With a $10,000 Davis Projects for Peace Award, Ramiro Davila ’25, a double major in economics and politics from Orlando, Fla., plans to support children’s access to education in Ecuador — with shoes.

This summer, Davila will work with a U.S.-based nonprofit, Because International, to distribute long-lasting, size-adjustable shoes to children — known as “The Shoe That Grows” — in five villages throughout the province of Manabí, Ecuador.

He’ll also organize educational workshops for children and adults in the communities.

Ramiro Davila '25
Ramiro Davila ’25, who is a member of the Bates men’s tennis team, is using his $10,000 Davis Projects for Peace Award to pick up where he left off in 2019: working towards increasing access to education in rural communities in Ecuador. (Brewster Burns for Bates College)

Handing someone a pair of shoes might seem like a very simple thing, Davila says, but in rural communities around the world, shoes help people get from place to place, like from home to school. Not having shoes “is obviously a barrier to education, however you want to look at it,” he says.

During his last year of high school, Davila delivered 100 pairs of The Shoe That Grows to the rural community of La Travesia. This time, he wants to provide a larger, longer-lasting impact, through workshops and activities for the children and adults in rural Ecuador.

Davila hopes to expand the efforts to Chile and Peru eventually, but for now his focus is on Ecuador.

“The inspiration for this initiative is deeply innate to who I am as an Ecuadorian-American,” Davila says. He was born in Ecuador, and lived there until his family moved to the U.S. when he was 8 years old. They return to Ecuador each summer, so he still feels connected to the community there.

Ramiro Davila '25, standing in center, partnered with The Shoe That Grows for the first time in 2019, when he helped distribute 100 pairs of shoes to La Travesia, a rural community in Manta, Ecuador. (Photo courtesy of Ramiro Davila)
In 2019, Ramiro Davila ’25 looks on as a child in La Travesia, a rural community in Manta, Ecuador, receives a pair of size-adjustable shoes, known as The Shoe That Grows. The shoes were given away during a family-friendly event that Davila organized at the village school. (Photo courtesy of Ramiro Davila)

Davila grew up a few minutes from the communities that he hopes to serve. “Even as a kid, I could see the grave issues and the structural problems present. And as I grew up and matured and I went back every summer, it became more apparent that I needed to do something, given the perspective and the opportunities that I’ve been fortunate enough to have been given.”

For the workshops, Davila wants to partner with the local schools to organize lessons and activities for the children, and for the parents, to emphasize the importance of education and health, and maybe some other skills, like personal finance.

“I feel like those are key skills that could go a long way to making a direct impact in the short term, but also complement those with the more traditional educational skills that these kids need.”

Ramiro Davila '25, in blue shirt in center, partnered with The Shoe That Grows for the first time in 2019, when he helped distribute 100 pairs of shoes to La Travesia, a rural community in Manta, Ecuador. (Photo courtesy of Ramiro Davila)
Ramiro Davila (center) leads an activity for children in 2019 at a school in La Travesia, a rural community in Manta, Ecuador. With his Davis Award, he plans hold community workshops — both for children and parents — to mix fun and games with sharing and teaching. (Photo courtesy of Ramiro Davila)

On an even broader level, the community engagement could help bring awareness to the broader issues of access to education in rural communities. In addition to giving the local news media opportunities to publicize the workshops, Davila hopes to engage with local government leaders.

“That’s my most direct way of bringing awareness to the issue,” he says. “I think the more attention that is given, the more potential there is for these issues to be fixed. And it’s not an easy task and it’s not a short term task, but there needs to be a starting point to it, and that’s basically what I’m trying to do.”

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