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.
ER’s Robbie Murdock shares this story about how one boy’s life will be changed forever because of the work that takes in the After-School Program at the Quito Family Resource Center.
Sebastian has been part of our after school program since September of 2014 when he started first grade. This year we started to notice that he was behind. While the other kids in his grade were reading and writing by themselves, Sebastian couldn’t recognize even the letters that made up the words he was trying to read. Writing was not even an option. The result of being behind meant he was constantly frustrated during homework time. He was regularly acting out and causing problems. It was also nearly impossible for him to do his homework without one of our teachers sitting down next to him and writing out his answers for him to copy.
When we got his grades from school we realized that the problem was worse than we thought. His teacher was ignoring how behind he was and giving him passing grades in every course. For Sebastian to finish this year and go on to the third grade without the ability to read and write would spell disaster, so we decided to take action.
We began a lesson plan to work on his letter recognition and his reading skills immediately. Our teacher Erika would spend about a half hour before our program working hard with Sebastian, and it was amazing how quickly the results came. Within a month of working with him one-on-one, Sebastian was able to write words that we said to him.
He still has a long way to go. He struggles with reading comprehension and still needs to work at spelling independently, but we are confident that he is going to move on to the third grade and succeed.
Click here to learn more about the kids of Dump families, and how we are providing them with help and hope.
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.
Last September, the world lost a selfless humanitarian, humble servant and courageous leader. Paul Cripps, Extreme Response Canada co-founder with his wife, Linda, had dedicated his life to helping others. While his passing has left a hole in Extreme Response International, his legacy is alive.
Paul’s passion for helping people who live in dire need brought him to Africa, Asia and the Americas. He was tireless in not only visiting the poor in settlements, barrios and squatter communities around the world, but also in sharing their needs with anyone who would listen. He was a frequent speaker throughout Canada and the U.S., encouraging people to get involved in helping to change the lives of the poor.
Paul and Linda led or participated in volunteer teams in Ecuador, the Philippines, South Africa, Brazil and other developing countries. Their compassion has been contagious. Countless people continue to become short-term volunteers and serve others as a result of their example.
Perhaps one of Paul’s strongest qualities was displaying courage while fighting cancer, a reoccurring enemy that finally ended his life on earth. Even while battling cancer for many years, Paul remained focused on meeting the needs of people living in extreme poverty and helping our partners who serve them.
Today, Linda is carrying on their shared passion. She serves as president of ER Canada and continues to raise funds, support partners and assist those who seek to go to foreign countries to serve. Linda shared these thoughts after viewing the award ceremony via Skype:
“After watching the award ceremony, I wiped a tear away and thanked God for a great group of men who wanted to honor Paul’s memory,” she said. “Courage is a wonderful word; it’s both adjective and verb. It can describe a characteristic of a person, but shows the action in someone’s life.
“The courage Paul demonstrated in the last 16 years of his life, especially the last four or five years, exemplifies his true dedication. He was willing to give his life for his passion of helping to change the lives of others through ER and all our partners.
“Many of our partners can echo with me the times Paul would be walking beside in their world them with yet another personal medical issue that needed attention while away from the comforts of his doctor. He left his fate in the hands of his Heavenly Father.
Because of his humbleness, Paul would say, ‘oh friends, this award is not necessary’. But as his wife, I truly thank each of you for this lasting memorial, a tribute that his brothers in arms will share and a legacy that can be remembered every year going forward. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.”
Rich Brown Receives First Paul Cripps Courage Award
Extreme Response sought to recognize Paul in a way that would pay tribute to his strong faith, generosity and leadership. Paul was a cornerstone of ER’s Leadership Community, having coached and encouraged developing leaders worldwide.
Russ Cline, ER Chief Development Officer who heads up our Leadership Community, was inspired to create the Paul Cripps Courage Award.
The very first Paul Cripps Courage Award was presented at the 2016 Leader Mundial Summit to Rich Brown, founder and president of Inca Link. In presenting the award, Russ highlighted Rich’s huge vision, fearlessness and willingness to help at-risk youth throughout from locations in Ecuador and Peru.
