Project Ecuador

Project Ecuador
Giving Hope and a Future

Monday, 3 April 2017

Zoo trip!

A zoo opened just outside Santo Domingo about a year ago. Only one of the girls in the girls' club had been, so I decided this should be our next trip.

We were donated some clothes, so we decided to have a jumble sale, along with some home made cakes and drinks, and managed to raise the money for the entrance fee.

On Friday, 18 teenage girls were excitedly waiting for the minibus to come and collect us.

The trip was a special treat for them, as they had never had the chance to see such animals before. It was also a day of fun, time with friends and a change from the usual routine. Such adventures lift the spirits and create wonderful memories. Before I left home, I prayed that as well as being a day to deepen friendships, it would be a day where they would enjoy Creator God.

The trip round the zoo was accompanied by many squeals, shrieks and exclamations of delight. I am sure you can imagine the noise 18 high-pitched squeals make! They ran from the ostrich, played with the tigrillo through the wire, and talked with the parrots. The crocodiles and giant turtles were greatly admired. But by far the most exciting were the monkeys. Some of them were allowed to roam free, and they caused endless entertainment. These cheeky monkeys loved to sit on heads, steal food, play with shoe laces and tease while hanging from tree branches. It was hard to drag the girls away.

A picnic lunch followed, and then a refreshing dip in the swimming pool. The girls all had a wonderful time.

Later, when they were posting their photos on Facebook, one of the girls wrote, "Perfect Creator God, precious animals."





Saturday, 25 March 2017

Finishing School

This year Lorena, Leonella and Milena have all graduated from secondary school, with the help of sponsors. Let me tell you a little about their stories, so you can see what a HUGE difference their sponsors have made in their lives.

Lorena's father died of cancer when she was 13. She is the youngest of about 8 children. her mother was already 60 and dependent on her siblings to provide for her. Lorena could only continue school because we gave her a sponsor and helped her with sewing work to pay her bus fares. She calls her sponsor her "angel" . Lorena's ambition is to be a nurse. To get there, she needs to find a job now, and begin University part time. This dream is now within her reach. If she had not finished school Lorena would probably have a baby by now, and be at home struggling to feed her family. What a difference having the opportunity to study has made in her life!

Leonella is the middle of 3 sisters. Her older sister had her first child aged 14, and only finished primary school. Leonella loves clothes, fashion and sewing. Now she has finished school she can look for work in a clothes shop and maybe one day achieve her dream of having her own small business. Go for it Leonella!

Milena is the youngest of 6 children. Her mother is already too old to work. Her father is not around. They are dependent on her older brothers who work in the fields for a pittance. Milena now has secondary school education and can find better paid work than her brothers. She hopes to do a short course to learn to be a beautician. She could then have her own business.

Many thanks to all who sponsor children and give them this opportunity in life.

Friday, 24 February 2017

Unfinished Business

Recently, I was given a suitcase of material left behind by an elderly lady who was now no longer able to stitch with them. Amongst the remnants and scraps I found cut out skirts, which had never been stitched together, and half-done patchwork.
It reminded me of a book, Rhythms of Rest, I have been reading. The author reminds us that work is never complete. There is always more to be done. There are always dishes to wash, clothes that are dirty, unfinished projects and deadlines looming. We will never finish it all.
She urges us to down tools and take a Sabbath rest. Despite the work, the unfinished list, the dishes in the sink. Rest is important. We need to recharge. We need to listen to God, to re-establish priorities and see what is important to do, and what is not. We need stillness and silence to hear His voice. When we do not rest, we are doing more than God wishes. We are doing it in our own strength, not from his abundant love.
I gave the skirt pieces to a friend to make into skirts for her daughter. She was delighted to be able to be creative with the beautiful fabrics and make something special for her girl.
I sewed the patchwork pieces into cushions to go on our new swing seat on the balcony. They look magnificent.
I am grateful to pick up the work left unfinished and have the joy of completing it.
I am grateful to be used by God and have work to do, for my family and the wider community.
I am also grateful to have comfortable cushions to rest on, and to know I am not indispensable. 

