Why did you decide to volunteer with Lead-Adventures in Ecuador?
Amy: I decided I wanted to volunteer in Latin America and contacted All Access Volunteers (based in Vancouver) and Lead-Adventures in Ecuador was one of the affiliates of the organization. The Quito Dump Daycare program jumped out at me! I really liked the idea of working with underprivileged children who come from supportive families. There are many programs that support orphans and I thought this program was different and focused on helping families and not just children.
Describe your day to day activities as a volunteer.
Amy: Days would start around 9am, when the children start to filter in. Sometimes you would see the children and their parents at the bus loop. It was nice to see them outside of the daycare setting. The parents were friendly and seemed to really appreciate the help of volunteers. At 10am every day all the children are fed a protein drink made fresh by the cook, Kathy. I often helped with the youngest children during feeding times. After the morning milk session the children broke off into 3 groups. There was 1 teacher and 2 helpers and each would watch over one of the groups. Those under 2 years of age would play with toys. The 2-3 year olds would play with blocks, cars and dolls. The older children (aged 3 and above) were taught letters, numbers, colors, animals, etc - just like a normal kindergarten classroom.
Every day the cook would make a fresh hearty soup and rice dish for lunch. This is a time when volunteers are extremely valuable. The youngest children need help being fed and the older children generally make a delicious mess! After helping feed the kids the volunteers help clean-up. The older kids then go outside to brush their teeth. The daycare is really good about promoting good hygiene.
After lunch the younger children go down for naps and we take the older children up to the playground or they watch a movie. On Fridays they'll play music and let the kids dance around. It's the cutest thing you've ever seen!!! If the children have older siblings they'll either come pick them up around 2pm or stay at the daycare center with them.
There's a mobile medical clinic that runs every Tuesday & Friday mornings. It's run by an American couple. If you have a medical background often they'll ask for your assistance.
How has this experience impacted your future?
Amy: I've always wanted to volunteer in South America and I think a 2-week experience at the Quito Dump Daycare was perfect for me. The staff were great and the children were beautiful. If you're comfortable around children this is an excellent placement. I'm a nurse and I found myself really interested in the services provided by the medical clinic. If you have a background in education I think you would be very interested in what the children are taught. I was told that since the Quito Daycare Dump has been in place (7 years) there's been a 100% success rate of the children moving on to Kindergarten. I think that fact shows that a tiny daycare center can make a huge impact on the lives of children. As I've become very attached to the children at the daycare I'm very curious to see what they'll be doing in 10 or 20 years' time!