Global Volunteers’ story of service in Ecuador began when we partnered with an incredible group of women who refused to turn a blind eye to the needs of struggling families in their community. In 1996, Global Volunteers accepted a pivotal invitation from FUNDAC to support them in childcare, education, nutrition, and labor projects to help raise children’s potential in Calderón, Ecuador. In this retrospective on more than two decades of service, the women of FUNDAC and Ecuador Country Maggie Bjorklund share the history of FUNDAC and Global Volunteers’ work in Calderón.
Calderón is part of Quito’s larger metropolitan district and is located about 30 minutes northeast of Quito’s center. The population of Calderón has grown significantly in the past decades largely due to migration into the capital from the northern provinces. Migrating families seek better jobs, healthcare, and education for their children. But low incomes make it impossible for parents to pay for private care for their children while working or looking for work. Given that many of these families struggle even to provide food for their children, a group of women in Calderón decided to do something to help. They founded FUNDAC (Foundation of Ladies of Calderón) in 1989. Although they weren’t legally recognized until 1993, they have worked tirelessly for over 30 years to improve the futures of children from impoverished working families in Calderón.
Today, with a staff of 14 teachers/caregivers and the help of Global Volunteers, they offer food, education, vaccinations, and psychosocial support for low-income families, prioritizing their services for working, single mothers and their children. FUNDAC President María de Lourdes (“Marujita”) Erazo describes their work: “We offer educational, medical, psychological, and social services to approximately 140 impoverished children at two child development centers. We also work with senior citizens offering social opportunities and support, including lectures on topics of value to seniors, as well as semi-annual day trips. Additionally, we offer social and sometimes medical support to the families of the children.”
Marujita further describes the significance of FUNDAC’s work: “Many families in Calderón earn only minimum wage, and the majority of the women are domestic workers, day laborers, and part-time workers. The early childhood development centers were created to give priority attention to families in Calderón who are in a situation of poverty, extreme poverty, and vulnerability. The families of the children who attend our children’s centers get up early to work outside the parish and their children cannot be left abandoned or locked in their homes. Since parents go out to work, their children need to be taken care of, be fed well, and receive affection, and their care is a priority since they are vulnerable people. It cannot be allowed for children under the age of three to be under the care of their “older” siblings with ages ranging from seven to eight years.”
Global Volunteers has partnered with FUNDAC since 1996. Volunteers assist FUNDAC staff caring for the children, feeding them, and helping maintain and build infrastructure for them. Alexandra Rosero, a teacher who works at one of the FUNDAC centers, explains how volunteers have been helpful caring for the children: “Since each of the volunteers show their affection and dedication towards the little ones, they help to improve the conditions of our children’s center. Their presence promotes a cultural and social exchange between all parties.”
“The early childhood development centers were created to give priority attention to families in Calderón who are in a situation of poverty, extreme poverty, and vulnerability. The families of the children who attend our children’s centers get up early to work outside the parish and their children cannot be left abandoned or locked in their homes.”– María de Lourdes Erazo, FUNDAC member
Volunteers also serve meals, feed the children, and thanks to volunteers’ donations, Global Volunteers also provides nutritional supplements. FUNDAC President Pilar Guzmán explains the importance of the latter: “Global Volunteers helps us with vitamins and necessary nutritional supplements to compliment the meals served daily so that we can have healthy children as well as motivate the little ones to consume nutritious foods.”
FUNDAC receives government funding for teachers’ salaries and the children’s meals, but not for any classrooms supplies or materials for maintenance on their centers. Often times, the government informs FUNDAC that they must make changes or upgrades to the facilities, but does not provide any funding to carry out the projects they require. FUNDAC relies largely on teams of Global Volunteers coming to provide the labor (with matched labor by Ecuadorians) and materials to perform maintenance on the centers. With volunteer assistance and donations, Global Volunteers helped FUNDAC construct the entire second floor of one of the centers, and right before the pandemic, a team of volunteers renovated the other FUNDAC childhood development center.
“Since each of the volunteers show their affection and dedication towards the little ones, they help to improve the conditions of our children’s center. Their presence promotes a cultural and social exchange between all parties.”– Alexandra Rosero, teacher at one of FUNDAC’s early childhood development centers
The women of FUNDAC deeply appreciate their partnership with Global Volunteers, love to work with volunteers, and eagerly hope for service programs to resume. In the words of Marujita, “Global Volunteers has helped with the time they have shared with our children and teachers and their face-to-face help with jobs and materials to improve infrastructure and educational areas for the children so that they have quality early education. They have helped immensely through much-needed projects and donations that we would not have been able to carry out without them.”
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