So it’s been a crazy two weeks here at the project, El Inca. It was difficult to get things started but once the ball got rolling I was having a wonderful time conversing with the teachers, sisters,teens, and especially the children. El Inca is one of the many Compassion projects located in Ecuador. Quito has Compassion projects in the North and South, but due to my location, El Inca, the project is only about fifteen minutes away by using the Guadalajarra or Catar Eloy Alfaro bus. I mainly volunteer on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays, and will be picking up letter translating for sponsors hopefully soon. But for now, the volunteering hours at El Inca are more than enough and I can’t be more thankful for this opportunity here. After four years of desperately wanting to come back, I’m here.
My first day at the project was exciting and nerve racking. It took me a while to get to site, because the street is hidden and many taxis do not know how to get there either, despite my directions. I had to walk up a steep bumpy road for a while until I finally made it to the half erased sign laying on the wall. There, I saw a secretary sign and knocked on the entrance. Immediately, I was greeted by Pastor Pablo and I met so many new people. To this day I still cannot remember their names. Martha is the project director, with Pastor Pablo helping at her side. There are many cooks who feed the several dozen students, and then there are the teachers and tutors who help the young ones (3-11) after school and the older students (12-16) before school. David Maza, Ximena, and another older woman in her 40s help teach the students. The younger and older students are separated into smaller groups according to their age group, but there are only so many classrooms to use, so the sizes are still pretty big for a classroom setting. From what I can remember there are the toddlers, the grade school kids, then the middle school/rising HS students.
My initial thoughts of the project were thinking that this place was a lot smaller than expected. The general almuerzo area is about the size of a small apartment. Vague, but pretty much all the students gather and eat very closely in this somewhat small area. The kitchen is no bigger than 8×10 feet (again, rough estimate) and can hardly fit all the supplies and stoves and the cooks all inside the place. The plates, cups, and utensils are all made of slightly warped plastic, perhaps from being too close to the stove. There are three separate classrooms attached to the Compassion project “building” which is also part of the church, Iglesia Evangélica Bíblica En el Inca (IEBEI). Some of the students come to this church on Sundays to listen to the services alongside their parents, which is a nice time for them to spend time no matter what, since the parents both work during the week.
I have been tutoring the students, both age groups, with English and Math. It was funny to see them learning English in the same format that I learned Spanish:
Yo- I am
Tu/Usted- You are
Él/Ella- She is
Nosotros- We are
Ellos/as- They are
One girl in the older student classroom was having trouble with her English grammar. I was helping her with her tarea- making sentences using “You are” for the ser and estar format. “You are a very pretty girl”- Ser, description. “You are not feeling well”- Estar, feeling.
Something that I noticed was that a lot of the students do their homework together and rely on peers to help them out when it comes to difficult subjects. Unlike the states, where one usually becomes annoyed after the first few times, I appreciated how helpful and patient the teens were with each other. People in Ecuador definitely tend to stick together for support.
I realized that Compassion does not have art supplies in abundance. Crafts are usually made with felt and paper. Perhaps this is just the beginning of the crafts that I’ve seen and things will get more complex. The other projects that I visited through Compassion did have more arts and crafts. Maybe because they were bigger projects.
Teaching the kids here is very difficult (only the young ones) because they are very hyper and even Ximena doesn’t have much discipline over noise, sticking to the activities, or listening. She is pretty strict with David, one of the twin boys who is in the same classroom, because he doesn’t like to listen. To what I first handedly observe, I think education here is not as strict and emphasized on as compared to the USA. From when I grew up, no matter if it was class or a social group setting, rules were always in place, and strict too. The other day, over 19 students were missing from class, nineteen! It came as a shock to me, but to Ximena, she seemed like it was just a normal day thing. She did mention that it was ridiculous for the absences. I was wondering if it was because the parent’s don’t care to bring their children here, or if it’s because they can’t due to work and other plans. I’m going to start asking more questions about the childrens’ lives so that I have a better understanding of the family life.