• Social Innovation Fellowship

Award Year 

Esperanza International


Esperanza International is a student-run NGO dedicated to addressing the social and environmental consequences of oil extraction through our work with indigenous communities in the Ecuadorian Amazon.  We aim to improve educational opportunities for indigenous youth and support local efforts to engage in cultural conservation and ecotourism through the collaboration between students and indigenous leaders.  This summer, Lauren and Blair will bring a group of interns from universities in the United States and Ecuador to live and work with the Secoya community of Ecuador.  The interns will be trained as advocates for marginalized Amazonian cultures, and the relationships they form in the community will serve as the foundation for collaborations on long-term projects in education,ecotourism and cultural conservation.

Personal Statement

Lauren Schleimer and Blair Cameron first traveled to the Ecuadorian Amazon as interns for Esperanza International in June 2010. After studying the sordid history of oil extraction in the region, they witnessed firsthand how toxic contamination and the entry of multinational corporations into the region has impacted indigenous and migrant populations. Over the course of the summer, Lauren and Blair lived with host families in the indigenous Secoya community and taught English in local schools, laying the foundation for a community-based tourism operation and contributing to the inception of a scholarship fund.

Lauren's experience living with the Secoya community was transformative and incredibly rewarding.  The friendships she formed with her Secoya host family compelled her to return to the community in January 2011 and motivate her to continue working with Esperanza International as a Project Leader this summer.