Having grown up in Ecuador and experiencing ER’s outreach to the poorest of the poor first-hand, Rheanna Cline created the following list to encourage everyone to celebrate 20 years of ER Christmas parties in the Quito Dump.
By Rheanna Lea Cline
Through the work of Extreme Response, thousands of people living in extreme situations are experiencing significant life change. With programs and partners in nine countries, ER provides many opportunities to get involved in our life-changing work with at-risk people. Here are a few of those opportunities:
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Caro was born just days after our daycare center opened in the Quito garbage dump. Her mother had been working there since she was a child herself– gleaning things she could use and mining for recyclables to sell. Caro’s two older sisters spent their toddler and preschool years with their mother in the trash.
Less than a year before Caro’s birth, the Ecuadorian government restructured the dump, assigning an environmental foundation to oversee the workers, and to prohibit any children from being on the site with their parents. It was a good regulation. It was a much-needed regulation. But it was a very difficult one for these families. They were earning only dollars a day. How could they pay someone to watch their children?
Extreme Response had been hoping to start a daycare center for the dump community for quite awhile. When we approached those that were in charge of the facility, we were told it wasn’t necessary.
But then, just like that, it was.
The new foundation came to us, at the request of their workers, to ask if we would open a daycare center for their children. That center (now known as the Quito Child Development Center or CDC) officially started on April 17, 2006. That very first day, only one mom was brave enough to leave her child with us. Her name was Veronica and she was about 18 months old. Just a month or so later, baby Caro and her two older sisters (ages 4 & 3) started coming after their mother realized how this new daycare could benefit her kids.
Caro and all 5 of her sisters attended our daycare center and preschool until they aged out. They also attended the annual Christmas party in the dump. Although the girls aren’t yet enrolled in our after school program at the Quito Family Resource Center, the younger ones are on a waiting list to attend. Teresa Jimenez, co-director of the QFRC has built a relationship with their mother over the years.
As with so many other children whose parents work recycling the trash there in Quito, Caro and her sisters have grown up in our Quito Dump Program. We’ve watched them grow from infants to school aged children – some are even in high school now. We are thankful for those of you that have given to make Caro’s life, and so many others, a better one.
See how the Quito CDC looks today here. Learn more about our Quito Kids Program here.
Summer for the impoverished children of Quito, Ecuador often signifies empty homes, endless hours unsupervised, or scavenging for money in the streets through recycling, begging, and selling.
Not for the children who attend Extreme Response’s after-school program this summer! Robbie Murdoch, our program coordinator, and his team created a safe, fun, and educational program as a refuge for the children of recycling families, including many parents who work in the Quito Dump.
Games, stories, passage memory, crafts and a hot, nutritious meal greeted 25 children for five solid weeks. What a joy to watch children enjoy the freedom to be young, romping around and filling the Family Resource Center with laughter!
As summer wraps up, anxious families try to figure out how to send their children back to school with the required supplies and uniforms. Imagine earning $0.50-$1.00/hour and finding an extra $150 for each child to attend school by September.
Frankly, it is a daunting prospect and is why Extreme Response is committed to assisting our after-school families with their goal of creating a new future for their children through education. This is a goal we fight for every day when home finances scream a different message; a message lobbying that it is better to send kids to the streets to help support their families than to send them to school.
Let’s make our message loud and clear. School is where change sprouts and blooms. Join us and help send children to school! $1,600 will help cover the costs of dozens of families that cannot afford to buy the pencils, paper and uniforms required to attend free public school. Can you help meet this need? $25 would be big; $100 would be huge.
If you would like to donate to the school supply/uniform drive, click here. Please designate your gift: “Quito School Supplies”.
Robyn Wallace has been serving in Quito, Ecuador, since 2014. Robyn oversees Children’s Programming for ER’s Quito Dump Program. She has been instrumental in identifying curriculum and testing so the kids in the Dump Child Development Center (Dump Daycare) can enter preschool and kindergarten at levels on par with other kids. She recently added middle and high school kids to her responsibilities.
ER’s Paul Fernane directs short-term teams in the Americas, with a majority of those trips taking place in Ecuador where he is stationed. Below, Paul shares the recent impact created by a team from Washington state.
