a giant grass that is renewed with the cut. Ser also builds composting centers, organic orchards and dry ecological baths, without sewage treatment. Everything is off the grid and 100 percent recycled.
Ser also boasts a multipurpose green space, soccer field, an art space, hammocks and play areas. The school is built on the concepts of respect for nature, self-sustainability and creativity.
“The connection between health and nature is core to Vitanova’s values. What this school is doing mirrors the company’s own beliefs. Having the opportunity to help the school and bring my own son along to learn about the Shuar people, sustainable farming and botanical knowledge was one of the best moments of my life.” Rose concludes.
“The natural state of living beings is to be healthy. Getting away from nature and its cycles is what makes us sick,” says Arias.
Vitanova is committed to helping preserve botanical wisdom, language and the indigenous knowledge keepers. They pay forward 10 percent of their earnings to help build schools, preserve cultures and promote a healthy, sustainable environment.