Rich is married to Lisa and has four children, Olivia, 22, Michaela, 20, Josiah, 18, and Alexa, 15. His vision is to help 300 million at-risk youth in Latin America through leadership training, networking and compassion programming. His strategies include using short-term volunteer teams, interns and donated resources to engage youth throughout the Latin world.
By Anne Benavidez, Golden Hands Livelihood Educational Program Director
Like caterpillars emerging as beautiful butterflies from their cocoons, eight members of the Golden Hands Livelihood Education Program celebrated being the program’s very first graduates. Each of the women wore dresses they made themselves and enjoyed a time of recognition, glamour and thankfulness.
The graduation ceremony was a very big deal. You see, all of these women came from humble backgrounds. Most live in squatter communities and struggle with extreme poverty, substandard living conditions and a lack of opportunity.
Two years ago, none of them would have envisioned themselves being celebrated. They had little hope that their lives would improve. But today, in a fancy ceremony that involved flowers, photos and the presentation of new sewing machines as graduation gifts, the women were honored for their achievements.
So what caused the transformation to take place?
The short answer is that people cared. Extreme Response Asia staff members saw the needs and became determined to find a way to encourage, inspire and equip these women to strive for better lives. We saw the potential in the women, even though many of the women could not yet see it in themselves.
Our desire to help the women led to the formation of the Golden Hands Sewing group, which evolved into the Golden Hands Livelihood Educational Program a year later. We had to change the name because the program was accomplishing far more than teaching sewing skills.
For one, the women were discovering self-respect and confidence. For another, they were growing trusted new relationships. They also were learning life skills, business skills and spiritual depth. They were becoming well-rounded people, filled with hope and grace.
So that’s why celebrating the graduation of eight women from the Golden Hands program was so big. It was so much more than certificates and gifts. We affirmed them in a very powerful way.
To get to this point, the women had to commit to attend weekly classes for eight months and finish all their assignments. They had to learn cutting, pattern making, basic sewing, crocheting and some knitting. Eight of 10 enrollees made it all the way through the program.
As a special incentive, ER provided a sewing machine and starter kit for all eight graduates. Going forward, the women will receive continuous training and coaching. Most of them are planning to start businesses, including six who want to pool their capital, work as a team and share profits.
During the last year, the women have built a lot of self-confidence, created a community among themselves and become closer than ever. They acquired skills that they say will not be taken away from them, that they will bring with them wherever they go. Even if they are forced to leave the places where they now live, they will bring skills that will provide livelihood wherever they relocate. They now have a weapon to fight poverty.
Anne Benavidez is the director of the Golden Hands Livelihood Educational Program located in Makati City near Manila. Click here and here to learn more about the Golden Hands program.
If you’ve stayed at the Extreme Response Team House or visited our offices, you know the building is a huge blessing to the work we do throughout Ecuador and the Americas. The four-story building includes ER’s Quito staff offices and can house a few dozen volunteers (the exact number depends on how many bunk beds we fill) who come to Quito on short-term teams.
Doing a patch job and repainting seemed like an acceptable short-term solution. But was there a better, longer-term solution?
Enter ER’s Pete “Spiderman” Emery who accepted the challenge of finding a more permanent solution. The result was to install decorative stone with a top edge to keep the moisture from penetrating the area.
With help from Xavier Hildago and other ER staff, they erected four stories of scaffolding, scraped and cleaned the top portion of the building’s face, carefully installed the stone, and then sealed everything and painted the trim to match.
For those of you engaged in our work in Ecuador, thank you for your support! Resources like buildings, vehicles and office equipment are extremely valuable in achieving our mission of helping people who live in desperate, sometimes life-threatening conditions. These tools allow volunteers to participate, strategy to be developed and supplies to be transported. We couldn’t do it without you.
To learn more about our work in Quito, click here. To learn about joining a short-term team in Ecuador or the Americas, click here. To learn about our partners in the Americas, click here.
