Thursday, October 8, 2009

"May the world go around with your smile- unknown

Calderon, Ecuador

So I’m going to start out my journal entry with a little excerpt of my own personal journal, outlining my two goals from our first day together. As you may or may not have noticed, I tend to talk a lot, so here’s the unabridged version of my three-word goals:

I think there’s a big difference between learning about children and learning from children. There’s something we can all learn from the naivety of young children. Ignorance is bliss, right? They have so little- practically nothing- yet their joy is infectious and inspiring. It’s something I can’t wait to witness firsthand, I think the idea of it will sink deeper and allow me to be more grateful- or at least aware- of the privilege I have.

If I can help bring joy to others, I think I will personally be more content with myself, and note further whatever I will be able to get out of with the idea of simplistic joy that I talked about with my other goal. I don’t care who it is that I make smile; I just want to make people smile, to see that tangible form of joy- even if just for a second.”

And I think I expected it to be as easy as that. Easy smiles and piggy back rides. What I failed to recognize— and tend to always do because of expectations I unconsciously set—is that it’s a hell lot more than that. I think I expected to be in a state of utter admiration at these children, but what I didn’t realize was that I wouldn’t have time to stand back in admiration. Runny noses, incessant crying, legos being thrown, running with scissors… and all progress hindered by the language barrier.
It’s been a lot of work, and for me, hardly with enough time to reflect. Other team members have helped me realize throughout the past week that I’ve been trying too hard, and I have to just let the kids come to me. Our team goals really ring true with me, I think. I have to find patience within myself instead of wasting my energy trying to please everyone else. And it really has gotten easier since then.
Sure, Anthony—the four year old who many of you know as the one with the mushroom haircut who craves attention—spent the entire interval between breakfast and snack today crying for no apparent reason, but he eventually stopped. And that’s all there is to it. In that time, I wasn’t able to make Anthony stop crying, or even help him focus on his artwork. But in that time, I got to know some of the other children better instead of devoting all my energy on just one of the seven. And that’s how we have to look at it.
I find it hard to be gratified with the work we are doing, and constantly find myself wondering whether or not I am making a big difference in these people’s lives. I find myself living life as a series of memories in the making… Always thinking about how I can’t wait to share the stories and the photos. I need to start focusing on breathing, on living in the moment. I’m waiting to get something out of this experience, expecting not only to be able to run an extra mile when I get home because of the altitude difference, but also, like I said in my goals, to be more aware and gracious.
I think once I start focusing on the present moment, I will begin to learn to be more tolerant of Anthony’s tears, Abel’s tendencies to not listen, and all the other quirks of the other children.
A singer named Jonah Matranga, who one of my really good friends back at home knows personally once said:
“I am most definitely naive, and proud of it. I am also very pragmatic and rational, but I think being naive, keeping that child-like core, is important for keeping any sort of moral center.”
And once I learn to keep my child-like core, I will begin to joyfully serve the children.

By Zoe

If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost. There is where they should be. Now put foundations under them.

-Henry David Thoreau

Hasta Luego!

"The reasonable man adapts himself to the world, the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man." -George Bernard ShawBuenos nochesThis report is brought to you from Once ' 11 aka, StanleyHave your coffee, this is a two partner.Ecuador, a land of ancient culture and modern technology bridging the gap as it straddles the equator, looking for true North, Upward mobility. A land of artisans, street vendors, and centuries old cathedrals and beautiful museums. Shopping malls of upscale brands sprouting like new blades of grass in the valley of Quito ' 200 years Free.We Global Volunteers who came from East and West USA. Came to Ecuador to be of service to the babies, learn the culture, and to support the people. This past week, we have cleaned and feed and nurtured the babies of Calderon. In return, we have been showered by the babies with smiles, laughter, tears, and looks of love. We have washed walls, cleaned carpets and wondered, Is this the service I signed up for...and at the end of the day, we smiled at each other and verbally and non'verbally said, YES IT IS!, Job well done.We have fretted and worried about the safety of the children. The seesaws, and concrete playgrounds. will it hurt one of our Charges, but we see they survive and flourish and smile. They smile with the innocence of babies.This weekend our team spread out to various parts of Ecuador from Octovala, to the rain forest, to the thermal spa of Papallacta. And as we start this second week, we sadly say goodbye to four of our beloved team. We say adios to mother and Son, Margaret and Tayte, aka Marten, and mother and daughter, Marsha and Sara. they will be missed. Hasta Luego.


"Someone to tell it to is one of the fundamental needs of human beings." -Miles Franklin

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The rich and the poor meet together, the Lord is the maker of them all.

