The days since the earthquake have awakened many questions in me. Truly this is a difficult challenge for the families of Ecuador: is it possible to start over again? The challenge is even greater for the families who live in the towns at the epicenter of the earthquake. Since Sunday, thousands of people have begun to donate food and supplies to provide support during these moments full of pain and drama. Is it possible that only a situation like this can make us abandon our selfishness and bring us together to keep going forward?
In order to hear the heart of the other that cries out not to be looked at with pity, but only with a gaze of love, hope, and Faith, to be able to set aside all political, social, and racial differences so that we can move forward together, how can we stay truly present in front of the heartbreak of burying a loved one? It is the hope of the communion of a people who tries to walk together, facing the sacrifice of losing family members and material possessions. The Resurrection becomes a fact in the present that we must now live. Christ conquered death. This fact is more real now than ever; it gives us strength to get up again. Thanks be to God we are safe here in Quito. The earthquake was felt strongly here, but there was only minor damage to the infrastructure south of the city. Yet for those who have relatives in the coastal towns, they experienced great distress while waiting hours and days to receive news of their loved ones.
To this day, four days later they continue to look among the debris hoping to find the last ones still alive. We were told that because of the way that the buildings were constructed it is still possible that survivors will be found. Yesterday, a four-month-old baby girl was found alive among the debris with her mother, who gave her life to protect her daughter from the impact. Some people were able to experience the joy of finding their loved ones alive, whose hearts are once again full of gratitude for His Love and the miracle of life, with the certainty that God gave them a second chance to live.
This Saturday, we will go to Pedernales to see my sister. She is there with her children and her husband, who are sleeping outdoors. This breaks my heart, truly and humanly. If God allowed me to find my father and other siblings last summer, I believe that this is a great sign for me, and that in these moments, I can find some way to offer a little bit of what God did for me during all these years.
In 2004, when I first met Stefania of AVSI, I was slowly able to recover from a personal earthquake, which I had been immersed in since my child passed away. Thanks to her gaze, I am now in a companionship that helps me to look at everything with the certainty of the Resurrection of Christ, champion over death, keeping in mind that hundreds of families have lost everything and will have to bury their loved ones. Parents who are left without their children, and children who are left without their parents, or entire families who have no one left to bury them. We stand shoulder to shoulder to support each other and to help each other be able to walk again with the help of He who through the pain of searching for loved ones in the rubble, makes it possible for the people of Ecuador to have the opportunity to lift their eyes to the sky even though the ground continues to shake. Together we are able to recognize that everything is given to us to share with others.
Hugs to all of you. I am not very good at writing, but I wanted to share with you what these moments mean to me so that it may be possible to walk together.
Amparito Espinoza, Executive Director of Fundación Sembrar
Amparito Espinoza is Executive Director of Fundación Sembrar
AVSI arrived in Ecuador in 2001 working in close collaboration with
the Vicariate of Education and focusing on the rural communities surrounding Portoviejo, a small coastal city in the province of Manabi. Activities implemented principally revolved around infant and child development and education, using an innovative development program with Spanish origins called PelCa (Preescolar en la casa - home school preschool).
The aim of PelCa is to give parents, specifically mothers, the tools they need to assume the responsibility of their child’s upbringing and education. The PelCa method favors the protagonism of each family in the education of their child encourages the natural right to choose the most adequate
form of education for their child given their circumstances. Furthermore the long distances between rural towns and the heavy work load of the population in these rural communities, who dedicate themselves in large part to agriculture, make a traditional preschool education nearly impossible.
Using the PelCa method, it is the teacher who travels from house to house, visiting the families once every two weeks to distribute materials, monitor the children’s development and discuss educational themes with the mothers enabling them in turn to educate their children. As the program participants grew older, the program grew
to meet their evolving needs.
An itinerant academic reinforcement program was implemented for
the elementary age child and three after school centers were established, a program for adolescents was created along with income generating activities and professional training activities for the older youth and the children’s mothers. Today in Portoviejo over 1000 children, youth and their parents participate in AVSI’s educational programs.
In 2004 AVSI’s work expanded to Quito specifically to Pisulli, a marginalized urban neighborhood to the northwest of the country’s capital. In collaboration with Fundación Sembrar, a local nonprofit organization, and the local parish, AVSI opened a community development center and began to implement a modified version of PelCa. The program quickly expanded to include afterschool programs, a youth and adolescent program and small business development and professional training program which today involve over 700 children, youth and their families.
“ACCIÓN EDUCATIVA INTEGRADA” (AEDI)
Location: Quito, Portoviejo
Description: Starting from the evidence that the family is the subject of the education of the child and with the objective of guaranteeing healthy and integral development of the children, the program intervenes in three fundamental areas of the child’s growth: education, health and nutrition, implementing the following activities: Parent education and formation, provision of recreational and educational spaces, including a library, support for existing nursery schools, through donations of didactic materials, training of educators, scholastic support centers, creation and support of family gardens for food security, and medical visits on a regular basis for the children during their participation in the program. Local staff numbers more than 50, and beneficiaries over 2000 children, youth and adolescents and their families.
CEI (Italian Bishop Conference Charity)
MAE (Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
CAM (Comunidad de Madrid )
Fundación Sembrar, Cesal, CUET, the Vicarage of Education, local parishes
DISTANCE SUPPORT PROGRAM
Location: Quito, Province of Manabi
Description: Long-term support to over 1700 vulnerable children, improving the conditions for psychosocial and academic progress, while strengthening the capacity of the children’s families, caretakers and local organizations to respond to their needs.
Fulfillment of school requirements (uniforms, books, fees etc), organization of after school recreation and educational activities, and creating of programs designed to improve the economic status of the child’s family through training and support to parents.