Today I am sharing an urgent message. ER is facing one of our biggest challenges ever. It’s always been a bit turbulent serving families who glean their living picking through trash at the Quito Dump, but the agencies that oversee children’s services and health clinics recently told us we needed to leave Dump. They feel it is not a suitable location for childcare. After serving here for 19 years, we initially were surprised, but ultimately embraced the request.
So we’ve relocated the Child Development Center to a temporary space for the next six months. I am so proud of our ER team, which dropped everything to renovate the new space quickly and move the CDC. Our medical and dental clinics are closed for now.
And there’s more. The government announced the dump would close at the end of the year, leaving 250+ families without a means of support. As you can imagine the families are scared, confused and wondering what to do. They not only face losing their livelihood, community and identity, but their relationship with ER. For years, we’ve cared for them when no one else did. In the face of theses challenges our commitment to help these families has not wavered.
As we’ve seen before, these crises are opportunities to increase our impact and help the families break out of poverty. For example, when the dump bulldozed the homes of those living there, ER and volunteers opened the CDC and started building simple block homes (13 so far) for families.
*The new CDC is problematic for many recyclers because it is several miles from the dump.
*We’re spending unplanned funds on renovations, utilities and rent (the dump was rent-free).
*We’re facing logistical issues with meals, equipment and Ecuadorian staff.
*We’re urgently planning how to provide services to help families become self-sustainable.
Please join us as we navigate through this disruption and prepare for the future.
We covet your support. We need short-term teams, volunteers, interns and career staff who are interested in pouring into the dump community.
Would you also give to help us cover the extra costs of the new facility and possibly a permanent new location? We need at least $37,000 to meet immediate and future needs. You can also donate online here.
Later this year we will hold the 20th Christmas celebration at the Quito Dump. We would love to have you join us. Please help us as we respond to changing needs. Thank you for your encouragement!
Jerry Carnill, President and CEO
P.S. – Take a look at this short video of our transition to the CDC!
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.
In today’s short-cut society, there are “life hacks” that teach us quick and easy ways to fix things. But when it comes to lives broken by poverty, abuse, abandonment, oppression, human trafficking and neglect, there are no short cuts, no simple hacks to make things better.
Faced with huge challenges regarding the plight of women struggling with poverty and lack of hope in the Philippines, the ER Asia staff knew it had to use long-term, sustainable tools to help women and children, who often are marginalized in Filipino society.
About four years ago, a group of mothers and women from a small community of poor informal settlements in Makati City decided to meet on a regular basis. Their purpose is to spend productive time learning more skills rather than hanging out with neighbors playing cards and chatting.
Extreme Response Asia’s Golden Hands Livelihood Educational Program took the initiative to train, educate and organize the women, most of whom come from the informal settlements. The aim of the program is to empower and change the lives of women living in extreme and often life-threatening situations.
Last year, program director Anne Benavidez developed a community-based curriculum for the group. They meet once a week for values formation and skills enhancement. They were taught how to do basic sewing and pattern making for skirts, swing bags, double-sided aprons and a whole lot more. During the training, the women developed not only their skills, but also self-confidence and trusted relationships.
Edwina Cautivo is one of the members of the group and a single mother of a deaf and mute child. They used to live in a small house with no proper electricity or water supply. During the meetings she was encouraged by the group to find a proper place for her children, a safer home in which to live. With courage and faith, she made the decision to rent an apartment for her family, which we celebrated. She is now an empowered woman with a changed life.
As a group of bonded women, we rejoice when we see that lives are being changed. Lorna Serano (lower right) and Emily Abajar (top of page) are examples of changed lives. Each has experienced abundant blessings and are enjoying the hope of freedom from poverty. Little by little, they are acquiring the skills and talents through the livelihood sewing program which they will use to meet their financial needs.
Emily Abajar is now in the process of launching her own home-based alteration shop She said the skills training received through Golden Hands have given her the opportunity, confidence and knowledge on basic sewing and pattern making. She is excited and looking forward to the culminating ceremony on the April 1. She will be among the first women to graduate from the program.
