After I visited Elian and his family in Santo Domingo, my translator and I rode the bus to Esmeraldas, a large coastal city in northern Ecuador. My sponsored child Iris Yamileth lives in a small neighborhood on the outskirts of town.
After eating breakfast in the hotel the next morning I waited in my room, wishing the clock hands to move faster toward the hour when Yami was supposed to arrive.
While I was lamenting the slowness of time and wondering exactly how I would know when she got there, the phone in my room started ringing. I picked up the receiver and said Hola? A familiar voice on the other end said “Hola Madrina (sponsor).” I rushed right down to the lobby and gave Yami a big hug! It was sooo good to see her again.
After greeting her mother and being introduced to the director of the project we took a taxi from the hotel to her neighborhood in the south end of Esmeraldas.
Yamileth attends the Compassion program activities at the local church in her neighborhood. In addition to the church building there are rooms that were constructed specifically for the project activities: tutoring, Bible classes, organized play, healthy meals, and medical checkups. The church also serves as the neighborhood park and gathering place. When I visited last year the ground was uneven and not very conducive to running around. This year the play area was smoothed out and soccer goals were set up on each side.
The pastor also showed us the wall that was being built around the church compound. Apparently the neighbors like to use the church property as a short cut and they drive across the field with little regard for the kids playing. The wall will ensure that the kids are safe.
Next door to the church is the elementary school that Yami and her siblings attend. On the other side of the school and across the dirt road is Yami’s house. She lives with her parents and 3 (soon to be 4) of her siblings in a small cinderblock house. The house is continually under construction and right now has two bedrooms with a small kitchen and bathroom. There are also two rooms in front of the kitchen that do not have a roof. The floors are rough concrete and the whole house can’t be much bigger than 15’ by 30’.
I was happy to see the new room that was being added on, and the fact that the front wall was more substantial. Yami had mentioned in a few letters that she gets nervous when she and her siblings are home alone. Hopefully the stronger wall will help keep her and her family safer.
After a long bus ride we arrived at the beach community of Atacames. We ate lunch at a local restaurant…
We spent the afternoon playing in the sand, jumping in the waves, and eating ice cream.
All too soon it was time to head home. We made the long trip back to Yami’s community and dropped her family off at her house. She and I walked back to the church to grab my backpack and spent our last few minutes saying goodbye.
During the visit I had many opportunities to learn more about Yami and her family. I found out that in the last year her older sister had gotten married, had a baby, and moved to the capital city of Quito with her family. I also found out that Yami’s mom is pregnant and any day now the family will have a new little baby. Even though we exchange frequent letters, there are some things that you only really learn when you are face-to-face.
My favorite part of the visit with Yami was just being near her. Holding her hand, seeing her smile, and running with her in the waves. It was also neat to play and bond with Yami’s siblings. None of them are registered with Compassion, so Yami said that she shares me with all of them. She also told me that more than being a sponsor, she called me her mom. It was humbling to know how much she looks up to me.