Today started pretty much as everyday for our little group of five volunteers for Center #1 in Calderón. Breakfast, journal reading, and a quote to focus our intentions for the day.The children are all enjoying a morning snack as we arrive, something inevitably made with corn. Horray! No one is crying and the new additions from the last few days all appear settled and happier today. Obviously, it is not easy to leave the love and comfort of a mother’s arms to arrive in a new setting complete with new rules, regulations, and strangers to care for you! The adjustment takes its own time for each little one. Their faces have become so endearingly familiar over the week – warm hugs, cherubic faces,  and happy smiles greet and delight us each and every morning. Katie, Suzanne, and I all find our various tías – Gaby, Alexandra, and Ruby – to settle in for the day. Neal heads to kitchen duty and Tom hits the carpentry deck! Maggie, as always, is there to help with translations, any issues of concern, or to supply an extra set of helping hands.

Seija feeding the littlest ones
My main work today consists of finishing touches to folders for the ‘grads’, the five-year-old little muffins leaving daycare behind for kindergarten next fall. Lots of writing, tracing, cutting, and gluing. In between, we help with all the bathroom breaks, hand washing, midmorning snack of fruit, and structured puzzle play. Lunch always starts with soup, a constant in Ecuador for child and adult alike, as I have discovered. I help tías Norma and Diane feed the babies while keeping an eye on my group of three-year-olds with Tía Ruby.
Seija and Tía Ruby with their three-year-olds and legos
I saw one of the sweetest examples of sharing from one of the children today. It literally moved me to tears. One of the high chair babies, a little boy just barely over a year, who had ample food left on his plate, was feeding his mate in the next high chair, opening his own mouth every time his spoonful made its way into the little girl’s mouth, imitating a gesture mothers the world over make when feeding their little ones. :) The recipient was a chubby little girl who had quickly scarfed down her own lunch and was longingly looking at his. Even though this is probably against the rules, knowing how insistent the tías are that children eat everything on their own plates, I just could not intervene! If there is anything I wish to encourage and see more of in our world, it is sharing!
Maggie and one-year-old Jader, the precious little sharer
Neal, Suzanne, Tom, Katie, Maggie, and I head for our usual lunch spot, a welcome break for us all. It is not the first time we make note of the hard work involved in caring for so many children and we are developing a deep respect for the tías and the work they do each and every day! After lunch, we stop to buy groceries for the family whose home we will visit later in the afternoon. It is our way of saying ‘thank you’ for opening and sharing their home and lives with us. It is a most humbling experience to visit Gloria, a single mom, and her four children in their three-room rental home. Gloria works as a maid for less than $10.00 a day and by all appearances, is the main financial support for her family of five. It is a bleak existence by Western standards and yet, by all appearances, they are making life work for themselves somehow. Extended family is undoubtedly a comfort and a big support base. We are all somewhat subdued as Pilar drives us back to Sol de Quito.
The team with Gloria’s family
We enjoy a quiet spaghetti dinner ‘back at the ranch’, washed down with a smooth Chilean Cabernet. We make a toast to American Independence Day as yes indeed, it is July 4th!
In all aspects, be it via volunteering, lending a helping hand where needed, exploring its geographical terrain, walking its cobbly, uneven sidewalks and streets, observing the locals going about their daily lives, taking in a cultural performance, eating the many and varied delicious local produce, slurping down lunchtime soups with the ubiquitous popcorn croutons, attempting to learn Spanish or in turn, teaching English, our group continues in our quest to learn about the many tiers that make up this amazingly biodiverse country of Ecuador and its people.
I finish with a quote that is close to my heart. I do not know its source.  “It is up to the more able to help the less able.”
Entry submitted by: Seija Webb
Message of the day – Suzanne Pierce: “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.”  – Jill Jackson Miller and Sy Miller
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