Oasis in a Slum

I want to tell everyone back home how awesome things are here, how I’m making tons of new friends, got invited to go to the lake this weekend and the Pacific coast next weekend, how my Spanish is coming back, and how I’m eating like a queen. Instead, I’m going to talk about the NGO I am volunteering with, Nuestros Ahijados because I am completely in love with the program.

One of my roommates is the director, which is how I got involved. My other roommate is the organization's photographer! This project helps so many different groups in the community that it is hard to know where to start. Besides the main complex in the San Felipe slum, called the Dreamer Center, there is an infant malnutrition clinic, homeless shelter, and vocational school and probably other programs I have not even heard of yet. The Dreamer Center is an abundance of happily shrieking little kids, smiling locals mixing with international volunteers, and the occasional big cuddly dog.

Boys reading in the school's library

Another volunteer with one of our students

I am volunteering at the Dreamer Center’s private school for kids in poverty, teaching English, assisting in the library and helping create curriculum and lesson plans for next year. On Fridays I help with a huge vegetable distribution to the families in the community.

Vegetables distributed to the community every Friday

The other volunteers and I hard at work

This little kid helped me pass out bread

Passing out veggies and bread

The school I am at has 200 students, but Nuestros Ahijados also provides funds to over 800 other kids to attend other schools around the area! They have motherhood seminars that provide a safe place for moms to get together and discuss issues such as nutrition and self-esteem. We build over 100 houses a year around the community for families in need. The Dreamer Center also provides free medical and dental care as well as legal assistance to both the children and their families. Having seen the street children in Quito last year with brown nubs for teeth, I now appreciate the importance of good dental care! There is a domestic violence center opening, and a branch that deals with human trafficking. As a volunteer trying to dive in and get involved on the first day, it’s a bit overwhelming.

The property itself is a sight to behold. Located in the San Felipe slum, the street outside would not suggest at all what lies inside. There are 6 full time groundskeepers to maintain the Center as an oasis, which it truly is. Green is everywhere, birds chirping, beautiful gardens, ponds, fountains. It is a place for the families of the slums to escape and forget their hardships for awhile. There are playgrounds and tunnels for the kids to crawl in, as well as a gymnasium, soccer field, and cafeteria where all of the children receive two hot meals a day. I don’t really know how else to describe Nuestros Ahijados except to say that is magical. Physically beautiful, emotionally overwhelming because of all the good it does, this place is reminding me to have faith in humanity.


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