The team from Kennewick Baptist Church did an awesome job of strengthening their relationship with our partner Buen Pastor, an organization that serves impoverished people in Pifo, Ecuador. The team worked alongside ER staff and spent some special moments with them throughout their stay. The staff opened their homes, shared meals, challenged the team and created memories.
ER’s Jose and Teresa Jimenez, who also pastor a church in nearby San Carlos, hosted the team at their home and enjoyed having the team help with their Community Kids Clubs.
The team spent time in three different communities and brought joy to the kids there. It is fun to see how spending time with kids and playing simple games like Duck, Duck, Goose, providing a craft and Beanie Baby can brighten up a kid’s face.
One of the most impactful time was when the team visited three families that earn their living recycling items from the Quito garbage. The first visit was hard. Margarita, the wife and mother of the first family, was physically and emotionally abused the night before we met. We had to meet her at the Quito Family Resource Center because she had to leave her home. The team had brought food, clothes, hygiene items and a soccer ball for her children.
However, the team demonstrated warmth to her that morning and that meant so much more than the gifts. The team visited two more families that day and delivered the items and demonstrated heartfelt love to them too.
The classroom construction took shape during 10 days. Pastor Ramiro said no group had tried to do three classrooms before and complimented the team for giving such great effort. The classrooms will be a huge blessing to the high school when classes resume after the summer break.
The team is already brainstorming about what to do in 2017.
Want to bring a team of volunteers and impact the lives of at-risk families in one of the 10 countries where ER serves? Our short-term teams typically spend 7-10 days doing educational support, sports camps, home/school construction, light maintenance and health screenings. Click here to learn more.
Jason left home at a young age, deciding that Manila street life was preferable to living with an abusive and negligent father.
He scavenged garbage for recyclers and sold illegally acquired tickets to sporting events and concerts. He had not been to school since he was in fifth grade, but deep down, he had a dream to finish his studies.
Three years ago, Jason began a remarkable comeback story when he learned about Support A Child Community Learning Center, a new ER partner in Quezon City, a Manila suburb.
Along with other street children and out-of-school youth, Jason enrolled in Alternative Learning System (ALS), a non-formal education plan operated by Support a Child and other organizations for the local Department of Education.
Jason failed his first ALS exam. But he didn’t learn to survive on the street without a streak of tenacity, and he put that to use in his new studies. He continued his education and ultimately passed the entrance exam for Working Hands, a vocational skills program in which he took up computer literacy training.
Today Jason, 18, is one of SCSF’s junior staff members for serving street children, and is active in the organization’s youth discipleship program. In March he graduated from Working Hands with certification in computer technology. There to witness his accomplishment were his older brother and his mother, Lyn, whom he not seen in some 15 years. She made a 36-hour trip by boat to be with her son for the occasion.
Jason now is embarking on an on-the-job training initiative that will enhance his computer skills and prepare him for a career in computers.
Meanwhile he’ll continue to serve street children, and he has expressed interest in becoming a pastor
Considering the determination he’s exhibited in his young life so far, he’ll achieve that goal too. And he’ll surely be an inspiration to many.
Children are known for their wild imaginations, the stories they create, the way they dream. But for a child growing up in poverty, dreams are a luxury they typically can’t afford.
That’s why the South Africa Dream Centre is so important to children like Kayleen.
This adorable little spitfire from Zimbabwe is a joy to be around. Consider this recent snippet of conversation:
Me: “Do you like school?”
Me: “Why not?”
Kayleen: “It’s a lot of work.”
I think we can all relate. Her honest answers mirror that of the typical 6-year-old, but don’t be fooled: This girl knows how to work.
I have been privileged to watch Kayleen in action, and let me tell you, when she puts her mind to something, she gets it done. For example, one day I watched her, surrounded by the sort of distractions that come with the territory in an after-school children’s program, set laser-like focus on a story she was reading about go-karts; she didn’t look up until she read the final word.
I was impressed. If she can maintain that kind of focus, she’ll go far – despite odds that are stacked against her. Living in South Africa, Kayleen is part of a system that puts the expense of education in the hands of the parents. And many of those hands are occupied with finding work to keep food on the table and a roof over their families’ heads. Education is viewed as a luxury, not a necessity.
