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Ecuador Chismaute Spring 2011 Report

  1. 1. Chismaute SPRING 2011 COMMUNITY REPORT
  2. 2. INTRODUCTION In the province of Chimborazo, vibrant indigenous communities are surrounded by some of the most stunning landscapes and fertile land in Ecuador. Yet, because of their isolation and years of marginalization, these communities struggle to access education, clean water, jobs and health care. Chimborazo has the highest rates of poverty in the country, in some estimates reaching up to 91 percent of the province’s rural population. But the people who live here have something very powerful, the minga. Years ago, a community in Ecuador showed a team of Free The Children volunteers what a minga is: facing an almost impossible deadline for a new school, everyone in the community dropped their work in their fields and homes and came together to finish the building in record time. This “coming together for the betterment of all” has come to define Free The Children’s work around the world, and nowhere more so than in Ecuador, the birthplace of the minga. Through the Adopt a Village development model, communities across Chimborazo and the Free The Children team are coming together to free families from poverty, exploitation, thirst and disease. Thanks to your support, we have been able to build new primary schools, expand on the San Miguel high school, establish clean water systems and organize Girls’ Clubs. With so much on the go, Free The Childrenat work!community partners are excited and hopeful for the future of the people of Chimborazo. Students hard and our Free The Children in Chismaute Impact At A Glance ………………………….…………….……………. 1 Clean water project 1 Kitchen and Dining hall built 1 Girls club 1 School Built Students Enrolled: 250 Chismaute Spring 2011, 2
  3. 3. EDUCATION be free from a long history of exploitation and marginaliza- tion. Free The Children began talking with the community in 2009, carefully discussing what the community needs and wants and how Free The Children is able to support them. With both sides excited to get started, we worked together to overcome various challenges in the planning process and began construction of the first classroom in July 2010. The primary school classroom was finished in January and the community started using it right away. One of the grades is still without a classroom and holds its classes outside. To address this as quickly as possible, Free The Children is working with another non-profit in Chis- maute to build a second classroom, which is now almost fin- The new classroom in Chismaute ished. Though they do not have much, community members pulled together $1,000 to help build the two classrooms. In Ecuador, the communities we work with contribute both Access to education in mountainous Chimborazo province time and 10% of the construction costs for each major proj- has long been a challenge for the rural population. Among ect, ensuring that community members feel ownership the biggest problems is that many communities have unsafe and responsibility of the schools, kitchens, gardens and wa- and overcrowded school buildings, which means that there ter systems being built. This way, projects are not built and is not a safe space for children to learn. For Free The Children, abandoned but instead become cherished parts of the com- the first step to helping these communities become free munity. from poverty and exploitation is to build safe and encourag- ing schools. The people of Chismaute experience a higher level of pover- ty than most of the Ecuadorian communities we work with. Chismaute has a higher level of poverty than most commu- Against all odds, community members managed to pool nities in the region. Few men have the skills needed to work their resources and not only prove how important education in construction, so many of them have to settle for low-pay is to them but also act on it. Though there are still struggles work hauling produce and supplies at village markets out- ahead, we are filled with hope for the future of Chismaute. side of Chismaute. The old social structure in Ecuador, called the Hacienda System, saw indigenous communities exploit- ed by the wealthy landowners who controlled the best land and livestock in the country. For hundreds of years, Ecuador’s indigenous people were almost completely cut off from any kind of formal education. This system only began to break- down in the 1970s, and still many adults in Chismaute and other communities throughout the province have never had the opportunity to get an education. Without basic educa- tion, many men struggle to earn enough money to support their families. With the help of Free The Children and our supporters world- wide, the community of Chismaute now has the chance to Students hard at work! Chismaute Spring 2011, 3
  4. 4. HEALTH With the push of his people, the President signed an agree- ment that committed to building the kitchen and dining hall. Construction continued with a three-day minga, during which everyone in the community came out to help level the hillside where the building was to be. Together, they moved over a hundred cubic metres of soil, which was then turned into the adobe bricks used to build the kitchen and dining hall. The kitchen and dining hall have been built, and we are now moving onto the second phase of the project. During the spring of 2011, the kitchen is being updated to improve ven- tilation for the cooking fires and to ensure that it is a healthy environment for everyone who works in the room. With that completed, we will provide specialized training for the wom- en who cook the school meals in this kitchen on health, sani- tation and maintenance of the space. Our team in Ecuador will also provide Chismaute’s teachers and women through- out the community with health and sanitation trainings so Students washing their hands in the school kitchen that they can spread good health practices to their students and families. By working with mothers and educational lead- ers throughout the community, we are encouraging a cul- Poor nutrition is one of the biggest health concerns for Chim- ture of healthy living from the ground up. borazo communities. The average diet consists of corn, rice, potatoes and various grains, which are strong staple foods but lack important vitamins needed for a balanced diet. Ad- ditionally, many families can only afford to eat one or two meals a day. Many children face permanent malnutrition and stunted growth. According to UNICEF, Chimborazo has the highest malnutrition rate of any province in Ecuador. In Chismaute, we are focusing the health care pillar on the school kitchen. In our early meetings with the community, there was a lot of interest in building a kitchen and dining hall at the Chismaute school grounds. The project would bring together education and health care, making sure that children have access to regular nutritious meals while they are in school. Many community members recognized how important this would be. However, the President of the com- munity was hesitant. The people of Chismaute banded to- gether and went to the president’s house to express their desire for this project, making a powerful statement of the values and dedication of the community. Chismaute Spring 2011, 4