Just what are those Calderon children made of?
Is it snakes and lizards and puppy dog tails?
Is it sugar and spice and everything nice?
Just what are those Calderon children made of?
Is it hugs and kisses,
Smiles and near misses?
Is it potty chairs and banos
Runny noses and manos?
Is it crayons and cut outs
Playing hard and sleep outs?
Eating it all
The bananas the salads the soups
Is it holding lightly to tia’s shirt
While waiting for
Mama, papa, hermano, o abuela?
I know
Calderon children are made of hugs and kisses
And loving each of us
Both the misters
And the misses

By Pat

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Ecuadorian Leaders Request Your Service

FUNDAC (Fundacion de Damas Calderonenses) is an organization legally constituted since 1993, is conformed by 20 voluntary women whose mission is offering social help to the needy classes of Calderón, specially worker women, poor children and old people. The social services help that we bring are centered exclusively in the Day Care center Nuestra Señora del Carmen, now we have two functional local that harbor 130 poor children whose ages go from the 3 months of age to the 5 years old. We also work with people mature adults for who we offer Shops of growth and identification of their list of third age with recreational and occupational days.

Welcome to Calderón!
Calderón is a rural communiy in Quito’s Metropolitan District, are located to the north from the capital to 30 minutes of distance, its climate is dry of nature, with temperatures of up to 30ºC. The population has increased in these last 10 years due to their benign climate.
Calderón is characterized for bread handcrafts and for carved in wood being these of national and international recognition. Their people are kind and simple, at the same than other places here it has migrant indigenous population that left their children under the care of third people and to who we also offer our contingent of social help.

The day care centers are located in the first one in center of Calderón next to the Municipal Market and the modern local N. 2 in San Rafael's sector

From the year of 1998 we have the great opportunity to have the help of Global Volunteers, their annual brigades have left us samples of shared work, solidarity, friendship and mainly its economic contingent has been good for the execution of construction projects.
We should indicate that yours generous contribution in this last season has been excellent to finish the first one and second plant of the new construction of the local N. 2 located in the neighborhood San Rafael to 2 kilometers of the center of Calderón, in a same way the donations of educational material for the good operation and attention to the benefitted children.

Our recognition and gratitude for all the volunteers that visited us, to their directors and coordinators that every day is pending of our necessities a thank you infinite, God blesses.

Lourdes Erazo

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The 133rd Calderon Brigade

The 133rd Calderon Brigade

(“Personal relations are the important thing for ever and for ever, and not this outer life of texting and twittering (sic). E. M. Forster, Howards End).
[Notwithstanding, here is the twittering.]

Well here we are in Quito
With goals and expectations
So we can serve the children
We gave up our vacations.

We’re tended well by Edith
She keeps us well apprised
Of where to be and when and how
She fears being too surprised.

Michelle’s a GV veteran
She keeps us all enthralled
She brought along two friends
She’s the mentor to them all.

Maggie tagged along
To give volunteering a try
She’s the trio’s photographer
For a shot she has a fine eye.

Emily appears quite stalwart
And claims to be a bit shy
But behind the formal manner
A soul of warmth will catch your eye.

Kara served in Tanzania
She has a pleasing manner
She approaches work quite carefully
To her problems do not matter.

Ashley can be hard to please
She’s bound up blue and firm
With children she’s not easy
So she picked a shorter term.

Lori is bold and wide open
She liked to hang out with the boys
She’s a hit with all who meet her
But was embarrassed by the birthday noise.

The first week went by quickly
And we learned the ropes quite well
To those departing early
We bade a fond farewell.

Kathy ventured the farthest
To join our merry team
She liked the shops in Otavalo
Of Ecuadorian sopa she is not keen.

Sarah smiles oh so coyly
She retired at twenty-eight
She has a fear of running water
And trusting South America with her fate.

Laura slipped in late on Sunday
With her a suitcase of gifts
With Andre she toured the Old Town
And from her we all get a lift.

Sonali’s a gracious young woman
And time with her really flies
When her father gets his hands going
She tries her best not roll her eyes.

Arun is Sonali’s father
A most gregarious fellow
He has a keen eye for a bargain
A Bond fan he’s the fellow to follow.

Margaret is quite particular
Not a thing out of place in her house
Her son throws his socks helter skelter
And her waffles come out like Mickey Mouse.

The writer of this little ditty
Seems at times to just go along
But if you dare put a mike in his hand
He’ll break out into some kind of song.

Martin talked us off to Otovalo
And advised us all to look about
The Indians are mighty shrewd merchants
And the goblins will get you if you don’t watch out!

We made a stop at the equator
And we were told the reason why
This is the best place for viewing
But have you seen a star in the sky?

Sunday was our day of rest
And a chance to go it alone
Some shipped off to Mindo
A trip from “Romancing the Stone.”

And who can forget Mosaico
With its constellation of light
We harked back to La Mitad del Mondo
And thought the guide may be partially right.

I trust that all’s been accounted for
I know our work is finally done
We all gave the best that we had
And will leave with the rising sun.

(June 26, 2009)

Written and dedicated to the team by Guillermo

"I am happy"

Quote of the Day: “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” – Mark Twain

We all have many reasons for coming on this trip: for choosing Ecuador over China, for choosing Global Volunteers over some travel agency for a tourist-like vacation; for wanting to work with small children rather than adults.

I chose to come to Ecuador through Global Volunteers for many reasons, but probably primarily because I felt I needed to step out of my life for a while, and see things from a different perspective. It’s easy to get stuck only seeing yourself and your own experiences.

I thought that coming to Ecuador would feel like I was being transported into another world, but really, Quito and the people I have seen and heard about aren’t very different than me as individuals. It seems that the politics and the economic state of our world divide us more than anything else.

Little Abel in Rincon Construcciones is just as mischievous as many boys that age in the preschool class my son Cainen was in. Naomi is just as quiet and shy as my daughter. Melanie, Aidan, Kerly, Wendy, and Jonathan all want love and attention like any child does.

And as Sarah told Andres in the car the other day on our way to the show: when asked how Ecuador is so different than the United States, I paused and couldn’t think of what to say. She said (maybe somewhat jokingly) “everyone here speaks Spanish.” Maybe that really is the biggest difference (at least for a white, English-only-speaking American)

I have felt the stress that sat in my chest from my problems with my job and family loosen over the past week, and I have been reminded that I need to count my blessings. I am reminded by hearing the stories of so many people and working with the children the past four days, that we have more in common than we sometimes think.

Edith told us this morning to recognize the times which we are happy, instead of always feeling that our happiness is in the future or incomplete. And to name those moments by simply saying “I am happy.” Two weeks ago I would not have been able to say that, but right now, I think I can honestly say- “I am happy.”

Written by Cara

"Go with the flow"

The day started off with a hearty breakfast, as usual. With the arrival of Laura from Lexington, MA, our motley 13-member volunteer team was complete!

Edith, our ebullient host, briefed us on the protocols to follow on our first day at the children’s center: no photos until later in the week, willingness to be deployed to any chore at any time, and splitting the donations between the two centers.

After breakfast, we boarded our bus. With the bus’s sliding windows, rattling window panes, its jerky movements during gear shifts, and its thick diesel fumes, I was reminded so much of India. Actually there are so many facets of this lovely country that remind me so much of India that in spite of having been here only for 2 days, I feel right at home here!

We arrived at a fruit market right in the heart of Calderon. After a few steps through the market, we got into guardería #1, with that childish excitement of meeting the children at the center. As soon as we walked in, we were greeted by a loud chorus of ¡Hola! It is really amazing how universal some things are, when it comes to children’s behavior! After a quick “lottery”, Edith split the team into two, one for each center. All of us walked to the second center, and on the way, we got a glimpse of the neighborhood. It is a poor neighborhood, but all the people we met were so warm and welcoming. Gosh, I already love this country! We toured center #2, and inspected the ongoing construction work. Michelle, a returning volunteer, commented on how much progress had been made since she had last been here, a year ago.

The people assigned to center #1 walked back to their center and we assumed our respectively assigned duties. I was in Rincon Ciencia, with Tiá Elisabeth. The initial half hour was a little challenging, as I was trying to recall some of the Spanish words I had learned from the guidebook. One of the kids quickly picked up “OK” – I assume I had used it so much without thinking about it, that she caught on to its meaning! I helped Elisabeth with some tracing work, and then helped the kids with some drawings. Thank God I knew the words for cloud, sun, sky and rain!

We helped the tiá’s serve the kids’ lunch, and after the kids were all settled in, we walked down the street to a neighborhood restaurant for lunch. In the afternoon, we helped cut out some patterns that were going to be used to make hats for a park outing later in the week.

At the end of the day, I was exhausted (the 9300 ft. elevation didn’t help.) But the fact that the tiá’s worked so hard day in and day out gave me the strength to continue. Come to think of it, I will be back in Palo Alto in 2 weeks’ time, and these women will still be working in this challenging environment. In a lot of ways, all the women in this center really inspire me to work hard every day of my life; in a funny way, they are helping me, rather than the other way around.
Written by Arun

Sunday, June 21, 2009

No Act of Kindness is ever too small.

A delightful celebration was given for us by the children of #2
Daycare to end our two weeks of service. The children including the babies were dressed in costumes as they danced and sang. The time to leave was sad but they gave us good feelings of being appreciated and needed. Even with the lack of material goods, the children were very loving and especially well behaved. It was an unforgettable experience our time in Ecuador.
Global’s leader, Edith, has a gift of caring and makes service an easy task. Her energy was endless, her time and skills very much needed to keep the program organized and the work enjoyable.
The lodging was quaint and the food was the best we ate in Ecuador!

