We arrived in Cutambi later than expected but that didn't stop the entire community from gathering around our bus to greet us. Just like you see on TV, the kids squeezed their way through to the front of the crowd to wish us a very polite "buenos dias" before leading us into the building they use as a community centre. After some speeches and a display of some handcrafts the women of the community had created, we all moved out of the building to the centre of the village to make balloon animals and pass out other little treats to the children. It blew me away to see how patiently they all lined up to get their latex dogs and rabbits and bees! I could imagine a near riot if you had over 100 kids lined up like this at home.
As the rest of the team were making their animals (a talent for which I have no ability whatsoever), I made my way over to some kids playing soccer who very quickly made me the monkey in the middle as they managed to play keep-away until I thought my lungs would burst in the high altitude. Eventually some more kids came over as well as Mark, our rep in Atlantic Canada, and we had some fun kicking the ball around and trying to score on a little guy who just might play for the Ecuadorian national team some day - he was that good!
Once we managed to catch our breath, we shot a couple more videos displaying animals that had been given to the community (including a couple of hilarious ones that will make it to our blooper reel!), then we were led up a steep path to see a small family farm. It may have been a tiny patch of land but for the pride the farmer had in his work it might as well have been half of Saskatchewan. Although he was unable to read or write, he had gone to some World Vision workshops to learn basic farming techniques and also visited some other farms where he could share his new-found knowledge as well as learn from other farmers. He was especially proud of his composting skills that turned a poorly performing lemon tree into a big producer laden with fruit. It´s really important to let you know that in no way do the people who receive the gifts and training respond as if they were somehow inferior or inadequate. These are proud farmers who are partners in every way with the good work that is happening here. We stand eye-to-eye and shoulder-to-shoulder with these folks and share in the joy of their hard work. World Vision´s work here is nothing at all resembling a handout - it is a hand-up to a farmer and his family who want to improve their lives and the lives of their children. I'm incredibly grateful to God that I get to play a small part in making this happen.
Stay turned for tomorrow´s adventures in the Pillaro region...
For complete photos from the journey click here.
To sponsor a child in Ecuador visit WorldVision.ca