Our Volunteer Team Number 183 to Ecuador in July, 2019 helped our community partner, the Foundation of Ladies of Calderón (FUNDAC) carry out an extremely important renovation project. Read here about the history of this project and the struggle to provide a clean and safe place for disadvantaged children on the outskirts of Quito.
Global Volunteers’ community partner in Ecuador – Foundation of Ladies of Calderón (FUNDAC, in Spanish) – declared victory last summer when the municipal government of Quito relocated the Calderón marketplace next to the Early Childhood Development Center #1. For decades, the women of FUNDAC struggled with unwholesome activities outside their door.
The center feeds, nurtures, and educates some 60 children from impoverished families in the area. The only entrance and exit of the center was through the marketplace, where produce, fish, and even grilled cow intestines were sold each day. This wasn’t the original plan for either the market or the child center. Initially, it had been sighted for a distance behind the center – far back from the street and the children’s pathway. But, in time, vendors informally set up their produce right by the street entrance, all but blocking access to the child center for the 60 families who come to the center each day for services.
Ecuador has beautiful fresh produce markets and most Ecuadorians buy their fruits and vegetables at such open-air markets. Some markets are absolutely lovely, with fruits displayed and stacked in geometric figures and market vendors offering you a fresh taste of their sweet fruit. The market in Calderón, however, was covered in vegetable peels and crates and fish displayed in the equatorial sun. One day in 2015, the municipal government took action. They closed down the marketplace for an entire day to power-wash the whole market with the help of firefighters. After that, they clearly designated spaces for stalls.
The hope in the eyes of the women of FUNDAC and the teachers at the center was visible. These women had been dreaming of not having to struggle to enter their place of work each morning, and that the children would not have to pass through the uncleanliness of the market to come to their preschool each day. The municipal authorities indeed power washed the marketplace. With bright yellow paint, they designated a clear walkway and entrance into the early childhood development center, moving the selling spaces a few feet away from either side of the door. The market was clean and organized. The women of FUNDAC were thrilled that their years spent asking the government to act had finally rendered results.
The next day, the market vendors came back to work. By the end of the day, their crates and produce covered the yellow lines, and the walkway to the center door was no longer visible. The vendors took over what they thought were the best spaces to sell, and the government was once again absent. No enforcement of the regulations laid out the day before ever appeared. Filled with disappointment over the futility of their efforts and lack of action by the government, the women of FUNDAC went about what they had been doing for decades – caring for and educating the children in their community who needed it most and doing the best they could in the current circumstances.
The women of FUNDAC continued to lobby government authorities for help with the welfare of the children and families who came there each day. There was talk of a new marketplace, mention of a government project, but no definite decisions or details.
In 2018, the city government of Quito announced it was going to build a new marketplace for the vendors and people of Calderón. In July 2018, the city officials moved all the vendors (who didn’t go willingly at first) to a temporary location several blocks away, where the market could function for the next several months, or longer. It was a Thursday when the teachers showed up for work at the center to find, to their surprise, no market vendors outside. No trace of fish or cow intestines. No onion peels on the ground. No crates blocking their way into work. Some of the teachers had worked at the center for seven or eight years and had never seen the exterior of the building. It was covered every day by vendors and their produce, and the facade was not something they had even imagined. The women of FUNDAC knew that the market vendors had caused damage to their chain link fence, where the vendors would tie their tarps, as well as to their door. But when the facade was finally revealed after decades, they were all able to see how incredibly dilapidated the exterior of their building was. Construction of the new market commenced, and the women of FUNDAC knew that change was on the way.
It took several months for the market to be built and the pedestrian walkway, complete with a disability ramp in place of the old, slippery stairs, to be created. This walkway would connect two main streets in Calderón and provide a clear, open area outside the early childhood development center. In May 2019, the walkway was complete. Now, FUNDAC needed to make huge improvements to its exterior to match the new modern market building located behind the center. The building in which FUNDAC runs its early childhood development center is owned by the government of Calderón and is loaned to them as a space in which they can provide services to the community. This loan is soon up for renewal, and other interested parties have been trying to use their influence to secure the building loan for themselves, to use as a space to sell their goods. The women of FUNDAC knew that if they did not carry out large improvements to the exterior, they might lose the space. This would leave some 60 children without a safe, nurturing environment to be in while their mothers are at work each day. This was a top priority for FUNDAC. But, as a nonprofit organization that struggles to cover its basic costs, they did not have the funds to carry out this remodeling project on their own.
