MLF First and Second Quarters 2023 Newlsetter
Greetings from our teams in Ecuador and the United States!
Much has happened since our last newsletter, and I unfortunately have bad news to share. In late March 2023, Alausí had a large and horrific landslide. Authorities believe this occurred due to an unusually long and intense rainy season combined with an earthquake that happened in the country a few weeks prior. The landslide has caused 69 deaths,12 people still missing, 67 houses destroyed, and 163 houses damaged. This event has been heartbreaking for the community and many are grieving the tremendous losses from this tragedy.
This hits close to home as I know many people who have been directly affected. Two of my distant cousins perished in the slide. Additionally, the slide occurred just past a local hotel my family and I have stayed in several times while visiting the area. I was also visiting the exact area the slide occurred during my trip to Ecuador last summer. During that trip, a beautiful family kindly invited me to have dinner in their home. I've known this family for awhile as one member was a student in our first English cohort and her parents worked at the local school where I used to live and we've hosted our English courses. I was very touched that they invited me to spend time with their family in their home. Although they do not have many resources, they bought dinner and a special cake in town and hosted me for a meal. I was truly touched and honored that they wanted to do that. When I first heard news of the landslide, I was very worried about them. Thank God, they were able to escape before the landslide occurred, but had to leave their home and most possessions that they worked so hard to obtain behind. The havoc that the landslide has wreaked on the community of Alausí is devastating.
Alausí has had a difficult few years with in-country political instability, COVID19, and now this landslide. Not only is it heartbreaking that many lives have been lost and homes destroyed, but tourism in the area had just started to recover from tremendous losses incurred during the pandemic. Things were really looking up when actor and musician, Will Smith, spent time in Alausí last summer to visit the Nariz del Diablo train and film an episode about Alausí and the train with National Geographic. This was the special announcement we were waiting to release once we had the air date. The community was looking forward to the promotion of and interest in Alausí that undoubtedly would have occurred from this National Geographic special. It is now unclear if or when this special will air. This landslide is another tragedy and major setback for the community.
Where do we go from here?
Our leadership has determined that the worst thing we could do as an organization is give up although we've had several setbacks. We've built strong relationships and partnerships and our love for Alausí has only grown over the last five years. We are determined to continue operating in Ecuador and help the community of Alausí when it needs it most. Thus, similar to the pandemic, we will have to pivot some of our activities until the community starts to get back on its feet and the area's tourism industry begins to recover.
While we are saddened by yet another major setback, we still believe there is much hope and promise for the community of Alausí. It is full of beautiful, determined people with big hearts and much potential for tourism. Our Board President, Patrick, and I recently visited Ecuador to investigate how our organization can best assist and partner with Alausí post landslide. Please stay tuned on a letter in the near future on specific ways to help the community.
We do have some good news to share in this letter and hope you enjoy seeing the fruits of your support.
Many thanks to you all for championing our cause in Ecuador. We sincerely appreciate you supporting and following our journey that has been full of ups, downs, twists, and turns. May God Bless you for your generosity and gifts of time, talent, and treasure along the way.
Founder and CEO
Immediate Landslide Relief
One way we could help Alausí is by providing immediate relief to landslide victims. We performed a mission of providing 100 toiletry kits to families affected on April 13th, 2023 and another mission of providing toiletries to 18 people living at the local shelter on June 29th, 2023. Thank you very much for your support of Alausí through this terrible tragedy. Since many people will be displaced for some time from their homes, we believe more of these immediate missions will be held in the future. If you would like to support this, please click here:
English Classes: Cohorts Four and Five Now Complete!
We are pleased to announce that we have completed our Fourth and Fifth English cohorts. The Fourth cohort's graduation ceremony was held in January and our Fifth was held earlier this month during our trip. We have now surpassed 1,000 hours of intensive English language instruction! Many thanks for your continued support of this flagship program. We plan to launch our Sixth cohort this Fall. If you would like to support our English program, you may do so by donating here:
Ryan's ASK (Alausí Scholarships for Kids) Program
Since the community of Alausí has experienced another economic setback, there is a need for sponsors to provide scholarships for children to continue attending the local San Francisco de Sales school. Sponsorships are $550/student/year. If you would like to sponsor a student for the 2023-2024 school year, please click here:
Some positive news that we have since our last newsletter is that we were able to host our first summer intern in Ecuador, Claire! Claire is a student at the University of Tennessee and studies economics and sustainability. She did a fantastic job helping us with English graduation logistics, marketing content, tour reviews, immediate landslide relief, and building travel itineraries for weekend trips to Alausí for expats living in Ecuador. Claire, thank you very much for helping us advance our mission this summer! If you would like to follow Claire's internship experience, please click here for her newsletters:
Faces of Alausí
To support our mission, we believe it is important to help promote the local businesses, entrepreneurs, and stakeholders in Alausí. Please enjoy this section of our newsletter, Faces of Alausí, to learn more about Alausí's community members.
This hotel has an excellent location in the center of the city with easy access to the area's main attractions. It has 18 rooms, hot water, cable TV, internet, private bathrooms, and security around it. The Noris has a staff that is trained and ready to provide optimal service at any time. It also works to create a pleasant, familiar, and comfortable environment for all guests.
"I wanted to open the hotel in order to welcome tourists from all over the world that come to our beloved Alausí to visit us."
-Nuria, Hotel Noris Owner
Maria Lida Foundation Team Highlight
"I wanted to join the Maria Lida Foundation team this summer because I admire their mission to use tourism as a means to boost the economy and providing the citizens with the resources to achieve this goal! Living in Alausí for the past few weeks has further proven just how community-centered the MLF family is. I have been inspired by the love, support, and care the people have for one another even in hard times!"
-Claire, MLF Summer Intern