Save your appetite for noon on Sunday afternoon, November 11.
That’s when the doors open on Cuenca’s 18th Annual International Food Fair at the Mall del Rio Convention Center. The food fair is the largest dining event in Cuenca, last year serving almost 3,000 meals.
In addition to Ecuadorian comida tipica, the fair will feature food from Italy, Mexico, Spain, Switzerland, the U.S., Japan, Argentina, Germany, Colombia and Chile. The event is one of two annual fund raising events for the Fundacion del Enfermo de Cancer, or FASEC, a non-profit organization that provides free and low-cost services to cancer patients and their families.
According to Leslie Breen, a food booth volunteer, “This is a great opportunity to help a wonderful organization continue its good work. Al l of the proceeds, and I mean all, go to helping cancer patients.”
Breen is one of several expats who support the food fair, either by donating food or sponsoring a booth.
Founded in 1981 with a bequest from Cuenca native Lolita Farfan Palacios, who recognized the lack of assistance for poor cancer patients, FASEC served 2935 patients in 2011, many of whom are unable to pay full price for services. The center can accommodate up to 34 patients at a time and offers nursing and counseling services.
Besides assisting out-patients recovering from or undergoing cancer therapy, it also provides hospice services for the terminally ill.
FASEC is located next door to SOLCA, the Society to Combat Cancer, one of Ecuador’s three major cancer treatment centers, on Av. 10 de Augusto and Augstin Landivar.
“Many of the people we assist live outside of Cuenca, some as far away as the jungle, and they have no place to stay when they are having treatment,” says Rosa Vintimilla, vice president of the board of directors of SOLCA, and a volunteer at FASEC. “Before FASEC was established, many poor patients were sleeping in doorways outside of the hospital.”
According to Vintimilla, FASEC is a labor of love for the administrators, board of director members and volunteers. “We work with very limited money and resources and we depend entirely on donations. This work is a critically needed and is not available anywhere else.” Vintimilla explains that she and other volunteers, including her two sisters, do not consider their work a sacrifice. “It enriches us to serve these wonderful people and the most important thing we can give them is our friendship.
One of FASEC’s long-term objectives, according to Vintimilla, is to expand its services to all patients in need, not just cancer victims. “We want to help people with other illnesses, from other hospitals, and we want to expand our end-of-life services.” She adds: “To do this will require more donations and volunteers.”
FASEC accepts contributions year-round. Those who would like to help, or who want more information about the foundation´s work and services, can email firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com, or phone 281-1989.
Contributions to FASEC can also be made at a number of Cuenca businesses including California Kitchen, Carolina Bookstore, Di Bacco Restaurant, Kookaburra Cafe and Inca Lounge.
The food festival begins at noon Sunday and closes at 4, in the Cuenca and Yanuncay rooms of the Mall del Rio Convention center (follow the signs next to MultiCine). In addition to the food booths organized by volunteers, the University of Cuenca Gastronomy School, the Cuenca Gourmet Association and the San Isidro Culinary Institute will offer up their specialties. Tickets will be for sale at the door.
Photo caption: a food booth volunteer serves up a meal at last year's food fair; photo credit: El Tiempo