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Educo, a member of the ChildFund Alliance, is supporting 30,000 children in the city of Guayaquil, who have been unable to go to school since the earthquake hit Ecuador.

Following the powerful earthquake which devastated the northern part of Ecuador over the weekend, Educo staff on the ground are evaluating the structural damage that its 41 schools may have suffered in Guayaquil city, which is located close to 500km from the epicentre of the earthquake. Despite the distance, the effects of the tremors have been intensely felt in this coastal town, damaging critical infrastructure such as the collapse of a bridge.

The head of operations in Ecuador, Carlos Moncayo, explained in his initial response in the aftermath of the earthquake: “We were in a state of panic, we could feel the earthquake€¦ they have prohibited us from walking through uneven surface areas. There is broken glass, a collapsed bridge, the power is down, there are no means of communication.”

The earthquake has caused the death of more than 400 people, with the country`s president, Rafael Corea, saying on Monday that the figure would “surely rise, and in a considerable way”. There are still many people trapped in the debris, especially in the coastal region of Pedernales, where the earthquake was particularly intense. Meanwhile, as the people of Ecuador struggle to come to terms with what has happened, the emergency teams continue to work tirelessly amongst the wreckage to save lives.

For the moment, and according to available information, there have been no reports that any of the 30,000 children that Educo works with, or their families, have been hurt, although staff are verifying this information with the educational authorities in the area and with the affected communities.

The 41 schools Educo works with, located in the slums of the Trinitaria Island and Guasmo, remain closed for safety reasons and pending an assessment of the scale of the damage caused. Staff will be working closely with authorities to aid the return to normality for these centres so that children are able to return to school as soon as possible.

According to Ecuador`s latest census, 44 percent of women had their first child between the ages of 15 and 19. For many of these women, becoming mothers also signified the end of their formal education. However, with the help of ChildFund, women in Ecuador are beginning to learn and share important information about raising children, eating healthy diets and making an income. Here are the words of Evelin, a young mother from Ecuador, whose life has changed due to participation in ChildFund`s Early Childhood Development programs.

My name is Evelin. I am 20 years old, and I have two beautiful daughters who are my reason for living. Naomi is 4, and Emily is 3 years old.

When I was 16 years old, I fell pregnant, so my husband Segundo and I decided to move and begin our lives as a family. He is 32 years old, and he works as a day labourer at a farm close to our house in Imbabura Province.

With the arrival of my little girls, my life completely changed. I had to leave my studies and assume my new responsibilities in the home with my girls and husband.

One day while I was in the community store, I met a neighbour who told me that she was participating in a ChildFund-operated workshop for local mothers with children under the age of 5. She told me that it was a wonderful experience as she was able to learn about of variety of new things €“ such as nutrition and how to stimulate her children`s learning.

I thought this sounded very interesting and decided to approach my husband to ask for his approval of my participation in the training. At first, he said no, but I argued that this could be a good opportunity for me to learn new things that would help me to keep my family healthy. I would also be able to share the experience with other young mothers and not feel so lonely at home, so he agreed.

When I began participating in ChildFund`s Early Childhood Development program, the trainer mother introduced me to the rest of the group, and ever since then I have felt comfortable and enjoyed the meetings very much. Despite my home chores, I always did my best to not miss any classes of the 10-month course.

During this time, I realised that I had been doing some things the wrong way. I had a bad temper, I was often rude to my daughters and husband, and I was not sociable because I spent all day at home. I had become isolated from the rest of the community and I was also afraid to speak in public. I was very shy.

Since participating in the program, a lot of things have changed. I learned how to prepare healthy and nutritious food for my family. Since starting our family garden, I have been contributing to the family livelihood because I save money by not buying vegetables and fruits in the market. I am more sociable now too, and I am more involved and interested in the community. My older daughter goes to the community`s child care centre, and I was designated president. Now I feel valued and self-confident, and I know that if I express what I feel, people will listen to me.