The Story

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Little Village, Big Mountain is a work in progress documentary about a small village in Ecuador working together through cultural, economic & philosophical differences in order to create a self sustaining, organic community where every person and family thrives.


Our story begins with Deborah, a remarkable North American woman, who after attempting suicide and feeling she had nothing left to live for, set off to Ecuador.  Abandoning all of the modern conveniences of American living, she sought to start over in an impoverished foreign land with a native language she didn’t speak and to immerse herself in an unfamiliar culture where women are still greatly suppressed.

After arriving in La Calera (a suburb of Cotacachi), Ecuador, she set to work transforming a left-for-dead finca (farm) into a thriving community farm that is working towards sustainability. She also started a learning center dedicated to educating women and children on healthy living. Her organic and sustainable outreach includes teachings on environmental health, nutrition, work skills, and English – all so these women can compete in an Ecuadorian workplace that is becoming more and more culturally diverse and complex. Just over a year after settling in La Calera, Deborah, now 44, is even more determined to help these rural Ecuadorian women as she knows that educating and empowering the women will promote a thriving village.

Food donations 2In a years’ time she has taught herself Spanish and created a community garden where everyone is invited to participate in the care and bounty.  She now employs several indigenous people who are helping to expand the garden and community center into an organic multicultural safe space for learning and sharing.  In her spare time, she teaches language lessons to the community’s children, while also developing new ideas on the finca.  One of these new ideas is a dedicated meditation space that can be used by the community to share in ideas both new and old.

Alonzo working new field

As Deborah immerses further into the project and the people of the village, her story quickly becomes an inspiring story of an entire community, not one woman alone. The story of Carmen Cumba – an Ecuadorian midwife, who is now famous for her shamanistic practices and her use of organic herbal medicine – is one of the many women that will be featured in the full length documentary. She will also be the focus of a documentary short we are doing on her as a standalone piece that will support the feature-length production. After years of being marginalized by practitioners of western medicine, Cumba is now recognized internationally for her ability to heal with native plants – even being flown to other countries to teach her massive knowledge of herbal healing to western medicine practitioners.

Carmen Cumba

There is something really special happening around La Calera Ecuador.

women serving food in san pedro

There seems to be a unique atmosphere of true collaboration between fundamentally varying cultures and philosophies.  Does it always work? No.  Is there any resistance? Yes. It is messy and beautiful to be in this giant petri dish of sorts where the overall approach from everyone involved seems to mostly be, “Let’s figure this out together.”

We believe the world can benefit from learning about this movement in Ecuador from people like Deborah and her collaborators. It is possible to be a diverse community and work together for the better of everyone, not just the chosen few. We also believe that it is imperative that efforts to empower and educate women is essential in order to see real socioeconomic change around the world. Funding for this project will help us return to Ecuador with a professional crew to document the process of community empowerment and to spread its message of hope around the world.

Giving to this project is giving to people dedicated to supporting positive change in the world. We believe that the more we support and work for this type of change, the more the world will experience an empowering ripple effect of positive change.

~ Melissa Kirkendall

Please donate and help spread the word. Even $10 will help.  Poco a poco (little by little) we can make the world a better place. Be a part of a positive movement towards more good in this world!!   We thank you in advance for your support!

To support this incredible journey, click here.