Today I’m continuing my series of posts relating to my recent trip to Ecuador. For previous posts, click here.
The first hour or so, we were blessed with a presentation on Ecuador and Compassion’s work in the country. I had no idea how young the overall population of Ecuador is – there are 7 million citizens under the age of 25; that’s just under 1/2 of the entire population.
Additionally, I did not know that there are 200 Compassion Child Sponsorship Projects in the country, with 59,000 kids sponsored. I do wonder, though, if Compassion keeps data on how many sponsored kids are 2nd and 3rd generation sponsored kids. I know the idea is that you break that cycle, that ideally, a child who completes the program has the skills and education needed to provide for their family in such a way that their own children would not need sponsors – but, in reality, we know that cycle is a terrible one and I would imagine that not all children who complete the program can break the cycle in a single generation. It would be interesting to see the numbers – and possibly the numbers of those who break vs do not break the cycle in comparison to those who do vs do not receive letters from their sponsors… just a thought.
After the presentation, we took a tour of the office and met the local staff. We were able to browse through the country’s curriculum for the Projects, learn about the letter writing system from their end, and even see the fun stacks of template paper ready to be distributed to the kids.
But, by far, the best part of the visit was the mail room. Every project has their own slot in this room of shelves – and in those slots go all of the hopes, dreams, and well-wishes of 1000s of sponsors around the world. This is also a good time to mention that Compassion lets you drop-off non-letter items for your kids at the main office. All of those bags on the table in the photo below were gifts brought by me and other members of our group for our own kids and the kids of other sponsors we know. Since we met our kids before touring the country office, I took an additional gallon-sized ziplock bag full of things that I wish I had thought of before meeting my kids (shampoo/conditioner from the hotel, rice/lentils from the grocery store, hard candy, etc.). It was a great way to get one last gift to the kids before we left.
I also searched both Emily & Josue’s project slots and found 2 of my letters ready to be delivered! Which was so fun! It gave me a glimpse of how the templates I share here look when they get to the kids.
It also gave me a better understanding of the time-frame involved in writing/delivering a letter. I went to Ecuador at the end of September, 2013. The letters I found I had written at the end of April, 2013. That’s a 5 month travel time; which means that I should start sending my autumn/fall/harvest themed letters now in order for them to get to my kids at the right time. It also means I really should celebrate Christmas in July (or at the latest August).
Another thing I learned while at the Compassion office was that the letters are actually translated in Ecuador. For some reason, I thought my letters were translated in Colorado at the main Compassion Office; but nope, Compassion contracts with locals to translate the letters – both mine to the kids and the kids’ to me.
After the time at the main Ecuador Office, we spent some time at a local market – I only got one photo from the market (below) but I can best describe it as a foot-ball sized space packed with small booth-like structures that, in turn, were packed floor to celling with merchandise. From alpaca blankets to pan-flutes, silver jewelry to hand carved nativity scenes, there was a little bit of everything. And I’d be lying if I said I didn’t buy much – I totally filled one of my gift-empty bags with items purchased at the market. But it was so worth it. And that, my friends, was my last full-day in Ecuador. The next morning we rose bright and early to catch our flight back to the states and honestly, I was so exhausted (mentally, physically, and definitely emotionally) that it’s all a bit of a blur. An awesome blur, but still a blur.
And truth be told, I’m already looking forward to another trip with Compassion International. It was so worth it – so, so, so worth it.