It´s been a long, jam-packed day and I have more stories than I could possibly share here tonight but I´ll do my best. Unfortunately I can´t upload photos from the hotel so for now you´ll just have to believe me when I say Ecuador is a remarkably beautiful country filled with remarkably beautiful people.
Our morning started on a bus taking us out of downtown Quito to visit an Area Development Project (ADP) about two hours away. The entire team was bouncing from one side of the bus to the other taking photos of the Andes mountains as they fenced us in on both sides while we travelled higher and higher up the switchbacks. After a quick pit stop where we manged to buy some water, dried banana, and (believe it or not), lemon remix doritos(!) we arrived at the Maquipurashum ADP not far from Otavalo. We were greeted by the director of the ADP and his small team of staff and volunteers with a warm handshake and a buenos dias. They immediately put us at ease and we all had a good time introducing ourselves via Andrea our translator.
After the introductions we were given an extensive history of the ADP from their beginnings in 1994 up to today. I had always thought an ADP consisted of a few villages with upwards of a thousand people being supported through World Vision´s work but in Maquipurashum there are 20 communities consisting of eight thousand families which means roughly 40,000 people are being impacted by the generous support of Canadians who sponsor children, purchase items from the Gift Catalogue, and participate in the 30 Hour Famine.
Our hosts explained how the community had determined what their strengths were and then set the priorities for the development of the region: education, health, agricultural production, and care for the environment. They have also put a big emphasis on gender equality as traditionally, women and girls have very few rights in the culture. A girls soccer league was started five years ago to empower the young girls of the area and encourage them to become fully fledged partcipants in the community. I also found it interesting (and sad) to learn that the soccer also gives children of both genders the opportunity to play...to just be a kid...something that is uncommon when most children must work from a very young age.
The success of the ADP thus far was evident on the faces of the leaders who explained that when they first began no one - not one single person - had finished high school. There are now more than 400 kids in high school and another 100 graduates with several of them moving on to college with the help of a scholarship from funds provided by World Vision. Another amazing fact: when the ADP started 90% of the children in the region were malnourished. That number has been reduced to 65% and is continuing to fall. There were several other positive outcomes shared, but a list of numbers can´t compare to the amazing privilege we had of meeting two formerly sponsored children who were now young adults, both of whom had gone to college and have returned with a degree in business management and finance.
Despite all of these positives, there are definitely still a great number of needs in this community. There is only one medical clinic for 40,000 people making regular health care next to impossible. As well, 36% of the population do not know how to read or write and the cost of education is beyond the reach of most of the parents who live here. Only 12% of the population has a safe water supply resulting in various illnesses and skin problems for the children who live here.
Just before we left for our next destination we were introduced to a class of students in the World Vision office who were learning computer skills, many of whom had never seen a computer before. The smiles on their faces told us exactly how much joy they were experiencing as hope was returning and a more positive future could start to be envisioned. I have nothing but the highest praise for the dedicated, caring workers here. Their tireless love for the children and families of the area is both humbling and inspiring.
For complete photos from the journey click here.
To sponsor a child in Ecuador visit WorldVision.ca