Team #172 to Ecuador had the opportunity to visit the home of a child served at an early childhood development center in Calderón, on the northeastern-most border of the sprawling capital city of Quito nestled high in the Andes Mountains.
The two centers where Global Volunteers partners in Calderón are for disadvantaged families, and mainly for single mothers who, if they did not have this very low-cost option, would have no place to leave their children every day to be able to go to work to provide for their families. Team #172 to Ecuador visited the home of a Colombian refugee, now a single mother of two, who had endured horrors in her homeland before seeking refuge in neighboring Ecuador.
Susana*, a single mother of two, received the team in her home, which is actually a small place of business. A hanging sheet separates the front business from the sleeping quarters in the back. Susana is a refugee from Colombia who shared her story of problems with the guerilla in Colombia; how she feared the guerilla would take her son to train him as a guerilla fighter; how she didn’t know the true identity of her mother until she was twelve years old; how her mother still rejects her because she has a darker complexion than that of her sisters; how she was raped and became pregnant with her son at 16; how she eventually fled to Ecuador and was granted refugee status; how the police have been involved in domestic disputes at her home; and now how she is struggling every day to provide for her two children completely on her own by making simple food items to sell.
Volunteer Zaira wrote about this experience with little three-year-old Sofía* and her mother, Susana:
“Once Susana came to pick up Sofía, we all greeted her and walked with her to her home. I did not know what to expect at the home visit. In my mind, I thought it was going to be a normal conversation of questions and answers. I was not expecting us to be moved to tears and seeing her emotion when she told us her life story. It was a very hard and heart-wrenching story to hear, but it was also eye-opening. Susana’s story showed me that we cannot control the things that happen to us in our lifetime, but we can control the way we react to them. To me, Susana is a firm example of a fighter, a strong mother, and an amazing individual who did not let her circumstances determine her future or her children’s future. I know my team and I are very thankful for her telling us her story. This experience has helped me to deeply realize who we are working with at FUNDAC and how the teachers and the ladies of FUNDAC are giving the children there the safe environment they need to prosper and grow. I am very thankful that FUNDAC has opened their doors to Global Volunteers so they too can work with teachers to achieve the same goal.”
This team of five volunteers and their team leader felt honored and privileged to be welcomed into Susana’s home with her children and to be able to spend an hour with Susana, hearing her story and learning about her family. Team Leader Maggie Bjorklund, who has been leading teams in Ecuador for seven years and has conducted many family visits with volunteers, says it was one of the most heart-wrenching home visits she has ever been on. Susana’s story of survival and fight to provide a better future for her children is deeply inspiring. Maggie says the volunteers came away from that visit with a true sense of the importance of their volunteer work in Calderón.
“This experience has helped me to deeply realize who we are working with at FUNDAC and how the teachers and the ladies of FUNDAC are giving the children there the safe environment they need to prosper and grow.” – Volunteer Zaira, University of Iowa
While at the two early childhood development centers, 140 children are cared for, educated, played with, kept clean, and fed (many times!) each day. Without this almost no-cost daycare option for their children, many single mothers would have no one to leave their children with to be able to go to work to provide for their children. Susana’s daughter, Sofía, gets the nutrition, education, and care she deserves while her mom works each day to provide for Sofía and her older brother. Maggie recounts that many volunteers comment that playing with and caring for the children is so much fun, and the volunteers receive so much love from the children, that it usually doesn’t seem like work at all. In the larger context of things, as shown through home visits with families like Susana’s, it is evident that the work of FUNDAC – Global Volunteer’s community partner – and Global Volunteers in the community of Calderón is monumental in providing a safe, caring, and nurturing environment for impoverished children, such as beautiful Sofía.
*Names have been changed to protect privacy.
You might also like these posts on volunteering in Ecuador: