A Part of the Community: Henry Avila

Whole Forest’s head carpenter, Henry Avila, is the person that oversees the construction of our products. As a boy and teenage Henry worked on his family’s land near Cristobal Colon, Ecuador clearing the forest for subsistence agriculture. When Henry was a young adult he moved to the capitol city, Quito, aspiring for a better life. He worked several low paying factory and service jobs. As he tells it, he lived in an icy cinder block room with his wife and young daughter in the far north of the city. The commute to work was often more than two hours one-way and started at 4:00 am in Quito’s 9,000' morning chill.  

When his dad suffered a leg injury, he could no longer care for the family. So, as the oldest sibling, Henry returned home to Cristobal Colon to support his family by again working the family land. 

Upon Henry’s return to Cristobal Colon, he was blessed to have the opportunity to join Whole Forest, then known as EcoMadera. At that time, EcoMadera was a nascent community forestry project. A Peace Corps volunteer and master carpenter from Tennessee, Bill Lepier, who was collaborating with EcoMadera brought Henry under his wing. Henry spent the next three years apprenticing under Bill as a carpenter.

Employment in Whole Forest changed Henry and his family’s life. It also changed the fate of their forest. Henry and his family were no longer reliant on clearing their land for agriculture just to put food on the table. 

Since that time, Henry has grown as a carpenter and as a leader in the community. Today, another young man, Jefferson, is apprenticing under Henry much the way Henry apprenticed with Bill more than a decade ago. Also like Henry, Jefferson’s family has forest-land that he worked until recently to help his family make ends meet.

This story is similar to so many of Whole Forest’s 60+ employees and their families.  It is a story that is at the core of what Whole Forest is all about. The community employees of Whole Forest take pride in working close to home and at the same time deriving a better life out of the same forest resource which they used to have to destroy in order to get by.

There is a deep social and environmental story that has gone into making every product. I hope you continue to enjoy your Whole Forest product and the impact that it makes.