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 – the women who work at this center, day in and day out are so grateful for more hands and arms to to feed and hold children.
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.”
“It has encouraged me to spend more time with my kids just hanging out rather than ‘doing’ things all the time,” said Will, adding” That is what Ecuadorians consider ‘quality time’ – being with loved ones without necessarily doing anything special.”
“Chloe, Ellie, and I are working with the babies while Abby and Jocelyn are working with a group of two-year-olds,” Will continued. “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!”
Jocelyn continued: “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 said that while their first day “on the job” seemed overwhelming with the new surroundings, crying children, teachers who were strangers, and not a word of English being spoken, the daily routine soon became so familiar that the two weeks flew by. “By 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.”
“We ended our last 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!”