Most of you who read this blog are aware that my family lives in the small town of Cotacachi, in Ecuador’s northern Andes. We love the feel of the town, we love the cool mountain climes, and we love beauty that surrounds us. But most of all we love the people. As a rule the people in this country are friendly, generous, and very helpful. We’ve gotten to know many expats and Ecuatorianos and consider ourselves better for it.
Now Ecuador is not a wealthy country. There are some upper class and middle class Ecuatorianos who do well, but there are many many people who live with very little. One family that we’ve become friends with live in the nearby village of San Pedro, an indigenous community high on the mountainside. The oldest son, Diego, is nineteen and works as an advocate for the school children in the community.
Diego informed us that the local school is very lacking. Many of the students can’t afford the supplies they need during the school year and their academics suffer as a result. There is no playground, only a nearby soccer field, but only three of the grades had soccer balls. The other grades make balls out of old clothing. We were invited up for “Children’s Day” (along the lines of Mother’s Day and Father’s Day) to see the school and meet the children.
David really came through on this front. He sent out word to the expat community that we would be headed up to the school in San Pedro on June 2nd and any expats who wanted to join us were welcome (as per Diego and the school director). We wanted to bring cake and milk for the kids, and as many school supplies as we could muster. We ended up with a group of approximately twenty people who went to the school, many of whom brought school supplies. Additionally many more people who couldn’t attend donated money towards the cost of the cakes and/or gave us school supplies to take up.
Due to a fiasco with the bakery our family was about fifteen minutes late to the school and poor Diego was very concerned that the 160 children who were promised cake were going to go without. Luckily when we arrived, our friends Bobby and Becca who were former teachers, were entertaining the school kids.
First we were introduced to the school and told that we were no longer strangers, we are now part of the community of San Pedro. Next each grade performed for us. We saw traditional dances, heard singing, and poetry, and the older grades pulled us expats out on to the courtyard to dance with them several times. In spite of the chilly day and occasional drizzle it was a fantastic time. At one point I was dancing in a circle holding hands with a couple of the village teenagers and I could see the mist enshrouded mountain ahead with our home of Cotacachi tucked into the valley below and I realized “This is why I moved to Ecuador!”
The kids were thrilled with the cake of course, but they were also very excited to see all of the school goodies we brought. There were boxes full of paper, pencils, pens, art supplies, rulers, scissors, and so much more. Plus we had brand new soccer balls!
I think though that we expats may have benefited even more from the exchange. One lady even told us this had been the best day of her life!
Personally it’s so rewarding to be able to help people on a personal level. When we lived in the U.S. we contributed to different charities, but it was disheartening to know that much of our funds went towards administrative costs. The little bit that actually made it to people who needed it was never seen by us – we simply had to trust that someone’s life was a wee bit better because of our donation.
Here we are able to give directly with no middle man. All of our effort and money goes right towards helping those in need. And while we don’t expect anything in return it is nice to see the smiles on the faces of these children and know that we’ve made a difference.
Stay tuned for more information on how you can help!