Sunday, June 30, 2013

Team #151 arrives in Ecuador!

Maggie met Tom and Katie and Suzanne and Neal in the Sol de Quito restaurant this morning for breakfast and coffee prior to starting the orientation meeting at 9:30 a.m. Tom and Katie had arrived in the middle of the night after suffering a flight delay in Atlanta followed by a serendipitous delay in Miami; Tom explained that if the Miami to Quito flight had not been delayed they would have had to wait another day to fly to Quito. Whew!

Maggie started the orientation by welcoming Global Volunteers Ecuador Team #151 (us) to Quito. She followed with an overview of Calderón and a brief history of FUNDAC, the foundation that is hosting Global Volunteer programs in Ecuador. We learned that FUNDAC was founded by a group of women who saw children left alone in the streets of Calderón because their parents (often single mothers) had to work to earn enough to buy food for their families. These women were moved to establish a daycare facility that would care for these children while their parents were at work. Their volunteer efforts were so successful that there are now two centers in Calderón, one on the market square and one a 20-minute walk away bordering a corn field. Our work at the centers is critical to helping them meet the needs of the children they serve, their families, and keeping the centers in compliance with ever-increasing government regulations - specifically those imposed by the Ministry of Social and Economic Inclusion.

We learned about the workers at the centers, the tías, and how we will be called tías and tíos as well. Tía and tío are considered respectful terms referring to persons who provide for children's needs in their mother's absence, which fits perfectly with the team goal to be of service to the children of Calderón and their families. We received additional encouragement during the brief visit of Elvia (who likes to be called Elvita) and Pilar (Pili), who are both board members of FUNDAC, and Pilar's daughter, Viviana (Vivi). Elvita, who is the foundation's president, expressed heartfelt gratitude toward the team for our service. In turn, we thanked the ladies for the opportunity to serve their community. After the visit from the FUNDAC representatives, Maggie led the group through the Volunteer Manual and added helpful local information such as how to identify a "legal" taxi and where not to walk in certain areas of Quito.

The mannequin dressed as a woman from Otavalo in the northern Ecuadorian Andes in the hotel lobby

Following a hearty lunch in the hotel restaurant, Maggie continued with the orientation. We learned that Calderón is known for masapán (decorated bread dough) and not marzipan, the Italian edible confection. Our fifth team member, Seija, arrived along with Richard, a local tour guide, and his son, Francisco. Richard offered team members a number of interesting tours that head off in every direction as well as focus on Quito.

After finishing the review of the Volunteer Manual, Maggie facilitated delegation of specific team roles: Seija is in charge of daily name tags; Suzanne is responsible for managing the first aid kits; Tom and Katie are going to coordinate free time activities for the team; and Neal will inform the hotel of the headcount for dinner each evening. The entire team will work together to plan the final celebration at the center.

Finally, the team developed a list of Team Goals and identified the Characteristics of an Effective Team:


- To improve Spanish through practice
- To learn about Ecuadorian culture through our five senses
- To have fun together
- To make new friends
- To serve the children and families of Calderón
- To learn with a humble heart

- proactive
- flexibility
- persistence
- willingness to make mistakes
- good attitude
- willing to try new things
- humility
- openness
- take direction
- active listening
- non-judgmental
- help each other
- maintain guidelines and principles

Katie wrote the goals and characteristics on poster paper (thank you, Katie) and each member of the team signed the posters signifying a commitment to follow through for the sake of the children, their families, and the team. Maggie then led the team through a brief Spanish lesson geared to the conversations we were likely to have while working at the centers. And then it was time for dinner. Yum!

Entry submitted by: Neal Pierce

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Our last day in Calderón

Our last day in Calderón was an eventful one. Between hurrying to finish the extra last-minute final touches to the painting, near-constant cries of “empújame” (push me), and the performances by ourselves and the tías, it was quite the sendoff. Leaving the kids was bittersweet, but I know I’ll remember them, and hopefully at least one of the many, many air tosses will leave an imprint on them.

After our work day we headed into Quito to visit Maximiliano’s house. Seeing a native home was certainly eye-opening, and the bright smiles on the faces of the children and their mothers were inspirational.

Entry submitted by: Jake Straus

Seija and a newcomer

Blair and Alanis

Mitch and Éric playing some ball, which in Ecuador means playing soccer, of course

“¡Empújame, por favor!” - Push me, please!

Varinda helping with hand washing

Alanis, Eric, and Emily

Jeanne, Elvia, and Kate

Steve, a.k.a El Cuco Malo, and two little guys who couldn’t have been happier on his lap

Mitch receiving his thank you card

Jake at the final celebration

Eric’s words at the final celebration

Everybody dancing at the final celebration

Team #150 to Ecuador

Messages of the Day – Seija Webb: 

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has." - Margaret Mead

"Live simply, so others may simply live." – Mahatma Gandhi

The daycare center after our hard work alongside the tías and parents:

What a difference!

