I participated with eight other women from various parts of the U.S. in 2010 as a Global Volunteer in Calderon, Ecuador. We were the 136th group of Global Volunteers to Ecuador. We worked in two child care centers that were founded by a group of women from Calderon to provide assistance to single and low-income mothers. Global Volunteers assisted in building the centers. A second story is being added to one of the centers which will enable them to double the number of children they can care for at that center. We were there to help in any way the director and tias (teachers) wanted help. The children were 7 months to 4 years old.
Center #2 is organized into a nursery (7 months to 2 years), an art room, a construction room, a home room (set up as a home), and a kitchen and a large common area where meals are served. There is one tia in each classroom with approximately 15 children. All the tias, kitchen workers, and children spoke only Spanish. We helped diaper, wash hands and faces, comb hair, feed, play with the children, and practice our Spanish. We traced pictures so that all the children would have the same picture to color or to paste pretty paper pieces on. We read books to the children (upside down and in Spanish: quite a feat), swept the floor after meals, and put the children down for naps (8 children per bed; lined up crosswise).
I loved working with the babies. One day Tia Paty called roll (remember these children are 7 months to 2 years). She read out their whole names. The children were to raise their hand and say “presente” and most of them did it! She also called our names and we raised our hand and said presente which the children thought was quite funny. By the time these children reach their second birthday and are moved to the next room, they are potty trained. Tia Paty works very hard to ensure this.
We rotated through the various rooms and took our turn in the kitchen, peeling, cutting, dicing, and slicing vegetables for the meals. One woman installed toilet seats on new toilets, two grouted a newly laid tile floor, and two worked in the yard. One of the requests of the director was to paint murals on two walls of one of the rooms in the new second story. With trepidation, two of the volunteers started the project. By the end of the two weeks we had two beautiful princesses, a care bear, and another bear on the walls. These were perfect for the room which is to be used for nap time for girls.
The last day we worked in the Center, the children performed traditional dances while dressed in their traditional clothing. It was absolutely charming.
We also took time to explore Quito and Ecuador. One evening we went to Jacchigua, a national folklore ballet, which was wonderful. Colorful costumes, beautiful music, and graceful dancing. We had a salsa lesson, went exploring in La Ronda, a section of Quito that used to be an artists’ colony, and had dinner in a building that once was the Archbishop’s Palace. On the weekend, we traveled to Otovalo where there is a large market. We had fun bargaining and buying souvenirs. We stopped at the equator and had a picture taken with one foot in the northern hemisphere and one in the southern hemisphere. We visited extinct volcanoes including one in which people live and work. We visited Mindo and the cloud forest where we saw many and varied hummingbirds. We drove on to see a waterfall. To reach the waterfall we had to use a zip line or a cable car. We opted for the cable car which was put together with pipes. A couple of us who were afraid of heights sat on the floor facing backwards during the ride. The car went over a deep ravine with a river running through it. It was beautiful. We stopped at a coffee plantation and bought freshly roasted coffee beans, which were still warm, or ground coffee.
We had a wonderful time with the tias and the children and the Ecuadorean people we met. We improved our Spanish, enjoyed getting to know the other volunteers, and experienced some wonderful parts of Ecuador which is a beautiful country. Check out globalvolunteers.com to learn of opportunities to volunteer in many countries or in the U.S.A. They were founded in 1984, are well-organized, and provide much needed services around the world.