Written by Laural

Secong week.. here we go!

“Ability is what you’re capable of doing.
Motivation determines what you can do.
Attitude determines how well you do it.”
Week number two for Laural and I started out just as it had last week, with breakfast, reading of the journal and a brief meeting. It was exactly like last week except that we were missing Roberta and Brittany. As we split our services between the two daycares this week, we really missed Roberta, with her excellent motherly skills and Brittany, with her endless energy and enthusiasm for the kids and the work. We dropped Laural off at the daycare number one and Edith and I headed off to our new home for this week, daycare number two. We walked into bright new faces yelling HOLA and immediately we felt at home. Although every tias probably could have used our help, Lilly assigned us to work with Cristina who’s in charge of the under 2 year old group. We were amazed by Cristina’s efficiency in running the daycare number two. She was warm and caring but also firm and commanded the attention of all the kids. She quickly had Edith and I working, getting kids cleaned up and playing. We found daycare number two to be more organized and hygienic, which only made me that much more impatient to have the construction of the second floor completed quickly so that they can accommodate more kids here. After helping with lunch and clean up, Edith and I quickly trekked back to daycare number one to pick up Laural for lunch where we got much wanted update on the kids of daycare number one. It seemed that because of the election yesterday, both daycares had less number of kids than usual. When Laural returned to daycare number one, she found out that one of the babies that were sick earlier in the morning had gone home. The afternoon flew by, with Edith and I cutting out letters for the rincons and other rooms and Laural continuing to care for the babies and washing their bibs. The team returned to the hotel and rested a bit before our cooking demonstration from Lusmila who showed us how to cook the traditional Ecuadorian chicken soup. We will definitely be making a trip to SuperMaxi to pick up some seasonings that we can’t get in the states to make this soup!
Written by Rim

First service day...


“Where you end up isn’t the most important thing. It’s the road you take to get there. The road you take is what you’ll look back on and call your life.”

We began our first service day with breakfast and a brief meeting. I’m proud and surprised to report that we departed on time at precisely 8:00 am. The trip through Quito to Calderon was uneventful except for the fact that our van was the size of a large shoebox. The daycare center is located right off the local market thorough fare. Needless to say, the area is very poor. Our arrival commenced with a briefing from Lilly, the center’s director. We were given a brief tour. Much to our delight, eager and enthusiastic faces greeted us with shouts of HOLA! The team, led by Lilly, took the 10 minute walk to center II. Scott, the rooftop guard dog announced our arrival. Once again, the warm welcome was a complete joy. All the smiling faces and waves and shouts of HOLA make us all that more eager to start working with the children. In fact, some team members, (Brittany) were getting a little impatient to start. After our tours of center II, we headed back to center I. We quickly sorted and catalogued the donated goods, then headed off to our “rincones,” Laural with the babies, Rim in Lecteurs, Brittany in Art and myself in Construction. The children rotate “rincones” in 30 minute intervals so we had the opportunity to work with a wide age group of children. At 12:00, mayhem broke out as it was lunch time for the children. Thank god the children are the most cooperative, helpful, independent little sours. If it weren’t for their easy nature, feeding 40 kids would be a lot more difficult then it was. The children willingly line up, use the bathroom, wash their hands and carry their chairs to their assigned tables. Truth be told, you would never find this degree of cooperation in Daycare centers in the states. I was surprised to see that the “Clean Plate Club” rules here. The children must finish all their food! After lunch, the stuffed and exhausted children nap 6 to a bed. The equally exhausted members of team #132 headed off for lunch. At 2:00, we returned to help clean. Everyone pitches in, floor sweeping, bed making, mopping, dishes, even taking blankets outdoors to wash the old fashioned way. After clean up, the children must be spruced up; hairs combed, hands and faces washed and clothes straightened, all in anticipation of parent arrivals. At this point, Mari was waiting to transport us home. In the sprit of Ecuadorian warmth and generosity, Mari gave Lilly a ride to her destination, only to drop her off and pick up another passenger, only to drop her off and pick up yet another fare – but the most important – her 7 year old son, Ronnie. Upon arrival at our hotel, some of us rested while others ventured out to the mall and SuperMaxi, a very special outing for Rim as living as a single New Yorker, she never actually sees a grocery store.
Dinner was followed by a “38th” birthday celebration for Rim. She wished to celebrate January Birthday in Ecuador but couldn’t. So….better late than never. The evening ended with all going to sleep with the happy faces of the children in our memories. What an extraordinary impression they leave on us.

