Chicken Soup for the Soul
When the sun goes down on Quito many people are leaving their jobs and daily occupations to go home, share their time with loved ones and more than likely, sleep with their bellies full unbothered by the worries of when their next meal will be. But, as the majority lay in their beds in a deep slumber, the work day of Quito’s poorest begins.
I’m sure some of you may have heard about the book series, Chicken Soup for the Soul by Jack Canfield, if not, they are filled with inspirational and motivational true stories or essays for all phases and moments of your life. Instead, the story I’m about to share truly does involve a real and hearty chicken soup that was meant for the souls of those who are less fortunate.
In the graveyard hours of the night emerge a poor and uneducated society. In order to survive they must literally swim through a sea of garbage in a dump to find recyclable products or items to sell for money the next day. Imagine women, men, and even children wearing reflective vests just so they can see each other in the darkness of the night amidst the mountains of waste the garbage trucks collected throughout the day. Keep in mind they are digging in the heaps without any protection such as gloves. Now, not all of Ecuador is up to date with the concepts of organizing garbage. This means kitchen scraps, glass, metals, baby diapers, toilet paper, you name it, all found in one bag. The only things that are separated are the red bags from the hospitals with biohazard or infectious waste written in bold. As cold, dangerous and smelly a job it is, it must be done.
These people have no money and are down to their last resorts, scavenging through the night on empty stomachs to provide for their children and families, only to return to their homes made of plastic and tin walls in the early morning.
Not long ago, the Fundación Bolivar Education had an idea for this grave situation. What if there was a day care that these people could bring their children to during the day, and during the night we could offer to bring a healthy and hearty meal every now and then?
After contacting a day care located near the site run by an international group of Americans and a pastor named José, the program started to come together. The workers began to bring their children ages 0 to 5 years. They knew that they would be given the appropriate care needed including breakfast, lunch, a snack in the afternoon, and the opportunity to be educated about a healthier lifestyle. Something the parents were not capable of providing. After the children were brought in, the day care workers would clean and bathe them, literally take their clothes from that day and wash them and teach them the importance of bodily hygiene and how to take care of themselves. Sometimes, their parents do not even know the importance of being clean because they were never taught either. The effects of the program so far have been startling when volunteers and day care staff began to see the children educating their parents and telling them, for example, that they too should wash their hands before eating. It’s a small start, but at least it is in the right direction.
In addition to the day care, once a month the Fundación would gather up the ingredients needed and the volunteers with the man power to make a large meal to bring to the workers during the night from 7 to 11 pm. Bringing with them borrowed tables, chairs and a large spotlight to light up the area, the volunteers would serve each worker personally with a warm bowl of chicken soup. Shy, ashamed and with low self-esteem knowing they are dirty and reeking of Quito’s waste, they received the soup with such gratefulness, you could see it and feel it in their eyes as they accepted the food. Besides feeling embarrassed and reserved, they were still kind and humble sharing jokes and smiles with the volunteers. To better describe the overall experience for one of these workers is that they don’t perceive receiving the food for their hunger, rather food for their souls, giving them hope for a better tomorrow and knowing there are others out there who consider and think of them in their times of need. It baffles their minds to know there are people from around the world who are willing to give up their time to sit down and actually cook for them, for which they are eternally grateful. After the volunteers finished offering the food and started packing up, the workers each told them “Dios les pague”, a saying that means, may God bless you and repay you for your kindness.
In such an environment, it was not only the workers who were affected, but the volunteers as well. Some were so overwhelmed that they began to cry when they realized the severity of the situation and others were just so shocked that this was how some people lived. It was very gratifying and it made them so proud and honored to be able to lend a helping hand as part of this act of compassion and kindheartedness.
Fundación Bolivar Education is the only volunteer organization that provides aid to this society of people who work at night in the dumps. With the help of the day care center and the continuation of providing a monthly meal, the foundation hopes that this vicious cycle of poverty will end with the children. Being sheltered during the day, the day care will teach them the importance of an education and help lift their self-esteem upwards. In the future, the foundation is looking to improve on this project with new ideas to support this category of underprivileged individuals even further.
To learn more about our programs, and how you can help and Volunteer, contact us here
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