Tien-Shun Lee, Founder
Tien lived and worked in New York City for 12 years, but she always kept that world of artificial lights and tiny apartments in perspective with Ecuador and Peru, where she lived for one year each in the 1990s. After visiting Ecuador for the sixth time in 2008, she founded Earth to City with the hopes of bringing more people out of electronics-ridden societies where advertisements and ready-to-consume products fill the eyes, to simple societies that still live off of farming, fishing and wildlife, if only for a week.
Tien loves breathing fresh air, living amongst plants, working with the earth and cooking up food that has just been picked or caught. She practices qigong and Chinese 5-organ harmonization techniques. She still likes the city, but she can't spend as much time there as she used to because she doesn't like to be enclosed in artificial spaces.
As a journalist for eight years, Tien believes that no matter how much video or print media there is, nothing can replace first-hand experience - seeing with your own eyes, doing with your own hands, talking face-to-face and physically being amongst the elements.
Tien currently lives in Ecuador. She likes to be outdoors as much as possible and she welcomes recommendations for new immersion communities.
Emily Burnett, Earth to City Secretary
Emily met Tien while doing an exchange program at the Universidad San Francisco in Quito. She graduated from the University of Illinois in 2008 with a degree in Spanish and Economics. After graduation she worked as an intern for Banco de Pichincha in Quito, with a focus on microfinancing. Emily lived in Ecuador for more than two years and is very familiar with the culture and community life. She is currently living in Chicago and would be happy to answer any questions you may have about Ecuador or Earth to City.
Alejandro Proaño, Ecuador Guide
I am Alejandro, your new guide - I love to dance and sleep a lot. I have been a guide for more than thirteen years in the jungle, the mountains, the rivers, fishing... I am 30 years old and I have a lot of energy for tours.
I am waiting for you allÉ See you soon!!!!!!
Gladys Toscano, Community Coordinator
Gladys grew up in a farming community in the mountains of Ecuador with two sisters, two brothers and many animals such as dogs, pigs, horses, cows, ducks, chickens and guinea pigs. She has always had an entrepreneurial spirit and that spirit led her to build a house for tourists/volunteers and also to become president of an organic farm owned by 49 partners who each invested USD$3,000 to buy the farm cooperatively. Gladys had always dreamed of having tourists in her home. She loves getting to know and joking with people from other cultures. She recently quit her job on a rose plantation and invested money in 100 baby chicks that she is now raising to sell in market. She is the mother of two kids with a husband who trains dogs for the Ecuadorean military.
Francisco Salvatierra, Community Coordinator
Francisco Salvatierra, known in his community as "Salva", is a father of x, a grandfather of y and a great-grandfather of z. He used to be a fisherman out of Estero Platano and he still makes hammocks by tying knots with rope. He now lives in Sua, down the road from his daughter Marlene, grand daughter Katy and great-grand daughter Naomi. His grandson Miguel is currently running to be mayor of Esmeraldas.
Roberto Aguinda, Community Coordinator
Cofanes, Lago Agrio, Ecuador
Roberto is the president of his indigenous community, the Cofanes, who live in the jungle near Lago Agrio. The Cofanes have maintained their culture by educating all Cofan kids in bilingual Cofan schools. There are only about 500 Cofanes in the world, and none of them work outside jobs that are unrelated to their community. Most Cofanes work within the community making jewelry, doing housework, driving canoes, building new homes or patrolling the jungle to monitor wildlife and hunting. They continue to live off of wild fruit and animals and almost all marry only within the community. Roberto worked as a jungle patrol for two years before he was elected president of the Cofan community. In the 1990s, he helped his community fight against pollution from Texaco and other oil companies, which killed most of the fish in the Cofan rivers and made people who were used to drinking river water sick.
Marco Barrionuevo, Ecuador Administrative Coordinator
Marco worked as a local organizer for two years with the Consejo Nacional Para la Reactivación de la Producción y Competitividad (CNPC). He helped form business organizations, and helped form and finance business plans for those organizations. He also organized a course on organic farming for about 50 farmers living in and around his native town of Baños. Marco is currently applying for grants to fund various agrotourism projects in Ecuador, including a project to count farms and a project to set up a community immersion agrotour for people with Down's Syndrome.