Saturday, 28 January 2017


Recently, Tio (great uncle) Roman caught a baby rabbit on the farm and brought it to the house for the girls to see. He was tiny and cute and the girls loved having a cuddle.

“We had 2 wild rabbits as pets once,” Tio Roman reminisced. They used to go wandering in the day and always came home at night to sleep. It was great having them around. They were two brown rabbits. Very friendly they were.”
I nodded, imagining this scene of domesticity and love.
“Then, one day, one of the rabbits didn’t come back,” rugged Tio Roman continued. “We couldn’t bear to see the poor rabbit left all alone, so we ate it.”
I blinked in shock at the sudden dramatic ending to his tale. And then I could not help laughing to myself. It was such an Ecuadorean thing to say! People here are always talking about “Accompaňamiento”, doing things together, the horror of being alone. Doing things with other people definitely trumps efficiency. People generally try to avoid spending time alone. And after all, guinea pigs, rabbits… they are all ultimately meat aren’t they?!

We let the wild rabbit go, and have acquired two pet rabbits… that are not destined for the pot. 

Monday, 16 January 2017

Do you miss medical work?

I stopped doing regular medical clinics a year ago. There were several reasons for this.
First, the government opened 2 new clinics in our area in recent years. Most local people started going to them for medical attention as they are free and you have to go there to be referred to the government hospital. A private doctor cannot refer. Hence, I had many fewer patients.
Second, as my girls grow, the homeschooling becomes more demanding. I had less time available.
Third, the support for the sponsored children, schools work and girls club grew. I decided it was better to dedicate the time I had to these ministries, rather than spreading myself too thin.
So, do I miss the medical work?
At first, it was a relief to stop as I was very tired! December 2015 was a busy month with many Christmas programmes which took up my time. A few months later was the earthquake, which led to us supplying food and receiving volunteers, until the autumn. There was no time to miss medicine! Once all that quietened down, I did miss the regular contact with patients and being able to help people with my medical skills. However, I still give people advice on an informal basis. I also still use my medical knowledge in the health promotion work that I do with the local children.

I mostly do not miss it because I love the things I am still doing. I love spending time with my girls in homeschool. I am inspired that we can now support 170 children in their education through sponsorship. It is great to be able to go into the local schools and help provide supplies they need and support volunteers who teach English. The ministry I love best is the girls’ work. Here in rural Santo Domingo, girls still have very limited prospects. I was concerned that despite sponsorship, many dropped out of high school early for other reasons. The girls’ club gives the opportunity to form friendships with these girls. It gives the chance to discuss important topics with them, build their self-esteem and broaden their horizons. It gives them tools to help them climb out of poverty. Most of all, as I teach them from the Bible, it gives them the opportunity to meet and know the living God who will be their companion and their guide for all their lives. It is a privilege to be able to spend my time in this way. 

Friday, 6 January 2017

FAQ How are things now, 9 months after the earthquake?

