Friday (March 14) was our last day working at ISPED Manuela Canizares elementary school in Quito, Ecuador. The day began with a special show performed by the children to thank us for working with them – and to say goodbye. The children dressed in animal costumes and sang simple songs in English on our behalf – mice, monkeys, tigers and cats lined the stage. There wasn’t a dry eye among us; we were so touched by the thoughtful gesture and the adorable kids.
After the performance, we had a few hours to spend with the kids, do art and just have fun. After school we had a teacher appreciation tamale lunch! We all sat in a big circle eating tamales and expressing our gratitude for one another. Ursuline College’s Art Therapy and Counseling program was the first group to ever volunteer at this school. We did not learn this until our last day. We felt honored.
Following lunch, a few of our students went with Pablo, our country coordinator, to donate our left over snacks, art materials and clothing to a shelter for street children. We purchased two soccer balls so the kids could continue to enjoy playing soccer after school. The children were overjoyed with our donations. Next, Pablo took the students to a day care center to donate our left over teaching materials. The day care is run by a lovely, caring woman named Rosa who’s mission it is to care for children whose parents cannot afford traditional day care. It is common in Ecuador for poor parents to leave children at home unattended locked in a bedroom while they go to work. This is an abominable situation and one that creates stress and developmental problems in the kids that are left alone all day to fend for themselves. Rosa does her best to open her heart and home to these poor families so that the children won’t be left alone. When we got to the day care however, we realized what dire conditions Rosa and the kids were in. The children sleep on a thin layer of foam in an unfinished basement area that had a partial roof. It rains quite a bit, so the foam mattresses were wet, dirty and in bad condition. There were six small mattresses that 15 children slept on. There was an outside kitchen, no electricity and a single toilet with no shower or bathtub. We were shocked, sad and could not help but cry in outrage about this situation. We asked Pablo if we could help fix this day care. He agreed with a smile on his face. About $300 US dollars is enough to add electricity, a floor in the basement and a better kitchen. We started pulling our money together immediately. It is amazing to see the plight of others and realize just how lucky we are in the United States. We take for granted the fact that we have electricity and running water. It is a humble reminder that there is much work to do to help others obtain basic necessities of life.
What an emotional day for all of us! Our final day came to an end with a cooking lesson with Christine, our hostel owner. We learned how to make tostadas, not the chips, but potato pancakes… Ecuador style. We gathered in the kitchen, boiled Ecuadorian yellow potatoes and then mashed them. We then formed the mashed potatoes into pancakes and added queso to the middle of each one. We fried them in lard in a giant cast iron skillet. Muy delicioso! While we ate dinner together, a traditional Kichwa band played for us, using indigenous instruments, like flutes and drums. After dinner, we cleared the tables and chairs and participated in a Kichwa circle dance. We felt so at home and welcomed into this community. The students and I will miss the warm and loving embrace we relieved from the people of Ecuador. We can’t wait to go back!
Thank you for following along on our Ecuador service learning trip! Adios Amigos!