Monday, July 23, 2012

Beyond Books and Borders: Trip to Ecuador

This summer a dream came true.  Since starting Classic Coup which sends books to children in Ecuador, I've wanted to meet kids there face-to-face and work alongside the amazing adults who care for them.  From the beginning Kaleo Kids has distributed books and helped us understand how we can make a difference.  The nonprofit was started by long-time friends, Darin and Sherry Coyle, who left the US to assist with sheltering and educating abandoned children in Ecuador.  They work with sister schools: Montebello Christian Academy in Quito (where Sherry teaches English) and Antioch in the Amazon jungle (where Darin leads volunteer work crews in building homes for teachers).   Recently Kaleo Kids has also committed to assist friends who  launched a program for teen moms and their children in Quito. 
With me were  three of my students from Donelson Christian Academy--Jessica, Emory, and Ellison.  All are considering volunteer work in their career fields—missions, medicine, and education.   Together we taught students in both schools, and I worked with teachers and administrators.   We also climbed a mountain Indiana- Jones- style by bamboo ladders, hanging vines, and exposed tree roots to a waterfall in the rain forest, then busted on mudslides coming down.  We played with children on the Napo River, became pals with a Parrot whose alias was “Gringa" while crossing the Andes, and met teen moms and their beautiful babies.

It was great to build relationships with founders/directors of Montebello (Ron and Sharon Stiff) and of the jungle school in Misahualli (Roberto and Charmai Davalos). Both families parent multiple “at- risk” children at home as well as teach them and their peers at school. We also met Boris Salinas,  once a street kid/gang member who Ron and Sharon adopted.  Today Boris and his wife, Fernanda, provide teen moms a safe haven and sustainable income in Quito. Using eco-friendly tagua nuts (“vegetable ivory”) the girls make jewelry to provide for their children.   Boris and Fernanda are setting up sponsorships to assist with the shelter and future education of these children at Montebello.

Going beyond borders and books, we came back with a better understanding of new ways Classic Coup and others can help our neighbors in South America. At the top of the wish list for both schools is teachers/teacher training. To learn more about volunteering/supporting our friends in Ecuador, go to the sites below.  Stay tuned for details on how to assist the teen moms and their children, including where you can buy their jewelry in the US.

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