About Cheryl ReedHow Cheryl found herself in Ecuador, a first-person story
It Started As a Volunteer Gig
Since the first time I stepped foot in Ecuador in 1997, this wonderful country became a part of my heart. Volunteering for two weeks with disabled children in Quito, I was humbled by the poverty, awed by the beauty and warmed by the hearts of the welcoming people.
Ecuador made such an impact on me that I moved there six months later to teach English to school children. Two years into this new life, Ecuador’s economy became very unstable and I returned to the States with every intention of going back some day.
The Most Beautiful Property I Ever Saw
In 2002, I did return and I bought the most beautiful piece of property I had ever seen. It was 24 acres on the western slopes of the Andes Mountains, a subtropical paradise which I named Sobre las Nubes or Above the Clouds because I could watch clouds being born from the river valley below.
Learning How To Farm
During the first nine years, I tried many different farming projects only to learn how hard it is to be a farmer!
I found out first-hand I did not have the heart for dairy or pig farming so I went the agricultural route. Consequently, I planted 6,000 tree tomato plants and I finally had a profitable venture until we were hit with a plague. There was no cure for an insidious mold called Ojo de Pollo and we watched every single tree die.
I was searching for the next project when Ecuador’s Coffee Association began encouraging farmers to grow coffee. They provided the seeds, technical support and equipment at discounted prices. Hmm, being Cheryl Valdez seemed like a great idea.
Growing Coffee Was Only The Beginning
Because the farm doesn’t produce a livable wage, I have always worked as a physical therapist six months out of the year in the States. I was grateful to have a flexible job, but it was hard to be away.
My goal has always been to stay on the farm full-time. Still in search of a way to do that, I began hosting groups of people in Ecuador, leading two retreats a year at various venues around the country. My heart sings when people experience Ecuador at a deeper level and that, combined with giving people time to look inward has provided experiences which people have described as life changing. My new passion was sharing Ecuador with others.
All the years on the farm, I had the dream of building a guest house of my own so that others could enjoy the magic I felt. One of the retreat leaders presented me with a plan to fulfill that dream and I built that house. Above the Clouds Guest House is surrounded by landscapes that are works of art. There is a peace and tranquility you feel as you view the thousand stars in the sky, watch the clouds decide each day which views to reveal and experience the unique way of life in my little part of the world.
I believe that travel changes us and I also believe that we should leave the host country better than we found it. To offset the Carbon Footprint of air travel, we plant one tree in the name of each guest. We also funnel ten percent of all income generated through Above the Clouds Ecuador into Project One Corner which goes directly to help Ecuadorians in need.
I hope you will come for a visit!