Welcome to Ecuador, Claire!

Dear Supporters,

Please enjoy this blog post below written by our first intern, Claire, about her arrival to Ecuador and start of her internship with the Maria Lida Foundation. 


Buenas tardes! 

Good afternoon family and friends! Since I left off, I have traveled to Quito where I spent the night before connecting on another flight to Cuenca! This transition was necessary because the road to Alausí from Quito has been blocked off due to the landslide and would have been hazardous. In Cuenca, I met up with Jorge who took me into Alausí! 

I have been in Alausí for the past couple days, enjoying beautiful weather, tasty food, and the view of the mountains! Yet, this experience is more than just a dreamy tourist vacation. I have struggled with the language barrier since arriving in Ecuador, but am continuing to work on my Spanish in the evenings. Jorge is an incredible translator and I am very grateful for that! It is still very hard to not speak the language, and I wish I would be able to communicate better with the people here! Oftentimes, I just lack the confidence to speak up and attempt to use the little Spanish I know. 

As I am working on overcoming these personal hurdles, I am also getting the opportunity to experience and think about things from a new perspective like never before. 

As I had informed you previously, the landslide hit Alausí in late March of this year. Yet, the sadness of this event is still seen around Alausí today. Jorge showed me “puente negro” which stands for the black bridge that the train used to run across in Alausí. This bridge is a great spot to view the landslide from to truly understand the magnitude of this disaster. It is also the location that many citizens of Alausí will come to sit at and watch, day after day, as police and other emergency response workers dig through the landslide in search of the missing bodies. Jorge informed me that, oftentimes, all they are able to find is limbs or pieces as the bodies have started to decay. Witnessing this is heart wrenching. My heart breaks for the people of Alausí who can only watch from afar as they pray endlessly and continue to hope for the recovery of their missing loved ones, even though they know they are no longer living. 

Furthermore, this landslide has caused many people to be displaced within the community of Alausí. They can no longer reside in the homes that are in the “landslide danger zone,” which leaves them having to look for other apartments, hotels, and places to stay closer to the center of Alausí. This is very hard because places are often full and it’s also very difficult to have to pay two rents at the same time. Fortunately, Alausí seems to have a community that really cares for each other and works to support those in need. They have many shelters, Jorge explained to me, that collect donations and help offer refuge for those displaced by the landslide. One shelter houses five families, a total of eighteen people, and has been extremely beneficial to those seeking assistance. Slowly, people are also able to move back into their homes but the fear remains that a landslide could happen again at any moment. In fact, one landslide occurred the morning before I arrived in Alausí. While it was small and did not cause any damage to the community, it continues to remind people of its danger. 

Another eye opening experience that I was able to have was going to see the Condor Puñuna. On our way to see this monument, we drove these bumpy dirt roads through the Nizag community. This community is just outside of Alausí, about 15 minutes by car, and was very cool to drive through because they are primarily dependent on agriculture. The town has some buildings, but they are very dilapidated and most of the town lives on the outskirts where they are able to farm on their land. People from this community could be seen walking along the roads with donkeys, sheep, and other cattle. I had never before been to such a rural community or truly understood what it means to live off the land. 

As Jorge explained to me later, many of these people will wake up very early on Thursdays and Sundays to bring their produce to Alausí. They arrive in Alausí as early as 4am and spend the whole day selling produce at the markets in the center of Alausí. At the end of the day, they pack up and make the trek home. These vendors come from all over the surrounding communities, not just the Nizag. I hope to be able to go see this market sometime later this week! 

In order to get to the Condor Puñuna, we had to hike this trail up to it. The views of the Andes were absolutely incredible, and we were able to see the river that runs through the mountains as well as the train tracks that the Alausí train used to run on. The Condor Puñuna was also very cool to see. It was this big sculpture of a bird, with its wings spread high as if it were flying. It could be seen for most of the trail and actually often appeared like an actual bird in the distance. This was a great excursion and Maria Lida Foundation is very happy to be able to partner with and help support the Nizag community and their Condor Puñuna. 

This week, I am looking forward to starting more of the projects included in my internship experience with the Maria Lida Foundation and continuing to learn more about the community of Alausí! I will be doing research on expats living in Cuenca as a potential opportunity for Alausí to expand its tourism, planning for the mixer event we are hoping to host with students who have completed MLF’s English program, and continuing to get content for Maria Lida Foundation’s marketing! 

If you do not already follow Maria Lida Foundation, please give a follow on Instagram @marialidafoundation or Facebook to stay up to date with more information! I continue to thank you for your prayers and support throughout my internship experience! 

At this time, my top prayer requests are healing for the people of Alausí who have lost their loved ones in the landslide, still do not know the whereabouts of their family members, or have suffered from displacement due to the aftermath of this disaster. I also pray that the community will have hope for the future and continue to support each other in these hard times. I would also appreciate prayers for my Spanish skills and the cultural adjustment to live here in Alausí! I cannot express how thankful I am for your continued prayer.

As always, I am still continuing to fundraise to support the community of Alausí during my internship. Donations can be made at the following link: https://gofund.me/0baf423a! Your generosity is greatly appreciated!  

Much love,