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On the right track for kids and communities in Ecuador

“Driving in the mountains of Ecuador is crazy!” I remember muttering to myself a lot while travelling to ChildFund`s rural projects in Ecuador. There were no safety walls when going round the corners and every dirt road had a pot hole in it every 10 metres.

My colleague Richard and I were on a Monitoring and Evaluating visit for ChildFund Australia to Ecuador and this was my first overseas trip with the organisation.

Those of us who work in the Supporter Relations department are rostered on a cycle to visit countries where ChildFund Australia operates child sponsorship. On this visit we must ensure adequate systems, procedures and practices are in place for the management of Australian sponsorship funds. I also had the task of interviewing children who are sponsored by Australian families to ask them how they felt our program we running for them.

In getting to the first area, it took over a day travelling by car up the mountains and, honestly, I was feeling very nervous. However, when we got out of the car to visit the first school, a classroom of smiling kids came out running towards us. My nerves disappeared and I found myself smiling too.

The children wanted to shake our hands and some wanted to give us hugs or just big smiles. I found their happiness contagious and instantly forgot about the long journey of getting there.

Once at the school we were given a tour and I noticed that every class was full of children, at least 40 students per classroom and they seemed so eager to learn.

This was a common trait I noticed at the other schools we visited during our trip, all the classrooms were full of children who were excited to be there, which was wonderful to see.

The children I spoke with, who were all sponsored by Australian families, were so intrigued by Australia and our lifestyle. I think I was asked more questions by the kids than I asked them! But what all the children wanted to know was: “How is my sponsor? Can you tell them I say thank you.” It was so heart-warming to see these children from the other side of the world so caring for their sponsors, and it was amazing to see some of them had brought in letters and cards they had received from their sponsors.

While visiting one of ChildFund project areas, we also went to a flower farm where many of the parents worked. They told us they were happy because this work was generating income for their family, which meant they didn`t have to move to the city and leave their family behind in order to find a job.

We saw the water tanks that ChildFund helped build in one of the communities and met some of the workers who take care of the tanks on a daily basis. Before the water tanks were built, the community didn`t have access to clean running water. Something so simple as turning on your tap was not an option for these families and now that they have their own water system, they are much less vulnerable.

At both the flower farm and the water tanks, all the workers we met were proud of their work and took care in what they did. These projects are giving them a hand up to be more self-sufficient, which is ChildFund`s ultimate goal €“ to help children and communities with long-term solutions so that they no longer require our support. I came back from this trip feeling as though we were really on the right track.

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