South Africa has 11 official languages, but most teaching is done in English. For Kayleen and many other children, English is a second, third or even fourth language, which makes homework a struggle. If the parents haven’t learned English, it can be downright impossible.
That’s where the Dream Centre seeks to fill in the gaps. Run by ER staffers Ron and Amy Townsend (pictured here with their children), the Dream Centre is a safe place for Cape Town-area kids to receive food, love, tutoring and the chance to dream of a future free of poverty.
The Townsends are fully invested in this venture. They desire to live life alongside these kids – to see them through graduation and on to college. Their hope is that by working with and loving on the children, their families also will be positively impacted.
While much of this is a vision toward the future, I have already experienced the impact they’re having on families today. I have seen parents pour out their hearts with gratitude to the Townsends for all they do for their children. Love is a powerful communicator. It needs no translation.
The Townsends – and the rest of the Dream Centre team – want these kids to know, above all else, that they are loved. They’re teaching families that there’s more to life than just survival – that poverty can be overcome and dreams can be realized.
Click here to read more about the Townsends and the Dream Centre.
Alyssa Carrel is native to Michigan. She’s passionate about the written word, children, South Africa and the melodies. Alyssa is native to Michigan. Alyssa visited Extreme Response Africa and spent time working at the Dream Centre, where she worked with at-risk kids in the after-school program.
Tonya Williams’ father always hoped that his children would one day visit the Philippines. His own father was from Turburan in the Cebu province, and he wanted Tonya to experience “The Land of our People,” as he called it.
Santos Talaugon passed away in 2001, but his daughter has fulfilled his wish twice over, including a two-week ER internship in February. And she hopes to again make the long trip from her home in Santa Maria, California.
“My father was very proud of his heritage,” Tonya recalls. “As I grew up, I remember all the stories he would tell about how his dad grew up in the beautiful land of Cebu. There was never any talk of hardship, poverty or anything negative about his homeland.”
Two of Tonya’s friends, Terri Ramos and Ruth Arteaga, introduced her to ER. After hearing ER Asia’s Joshua Benavidez speak during a visit to California in 2014, she joined the Manila Christmas Team, with whom she helped host six Christmas celebrations and serve more than 800 people.
“One of the bonuses is that I went on my first ER trip with my best friend [Ramos], to a place that would capture my heart,” she says.
The trip impacted her so much, she knew she had to spend more time in the Philippines. Her recent visit was based around Makati, one of 16 cities that make up Metro Manila. There she served with a handful of ER programs, partners and friends, including the Manila Children’s Home, the Golden Hands Livelihood Educational Program, Youth Mobilization, IBIKE Ministries and There Is Hope.
Tonya’s work ranged from assisting with various children’s programs to teaching ladies at Golden Hands how to sew aprons.
“This trip was different than the Christmas parties,” she notes. “I was directly involved with the day-to-day operations of each partner, and was able to connect with the team members on a personal level. It was truly a blessing to see each leader’s passion and heart for their communities, and to show love to all they come in contact with.”
She also attended ER Asia staff meetings and came away more impressed than ever with Joshua Benavidez and his wife, Ann. “They are strong leaders with a passion to raise up strong team members,” she says. “The respect from their team members is impressive. All of the staff at Asia ER is excellent at what they do. They strive to be better and have a passion to [impact] as many people as they can.”
Tonya came home filled with fond memories, such as the last day of her stay, when she finished out her assignment with IBIKE Ministries.
“We were walking back to the office, blasting music and laughing and goofing off right in the middle of the day,” she says. “Then we finished the day with a home-cooked meal and all ate with our fingers. We had a great time, and although most of them did not understand a word I was saying, they all were so loving and welcoming to me, I felt like I was part of the family.”
Such memories and hospitality already have Tonya yearning for a return to “The Land of Our People.”
“I fell in love with the people, the land and the work,” she says. “Each time I go, I leave a little bit of my heart there. I have gained many friends and now have a connection that will last a lifetime. My father would be pleased.”
Does Tonya’s trip spark an interest in ER internships? If so, click here to learn how you can go and help make an impact in extreme circumstances.
When ER co-founder Jerry Carnill made his first connection at the Quito Dump in 1997, he did not have a grand plan to fight poverty. He simply felt compassion for the people living and working in the trash and wanted to help them. He reached out to a young boy, Victor, who agreed to gather a bunch of his friends for a Saturday morning kids club.