Written by Roberta

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Saturday, June 20th, 2009

We landed in Quito almost a week ago. The arrival was uneventful, if you exclude the chaos at baggage claim, with baggage spread all over the piddly claim area. After 20 minutes, including walking on a (stopped) conveyor belt, I got all the bags and we left. I had not had the thrill of walking on a conveyor belt in a long time!! The view upon stepping outside the airport building was like what one I´d see in India: huge billboards spread out over the entire width of the airport wall, people all over the place. Our van was not more than a 100 ft from the building, but I was panting like a dog in heat by the time I got into the van (rule no. 1: take it easy when you´re not acclimated to the 9300 ft altitude, and let someone else carry more of the baggage).

We are in a tourist-class hotel along with 11 other American volunteers. The volunteer team is a motley crew, from all parts of the USA, and also includes a woman who lives in Kuwait.

The hotel is more like a very big house, with very traditional indigenous decorations and fittings throughout. It also has a piano in the restaurant, so on some days, we get entertained by the guests. The staff is very friendly, and the one I have gotten to know well is a matronly black lady called Cherito. Cherito now lets me use the microwave in the hotel kitchen, to heat up my morning coffee. Unlike Rani (the Tamil lady we had in Madras during last year's trip, whom I could understand), I have no clue what Cherito says to me. I think she still hasn´t figured out that I don´t speak Spanish that well, and don´t understand most of what she´s saying. In addition to the 13 volunteers, there is also a bunch of Mexicans here who work for Toyota. They all speak pretty good English, so needless to say, hanging out in the lobby in the evening is a lot of fun.

Our local host is a really ebullient Peruvian woman, who looks so Indian that I´d have believed her if she told me her name was Vijayalakshmi. As it turns out, her name is Edith (that´s EH-DEETH). Edith is a wonderful person, sensitive to all the people´s needs, and coordinates all aspects of our visit.

On Monday, we all got ready and boarded the bus to Calderon, 15 miles out of Quito. With its sliding, rattling windows, its jerky movements during gear shifts, and its belching diesel fumes, the bus reminded me of being in India. Calderon is a small town, not unlike Shiddlaghatta or any other small town in India. Access to the child care center where we volunteer requires going through a market selling all kinds of vegetables, meats, and some fruits I have never seen before. There are also a lot of stray dogs all over the place, so overall, that market is an odd blend of a market in India and one in Africa (the women carrying babies wrapped in cloth on their backs reminds me of Africa.)

The child-care center has children of all ages, from 6 months to 5 years. The first half of Monday was a bit of a challenge. As you can imagine, for a guy used to speaking Spanish only when ordering cold beer or hot coffee in Mexico, it was hard to tell the kids to sit down, not hit, stand, sit, eat, drink, cross hands, cross legs, etc.) With the help of a dictionary, the nanny in the room (and Sonali who´s thankfully in the same center as I), I have now gotten to the point of being able to speak enough of the language, to get the kids to do what I want. One really cute little girl, Carolina, corrects me when I mis-speak, so that helps as well. She has also started saying "OK", which is really cute. Phew, speaking in Tamil to the kids in Madras last summer was so much easier.

Quito is a compact town, and once we got over the horrible altitude-induced headaches (rule no. 2: think like an elephant, and DRINK LOTS OF WATER from day 0), we got to explore the city in our free time. The people are incredibly friendly and welcoming. There are a lot of people here who can pass of as (Asian) Indians, so Sonali and I don´t stand out at all. On the first day we were in the mall, a man behind me overheard me struggling to order something at the cafe. After I´d ordered, he must have figured out I wasn´t fluent in Spanish, and asked me if I was from India. I said I was, whereupon he gave me a big pat on the back, and said that the Ecuadorean people respected Indians (at least that´s what I think he said.) What better welcome to this country!

Because of the altitude, the place is refreshingly free of mosquitoes and other critters, in spite of being very close to the equator. Night times require sweaters, and going to bed requires warm blankets (I think the receptionist at the hotel must have been amused when I landed up at the hotel and asked if the rooms had air conditioning.) The weather really is fickle, and when the guidebooks said that one could see warm, dry, wet and cold in one day, they were not kidding. Edith jokingly said that the Quito weather was like men: unpredictable. I was wondering whether the men had an opposite perspective,-)) Talking of sweaters, I noticed that the locals were pretty well-dressed, and I looked really bad in my sheepskin jacket, so I (finally) bought a sweater that I now wear out.

Some things in the city are ridiculously cheap: a cab ride across town costs $3, a vegetarian dinner at an Indian place for 3 people cost us $8, and petrol is $1.50 a gallon. On the other hand, alcohol is very expensive ($65 for a 750 ml bottle of JW Black Label whisky, $40 for a bottle of tequila that I wouldn´t even bother to look at in California, $25 for a bottle of wine from Chile, that happens to be just down the coast.) Thankfully, in order to avoid the problems due to altitude, I haven´t had a drop of alcohol since I landed here, so no loss on this front. Some of the Americans complained about the traffic, the bumpy roads and the uneven sidewalks. I told them that coming from India, this place looks so tame!!

