by Mark Raderstorf
Thanksgiving 2011 in Cuenca began with a beautiful sunny day — the perfect weather for the Turkey Trot scheduled for 9 a.m. We met at the starting point, Otorongo Plaza, along the Rio Tomebamba. More than 50 people showed for this inaugural event, ready for some exercise and fun, so they could eat their Thanksgiving meal later that day without any guilt.
This event was a benefit for the Fundacion El Arenal. Some of the women who work at El Arenal Mercado (Feria Libre) were present and very thankful for any help we were able to give them. These women represented the families working at El Arenal. And they gave out brochures explaining the Fundacion, which provides services for their children while they are at work, including school support, workshops, family and individual counseling, health care, and more.
Before the Fundacion started, the children (ages 5-17) were seen on the street trying to make money for their families by shining shoes, selling newspapers or vegetables, or carrying loads, and working between 5 and 12 hours a day. Now they can just be children who thrive under the care of the Fundacion.
After a short presentation by Fundacion director Bette Valarezo, the walkers and joggers were off down the two-mile course along Rio Tomebamba. They made new friends and renewed old ones along the pathways. The last part of the course was the toughest, up 83 steps so we could all gather at the Kookaburra Cafe for coffee and postres.
Everyone was rewarded with a handwoven turkey from the Asociacion de Toquilleras Maria Auxilladora (women's hat-making cooperative) in SigSig. The mothers from Feria Libre were especially appreciative of the kindness shown toward them and the opportunity to take a relaxing break from the daily work at the market.
More than $100 was raised for the Fundacion from the Turkey Trot. After consulting with the parents, the Fundacion will use the money to purchase a pig for the Family Christmas Party at El Arenal on December 18th. A whole pig, which costs upwards of $300, is a delicacy they have never been able to afford in the many years they have had this Christmas party.
This group of caring expats will not be deterred from reaching that goal of providing a pig for these families. The next event, a Jingle Bell Run walk/run on Saturday morning December 17, will also be a fundraiser for the Fundacion El Arenal Christmas Party!
For more information on the Jingle Bell Walk/Run, contact Mark Raderstorf at email@example.com.
Photos by Mark Raderstorf
Top: Volunteers sign up walkers; middle: The Fundacion makes its presentation; bottom: Walkers work up an appetite for turkey.