Ecuador Team #156: July 12 – 26
The 156th team to Ecuador since 1996 was comprised of one family – the Challas family. Will, Jocelyn, Abby, Chloe, and Ellie came to Ecuador to serve the 60 children and six staff at the daycare center in Calderón, Quito, Ecuador. Will and Jocelyn’s daughters – ages 13, 10, and 7 – were able to help in so many ways at the center. With only six staff members for 60 children – that is one woman for ten babies in the baby room at Center #1 – the women who work at this center, day in and day out caring for the children, are so grateful for more hands to feed and more arms to hold.
In the afternoons Jocelyn led conversational English classes for the tías, which is how the daycare center staff are affectionately referred to. She says of this time: “Although less time was spent on the English lessons, those hours will be some of the most memorable because of the laughter we shared and friendships we started, despite language and cultural differences.” The time the tías are able to spend together in the afternoon to learn something new is time cherished by each one of them. Not to mention how much fun they have while doing so!
Here is what Will has to say about what he learned about Ecuadorian culture and how this experience might impact his life: “It has encouraged me to spend more time with my kids just hanging out rather than ‘doing’ things all the time.” That is what Ecuadorians consider ‘quality time’ – being with loved ones without necessarily doing anything special.
Will wrote the following regarding working with the babies in his journal entry: “Chloe, Ellie, and I are working with the babies while Abby and Jocelyn are working with a group of two-year-olds. As we enter the baby room, I have no idea what to do with babies let alone babies that are not used to men during the day (all of the tías are women) and have no understanding of English. It is really not a problem. Turns out playing with babies is universal. We ‘play’ with blocks, balls, dolls, toys, etc. We help wash hands, clean runny noses, and generally keep them busy.” And boy do the babies love the attention!
Another excerpt from Will’s journal entry: “It is hard to believe today is our last full day at the daycare center. The two weeks have flown by. We are all in our own routines and have gotten accustomed to some of the life in Quito…all of which will be missed once we return home. One of the things I will miss is the morning drive to the center and coming over the hill to see the valley and Cotapaxi and Cayambe (on clear days) standing tall.”
Jocelyn’s journal entry for the final day: We started our last day with Global Volunteers like all the others: a delicious breakfast at the hotel with a quick Morning Meeting including the Message of the Day and a journal reading, followed by the drive to Calderón with our driver-turned-friend, Pilar. When we walked into the daycare for the last time, it seemed hard to believe only two weeks had past. While our first day seemed overwhelming with the new surroundings, crying children, teachers who were strangers, and not a word of English being spoken, the last day we felt right at home. We knew the daily schedule, and we were able to communicate well with one another. The teachers had become our friends, and the children had stolen our hearts.
“During morning activities, Will, Maggie, and our older girls stole away to buy some things for the center to donate. They came back with several bags of cleaning supplies, toilet paper, toothbrushes and toothpaste, paper, pens, crayons, stickers, hula-hoops, and a soccer ball. Later in the day after lunch, we bought flowers and chocolate for the tías. A dozen roses cost only a dollar! After nap time, the tías and children led a special program for us, after some kind words by Elvia, the director of FUNDAC. The children sang and danced adorably, and then the tías dressed up as nuns for their very entertaining dance to a merengue song. Our family then danced to the Macarena and brought the tías up to join us. We then gave the tías our gifts, and they presented us with gifts as well. Each class had made something very special and thoughtful for us. It was very sweet and unexpected, and we will always treasure their gifts. Finally, we presented Elvia and the other FUNDAC members with our donations, and they were very appreciative.
“We ended our day with our final English class, where we gave the tías a “final exam.” They each completed and read a short paragraph in English, covering the concepts we had learned over the past few weeks. Then we asked them to sing “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes” followed by “The Hokey Pokey” together, without our help. They did great and we all had a lot of laughs. After taking plenty of pictures and exchanging addresses, we said our goodbyes with lots of hugs and fond farewells. We had a wonderful experience in Ecuador and at the FUNDAC daycare center, and we will never forget the special time we spent with the staff and children. It was an amazing “volunteer vacation!”
Ecuador is one of our programs where children can be of great service. The daycare centers we serve in Calderón, Ecuador care for children from nine months to three years of age, and they are very short staffed. Even young volunteers, such as the girls on this team, are instrumental in providing extra hands to feed, arms to hold, and smiles to share.