We at Extreme Response Asia are truly encouraged to see changed lives and empowered women in the community, thriving to overcome poverty, oppression and injustice in the society. Indeed every single day is a blessing, a spark of hope and an avenue for change.
Pen “Pen Pen” Bullo serves at-risk communities in and around Manila as part of her duties with Extreme Response Asia. She also travels to remote villages to help teach disaster preparedness and response.
Starting today, you’ll see lots of news stories touting gender equality and equal rights for women in recognition of International Women’s Day, celebrated on March 8. This is a worthy cause and deserving of our attention, consideration and support.
But Extreme Response (ER) won’t be holding any special celebrations to mark the occasion. You see, our mission – every day – is to come alongside and help women and children who are struggling with extreme conditions like poverty, abandonment, hunger, lack of education and human trafficking. The women ER and our partners serve are mostly in developing countries like Ecuador, South Africa, Kenya, Malawi, the Philippines, Nepal and Haiti.
Two years ago, we took an extra step to assure that we were focusing on the needs of women by forming the Women’s Advocacy team within ER. These “Extreme Women” are committed to traveling to places of the world where women are forgotten, rejected and have no societal safety net to help them.
“Throughout the world women and children live in substandard conditions in comparison to their male counterparts. We have the ability to make a difference and we have a responsibility to reach out and help these women and children with education, hygiene, counseling care and shelter,” said Kelly McClelland, ER’s Women’s Advocate Director.
It is no small task to help women struggling in these situations. Many have been deeply hurt and often abused. So we start by building trust, acknowledging their self-worth and showing them how much we love and value them. From there we provide encouragement, counseling, skill-building, nutrition and more. It’s a long but worthy road. Helping women looks different in each place we operate so we rely tremendously on our regional staff and partners.
So what does it look look like to actually go and help women in crisis?
Roxanne Wilson is one of our Women’s Advocacy team members from Michigan. She jumped at the chance to visit Ecuador in order to pour into women in crisis. Here is her first-hand account of visiting ER partner Dunamis, a Quito-based organization that helps restore girls from the abuses of human trafficking.
“When I walked into Dunamis, the girls were all seated around a table listening to one of their teachers speaking words of love and encouragement to them,” Roxanne said. “They greeted us with “Holas!” and welcomed us into their safe place with hugs.
“At that moment I was so humbled that these young girls were so willing to spend the day with six U.S. strangers. Our team had planned on doing a manicure for each of the girls while we there. Little did we know that the girls wanted to do them on us! It was such a special time to give and get in return.
“We were able to communicate to the girls through interpreters. As I listened to them speak, I realized how young they were. Some were just 12 years old. I listened to them talk about hair, make-up, clothes and Taylor Swift. These were all typical “tween” and teenage topics, yet some of these girls already had babies. All of them had been involved in human trafficking.
“Their families had hurt most of them, yet they still had love and concern for their abusers. ‘How could that be?’, I thought. I cannot fathom the horrors their little eyes have seen. Although I spent only a day with them, their faces and hurts are burned into my memory. The work Dunamis is doing in Quito is so inspiring,” she added.
ER remains committed to helping victims like the girls at Dunamis. Our Extreme Women host volunteer teams, do projects and raise funds for women who have no where else to turn. We would love to have you join us.
Extreme Women is an advocacy program created by women to help women in need. Extreme Women aims to: restore women from human trafficking, counsel the abused and abandoned, provide job training and life skills, develop leaders, and break the cycle of poverty. For additional information on Extreme Women and how you can get involved, please contact Kelly McClelland at a email@example.com or click here to learn more.
Dunamis is an ER partner located in Quito, Ecuador, that seeks to restore the rights of young women and adolescents victimized by human trafficking. Its work includes teaching workshops to help young women reintegrate socially and successfully enter the workplace. Many of the girls have children, so Dunamis also has created a childcare program that takes place during workshop hours. The organization is currently seeking to purchase land in order to provide a safe home and training center. Learn more.