We have now gotten used to this place and the routine now: daily briefings at breakfast, fresh juice from fruits I have never heard of, the trip in the rattling bus and the loud ¡Hola! from the wonderful children every morning. En-route, I look at the 18000 ft Pichincha volcano, which, relative to Quito´s altitude, looks like a large hill than a really high-up volcano. Since it was only 10 years ago that it erupted and spewed ash over the city, crippling it, I also pray to Pichincha, so he stays dormant, at least while I am still around here ,-)))

I can't believe it has been almost a week since we landed up here. I feel so settled down that it feels like I have lived here for years. Why is it so? Is it the country, the lovely people, or just me? I suspect it´s the first two. But I know that once I land in Palo Alto, it will feel like I never weird.

- as

Friday, February 13, 2009

As We Say Good-bye (for now) to Calderon

Message of the Day - Jennie Taylor
A child points out to you the direction and then you find your way.
(Kenyan Proverb)

We again received a warm welcome and this morning with many of the niños calling out our names. The morning went by quickly with each of us in our respective rooms - holding babies, coloring, teaching and learning vowels in Spanish, calming the sad ones, brushing teeth, and giving and receiving hugs. (The children are very affectionate.) Then the music began - we all danced. The Tías especially enjoyed this part of the day and almost every child was spinning around to the Latin beat.

Lunch was a real treat to watch - we learned very quickly that the kids don't like beets. The staff tries very hard to prepare balanced meals but four year olds have their way sometimes. There were piles of beets on the floor. Shortly before our lunch, we visited the home of Abel and Aidem and met their mother Anana and their sister Isabella. They are a poor family who live in a very small one bedroom apartment. It was quite an experience to connect with the family of two little boys we were all quite fond of. The balance of the afternoon was quiet time for all of us as the little ones slept. Before returning to the hotel we prepared crafts for the next days activities.

We have all gotten to know each other and many of the children... and it's sad to go. Julie has written a touching summary of our time spent with the little ones cared for by FUNDAC that I am sure we all agree with. "The last two weeks in Ecuador has been an incredible experience. I love children and I have always wanted to do something that would have an impact on the lives of less fortunate children. Working with the children of the two day care centers has been fun, challenging and very rewarding for me. I hope that I have given the children a feeling of being loved with my help, many hugs and lots of smiles. I pray that God will take care of these children."
- Ed Collins

Our team's contribution to the United Nations Millennium Development Goals: 290 hours of volunteer child care to 82 infants and pre-schoolers. We're proud to help improve children's welfare in Ecuador through Global Volunteers!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Week Two in Calderon: More Babies!

Message of the Day - Rita Lakmann
Every time you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing. (Mother Teresa)

Buenos Días! We entered Guardería de Nuestra Señora del Carmen #1 and the children shouted this familiar greeting. After working with about 35 children and 6 tias last week in Day Care Center #2, we were anxious to meet the new tías and nearly 50 children in Center #1. We helped the tías serve a somewhat chaotic breakfast, and then eased into our placements. Today was Tía Mariela and Tía Jenny's first day on the job, so our extra hands were much needed.

Highlights from the morning....Edwardo and Tía Mariela spent several hours with the 12 babies in the Rincón de Bebés. Ed had the rare privilege of witnessing one boy's first steps. Julie and Tía Gakz played games indoors with the 2 year olds, and Claudia patiently drew apples for Tía Paty and the children in the Rinion de Construccion. It is difficult to catch Claudia and Julie without a child in their arms! Pamela and Tía Jenny worked with a very active group of 3 year olds, and helped them glue foam pieces onto pictures. Rita, Tía Olga and Tía Germania made sure all children ate a delicious breakfast, lunch and refrigerio. Olga and Germania ensured that Rita thoroughly washed and rinsed the dishes. The women in the kitchen enjoyed music while they cooked! Jennie and Tía Ruth helped another class of 3 year olds sting pieces of straws onto yarn and tied the bracelets onto the children's tiny wrists.

Off to lunch at Mi Quinta restaurant. Jennie was happy to have Blanca as our waitress. Blanca's children go to Day Care Center #2, and Elle and Jennie enjoyed sweeping the 2nd floor with her last week. As we walked back to Day Care Center #1, Cecilia ran out of her marzapan shop to greet us. How wonderful to see familiar, friendly faces as we ate lunch and walked the streets of Calderón. A sure sign we are much more than tourists in this town, The afternoon passed quickly as we held children and traced snails, trees and hearts. The new environment was overwhelming, but after decompressing, we all agreed that we're striving for and achieving our goals: To help FUNDAC and to serve the children. And we're having fun doing it. We laughed about our adventures and mishaps over dinner, and are excited to hug the children again tomorrow.
-Jennie Taylor

Message for Wednesday, January 27 - Pamela Ward
A volunteer is a person that is a light to others, giving witness in a mixed up age, doing well and willingly the tasks at hand - namely being aware of another's needs and doing something about it.

