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Flowers are giving this community the opportunity to bloom

Business has been in full swing for members of ChildFund-supported communities in Ecuador in the lead up to Valentine`s Day. It is peak season for flower production and exports, and I was lucky enough to visit some of the communities last week and see them in action.

Ecuador, along with Colombia, is among the world`s largest flower exporters. During this time of the year, the local industry exports approximately 30 per cent of its yearly production to America and Europe.

Today, Santa Rosa de Patutan, a village in southern Ecuador has transformed into a community of dynamic farmers who produce mainly roses and carnations for export to the United States, Europe and Russia. Though, the future did not always look this bright.

Twelve years ago, the community had no running water, no sewage treatment, no schools and not one health centre.

Jose Manuel Yaule (pictured) is one of the leaders behind the change. With no education other than what he calls “the university of life”, he began helping his community by assisting the construction of a water system with the support of ChildFund. Today, the system has transformed into the local water company, a service and business run entirely by the community.

That was the first step toward his venture into the flower business.

After much research, Jose established his own greenhouse as a pilot. After realising that their village had the capacity to produce high-quality carnations and roses for exporting, he replicated his model by teaching the whole community.

“I remember back in 1994, children here were very sad, very poor, hungry, no shoes, no school. I was thinking all the time about work opportunities for parents, who were mainly peasants without any hope and lots of alcohol problems,” he says.

“Now I see children and I can`t even recognise them. Sometimes I think they are from another town, so educated, so well-dressed, so happy and healthy!”

The flower business has indeed brought colour, joy and progress to this small community. Jose may not have been educated, but his five children are  two of his children have graduated from university, two of his children study music at The Conservatory and his youngest is pursuing a degree in economics.

His dream is for everyone in this community about 400 families to have the opportunity to be small business owners. Continued water supply, agricultural technical support and financing are essential to making this a reality.

In 2008, the community with assistance from ChildFund also created their own credit union to provide farmers with support. The credit union now has 780 members and assets of about US$1 million providing loans for land, supply and machinery. The credit union is well-managed under the supervision of Monica, a woman who was sponsored through ChildFund as a child and who, after finishing university, decided to come back and work for the development of her own village.

This community keeps dreaming and growing, just as the flowers do. Thanks to the support of buyers all around the world every Valentine`s Day, more children are playing and learning in better schools, while their mothers and fathers continue cultivating the seeds of change in their community.

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