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.
By Kelly McClelland, ER Director of Women’s Advocacy
Imagine digging through the garbage on a daily basis for recyclable items likes plastic, cardboard, glass and metal to earn your living. Now imagine surviving off of what you uncover in the garbage by selling what you find, eating leftover food, and reusing any goods you find, including underwear. For many families living near the Zambiza dump in Quito, Ecuador, this is their reality.
Last year when I toured the dump, I noticed the deplorable situation many workers face. The conditions are oppressive and can appear hopeless. Women are using dirty underwear, making themselves vulnerable to diseases that could not only affect them physically, but also their livelihood. They struggle to get medications because they might miss work to visit a doctor. They cannot afford the medications without working. It perpetuates the cycle of defeat.
The Panty Project was born out of this great need. The project aims to provide fresh, clean underwear for women and children. It’s but one small step in helping to break the cycle of poverty. This September, our Women’s Advocacy team has set a goal to provide 100 women and children with underwear for 2016.
When I put my several pairs of clean underwear in my drawer after doing laundry, I’m reminded that women globally don’t have this luxury. The Panty Project is something so simple, yet so positive. A pair of undergarments really does make a world of difference to these girls!
Would you consider helping us this fall? $50 provides underwear for one woman or child for an entire year. If you would like to help, visit our donation page and designate your gift “WA Panty Project”.
To learn more about Women’s Advocacy, email Kelly McClelland at email@example.com or visit http://www.extremeresponse.org/our-programs/womens-advocacy.
Every day, Miguel and Jane, their daughter Patricia, their sons Luis, Edison, Miguel and Jefferson,plus two more extend family members, squeezed into their tiny home that featured green paneling near the entrance. Built with scavenged boards, the dilapidated house was all they had.
In some countries, the little structure would have been condemned and the family would be out on the street – homeless. But for these nine family members, the home meant survival. They were living like canned sardines, but at least they had a home. Unfortunately, what the home couldn’t provide was hope for the future. They were stuck in a perpetual cycle of poverty.
You see the Guachi family are “miners”, a term used to describe people who scratch out a living by wading into mounds of steaming garbage at the Zambiza Dump to remove recyclables like metal, glass, cardboard and plastics. The work is dirty and dangerous. It pays pennies per pound of recyclables – barely enough for the family to eat.
The outlook for the Guachi family was grim. But they had one chance to change everything. They knew ER volunteers had built homes for 12 other dump families. They asked to be considered for the program. After years of hoping, praying and waiting, they received the news that would change their lives. They would receive the next house, to be built in July 2015.
As part of the program, the Guachi family would work alongside Extreme Response volunteers and contribute their sweat equity. By helping build the home, the family’s confidence and sense of personal investment would grow.
Team Omaha Comes To Serve
Building homes for dump families would not be possible without ER volunteers and donors. They come from around the world for a week or two to help people they have never met. We call these volunteers Extreme Teams.
One Extreme Team in particular has been a huge blessing to the dump families. “Team Omaha” is compromised of volunteers from multiple churches in Omaha. The team steadfastly journeys to Quito year after year to change the lives of people living in desperate conditions. In addition to constructing homes, the team provides appliances, furniture, bedding and more.
The Guachi family home project began by tearing down the little green house. The family had to sleep in an old tent and makeshift hut during the new home construction. Seeing their home destroyed must have been both exciting and scary.
Not including the preliminary prep (foundation, utilities), the home was built in about one week. The 22 members of Team Omaha worked alongside family members, building both a home and relationships.
As far as construction projects go, this project was ER’s largest build yet. The home has five bedrooms, a bathroom, living room, dining room and kitchen. With the inclusion of other family members, 13 people moved into the house. (Plus, an uncle and brother also live in huts next to the house.)
Move-In Day: The Guachi Family is Overwhelmed
On the final day of the project, the family left so the team could finish and set up the house.
“I am sure their minds were full of wonder and joy,” said Paul Fernane, Americas Teams Coordinator. “The move-in day was crazy, busy and full of emotion. The team dashed around painting, finishing the electrical and plumbing, hanging curtains, making the beds, adding sheets, pillow and comforters, filling dressers with clothes and hanging special items on the walls.”
The team team carried the furnishings along a slippery narrow dirt path to the home. The bathroom was outfitted with towels, a medicine cabinet and a shower curtain. The kitchen received a stove, dishes, pots and pans, a blender and other kitchen utilities. The refrigerator and kitchen cabinets were filled with food. A bowl of fruit was placed on the dining room table as the centerpiece. Living room furniture was put in place.
Fernane shared the family’s introduction to their new home: “When they toured the home, their smiles were precious, especially the kids, as they opened the doors and saw the furnishings, clothing and food. They expressed extreme joy and gratitude. It was an awesome time of thanksgiving by both the family and the team. Tears and words of thanks went on for some time, before ER’s Zambiza Program Coordinator, Jose Jimenez, and everyone dedicated the home.”
For the Guachi family, life will never be the same. Hopelessness has been tossed to the curb. Now they have a safe, secure and spacious home, plus hope for the future.
Team Omaha wasn’t done with its service to at-risk families. The hearty volunteers also reached out to the women, children and men at the Zabmbiza Dump, Quito Family Resource Center and ER partner Dunamis.
ER has worked with dump families since 1997. We’ve met hundreds of people desperate to exit poverty. Most won’t make it because the crushing cycle of a lack of income, education and opportunity leaves them hopeless.
We know differently. It is possible to change the lives of families like the Guachis, for this generation and the next. Together, we can provide hope for the future.
Want to be a part of an Extreme Team that changes lives? Visit our Teams Page and watch this video showing on how dump families’ futures have been changed through our home building program.