On Thursday, May 20th we met the pastor of Iris’ church at our hotel and he took us to the project. Iris was there waiting for us and we started our day together.
Her project is outside of the city of Esmeraldas and is on a relatively big section of land. There is the church building with offices, three classrooms and bathrooms. In the middle of the property is a field where the children play.
Iris sang a few songs for us in the church and afterwards the pastor showed us the construction work that was being done on the buildings. He explained that they had to build slowly as there was not a lot of money in the budget, but that in God’s will they would soon be able to register 100 more children who will be helped by the project. The pastor also dreams of turning the rocky playing field into a playground and soccer field where the children of the community can safely play.
Iris’ classroom. Notice that the table is made of the cement bricks that will eventually be the wall of the classroom.
With the Pastor and Project Director
This project operates Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and like Elian’s project it offers both morning and afternoon sessions to complement the children’s school schedule.
In addition to regular child sponsorship program, this project has recently implemented a program for pregnant mothers and infants. The Child Survival Program is a outreach of Compassion which seeks to help children thrive during their first years of life. Through this program 48 mothers in the community are given access to medical care and taught how to care for themselves and their unborn baby. They have the support of doctors and nurses during the birth and afterward they learn about how best to care for their children and help them develop. In addition, mothers are taught income generating skills and are able to learn of God’s great love for them and their children.
After getting a tour of the project we decided to go to the beach to play and have lunch. We hopped in the car and drove for a half an hour through rolling green hills, and small neighborhoods. They pointed out to me the gasoline refinery that is close to the city and is a source of much work and also much pollution in the area.
When we got the beach we walked along the boardwalk and enjoyed the sights. Afterward we headed to the sand where the planed “playing in the sand and getting our feet wet” turned into standing in the crashing waves and getting wet head to toe. Iris was so excited to be at the beach and wanted to keep going deeper and deeper into the water. We also had the chance to go tubing in a raft. We enjoyed the ride but after a little while Iris asked for it to go slower.
We spent the rest of our time at the beach making sand volcanoes, hunting for shells, and eating ice cream.
Next we ate lunch at a restaurant which served seafood and chicken.
Next on the schedule was a visit to Iris’ house. Iris lives on the street right next to the project with her parents and five siblings. In the past when I had tried to imagine where iris lived, for some reason I always assumed she had a nicer house, not fancy, but I just assumed her family was doing well. When we got to the house I was surprised to see that while the house is made of strong cement bricks, the front wall was not fully there.
When we entered we stepped into an entry way that was open to the air. Straight ahead was a small cooking area, and on the right were two doorways that led into the bedrooms where the entire family of eight sleep on two beds. In the children’s bedroom there was a dresser and two beds, but we were told that only one of them was used because the other did not have a mosquito net. The two beds and the dresser took up most of the space in the room and the only other thing in the room were piles of clothing that must not have fit in the small dresser. The bedrooms and the cooking area were covered by a corrugated tin roof, but the whole house could not have been more than 20 by 20.
One interesting note is that while the house was small, and unfinished, the family had two tvs. It seems to be common here that families who may not even have enough to eat, somehow find a way to purchase a tv.
While we were there I got to visit with the kids and hand out the presents that I had brought. I had not been sure of the ages and genders of Iris’s siblings, so I had just decided to bring candy for them and the gifts for Iris. When I got to the house however I realized that I could split up some of the gifts that I had brought and give them to the siblings. It worked out perfectly and I was happy to be able to give them all something.
We spend the rest of the time visiting and getting to know each other.
Iris’ oldest sister, Ariana, sang some songs for us that she had learned in the church. She also told us some more about the family situation.
Of Iris’ large family, only she and Ariana are Christians. Her next oldest sister, Cristal, is also a sponsored child but has not yet given her life to the Lord. From the letters I have received from Iris I have gathered that her home is not always the happiest of places. Please be praying for her parents that they will come to Christ and that they will learn how to show God’s love to guide their family. Please also be praying for the oldest brother, Byron who is now serving in the Ecuadorian military.
I enjoyed every moment that I got to spend with Iris getting to know her and her family better. Although there are some things that I realize now that I forgot to say or ask, it was enough just to be with her and to show her again that I love her.
Hasta Luego, (untill later)