By Tom Larsen
Susan McBride is no stranger to awards. She was the 2018 Cuenca Governor’s Expat Humanitarian Award winner. On December 17, National Immigrant Day, Susan will receive special recognition from the Ecuadorian government in the National Assembly session in Quito.
The award is named for Dra. Matilde Hidalgo de Prócel. Dra. Hildalgo de Prócel was an Ecuadorian physician, poet, and activist. She was the first woman to vote in Ecuador and Latin America, and the first Ecuadorian woman to receive a Doctorate in Medicine. She fought for women’s rights and is known as one of the most influential women in Ecuadorian history.
The award is only given to women or institutions that contribute to the development of higher education, science, technology and innovation in Ecuador. Susan was nominated for the award by Assemblywoman Ximena Peña Pacheco.
Susan McBride was born in New Jersey and recently celebrated her 78th birthday. At a young age, Susan was exposed to travel throughout the USA since her father was a U.S Naval officer. During her working years, Susan worked as a legal administrator for firms in Florida and Washington D.C. and was a business owner.
Together with her husband, Bruce Wilkins, she operated a catering service in Palm Beach, Florida until Bruce suffered a serious stroke. In December 2012 they moved to Cuenca to retire. After a short period of retirement, Susan began looking for a volunteer opportunity where she could share her knowledge and talents. Mujeres con Ėxito was recommended and after meeting the director, Diana Vázquez, she began heading fundraising efforts for the organization.
Together, Susan and Diana developed the catering service and trained the domestic violence survivors for kitchen and banquet service. The expat community responded positively to their work because their fundraising efforts are financially transparent, and the project’s mission — to help these damaged women regain their power while building new lives for themselves and their children — is so important. Domestic violence knows no borders.
When asked why Mujeres con Ėxito is so important to her, Susan stated:
“During the 1990s I was an administrator of a large Catholic parish and I worked for a prominent homeless and battered women’s shelter for many years. When we came to Cuenca I sought the same type of charity. I was referred to Casa Maria Amor, and after a tour of the shelter, I knew I had found where I belonged. I was amazed by the eco-friendly buildings, the kind care offered to the women and their children and I was impressed by their program to empower the women.
“The fundraising efforts have grown from providing funds for essential office needs and Christmas gifts to raising money for school clothes, shoes and supplies, personal care items, and other specific needs of the foundation and the catering business. “My function at Mujeres con Ėxito is to create and administer fundraising events and to connect talented people and their expertise to add to the successful endeavors of this wonderful organization. This brings me great joy.”
Tom Larsen is a Cuenca expat author. Read his new short mystery “Aliento del Diablo” set in Cuenca, in the September/October Issue of “Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine” or follow him on Amazon.