That first kids club was a big success and led to what Extreme Response (ER) has become today. Nineteen years later, we can tell countless stories of improved health, housing, childcare, education and hope among the dump community.
The story of Victor and his family, however, provides a dose of reality. The brutal truth is that breaking the grip of poverty can be arduous and painful.
Victor’s journey is most easily told through the lives of his two daughters, Thresa* and Mayta*. By the time the sisters were born, Victor and his wife had fallen into a pit of drugs and alcohol.
We met the sisters when their grandmother brought them to ER’s newly opened daycare (now called the Child Development Center or CDC). They were some of the first children accepted into the CDC. The girls were living in the dump with Victor’s mother, who was caring for the girls as a result of their parents’ substance abuse.
Before long, ER’s Jose and Teresa Jimenez, who ran the CDC, learned that their mother and grandmother had no intentions of sending the sisters to school. The girls would be taught to pick through the trash for recyclables, just like the generations before them.
“We had to work very hard with the family to convince them that the girls needed to be in the daycare and eventually in school,” Jose said.
“While they were in the CDC, the grandmother realized they were learning and they should go to school. When the children left the daycare they went directly into school. The grandmother poured her life into the girls.
“Unfortunately, the grandmother stepped on nail and developed an infection that later turned into cancer in her leg. She died about three years later when the girls were about six and seven years old,” Jose said.
Grandmother’s Death Derails Hope
When the grandmother died, the girls went to live with Victor and his wife, despite the fact that they were struggling with addictions. Before long, the parents began using the girls to deal drugs. Neighbors reported what the parents were doing with the girls to authorities and the sisters were taken from their parents and put in a home.
During the judgment it was determined the sisters’ parents were drug addicts. Authorities then called the maternal grandmother, who also worked at the Quito Dump, to see if she would take custody of the children. She was given permission to care for the children. She put the girls in a nearby school in Zambiza and ER temporarily lost contact with the girls.
“The maternal grandmother went to work in the morning and came home about 5 p.m. But when the girls came home from school, their parents would be across the street waiting for them and would send them out to distribute drugs or alcohol,” Jose shared.
“The grandmother did not know what to do. She spoke with the director at the school and was told about an organization that works with kids. The grandmother realized it was Extreme Response. She initially had looked for us (Jose and Teresa) at the Dump but gave up when someone had told her (erroneously) that we were no longer there. She was very happy to find us,” Teresa said.
“The kids were malnourished, not cared for and had received no affection. The grandmother and the girls were all living in the garbage at the time. She was busy going through the trash, so the girls were unsupervised.
“We were able to get the girls into our after-school program at the Quito Family Resource Center. Initially, the girls needed psychological help, which we were able to provide.”
“Two months ago the psychologist said they no longer needed to see her. The girls’ self-esteem and overall psychological health had improved very much thanks to the help they received at the Family Center,” Teresa said.
Today the sisters are 11 and 12. They are progressing well in school. Their future is much brighter. The goal is that the girls will finish high school, but more importantly that they remain healthy, break the vices of their parents and not get caught in a downward cycle.
ER’s after-school program provides a lifeline to children and families who are struggling with deep poverty, addictions and a lack of education. By providing tutoring, a nutritious meal and encouragement, ER is giving girls like Thresa and Mayta a chance to stay in school, gain sustainable skills and break free from the grips of poverty.
*Editor’s Note: The sisters names have been changed for their protection and privacy.
Want to help girls like Thresa and Mayta? We’ve developed a program to help these children called $10 Quito Kids. They need supporters! $10 a month provides meals for two weeks; $20 provides meals for a month. Learn more.
Tim Fausch manages communications for Extreme Response.
Joel Loja’s parents spend much of their lives in the garbage digging out recyclables in order to eke out a living. It’s a tough life that requires families to focus on surviving each day.
Joel was one of the first babies to enter the Quito Dump Daycare, now called the Child Development Center (CDC), where he received nutritious meals, snacks and love. But when it came time for him to leave the CDC and go to school, it became clear Joel was very behind educationally. So when we opened the after-school program to help kids, Joel’s parents asked for help.
