Hospitality is a Two-Way Street
— the Clarke Photography Challenge —

Hospitality is a two-way street. So often, people look at where to stay on a trip and the focus is always on, “what will this place provide for me?” First of all, Hacienda Zuleta is not a hotel. We are a home, and our guests are welcomed as such. They are not “the couple in Room 205,” but instead they are “Jack and Barb from Maryland.” The true beauty of looking at hospitality in this way is that we (the owners, staff, and community of Zuleta) often receive as much, or more, from our guests, as they do from the experience of staying with us.

In this spirit, I want to tell you about Jack and Barb Clarke, two guests who have been visiting us for years and have inspired and changed our community through their passion for photography.

Five years ago, Jack and Barb joined us at Hacienda Zuleta for the first time. One afternoon during their stay while telling stories in the lounge at the hacienda, they told me about a particular project they had started—the Clarke Photography Challenge. During their travels to developing countries, Jack and Barb realized they could do much more than simply offer financial donations to support the people and communities they had met. They could share Jack’s knowledge of and love for photography and Barb’s knack for organizing and logistics to launch something far more impactful. And so, the Clarke Photography Challenge was born!

The challenge consists of the Clarkes traveling with all necessary gear to an underprivileged community, selecting a group of children aged anywhere from seven to 16, and working with them for a week or longer to learn photography basics such as manual shooting, composition, and more advanced techniques such as portraiture or long exposures. But the program is far more than an opportunity to take photos. For many of the children, this is the first time they can unleash their creativity in a new setting and feel a sense of pride in their work. New perspectives are encouraged, and the best photographers are rewarded with their very own cameras to keep. When the Clarkes head back to the United States, their hope is that the program will continue, utilizing the photography equipment they’ve donated long after they go home.

Here at Zuleta, that’s exactly what we’ve done. The Galo Plaza Lasso Foundation has carried the torch on this beautiful project for the last five years, enabling more than 120 children in our local community to learn a skill they otherwise might not have had the chance to explore. Year after year, the children of the Zuleta Community have learned to be photographers thanks to this lovely couple! We have called the project “Ecuador seen through the eyes of its children” and we are so proud of their work.

This is a reminder to us every day here at Zuleta that hospitality is a two-way street. When hospitality providers AND their guests place authenticity, kindness, and people above all else, it really can make the world a better place. Hospitality is a way of being in the world—let’s choose a hospitable world.  

Thank you to Jack and Barb, countless other past guests, and those we have yet to welcome who are all a special part of our Zuleta family!
Fernando Polanco Plaza
General Manager