Claire's Journey Parte Cuatro

Buenas noches!

I hope you are all doing well! It’s crazy to think that it is almost mid-July! The summer has been flying by. 

For the first half of the week, I was in Alausí attending meetings with Shannon Turner (the Founder of the Maria Lida Foundation), Patrick O’Neill (the President of the Board of Directors of the Maria Lida Foundation), and Jorge Mora (In-Country Director of the Maria Lida Foundation). On Monday, we spoke with a family affected by the landslide as MLF is exploring the opportunity to sponsor a family and help provide them with relief during this tragedy. The family expressed that one of the biggest problems was that the banks are charging over 16% interest on paying off mortgages. The people are now having to still make these high monthly payments on houses that have been completely destroyed while also having to pay rent for their new place to live, which is often impossible. We also met with a lady from the town who was affected by the landslide, but worked as a former banker! MLF is hoping to be able to put together a case to request the banks to decrease the interest rate for a bit so that the citizens affected by the landslide can manage to make their payments.

On Tuesday, we met the new mayor of Alausí and introduced the Maria Lida Foundation to him. We asked for his guidance in knowing how MLF can best support the people of Alausí, specifically within the realms of growing the economy and tourism. We were greatly honored after the meeting when he gave Shannon and I hats, Patrick a poncho, and Jorge a scarf. After the mayor, we met with representatives from the Nizag community to be updated on their marketing efforts and how tourism to the monument is going. They were able to show us some content they had on TikTok and explain their ideas. MLF has been partnered with the Nizag community for a little while, and is hoping to keep this connection growing over the years!

On Wednesday, we met with a citizen of Sibambe (a neighboring town to Alausi) who spoke of efforts to increase tourism to the area by using the festival season, especially the celebration of Saint Santiago. In Sibambe, they have annual processions for him with many horses and it is a huge festival that would definitely be a tourist attraction. He also spoke of the need for pottery equipment and classes, so the town could handcraft souvenirs for tourists from the unique clay of the region. We also spoke with him about an initiative in Alausí to encourage people to repaint their houses, or potentially provide jobs in doing so, to make the town look more lively again. Finally, we talked about the importance of the train as a vital source of the economy and the importance of getting it running again. Then, we met with the new director of tourism and she shared about Alausi’s goals to get signs up in Cuenca and Quito and other big cities around Ecuador advertising the Chimborazo region. After that, we met with one of the sisters from the school and she expressed the need for children displaced from their shelter by the slide to be able to afford quality education. 

Clearly, there are many issues and ways that Alausí is in need of support! The Maria Lida Foundation is constantly working, reflecting, and praying about who to provide help to and when the right time is. 

The Maria Lida Foundation has been doing so many exciting things to help the people and it’s only been made possible with the generosity and love of their incredible network of donors. Thank you to all of you who are staying involved with MLF, even just by being on this email list and hearing about my experiences as an intern! Everything makes a difference. 

On Thursday, I left Alausí and Shannon, Patrick and I headed up to Cuenca for a couple meetings (one with a former banker and another with a journalist for an expat community). Then, we flew to Quito where I was able to stay on Friday and get to explore the historical center downtown. Saturday, Patrick and I traveled to the Galapagos! We arrived late in the afternoon and were able to try some delicious food, see some of the islands, and tour the downtown area. 

On Sunday, I went on a full day tour of the Galapagos as the Maria Lida Foundation wants to gain a perspective on tourism there! I was able to travel with a tour group on a boat to the different islands where we hiked, learned about local flora and fauna, and saw incredible views. We were also able to go on a snorkeling excursion near the coast of one of the islands where we saw sharks, stingrays, and schools of fish! It was an incredible experience and one I am so thankful to have! 

Today is Monday! Patrick and I just got back from the Galapagos a little bit ago and are spending our last 24 hours in Quito before heading back to the United States! I hope to tour the “Middle of the World” landmark tomorrow before catching our late evening flight! 

As you can see, it has been an extremely busy week! Unfortunately, it’s also drawing close to the end of my internship! I can’t believe how fast this experience has gone, but I am so grateful for all the things I have learned and ways I have grown during my time in Ecuador. 

I would like to take a brief moment to share some of the most important ways this experience has changed my life!

First, this experience has helped my passion for helping others truly come to life. I have always considered the nonprofit world to be very eye-catching as a potential career, and working with the Maria Lida Foundation has only confirmed that. The work they do to help support the community, grow the economy, and educate the citizens to be self-sustaining is incredible. Truly an inspiring mission! As I continue my education journey, I know I want to learn more about sustainability, specifically within society and the economy and continue to think about areas in my community with needs that can be provided for. Change only requires someone with passion followed by the will power to make a plan happen! It has been so inspiring to see this come to action in my daily life in Ecuador. 

Another way this experience has been life changing is in opening up my desire to learn. At first, it was so overwhelming not knowing the area, language, or people. Yet, throughout my time in Ecuador, I spent countless evenings studying Spanish, hours walking around the town, and many meals in the presence of the lovely people of Alausí! It has sparked my travel bug and desire to learn Spanish so I can see all South America has to offer. Life is a never-ending lesson, so you might as well love to learn! 

Lastly, when I reflect on the entire month, I am constantly reminded of how good God is. Living alone in Ecuador was everything but easy, yet God never once abandoned me. Learning Spanish was tiring and a struggle, but God gave me the encouragement to keep trying. My own selfish doubts and fears were often weighing me down, yet God put a smile on my face every day. With or without God in your heart, soul, and mind, life is hard. Yet, with God in your life, I’ve learned that your heart becomes a little more loving, your soul becomes a little more hopeful, and your mind becomes all the more joyful. 

Thank you so much for taking the time to read this email and learn about my experiences as a Maria Lida Foundation intern. Despite it being the end of my time as an intern, this is still just the beginning for the Maria Lida Foundation! If you would like to be kept on emails and contacted with quarterly newsletters, please email! You can also continue to financially support the Maria Lida Foundation by donating through their website located at

I am forever grateful for this opportunity to live in Ecuador and the inspiration it has given me as I continue my education journey! A huge thanks to the Maria Lida Foundation for all their work and to all of you for your generous support and prayers!