The story of “the ladies of Calderón” is one of compassion and conviction, and the reason Global Volunteers works with them in partnership for children’s health and growth. The dedicated and dynamic women who first invited us to help them, and the resourceful mothers we serve today, demonstrate that investing in children is a foundational block in community development. It was through their insight in 1989 that the non-profit organization Fundación de Damas Calderonenses (FUNDAC) was founded. The mission of “The Foundation of Ladies of Calderón” was to improve the futures of children from impoverished working families in Calderón – a community of Quito, Ecuador. Today, with a staff of 14 teachers/caregivers and the help of Global Volunteers, they offer psychosocial support and education to students at two early childhood development centers.
FUNDAC member María de Lourdes (“Marujita”) Erazo shares a bit about the story of this special group of women in Ecuador who are our community partners: “Of the over 30 years of our history, 25 have been as a government-recognized non-profit foundation. I’ve been involved with FUNDAC since the beginning. We started this non-profit because we saw a need in our community, and felt compelled to do something. There were no low-income daycare options in Calderón at the time, and children were abandoned in the streets because their mothers had no place to leave them during the day when they went to work. Today we offer educational, medical, psychological, and social services to approximately 140 impoverished children at two childhood development centers. We also work with senior citizens offering social opportunities and support, including lectures on topics of particular value to seniors, as well as semi-annual day trips. Additionally, we offer social and sometimes medical support to the families of the children.”
FUNDAC sponsors two early childhood development centers that may be unlike those of the United States. The centers originally started as daycares so that single mothers could have a safe place to leave their children during the day to be able to go to work to provide for their families. The majority of the children served at the centers live in single-parent homes and most of the moms do not have a steady income and live in poverty. Paying for daycare would simply be impossible with the jobs that they are able to get. The women of FUNDAC understand this reality, and that’s why they have strived to provide a safe haven for children during the day for over three decades.
“Center Number 1,” the original center, is in the heart of Calderón – located off a busy street in a community building that has been loaned to the foundation by the city of Quito. They receive limited government funding, so they must raise the remainder for monthly operations of the center, including utilities, cleaning supplies, and teaching materials. Global Volunteers worked in this center for many years before and while the second center was being built, and has contributed to the maintenance of the building itself as well as the furniture and supplies for the classrooms.
For years, FUNDAC ran just the one center in the heart of Calderón, but could not meet the need in the community as they only had space for 60 children. After building a reputation for the good work they were doing in their community, FUNDAC was able to receive a loan from the parish government of Calderón to use a small building for the next thirty years. This building is located about a 20-minute walk from the center of Calderón in a more rural area. At the time FUNDAC received the loan, the building consisted of basically two rooms, and it was expanded to an entire first floor with a kitchen, four classrooms, an office, and two bathrooms, all with the help of Global Volunteers — team after team of eager volunteers who came to help create more safe spaces for children in Calderón. Then, a second story was built, creating a beautiful center with enough classrooms and nap rooms to accommodate 80 children. Needless to say, this construction project was a huge feat for FUNDAC. The women of FUNDAC smile with a nostalgic look of reminiscing in their eyes when recalling those years spent working with hundreds of Global Volunteers on this monumental project for their community.
When FUNDAC first started running the centers, they did so entirely independently. About ten years ago, the government decided it needed to be involved in overseeing how the centers are run. Over the years, the centers have evolved from daycare centers into early childhood development centers with a curriculum and meticulous educational planning. The government staffs each center with a coordinator, who is a government employee, to direct the educational activities. The young children are cared for, fed, and educated during their days at the centers.
While the government provides very limited funding for food and teachers’ salaries, they also put into place many requirements that must be fulfilled sometimes overnight, and no financial help is provided for meeting those requirements. For example, a few years ago the government decided that all of the toilets at the centers should be small ones so the children could use them more easily. They informed FUNDAC of this requirement, and FUNDAC had to comply within a few weeks. As a nonprofit run completely by the volunteer work of the members, FUNDAC simply does not have the funding for such projects. They asked Global Volunteers for help, and willing and able volunteers assisted in installing smaller toilets for the children on the next service program. FUNDAC member María de Lourdes Erazo says of this project, “We simply could not have done it on our own. Our funds are very limited. We thank Global Volunteers from the bottom of our hearts for helping us complete this important project so we can keep our centers open.”
“Women are the largest untapped reservoir of talent in the world.”– Hillary Rodham Clinton
The children at each center are divided into three groups according to age: 12 months to 2 years, 2 to 3 years, and 3 to 4 years. Since the centers provide food and education to approximately 140 children from economically impoverished backgrounds – with only a staff of 14 teachers to supervise and educate them – they welcome volunteers who can provide more one-on-one attention to the toddlers and children. Volunteers’ assistance helps ease the strain on the staff and during the children’s “nap” time, there’s even time for English lessons for the teachers!
The women running FUNDAC work completely voluntarily – no one receives a salary. They support the two centers while working and caring for their own families, and rely on funding and other support from various sources. This includes Global Volunteers as well as the provincial council – a Belgian corporation working with the regional Quito council. FUNDAC also carries out a variety of other fundraising activities, such as raffles and bingo nights, that mainly help to augment the existing government-subsidized salaries of their staff members. The government supplies the funding for meals for the children and monthly menus to ensure that their nutritional needs are met. The health center staff in Calderón visits the centers regularly to administer vaccines and to record height and weight in order to combat malnutrition.
“We simply could not have done it on our own. Our funds are very limited. We thank Global Volunteers from the bottom of our hearts for helping us complete this important project so we can keep our centers open.”– María de Lourdes Erazo, FUNDAC member
The economic support and “willing hands” of Global Volunteers’ team members are extremely valuable to FUNDAC, and the mothers of Calderón. They consider the partnership to be one of mutual collaboration, working hand-in-hand to help in their community. We honor and admire the women of FUNDAC, who so greatly value our volunteers and take such good care of them in their beautiful community.