ECUADOR: Spanish family volunteers at Salesian programs in Ecuador to give back to people in need
(MissionNewswire) The Fernández family from León, Spain have been in Ecuador for 30 days, volunteering at different programs in the country. The family, Javier Fernández and Diana Pérez and their two children Gerardo and Míriam, spent its time in Riobamba to give back in service to others. They have held meetings on human trafficking and have helped prepare food rations for people with scarce economic resources.
Fernández and Pérez have been collaborating with the Spanish Salesian organization Jóvenes y Desarrollo for about 20 years and have volunteered with programs that aid young children and older youth. Remaining connected to the Salesians, their first experience in Ecuador was at the Salesian Center in Riobamba, where they learned about the program and supported Salesian missionaries work for the elderly. In another Salesian program offered at the center, they supported work with teens who have criminal records.
“It shocked me to find that there were 12-year-old boys, who are my son’s age, held for crimes like murder or rape. This is why I say that the work that the Salesians are doing to make these children recover their lives is admirable,” said Pérez.
In the small villages of Morales and Curtincapac, the Fernández family played games and engaged with the children and older youth. Gerardo and Míriam had an opportunity to connect with children their own age and spend time playing with their peers.
“In these places we have seen that the children are able to collaborate. They participated in the things we organized. We’ve seen that children can actively participate as little educators, and all this has helped us grow as a family,” added Pérez.
The family noted that for them the volunteering is not so much in what they give to others, but in the experiences and learning that can be drawn from people with whom they share moments of grace. When they left Ecuador, they thanked the Salesian community of Riobamba who welcomed them. They stressed the importance of spending the time to learn directly from people who are going through hardship and helping them.
Salesian missionaries in Ecuador focus on providing education, social programming and workforce development to help the country’s most vulnerable citizens. Technical and vocational education is also provided to help youth gain the skills needed to find and retain long-term stable employment.
Ecuador’s poverty rate was 36.7 percent in 2007 and dropped to 22.9 percent in 2016. These results show that 1.4 million Ecuadorians escaped poverty within nine years. However, many Ecuadorians still live in impoverished conditions. Ecuador is one of the most inequitable societies in the world, according to UNICEF. The richest 20 percent of the population receives almost 50 percent of the national income, while the poorest 20 percent receives only 5 percent.
According to the World Food Program, almost 26 percent of all children under age 5 have stunted growth, increasing to 31 percent in rural areas and 47 percent in indigenous communities.
Close to 20 percent of Ecuador’s population are people of indigenous heritage. For poor, rural and indigenous youth, education provides the best opportunity for finding employment, reducing inequities and breaking the cycle of poverty. Salesian missionaries have been providing education and other social programs for disadvantaged youth across Ecuador for more than 125 years.
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UNICEF – Ecuador