Monday, June 24, 2013

A wonderful azure blue

We woke up quite early and after finding the DR lights, I read the New York Times and did work. Everybody gathered for breakfast and we filled in Maggie and Seija on our various Sunday activities, which included a tour of the equator and the old city, along with a successful shopping expedition at the artisanal market. During our meeting, Maggie agreed that we were far ahead of schedule, and we all further agreed that this would give us additional time to do some more painting and spend more time with the children at the center. On the way to the center Maggie and Mitch sharpened our Spanish skills.

As the day got steadily cooler and cloudier, we completed final touchups of the Center 2 building and painted the walls of the play area in the back. We also finished painting the buildings behind the center in a wonderful azure blue. Thanks to a brainstorm of Kenny's and an excellent execution by Colin, we took a long dormant painting accident on the back wall and transformed it into a spectacular multi-colored umbrella. During my lunchtime siesta at the center, I noticed and photographed snow still scattered at the top of a not-so-distant mountain and wondered at the idea of equatorial snow in late June.

The afternoon wound down pleasantly as we spent time with the children and thought through the few remaining tasks awaiting us on Tuesday. We gathered for one last dinner in the hotel (excellent tacos!) and then rehearsed our not-so-traditional singing and dancing routine for our Tuesday farewell session at Center 2. All went to sleep looking forward to a delightful final day there.

Entry submitted by: Stephen Blum

Middle of the World Monument


Everybody hard at work 

Colin and his buddy playing ball

Eric bonding with some little guys 

Colin and Tía Katy painting

 Enjoying our taco dinner at Hotel Sol de Quito

Practicing “The Hokey Pokey” for our final celebration!
Varinda is awesome!

I spent most of the day playing with the babies, who seemed to cry a lot more than usual. After lunch I played a game with one kid where I would swing him upside down, and I found myself having to do it to every kid that walked by. One of the tías walked up to me and handed me a bucket of green paint and said “por favor”, then pointed at her two classroom tables. There were kids running everywhere, but they stayed away from the tables somehow. The paint on all the buildings looks great and I'm glad that we could help.

Entry submitted by: Emily Straus 

Baby Kelly and Emily 

Jeanne and Rony 

Tía Katy, Colin, Tía Marina, and Mitch

Seija feeding some hungry babies

Emily cleaning up the babies

Sammy and Tía Paty serving lunch

Emily and Rony being goofy together

Blair and two little girls who would not let him go

Message of the Day – Varinda Missett: “Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.” – Buddha

Message of the Day - Eric Straus: "One kernel is felt in a hogshead; one drop of water helps to swell the ocean; a spark of fire helps to give light to the world. None are too small, too feeble, too poor to be of service. Think of this and act."  - Hannah More

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Family Day, and we were swept up in the fun!

On the way to the site we had an excellent Spanish lesson. When we arrived, there were dozens of adults there with their children to volunteer alongside us.

We were sent to the store to buy scrubbers to remove the paint from the grates. We had an adventure purchasing the scrubbing brushes for the grates. When we got to the store, the manager paid for the scrubbing pads since I didn't have any money. Then when we went back to the store later, Eric reimbursed him.

Eric also commented that the bathroom in the paint store is the finest in Ecuador!

The center had organized a fabulous family day emceed by the president of FUNDAC with a mariachi band and great dancing by the tías. Our group was swept up in the fun and dancing and had a memorable time.

Entry submitted by: Blair Caple

Kenny and mothers who came to help paint –
one who swears she had meant Kenny before!

During our Spanish lesson on the way to the site, I learned some very important phrases including how to say "I'm single" and "I don't know whether I want have children", both of which I've already forgotten.

When we arrived at the site, we were greeted by dozens of parents, all of whom were ready to work. They cleaned out the shed while Matt and I worked on the scaffolding, touching up the yellow beam. After getting sun burnt, we all proceeded to dance with the local families celebrating Center One's family day and showing off our numerous moves in the form of interpretive dance. After lunch, when most of the building seemed to be completed, the "grey heads" (the older generation of our volunteer team) went out and bought blue paint to give some color to the surrounding structures. If there were any doubts that the day was a success, they were delightfully dispelled by the sight of the president of FUNDAC running and laughing alongside our bus as we pulled away.

Entry submitted by: Colin Tofel

Mitch and his new little buddy

Family day celebration

Seija and Elvia cuttin’ the rug

Maddy dancing with a father from the daycare center

The kids couldn’t get enough of Matt and his games

Margarita and Mitch dancing it up

Jeanne and Elvia, president of FUNDAC

The tías’ dance performance of bomba – a traditional dance from Chota Valley

And then Kenny asked to be taught how to dance bomba and,
of course, two mothers were happy to show him

Colin and Margarita

Messages of the Day – Stephen Blum:

"I have never let my schooling interfere with my education." – Mark Twain

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover." – Mark Twain 

“Some go out to fleece and come back sheared.” – Ecuadorian proverb

“Hands that give, also receive.” – Ecuadorian proverb