Six months after the earthquake the national newspaper El Comercio reported that there were still 7,000 people living in 24 shelters in the worst hit provinces. 3.7 million Cubic metres of debris had been removed. 9357 buildings had been demolished, with more still remaining to be torn down. Unicef reported that they continued to supply aid which allowed thousands of children to attend temporary schools in marquees. They also pointed out the continuing needs of people living in unofficial shelters and rural areas.
Our personal experience in El Carmen highlights the plight of people who have no land of their own and who are in unofficial shelters. Many small charities like ourselves, as well as larger ones and government agencies have rehoused people. However, those who have no land, and are not in official camps are not being helped. They continue to live in tents, share communal toilets and lack access to safe drinking water. We are in the process of building 3 more houses for families living in temporary shacks, who do have land on which to build, but who are not receiving government aid.
Rebuilding is taking place, but there is still a long way to go in towns such as Perdenales, which was almost completely destroyed in the quake.
On the 19th December we were woken in the night by another earthquake, this time only 5.7 in strength, which again hit the coast. This time 3 people died, 62 were injured and many buildings, already weakened by previous quakes, were damaged causing millions of dollars’ worth of damage.
The economy continues to be hit by the ongoing impact of the earthquake. Taxes were increased (VAT and income tax) to pay for repairs. Some lost their businesses and homes. This means people are unable to repay loans and have less money to spend in general. There are other factors in play in the downturn in the economy, but, in general, the cost of living continues to rise, while unemployment rises and sales fall.
In October, the government said it had allocated all the resources generated by the Solidarity Law: $1.5 billion to date.
The psychological effects continue too. We continue to feel small tremors from time to time. Everyone is jittery about them. Those who were at the epi-centre of the first one are reduced to tears. Posts immediately appear on social media, “Did you feel that one?” My 6 year old is only just beginning to stop being worried by the windows rattling in the wind. I can only imagine how children who had buildings collapse on them are still feeling.

Despite the huge challenges still to be overcome, a lot of progress has been made. People are resilient. Life continues. Grief remains. Day follows day. Parents continue to fight to feed and house their families. 

Thursday, 15 December 2016

How do your girls cope seeing others who have much less than they do?

I was surprised how many people asked me this question on our recent trip to the UK. “How do your children cope visiting other children who have no toys to play with? What do they make of the fact they live in a good house, while their friends live in poor houses?”
I was surprised because it has never been an issue really. When she was only 5 years old, my eldest went through a phase of trying to work out how rich or poor people were by asking me questions such as “Do bus drivers shop in the market or the supermarket?” They have always been aware some people have, and others do not. It is how life is. They are very accepting of the fact. They regularly play with children from poor families and they play with them just as they do children from a richer family. They are just as happy sliding down a pile of sand in the backyard and making mud pies, as they are playing with a fancy doll. It is just what they have always done. They do have many toys, but they are also used to having to gather up those they no longer play with so that we can donate them to the local school or poor families.
They are, like any children, anxious to have the latest toy that was advertised on the television, (not that they get them!) but are also aware that they are blessed. I think growing up with children who are materially poorer than them is teaching them to be grateful and not to take things for granted. They see how much hard work it takes to feed a family, when they see men sweating it out in the fields around us in the midday sun. They have accompanied me, since they were babies, on visits to patients and families living in very poor circumstances. They accompany their father to see the houses he builds for poor families and join in the celebratory meals of chicken and rice which the families often offer once a house is complete. Many of their own second cousins live in much poorer circumstances than ourselves. We do not shield them from these realities of life. They help me give out school supplies to sponsored children and Christmas gifts in schools. They see what we try to do to help others less fortunate than ourselves.
I do teach them that they are blessed; blessed to have a family that loves them, to have a home and food and clothing, to have an education and to live in peace and freedom. I hope growing up knowing and loving people who live in poverty will make them grateful and generous. I hope it will help them be hard-working and ready to make a contribution to society. I hope they are growing up knowing God loves the poor and we should too.  
Western societies seem to be struggling with a younger generation who believe they are entitled to many things – said to be the result of well-meaning parents giving their children everything they want. Toys, books, clothes and food are so cheap and readily available in the UK, it is hard to do otherwise! But I think this is a problem when then people think they are entitled to prosperity, health and long-life. When calamity strikes they think God has let them down, when He never promised those things in the first place.

And more than that, they are missing out on the wonderful things God has promised us. What are toys and clothes in comparison to sacrificial love, perfect peace and eternal joy? These are the things I want my girls to value, and they are available to rich and poor alike. I shall continue to expose my girls to the realities of life, because I think when we serve the suffering, then we meet Jesus. And that, my friends, is amazing.