Wednesday, September 05, 2007

First Thoughts From Ecuador

After a few days in Quito, Ecuador at the Working Boys Center, I have a few observations right off the bat.

First, elevation sucks. Think about it like this: Quito is a city, at 9,000 feet, about two times as high as Denver which is known as the mile high city. If that weren’t enough, the city is full of hills here and a climb there. San Francisco has hills too you say? Please, a walk in the park compared to this place. If you were in need of a good laugh, I wish you could have seen me play soccer today- both for the elevation and because, well, the only goal I had was against my team.

Second, here, they use the word voluntario not misonero to describe me and they dig spicy food like no other. If that’s not saying Ecuador is the place for me to be, I dunno what is.

But my most important observation is this: this place is something special and unique. People have asked what it is I do and what it is we as a center do? I’ll update you on my own unique roll later, leaving us to describe what it is we, as a center do. Since I am going to be a teacher, here is your homework assignment dear reader. Find a way to articulate in a brief paragraph all this that is done by the Working Boys Center. It may seem like a lot, but rest assured, I left a lot of amazing things out in the interest of space. Good luck!

• 35,000 meals served a week
• 5,000 families (25,000 people) pulled out of poverty in the last 40 years, according to an independent and external analysis of the Center.
• In terms of education, we have Day Care and Early Childhood Education, Grammar School, Technical Education, and Adult Education spanning across three campuses.
• Our kids and their families have free access to on site MD’s and Dentists, as well as a psychologist.
• The Center has a program called “Drop of Milk” providing milk, nutrients supplements, medical attention and parenting skills to mothers in the wider Quito area who have malnourished kids.
• All of our participants participate in community service. The most common and popular is our Sunday “Mingas” which are house building opportunities in the community.
• Again and again, I have heard that we are not a charity program, we are a development program. To that end, participants receive financial budgeting lessons and our boys, who continue to work while going to school (I can explain about why the kids continue to work in a future post), are required to have a savings account with the center. When they graduate, they are given that money as seed money to enter whatever trade they desire.
• Microcredit, otherwise known as small loans, can be applied for by graduates who wish to start up their own business.
• The center also operates shops and businesses like a restaurant and toy store on site that are visited by the greater Quito community and also provide our students great in house training.

I can not tell you how inspiring it is to be a part of this. What’s more, individuals and groups who wish to visit the center get room and board, wait for it… FREE OF CHARGE!

Sounds great, right? But does it work? Consider the following…

Before joining the Working Boys Center (WBC), 60.30% of the participants surveyed in this external analysis of the center lived in single room dwellings. After joining the center, that figure dropped to 2.90%. * One last stat- before joining the center, 40.50% had potable water access. After graduating, 94.70% of participants receive potable water.*

There is not enough space to proclaim the good deeds of this place. And I know, I have not even been here a week, aren’t I getting ahead of myself? Personal challenges aside, like the, “holy crap I am a teacher molding young minds panic attack”- I think if you came and saw this place you too would be amazed. It’s like, after years and years of work and study in this area, for the first time I am a part of something that aims not to be a band aid but a set of tools (be they carpentry, auto mechanics or baking, etc..) meant to empower people to break the cycle of poverty that has possible been persistent in over three generations of their family. This place says it wants to end poverty in the lives of its participants- and it works.

Don’t believe me? That’s fine. Come and see for yourself, after all, you only need to pay for airfare- we’ll provide the rest. (=

*Facts and figures from The External Study of the Impact of Working Boys’ Center, A Family of Families

2 comments:

Kristine Brancolini said...

Hi Patrick: Greetings from LMU! I read about your blog in an article in The Catholic News Service (Volunteer keeps blog as resource for others, By Jacob Buckenmeyer URL: http://www.catholicnews.com/data/stories/cns/0705272.htm; the librarian's credo: Always cite your sources). Are you still accepting donations via credit card?

Kristine Brancolini
Dean of University Libraries
Loyola Marymount University

Nancy S. Torres said...

i am trying to find the website of the workingboyscenter, but am not able to pull it up. is there an email address i may have to contact someone there. im interested in participating there and visiting while im in ecuador which will be from 12/25-1/11. many thanks,nancy