Who starts a foundation in the middle of the Ecuadorean Amazon? Proving that life can always provide serendipity; Douglas McMeekin found himself bankrupt in his forties but with an opportunity to move to Ecuador. Originally from the US, Douglas worked for six years in the Amazon as an environmental and cultural consultant for eight different oil companies. This experience provided the catalyst he needed to begin Yachana Foundation and a way to give sustainable help to the Amazonian people.
In 1992 he began by building six schools and training teachers in 27 communities. Within a couple years he started buying rainforest to preserve. Then, he started Yachana Lodge, a world-class eco-tourism lodge on the banks of the Napo River, in order to generate funds to support the foundation. Since then, in true entrepreneur spirit, he has built upon the foundation, starting a fair trade organization, medical clinics, more schools, community pharmacies, and a first of its kind Amazonian boarding school - and he’s not finished yet. The impact of one man’s vision has reverberated throughout the Ecuadorian Amazon, providing opportunities and education for those at the bottom of the economic pyramid.
YACHANA is a Kichwa indigenous word that means “a place for learning." Its mission is to provide community-based solutions to poverty and environmental conservation in the rainforest. Training programs create opportunities of employment, health and entrepreneurism with a focus on social, economic and environmental sustainability. Yachana has been internationally recognized for sustainable ecotourism by National Geographic – Ashoka Changemakers, Conde Nást Traveller, Skål International, Rainforest Concern, Smart Voyager and Rainforest Alliance.
I visited Yachana lodge and foundation and left with the inspiration to share his story. Douglas and I talk about the how and why of his foundation.
Yachana Lodge Information