  5. 5. ALTERNATIVE INCOME leadership. However, in communities like Chismaute, we are seeing a resistance to gender discrimination and an inspiring push for women’s empowerment. In October 2010, we began the “Girls Club” alternative income program in two Ecuadorian communities, one of which is Chismaute. The goal of the Girls Club is to contribute to the national government plan to reduce poverty in the rural ar- eas of the country through the formation of strong young female leaders. Girls in this program are given a safe space to talk and learn about women’s and children’s rights, health and hygiene, nutrition, the importance of education, envi- Participating in a Girls Club activity ronmental sustainability and business training. Alongside these topics, the young women will be supported as carriers of a rich culture in their homes and their community. The basic principle behind Free The Children’s alternative The Girls Club program starts by teaching young women income programming is that when women earn a reliable practical leadership skills in the context of their own commu- income of their own, they are much more likely to invest that nities, covering topics such as leadership in the Ecuadorian money in their children (compared with their husbands). But Indigenous Movement, motivational speaking, conflict reso- this isn’t just our opinion; study after study, from different lution, and promoting human development through gender countries, communities and cultures, shows that women’s empowerment, health care and sanitation, and nutrition. For empowerment is a key factor in community development 21 months, young women in the Girls Club will attend work- and poverty alleviation. shops on these topics and on how to run a small enterprise, including skills for business planning and community bank- In Chimborazo’s indigenous communities, women face ing. Then for another 21 months after the training, Free The many barriers to equality. Over half of the adult women in Children will support the girls in starting their own small pro- the communities where Free The Children works are illiterate, ductive initiatives. averaging just three years of formal education. Women, and especially indigenous women, are underrepresented in pro- The young women’s productive activities during the first 30 vincial and community politics. There is resistance in many months of the program generates 50 percent of the start-up community organizations to female leadership, creating bar- capital for their micro-enterprises, with the other half sup- riers to positions of influence and reinforcing the discrimina- plied by Free The Children in interest-free loans. They will re- tion that already exists. ceive technical training from Free The Children staff, our part- ners, the municipal government and the Ecuadorian Ministry Within the household, it is very common for women to be of Education. The final stage of the program is a 9-month economically dependent on their husbands. This means that period during which Free The Children will accompany and the ones who are responsible for the wellbeing of children monitor the community banking arrangement. This will do not have a say in how the family’s money is spent. While help ensure the sustainability of the program so that young this is of course not true of every family in Chimborazo, the women will continue to have access to loans and savings widespread disempowerment of women weighs heavily not accounts, making their small businesses viable in the long- just on the basic rights of women and girls, but also on the term. We are incredibly excited about Chismaute’s Girls Club communities that do not benefit from their wisdom and and the potential that we see in the community’s brave and resourceful young women. Chismaute Spring 2011, 5
  6. 6. A WORLD OF IMPACT “I have more confidence in myself and I feel that I can speak more comfortably. To be honest, I used to be really scared to speak in front of people, but now I am much better and this is thanks to Free The Children programs, more specifically the Girls Club.” While this confidence empowers Sandra and her peers to speak out and be leaders in their community, the effects of the Girls Club don’t stop here. Every Friday from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., Sandra and her friends in the Club meet to work on speaking and writing, to learn about children’s rights, to dis- cover the joy of being an active member of her community, and to learn practical skills that will help them earn a sustain- able income in the future. With a generation of empowered girls like Sandra leading the way, the people of Chismaute will be able to break the cycle of poverty forever. Sandra dreams of becoming a teacher For Sandra, that all comes down to education: Meet Sandra Susana Quinde Jaya “I want to be a teacher to teach in the community, and en- 13-year-old Sandra Jaya and her three siblings are all in sure that my family has a good home and more animals. I school—and they know how lucky they are. Both of Sandra’s want my siblings to finish their education so that they can parents work in agriculture and raise animals. It is hard and also be professionals. In the community, I want us to contin- unreliable work, bringing in little money. But, as Sandra says, ue working hand in hand with Free The Children so that we there just aren’t any opportunities for jobs in her community. can have more classrooms, and have a higher quality educa- There have been many times when her family had nothing tion for the children in my community.” but the few potatoes they grew. The Chismaute Girls Club For Sandra, the struggle for opportunities is two-fold. “To be honest I used to be really scared to speak in front of people,” says Sandra Jaya. As a girl in Chismaute, Sandra does not have many outspoken female mentors that she can look up to. Social and economic barriers continue to prevent women from being equal in their households and in the community. Sandra has grown up in a place where women do not have a strong voice. To speak up and share her thoughts in public is a big challenge. But that’s starting to change and Sandra couldn’t be happier. Alongside the op- portunities and hope created by building new classrooms, Free The Children’s Girls Club program is giving girls in Chis- maute the skills and knowledge to have a strong, educated voice. Chismaute Spring 2011, 6
  7. 7. CONCLUSION Comments Free The Children would like to express our sincere thanks to As donors, you are very important to us. At Free The Children, you for the generosity and commitment you have shown in we are always trying to better serve you and provide you with helping to break the cycle of poverty in Chismaute. Through the best community report updates. In order to improve your amazing support, we are working towards freeing the quality of our reporting, we would truly appreciate students and their families from poverty, exploitation, thirst your constructive feedback. If you have any questions or and disease. Your contribution to Free The Children’s Adopt comments regarding this report please use the Comment a Village holistic development program has allowed us to button on the community microsite to send us feedback. bring sustainable change to rural communities around the world. Once again, thank you for your support and we look forward to hearing from you. Chismaute Spring 2011, 7