We boarded the bus on this warm and sunny morning to begin our second day at Day Care Center #1. We step through the food market and enter the door to the Center. The children are seated at their round tables drinking warm milk and eating a biscuit. Their smiles beckon us to come and share breakfast with them. There are more children to look after here and coupled with the recent turnover in two out of five tías, our assignments are more challenging. But we are able to apply what we learned last week effectively.

Rita worked with the 4-year-olds, cutting foam pieces, glueing designs and decorating cupcakes with colored paper. Jennie and Ed headed to the local hardware store to purchase items Ed needed for his handyman chores. When not helping Ed get set up, Jennie spent time with one group of 3-year-olds, teaching them the vowel "u". Julie carried out a lot of art projects, played games, sang songs and went to the small outdoor playground with her charges. Claudia was on kitchen duty swaying to the beat of salsa and the Macarena. She had brown fingers from peeling green bananas to show for her effort. Ed was Mr. Handyman. He rebuilt a crib, put up a coat rack in the babies room, rebuilt two highchairs and fixed the third faucet in the children's bathroom. As for myself, I spent most of the day with the second set of 3 year olds, pasting and glueing red foam onto tracings of hearts and apples. The color of the week is "rojo" and the wall was ablaze with Rojo when we finished hanging up the children's creations. The morning flew by as we were continuously active with our assignments, cleaning up, chasing stray niños, washing dirty hands and comforting those who cry.

I spent some time feeding the babies today and gladly obliged as their little mouths opened wide for the next spoonful and the next. After lunch, the children were sound asleep in their two rooms. But soon, one child would emerge and another and another, each groggily wiping the sleep from their eyes, letting out a yawn or two and walking over to us to be held.

In this moment, you realize they don't ask for much at all, they just want a hug, soft words, love and affection. They just want to feel any child in any part of the world.
- Pamela Ward

Friday, January 23, 2009

Our First Week in Calderon, Ecuador

Message of the Day - Pamela Ward
"Never doubt that a small group of committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." (Margaret Mead)

We have all gotten to know each other pretty well and realize that we have so much. By floating from room to room I was able to observe my global volunteer colleagues an "paying it forward" or giving to the children and expecting nothing in return. On the other hand we get much in return and it is hard not to become teary eyed when we are greeted each day; with beautiful smiles and "Hola."

Elle, by the way, wields a mean pickaxe. She had the grass that was growing into the front wall removed in no time flat. Her next task was to supervise two volunteer mothers pulling weeds while at the same time mowing the playground grass. No wonder that by 1 p.m. she took a much needed rest - but it was no ordinary rest. She was on the swing with 3 month old Leonardo cradled in her arms. Latter we learned she loves to eat beetles - if properly prepared. Julie never ceases to amaze us - after just one day of slaving in the kitchen, the staff claims she now speaks Spanish. She has also become rather adept at peeling apples and get out of her way when she is scrubbing.

They cleaned everything - walls. cabinets, doors, and floor. As a post script, the kids ate almost everything today, without too much coaxing. I guess there was some extra love in those pots of food!!

I still hear bells. Around 11 a.m. I was putting tools in the shed and saw Claudia playing soccer with the older ones, "all of four years old." The kids were laughing and shaking the bells on their wrists that Claudia tied on. It was quite a sight. Later we were all glad to have some quiet time. While the little ones napped, I spotted Claudia holding a sobbing Adam. Poor Aidem and his brother Abel are always so sad. Each day with hugging, holding and soothing - English of all things - they seem to be responding.

Paty says Pamela's the "princess" of arts and crafts, lego building and puzzles. She speaks to the little ones with such kindness and warmth they feel loved and comfortable and want to participate and cooperate. The floater also noticed she had the clean plate table at lunch - they ate it all. It must have been that extra love in the food pot and the kindness in the voice.
Rita spent the day with the inquisitive two year olds. What a handful they are but they are calmed by Rita's infectious smile and her calming demeanor. Just peak into the "Home Room" and watch them serve a meal to Rita.

The two-year-old niños seem to be the best at high fives - I saw Rita coaching them along too. PS. She likes to hold Leonardo too!!

