Come with us as we return to South America this summer to volunteer at La Casa De Fe, a home for abandoned and special needs children in Shell, Ecuador.

"Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” ~Mathew 19:14

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Meeting Pamela in Riobamba (Sara)

Just a warning, this is a long one J

On Friday, May 28th, I got to visit my last Ecuadorian sponsored child, Pamela. She lives in a mountainous community about an hour outside of Riobamba.

I spent the night in a Hotel in Riobamba and woke up early the next day. However we were not scheduled to meet Pamela until 10am so after getting ready I went to have breakfast in the lobby of the hostel. For $2 I got two fried eggs, a roll with cheese, fresh fruit juice, and hot chocolate. It was delicious. I ate, and then I did my best to keep busy so that time would pass until I was supposed to meet my Compassion contact, Omar.

At 9:45 we met and walked a couple of blocks to the park where we were to meet Pamela. When we got there, I spotted Pamela along with her Aunt (who I later learned was her Great Aunt), and the director of the project. They had made the drive from the community that morning and were eating their breakfast (potatoes and onions served in a bag) when we arrived.

It was soo good to see Pamela again! She had grown a little, but she was still the tiny little girl that I remembered. She was wearing her Quichua clothing with a multi-string necklace made out of pony beads. I found out later that all of the clothes she was wearing had been purchased with gifts that I had sent, and that the necklace was made of the beads I had given her last year.

She was a little shy, but her aunt pushed her towards me and I got a soft hug. We sat down and visited while Omar and the Director went over the plan for the day. One thing I have learned is that it is good to have one ready to give to your child right away so as the “Adults” talked, I pulled out an angel doll that I had picked out for Pamela. She was hesitant to take it at first, but I think she really liked it. I don’t think I heard her speak more than a few words, but her shy smile was beautiful.

After talking for a little while we all got into the project director’s car and headed to the project. The ride was about an hour long through beautiful mountains, valleys and fields. I had given my camera to Omar at the beginning of the day because I knew I might be a little distracted J Omar took photos and I sat in back with Pamela on my lap. We played with the doll and exchanged smiles the whole way. I talked a little with her Aunt and I tried to ask some questions of Pamela, but because we all spoke Spanish as a second language (Quichua was their first language) it was a little hard to communicate.

We got to the project and parked the car at the side of the mountain road. The project is perched on the side of a foot hill and from the road where we parked we had to walk straight down the side of the hill.

As we walked the project director told me more about how the project operates. They currently have 209 children that attend activities Mondays-Wednesdays. They have two vehicles that they use to pick up the children from the surrounding areas and bring them to the church.

I had the chance to speak with Pamela’s tutor and take a tour of the project. The church has nice facilities set up with a kitchen, classrooms, offices, the church building, and a terrace which will eventually be another classroom. There were also outhouses and a field for the children to play games.

Cooking area

Pamela's Tutor is in Pink

Talking with the tutor

This is where she sits in her classroom

Her art on the wall

Isn't she beautiful!!!

I was also given the opportunity to see how the project keeps track of the donations and purchases, and to see the files that they keep on each child. I was surprised to see how detailed the records are. The project keeps track of everything from health records and family history, to special gifts and scholastic achievements.

There was even a map showing where Pamela’s house was in relation to the project and the local school.

After getting full tour Pamela and I played on the terrace while the project workers finished preparing the lunch.

When we were called for lunch we went into one of the offices where the traditional meal had been laid. Omar had warned me not to eat the fruit and cheese, so instead I was able to share some of my food with Pamela.

After lunch we got back in the car and drove for about half an hour going higher and higher on winding mountain roads till we got to Pamela’s neighborhood.

View of the countryside

the Christian church that Pamela's grandfather pastors

Pamela's house

She lives with her grandparents and extended family in a house perched in the highest land in the area, almost 14,000 feet in elevation. Her parents and 3-year old little brother work as street vendors in a big city 5-hours away. I leaned that because of the distance Pamela only sees them once a month when they come home to visit. That day however Pamela’s mom and brother had made a special trip home to meet me and because of that, Pamela got the special treat of seeing them again.

I got to meet a lot of extended family members, who live in the area, including Angelica, Pamela’s “twin” (Who is actually her aunt, but they are the same age). I was taken on a tour of the house and Pamela showed me the room that she shares with her Great aunt who is like a second mother to her.

Next I got to give Pamela the presents that I had brought for her. I had been carrying a huge bag around and the whole time Omar had been teasing Pamela about not peaking at the gifts, but she finally got to see what was inside.

Showing how I had gotten from Colorado to Ecuador

The Jesus Storybook Bible (in Spanish and English)

Pamela's brother Israel and her mom.

As I started giving Pamela the larger items one by one I quickly realized that I wanted to give some items to her relatives as well. The problem was I had known that Pamela had a brother, but I had not realized that Pamela would have so many young aunts and uncles, so I quickly pulled out some of the items for her them, and was able to give a little something to everyone. Pamela was quiet and smiling as usual, as she received each gift. I think the rest of her family must have been embarrassed because they would frantically whisper at her in Quichua until she would mumble a quiet “gracias.”

After a year of sending only stickers and photos with my letters, I was thrilled to be able to shower Pamela with gifts.

Wearing the hat and ladybug quilt that I had made for her

Looking through the binder of all the photos and letters I had sent her

After giving out gifts we posed for pictures with all the relatives.

In the last few minutes we had together I played with Pamela and the other kids. Their favorite game was for me to chase them around and play tag. At that altitude they definitely had the advantage. Omar took a video of us playing (warning: it is a little shaky).

All too soon it was time to leave. We took some final photos and I was presented with three gifts. First there was a purple crochet bag that was made by Pamela’s grandmother. Secondly I received a typed letter that had been prepared for my visit. It was a beautiful letter telling me all about Pamela and her family and thanking me for being a part of her life. Thirdly I was honored with the gift of roasted cuy. For anyone who has never been to South America I will tell you that cuy, which is considered to be a delicacy in Ecuador, is the Spanish word for guinea pig…. Yes, they eat them. Thankfully we did not have to eat it (we actually later re-gifted it) but it was still a unique experience.

With two of the project workers

The courtyard where we played tag

We prayed for the family and gave our goodbye hugs as we headed back to the car. It was so hard to say goodbye. While we had a long and wonderful visit I still felt like there was so much that we did not get to do. I wanted to be able to stay a few days and spend more time with her. To spend all day playing with her and her aunts and uncles, learning everyone’s names, getting to know her family.

I am so thankful that I have the privilege of being her sponsor. I am thankful that I get to correspond with her, get to know her, and be a part of her family. The day I spent visiting her and meeting her family is a day that I will always remember. She has touched me and made a difference in my life as much as I have made a difference in hers.

If you have been considering sponsoring a child I would encourage you to go for it. Your money really gets there. You are making a difference. You can change the life of one child.

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