Without working plumbing, clean water, adequate food, or funding, Yunguilla Orphanage was on the brink of closure last year. When a group of Ecuadorians and expats heard about the orphanage in dire need, they came together to help the 35 disabled children and adults who lived there.
The group of volunteers became known as Ecuador Cares, a non-profit organization made up entirely of volunteers. They brought teams of handymen and plumbers to Yunguilla each week. They worked hard and diligently for many months, repairing plumbing, providing safe drinking water, and finishing a new dorm for the residents.
In November, they held a fundraiser, Full Belly Fling. The generous response of the community allowed Ecuador Cares to provide Yunguilla Orphanage $25,000 of food and supplies.
Ecuador Cares then asked the Ministerio Inclusión Económica Social Ecuador (MIES) for a $130,000 grant to ensure that the orphanage could continue. With the grant approved and improvements made, Yunguilla Orphanage was up and running again.
This year, the organization has taken on another mission: Hogar Miguel Leon, a refuge in the center of Cuenca for 31 orphans and 65 elders. A small staff of dedicated Sisters work hard to help the residents. But they need help. (For more about Hogar Miguel Leon, click here.)
The girls who live there must leave the orphanage on their 18th birthday. With no family support, home, or job, they need assistance as they enter job market or university.
Ecuador Cares has instituted a program of support for both the youth and the senior residents. Every Saturday, about 40 volunteers arrive to teach cooking classes, English, sewing, computer skills, CPR/First Aid, and other job skills to the teens.
Other volunteers read to the younger children while the elderly enjoy music, dancing, and crafts. The afternoon ends with a hot meal prepared by the volunteers and youth—often mentored by a local chef.
The orphanage diet consists of rice, potatoes, and vegetables. The residents are happy to have the necessary food. Still, they welcome Saturdays’ special meal of spaghetti and meatballs, baked chicken, pork tenderloin or fish tacos that is prepared by the volunteers.
“We plan to stop the cycle of poverty by giving these children–who are primarily girls–job training and internships so they can support themselves as adults,” says Diane Lenz, Ecuador Cares president.
“Our vision is to enable these young people to get honest jobs at age 18 and give them a future which does not include crime, early pregnancy, or domestic violence in order to survive,” Lenz says. “In other words, with God’s help, we want to stop the cycle of poverty right here and give them hope for a positive future.”
Ecuador Cares also provides financial support for school books and uniforms, diapers, lotions, care items for the elders, children’s books, and class materials.
Plans are underway for a sex education and personal safety program, a halfway house to provide adult supervision, housing, and support for those who are 18 and want to finish their education, and a job placement program.
Ecuador Cares welcomes volunteers to help in any of these programs. They also are in need of volunteers who have skills in repairs and plumbing.
They have no paid staff, no office space, and little overhead. Donations go directly to the programs and people in need. To address the residents’ immediate needs and to plant seeds of hope for their futures, the non-profit will be hosting a fundraising gala on November 10 at the Hotel Oro Verde.
For more information about Ecuador Cares and ways you can get involved, you can visit www.EcuadorCares.com or e-mail Ecuador Cares President and Founder, Diane Lenz at email@example.com.