Thursday, June 23, 2016

Sigue, no más -- Moving forward

Our second and third weeks here in Ecuador have brought quite a number of unexpected turns to our plan. We knew from the beginning that we would have to be flexible and that no matter how much we prepared we couldn't do a real needs assessment until we got here. Even so, it was still unsettling to realize as we attended the daycare every day that there were significant issues that would make extending the hours of the center an unnecessary and potentially risky endeavor. The need for afternoon care does exist for working parents, but must be addressed from a place of stability. On top of a number of logistical challenges, the biggest functional barrier is that our partners here do not own their own land yet, so they cannot justify expanding before they have enough permanent space to run the program. In addition, the members of the non-profit foundation that run the daycare have made it clear that they believe there is no expressed need for evening care by the parents of the children who currently attend the daycare. Although this need does exist in the wider community, parents of children in this particular daycare have not asked for extended hours.  For us, this was the most important piece. All the other obstacles I'm sure we could have worked through, but once we realized that the need we assessed from the US did not in fact manifest in the way we thought, we knew that we had to reavaluate everything.

Our meeting with the foundation made it clear that they are still interested in exploring a mutually beneficial relationship for this summer and beyond. They came back to us last week with an idea for a different project that more accurately addresses the current needs of the foundation. Essentially, they expressed that we could be most useful through mobilizing youth here and in the US to help fight intrafamilial violence and support the daycare. There is already a program through the University of San Francisco Quito that sends about ten student volunteers to the daycare every semester, including the summer semester, to learn about social justice issues. It is clear, however, that these volunteers are not being used to their full potential. Therefore, this summer we will be compiling training materials for working with children as well as materials for the sensitive but important topic of domestic violence. We will make a hard copy to be kept at the daycare in addition to online resources so that the volunteers can access them. Hopefully we will also be able to distribute these resources to other preschools and daycares in Ecuador. Our longer term goals will be to create other connections in the US through a cultural exchange with our high schools that would further the English instruction at the daycare and expand the network of the foundation, which the foundation has also expressly requested.  This summer though, we will be using our time, resources, and connections to improve the existing programming and advance the larger goals of the foundation. Now let's get to work!

The children at Burbujitas de Luz working together to build a structure while improving their fine-motor skills

The view on our walk around the reservoir as we think through the evolution of our project

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Los primeros pasos en Ecuador -- Our first week

We arrived in Ecuador on Saturday night to the open arms of our host family.  After acclimatizing to the altitude and getting acquainted with Cumabaya (or reacquainted for Annette), we got in contact with the president of the foundation that runs Burbujitas de Luz.  We toured the facilities, met some of the children, and then got right down to business with the president and the vice-president/main teacher in the preschool.  Sitting down in the office with the sounds of kids playing next door, we discussed the viability of our program.  We learned about how daycares in Ecuador are run and how this daycare stands out.  The non-profit foundation devotes itself to providing quality childcare for families with limited resources.  The daycare focuses on all aspects of child development through play, with the overall wellbeing of the child as the foremost priority.  They are even strict with the parents so that this type of treatment and care is reinforced in all parts of their lives.  We hope that our program, as a part of this foundation, can continue this mission.  It's safe to say that we had a lot to think about when we got home.

The rest of the week we helped out at the daycare as teacher's assistants, along with the numerous volunteers from the University of San Fransisco here in Quito, in order to learn more about how it runs on a daily basis.  We got to know some of the volunteers and learned about how the University works as well.  The teachers and the cook gave us great examples for how best to manage the children in a fun way.  Wednesday was El Día del Niño (Children's Day) and we had a lovely party with some treats, and sang songs and danced all day long. The children were so happy and we realized even further what an important role this daycare plays in the lives of the children and the huge difference this attention and joy can make.

The town of Cumbaya also has so much to offer.  We went to a market yesterday with rows and rows of fresh fruits and vegetables, and freshly caught seafood.  Hopefully we can incorporate some of these resources into our program.

Next week we will continue going to the daycare and will also meet with the foundation to discuss our plans in greater detail.  It's been hard work but we are so excited for everything to come.

Annette on our scenic walk back from the daycare in Santa Ines

Our first day in Cumbaya with Mica and Nancy, our host sister and mom