Joel’s challenges are typical for the children of Dump families. He had psychological problems in addition to being behind in school. When he got home from school, there was no one there to help him with his homework or encourage him.
“Joel’s grades were very low when we took him into the after-school program,” said Jose Jimenez, who along with his wife Teresa oversee ER’s Quito programming. “At that time Joel couldn’t write and it was very difficult for him to learn. He was about nine years old and did not even know his alphabet. So we started working with him.”
ER’s After-School Program Comes to the Rescue
Joel was one of the first kids to receive help at the Quito Family Resource Center (QFRC), which opened to serve Dump Community families. The Center focuses on education and nutrition.
“His mother shared what was going on with Joel,” Teresa Jimenez said. “She told us she just wanted help to get him through grade school because the family would not be able to help him attend school after that. Her goal was for Joel to work with her in the garbage after he got through grade school. She did not think there was any value to study further.”
There were 10 students enrolled when the QFRC first opened. Jose worked with nine of them. Teresa worked just with Joel because he was so far behind. She started by helping him to just write his letters. After about two months, they were able to integrate him in with the other kids. He learned how to write by copying verses from the Bible.
“We worked with him to read, write and learn the alphabet,” Teresa said. “Now he is one of the best students. His handwriting is very good. He is reading very well. And his self-esteem is very high. His desire is to finish grade school and go into high school. His dream is to be someone important in life.
“When he came into Family Center, he would go into a corner to read,” Teresa said “After a while he would say, ‘I can read’. One day he said his teacher told him, ‘You are improving so much’. He was very proud of that.
“Joel realizes that his parents have endured a very hard life by working in the dump, Teresa added. “His father has osteoporosis and can no longer work. His mother has to work in the garbage to get food and meet the needs of the family.”
Joel’s family is suffering a lot and his desire is to learn and be able to work in a healthy environment so his parents will not have to work in the garbage.
“The desire of his heart is to help his parents,” Jose said. “Our work at the QFRC is to help him to realize his goals. Every day we have been motivating him to keep going.”
Today Joel is 12 and is doing well physically and emotionally. Joel has several years to go before he will graduate high school, so his continued involvement in the after-school program is crucial if he is to accomplish his goals.
Want to help a kid like Joel? ER has created a fund for these kids. Our goal is to help 50 kids graduate high school and go on to lead fulfilling lives. $10/week will feed a kid in the program for two weeks. $20/week will provide nutritious meals for a month. Learn more.
Tim Fausch manages communications for Extreme Response.
William, an 11-year old boy living in a squatter community in the Manila suburb of Putatan, initially came to IT Tender through a nutrition program called Food For Life.
One day, William stopped attending Food For Life and instead began spending time with a gang of older youth. Karin Jose, the nutrition program’s coordinator, repeatedly visited and followed up with William, doing her best to encourage him to return to the program, but he seemed more interested in hanging out in the streets.
The nutrition program ended after a year, but IT Tender staff wanted to maintain the relationships with children who had been a part of it. They decided to establish an evening drop-in program called Nightlife in which kids could continue enjoying healthy meals and also be tutored in their studies.
Jam Coffey, who began at IT Tender as a volunteer teacher in Food For Life, become the head teacher of Nightlife in the Putatan and Alabang communities. Jam attended an extensive training course at the Institute for Foundational Learning to help develop her teaching skills. Incorporating what she learned at the Institute, she introduced a curriculum at Nightlife called SSRW (Sing, Spell, Read and Write), and she also began sharing stories with moral lessons.
Upon conducting an enrollment and diagnostic test for the Nightlife children, Jam was surprised to see William among the enrollees. In her conversations with him, she found him shy and clearly ashamed about his past behavior, but she welcomed him with open arms and quickly made him feel comfortable being part of IT Tender’s programs again.
Now William is one of the early birds at each Nightlife session, holds a perfect attendance record, is active in lessons and achieves high scores in the exams. Most importantly, he is proving to be a good listener, and is kind to others. The IT Tender staff also recently discovered he has a talent in singing and dancing; the excitement he brings from that is contagious to the other children.
It has been a joy to witness William’s new journey. In just a short time back at IT Tender, he is transforming from a caterpillar to a beautiful butterfly!
ER partner IT Tender seeks to empower children to become educated and responsible leaders in their community. Learn more here.