In May, FUNDAC spoke with Global Volunteers Ecuador Country Manager Maggie Bjorklund about the importance of this project and to request Global Volunteers’ assistance in carrying it out with them. Maggie was thrilled that a team of 15 volunteers, including one general contractor, was scheduled for July. Just enough volunteers were going to work on childcare with the teachers and just enough would work on this labor project outside, that all 15 volunteers could serve at Center #1. This worked out perfectly, because normally a team this size would serve at the larger Center #2 where there are 80 children. If one more volunteer registered for this service program and wanted to work on childcare, the team would have needed to serve at Center #2 or serve at the two centers. Fifteen was the magic number to be able to provide help in each of the six classrooms and have several volunteers working on the renovation project outside.
On July 6th, 15 volunteers on Team #183 arrived in Quito, ready to meet our community partners and get to work on what they had designated as one of the top priority projects in the last several years. After all, there was a lot at stake!
Each day, parents came to work with the volunteers on this important renovation project. Diana, one of the teachers at Center #1, coordinated the project each day with Team Leader Maggie Bjorklund. The first part of the project was to tile the walls of the exterior in order to fix moisture problems, a common ailment in building structures in Quito. Volunteers and parents chipped away at the wall to prepare it for tiling, mixed cement, put the cement on the walls, installed the tile, and grouted the tile.
Simultaneously, another group of volunteers and parents sanded and repainted the window grates to make them white instead of black, to match the white of the new pedestrian walkway. They left them looking new!
The other part of the project was to completely renovate the fencing and main entrance. This involved taking down the old, dirty chain link fence; chipping away at the bottom wall to make it even; cleaning off the metal bars purchased for the new fence; installing the new metal bars; and painting them white. After the new fencing was installed, it was time to make the white walls more lively and fun for the children. Fifteen-year-old Sofia offered up her artistic talent for drawing the murals. The teachers were so relieved to hear that there were volunteers who could help them draw the murals, and Sofia surprised everyone with her creativity and skill. Volunteer Lexi impressed everyone with her calligraphy skills and based on input from the women of FUNDAC, painted the name of the center and the logo of FUNDAC with the government logo on the tall wall at the very front entrance.
After the drawing was complete, volunteers and parents painted the murals together. Color quickly started to penetrate the exterior of the center, once filled with dust and dirt. The beautiful new mural reads “Bienvenidos” or “Welcome” in Spanish, with little children around each letter. Sofia painted her dog Trixie on top of the second “E”. The teachers loved having a part of their artist Sofia right in their mural.
“Some personal reflections: This being the second week of our service program and having heard the journals written and read by team members, our team goals appear to be well met as we worked hand and hand with individuals from the local community. We were an effective team in providing a meaningful constructive contribution that was visible and tangible in the Calderón community.”Don Balaban, Team Journal Entry
Team #183 to Ecuador worked hard alongside Ecuadorians to complete this extremely important project for FUNDAC. The exterior of the center, exposed after decades, is now clean, beautiful, and bright for the 60-some children who seek haven there each day. Way to go, FUNDAC and Global Volunteers!
“We are so grateful to Global Volunteers and this hardworking, dedicated, energized team of volunteers who came to help us complete this project that we could have never completed on our own. This project was a top priority for our organization in order to be able to continue providing services to the most needy of children in our community. We couldn’t have done it without you, and are so thankful for all your hard work over these two weeks. Thank you, friends. Thank you, Global Volunteers. We will carry you in our hearts.”María de Lourdes Erazo, FUNDAC president
Check out more about our Ecuador program here:
- MEDTRONIC WOMEN’S VOLUNTEER GROUP TRANSFORMS CHILDREN’S CENTER IN ECUADOR
- GLEEFUL CHILDREN PLAY AT WATER TABLE IN ECUADOR
- AN AMERICAN FAMILY MEETS AN ECUADORIAN FAMILY