On Monday, the menu at Lugar de Esperanza featured oatmeal, boiled eggs, fresh cheese, watermelon, banana and orange. The diners, poor and mostly elderly, ate free, courtesy of a volunteer project sponsored by U.S. and Canadian expats in Cotacachi, an hour’s drive north of Quito.
Started three years ago, Lugar de Esperanza operates in an old school building in San José, outside of Cotacachi. With a capacity of 60, the center serves mostly indigenous residents of small, surrounding communities, including San Miguel, Tunibamba, Piava San Pedro, El Cercado, Alambuela, and Colimbuela.
“This is the center of social lives for many of those who come here,” says expat Kate Linderman-Schutt. “Many of them live alone so the companionship they find is just as important as the food they eat and they are very grateful,” she says.
José Bonilla, a Lugar regular, agrees. “These are my dear friends here and this is place of joy for me,” says.
In addition to providing meals, Lugar de Esperanza offers clothing, hot-water baths, and household items to those who use its services.
Retired nurse Linda Eastwood, who has worked in medical missions in the Ukraine and Haiti, provides medical assistance and, if necessary, provides referrals to area health care facilities.
Lugar de Esperanza operates through donations from the Cotacachi expat community, as well as from North America. Among the 14 regular volunteers at Lugar, besides Eastwood and Linderman-Schutt, are Fred Hosea, who serves as a translator in addition to his other duties, and Micky Enright, a retired real estate agent who is working to find a new location for Lugar.
Source: El Comercio