Last but not least - where was Jennie most of the afternoon? Just think, we were allowed to walk back from lunch unsupervised and we even got on the bus by ourselves. It seems that Jennie and Mari spent several hours with FUNDAC officers planning the coming years activities and construction schedule. It will be difficult this year for FUNDAC since the number of volunteer are way down. Please convince anyone you can to "pay it forward" and consider helping the neediest children of Calderón.
-Ed Collins

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Working on the Millennium Development Goals

As with every Global Volunteers team, our projects in Calderon are geared toward meeting our commitment to the United Nations Millennium Development Goals. Our Calderon Development Partnership addresses two of those goals: To Reduce Child Mortality Rates; and To Provide Complete Primary Schooling for Boys and Girls. In this regard, the FUNDAC childcare program works in a manner similar to the Head Start program in the U.S. to provide a firm health and education footing for preschoolers so they are ready for primary school.

Every volunteers works eight hours a day in project preparations and on-site work. We're committed to full-time assistance to the work project. Either in child care, assisting meal preparations, or helping to construct the new Center, our efforts are focused on improving and expanding our assistance to FUNDAC.

Today, Claudia returned to her children after a day in the kitchen and they were thrilled to have her back. The little ones grabbed her legs and she sat herself down in the child size plastic chairs to play and interact. Rita spent time with her group of youngsters and with what little downtime she had, cradled baby Leonardo. Julie returned to her babies and used her teaching skills to help three older children of the mothers with their English. They were attentive students and it was captivating to hear them count to twenty and learn the English names of animals.
Ed, Elle and Jennie did the dirty work. Ed worked with Walter, the father of one of the children, to finish repairing the fence. Ed and Walter then moved 80 cement blocks to the courtyard to help with the goal of cleaning out the second floor so it can be skim coated. Elle and Jennie swept up and carried buckets and buckets of sand and dirt from the second floor to the courtyard and their dust covered faces and hair were the lasting evidence of this hardship duty. Two primary labor goals were now completed. Living up to the philosophy of Global Volunteers, the labor projects were accomplished with the willing hands of several parents of the children in this daycare.
I spent the day in the kitchen with Elisa and Isabelle. Warm and cheerful women they are, who talked a blue streak, thinking I knew more Spanish than I do. It is times like this that I wish I could better communicate as there are many questions to ask and stories to share. I am glad I had the opportunity to spend time with these two and see how much effort goes into preparing just one day's worth of meals for 40 children.

While in the kitchen, I could be an observer. Hour after hour there was the happy sound of 40 energetic children learning about the color azul, playing in the courtyard and eating chocolate covered bananas. I watched as they merrily chased bubbles in the sunlit courtyard and played soccer with the four balls we purchased the day before. And I observed just how dedicated, enthusiastic and special my teammates were.

After lunch, we made cut outs of fruit which will be assembled into several mobiles. This gave us time to spend with Christina and some of the staff. These women work so hard and have infinite patience. Christina was asked if she was tired at the end of the day. She replied, "Yes. but I take home the smiles of the children."

Hopefully we will leave a positive imprint on these little ones, hopefully we will teach them something. But these children are teaching us more than they will ever know.
-Pamela Ward

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Initiating Our 10th Year in Calderon

Message of the Day - Julie Barner
"No one has ever become poor by giving of themselves."

They know us now. Forty little voices greeting us in unison as we entered the daycare center. "Buenos Dias" with the boldest among them rushing to be lifted and embraced.

It was another productive day, leaving our team tired but exhilarated at the same time, and appreciative of this opportunity to give our time and talents to these beautiful children and the mothers of Calderón.
Elle earned the biggest gold star of the day for resurrecting an old lawnmower to replace the grass cutting steak knife. With it she worked her magic in the garden.
By mid-morning Ed got his wish: nails - new ones, to replace the recycled rusty ones. By the end of the day he had rebuilt much of the quaint, colorful fence along the garden giving new life to the exterior of the building. A number of the children have taken to calling him Tio and they look forward to seeing him when he leaves the garden to come in and play.
Julie spent her second day with the Bebés, There isn't a moment of rest in this room - diapers to change, mouths to be filled, faces to be washed and little teeth to be brushed. She loves every minute of it.

The two- and three-year-olds at the Center adore both Pam and Rita, and each child wants to sit next to them at their little tables when meals and snacks are served. The children love getting their special attention and Rita and Pam have plenty to give.
You peel "muchas papas in catorce años". That's what Claudia learned Tuesday from Señora Elisa, the Center's chief in the kitchen. Claudia spent the day washing little bowls and cups, peeling potatoes, washing little bowls and cups, chopped onions, cilantro and cabbage, and did I mention washing little bowls and cups?
Our fearless leader Jennie would step in and interpret for each of us and for the second day led us safely through the back streets of Calderón to have our lunch, and to stop along the way to purchase new soccer balls for our ninos.
Returning to the hotel on Tuesday evening we watched our new American President's inauguration. For his Inaugural address, President Obama reminded us that all people deserve peace, justice and dignity.. sentiments that reflect the goals and intentions of each of us serving as Global Volunteers in Ecuador.
- Claudia Danovic