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

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