Claire's Journey Parte Tres
I hope this email finds you all doing well! I’m so happy to be writing to all of you again and sharing my experiences, as it has been a busy week here in Alausí! It’s been such a pleasure to get to work with the Maria Lida Foundation!
This week started off like most other normal weeks with me writing about different experiences here and completing research in developing itineraries for potential tourist trips to Alausí. As Maria Lida Foundation’s core mission is helping the economy by increasing tourism to the area, these will hopefully be very beneficial for MLF as they plan how to bring tourists in from the surrounding areas of Quito, Cuenca, and potentially other cities on the coast.
One of the other missions of the Maria Lida Foundation is to help the people of Alausí with disaster relief efforts. This first started during the COVID-19 pandemic when MLF was able to provide resources to various people in Alausí and financial support during the difficult time. After the landslide, the need for disaster relief has only grown and the Maria Lida Foundation began looking for ways to support. As explained in my last email, there is a local shelter that now houses eighteen people who lost their houses and many family members in the landslide. Last week, Jorge and I were able to go there and speak with one of the members who represented the people in expressing the needs of the shelter. The most prominent need was for hygiene and health care supplies, so we put together a budget and began shopping!
This week, we were able to deliver kits to each member of the shelter. Each kit included toilet paper rolls, bars of soap, a toothbrush and multiple containers of toothpaste, and a bag of wipes. The shelter was also given many feminine hygiene products and diapers for one of the families that has a baby. We were also able to provide $10 for the man who is hoping to make jewelry again to support himself! While these efforts may not seem huge, anything and everything helps, especially considering these families have lost everything. They don’t have a lot of money so any support, even with the most basic products, helps relieve some of the stress during this time and allows the families to save the money they do have to continue to help themselves get back on their feet. This mission effort was greatly appreciated by the people at the shelter and we were so thankful to be able to help them during this time! The entire mission also cost about $160 which just shows how far money can go here in Ecuador and how greatly appreciated MLF’s donors are by so many people in the community!
It was also a very exciting week for the entire town of Alausí as Thursday was the Day of San Pedro (Saint Peter)! There have been nightly processions and fireworks since I have been here in honor of San Pedro. Many people will come together at night to parade down the street with the local band, carrying San Pedro, and often lit by candles. It’s beautiful to watch and see the community unite to celebrate. Due to the landslide, the normal traditions of bullfighting and other festivities were not happening as the people felt it would be disrespectful and inconsiderate of those mourning. Yet, this was very exciting to witness and definitely a reason for future tourists to come visit Alausí!
Another exciting event Jorge and I have been working on this week was the graduation ceremony that happened last night! This week, we have been working on all the logistics of preparing the slideshow, certificates, tshirts and mugs as gifts for the graduates, and making sure everything was prepared at El Meson del Tren for this special night. I have also been practicing my speech, which I presented in Spanish!
The event was highly successful and such a memorable night for the students to be recognized. This was the fifth cohort of students that MLF was able to help teach English classes too and there were a total of twenty participants. There were eleven students that attended as this cohort was virtual so some of the participants did not live in the local Alausí area and were unable to travel for it. They were also each allowed to bring a guest with them, which was very exciting because they were able to celebrate their hard work together.
The night started a little before 7:30, once all of our guests had arrived on Ecuadorian time! Jorge opened by sharing the agenda and then Shannon, MLF’s founder, gave some words with Jorge translating. After her, Patrick shared some more in Spanish and then it was my turn. I delivered my speech and got some laughs when I explained, “mi español no es tan bueno!” I think that the students appreciated me doing my best to speak in Spanish because it showed that I understand how hard it is to learn a language and am definitely not fluent myself either! After I spoke, Jorge shared some words and then the two English teachers, David and Karem, congratulated the students!
Then, there was time for some of the students to share some words if they wanted to! A couple of them spoke in Spanish and expressed how thankful they were for the Maria Lida Foundation and the English classes. Some spoke in English to start, but it can be difficult to speak unprompted and on the spot, even in your native language! One girl spoke for a while in English, again expressing how thankful she was and how she uses English at her job so these classes have been super beneficial for her.
The graduation ceremony was a huge success and the students felt very honored and that it was a special night. It truly was. The more citizens that the Maria Lida Foundation can teach English too, the more people here will be able to support and encourage tourism from other parts of the country and world! Even something as small as taking English classes has a ripple effect on the community and the economy of Alausí.
It’s been a busy week here in Alausí and this week looks to be even more full with meetings and work for MLF! Shannon Turner (founder of the Maria Lida Foundation), her dad, Patrick (President of the Board of Directors), arrived in Alausí the afternoon before the graduation as well. This week, we are meeting with various leaders and members of Alausí including some people affected by the landslide, the mayor, the director of tourism, and others! Thursday, I will be traveling through Cuenca to Quito and then to the Galapagos Islands this weekend!
My top prayer requests right now are that the government of Ecuador will step in and help those in Alausí affected by the landslide, and that the English graduates will continue to feel proud of their accomplishments and encourage others to take advantage of the opportunities MLF provides for education! It’s been such a blessing to be here and I am thankful for all your prayers and support. God has shown me such grace and love in helping me to deliver my speech well and continue to learn Spanish and I am so thankful for that!
As always, I am still continuing to raise money during my internship. I appreciate the generous donations that I have received from so many of you and I want you to know that they are truly appreciated by the Maria Lida Foundation family and the community of Alausi! Donations can be made at the following link: https://www.marialidafoundation.org/collections/contribute! Your support is greatly appreciated, whether it be in prayers or financial help!