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Free The Children has been working in Ecuador since 1999 with a focus on school building in the province of Chimborazo. In 2008, we realized the need for further support for these communities and officially launched Ecuador as an Adopt a Village country and have most recently expanded into the Amazon region.
Ecuador is home to the ‘Minga,’ a Kichwa tradition in which members of an entire community come together to work on a project for the benefit of all. The Minga is a soulmate to, and inspiration for the Me to We philosophy and we are dedicated to joining the Minga for the empowerment of indigenous communities across Ecuador.
Chimborazo is home to the largest number of indigenous communities who suffer from some of the highest rates of poverty in the country. These communities have very limited access to education, water, economic opportunities, health care services and the resources needed to maintain a nutritious food supply. Children often have to walk for hours to reach the nearest school and many parents keep their children at home to help with household chores.
The Ecuadorian Amazon is home to thousands of indigenous people who have lived there for millennia. These extremely remote communities have become the most vulnerable group living in Latin America due to limited authority over agricultural land use, labour opportunities (particularly for women) and health care. Severe poverty, limited access to education and environmental conditions greatly affect the vitality of these communities.
Free The Children believes that children in indigenous communities should be able to access a high-quality education close to home without the constant threat of migrating with their parents to work in cities because of their dire economic situation. By providing Ecuador’s rural communities with education, water, health programming and alternative forms of income, these forgotten people are finding hope for a brighter future.
Did You Know?
|300,000+||children are working as child labourers in Ecuador.||28.6%||of Ecuador's population live below the poverty line.|
|25.8%||of Ecuador’s population suffers from chronic malnutrition.||55%||of Ecuador’s indigenous population lives in poverty.|
Free The Children’s Objectives in Ecuador
- Support the development of the country’s indigenous population living in Chimborazo province and the Amazon region.
- Provide resources, opportunities and connections for community members to lead their own development and lift themselves out of poverty.
- Strengthen the value placed on ancestral knowledge and cultural identity through their inclusion in our approach to all of our work, including the use of indigenous language, participation in traditions and honouring of community processes.
Adopt a Village at a Glance in Ecuador
- School building and rehabilitation
- Student leadership program
- Educational programming
- Outfitting classrooms with furnishings
Clean Water and Sanitation
- Hand-washing stations
- Clean water systems
- Water and sanitation education
- Health education
- Outfitting of health clinics
Alternative Income and Livelihood
- Girls’ clubs
- Animal husbandry
- Empowerment and leadership
- Artisans training and development
Agriculture and Food Security
- School gardens
- Kitchen and dining hall construction
- Agriculture training
Community Case Study – San Miguel
In our experience, the best stories are the ones about resilient communities. Communities which face tremendous hardships, but harbour the drive to change.
When Free The Children began working in San Miguel, the community did not have the capacity to build more classrooms. In addition, they also had problems retaining students. In 2008, 195 students attended San Miguel School until Grade 7. By 2012, after working there for four years, Free The Children was able to help build enough classrooms to accommodate students up to Grade 10. Today, over 340 students are enrolled in San Miguel School from Grades 1 to 10.Free The Children began working in San Miguel in 2008. When we first arrived, an existing school building accommodated students from Grades 1 to 7. A few years before, the government of Ecuador had made primary public education—from Grades 1 to 9—mandatory. The school was equipped with plumbing and latrines, but without adequate training in how to use and effectively maintain these services. Without proper care and disposal methods, latrines are a source of infection. Students would develop infections regularly, which resulted in regular periods of absence from school. As a rural community that was fairly cut off from larger cities, the people of San Miguel did not have easy access to quality health care, nor could they afford it. With a population that relies heavily on subsistence farming, San Miguel also experienced higher levels of poverty.
A school building can provide a physical structure for education. The building also requires suitable internal infrastructure from plumbing and clean water taps to adequate numbers of teachers. In 2008, only 40% of students had an adequate supply of clean water. Dedicated Free The Children supporters have since helped install enough taps to ensure that every student in the school has access to clean water. Additional latrines have also been built in the school to bring the ratio down from 55 students per latrine to now 25 students per latrine.
While school building and clean water projects are ongoing, Free The Children’s health projects create a systemic impact. This means that these projects target long-term issues like malnutrition and ensure food security at the same
time. To combat malnutrition, students have planted a school garden with local and seasonal vegetables. Students then harvest these vegetables to provide the school with a healthy and nutritious food supply. Free The Children also built a kitchen and dining hall to ensure that food is cooked and eaten by students in a clean and sanitary environment.
In compliance with the national government’s plans, Free The Children’s alternative income and livelihood projects aim to reduce poverty levels in San Miguel. One of its most successful projects, the San Miguel Girls’ Club, empowers girls to become leaders in their community. Through a variety of workshops and training sessions, girls are given the tools to become economically independent. The girls are learning to breed and care for guinea pigs which they can sell in the market. The money raised from this initiative will fund education beyond primary school for girls. Best of all, this program creates a safe space for conversation and learning in other areas such as,
- Women and children’s rights
- Health and hygiene
- Importance of education
- Environmental sustainability
San Miguel embodies the perfect union between the modern and the traditional. The community has chosen to build its schools using ancient adobe bricks – a practice that has been followed for generations. Adobe bricks are made from natural materials and are environmentally friendly, and most importantly, durable. Straddling this line, the community continues to maintain the delicate balance necessary to build a holistic and sustainable world.