The news of late has been as gloomy as the weather.
Eduardo Stein, the special representative of the UN refugee agency, International Organization for Migration (IOM), recently referred to Venezuala in this way, “The IOM has never faced such movement of refugees out of a country that is not at war. Over 5.7 million have left Venezuela since 2015. Over1,800 people a day are still leaving, often going to neighboring countries like Ecuador and Columbia. Latin America will never be the same.”
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Ecuador’s Interior Ministry reported, “The Colombian government does not have the resources to protect their population from drug violence. As a result, we are seeing a dramatic increase in Columbians crossing the border into Ecuador, many without documentation.”
The tragedy is all but incomprehensible.
It is in this gloomy light that a few golden rays shine. Among Cuenca’s brightest in terms of direct contact is Fundación NÚR.
I visited the Foundation a few days ago and was overwhelmed by their progress.
Fundación NÚR has a singular mission: “To push the world.” In order to do so, they have, with near-perfect detail and sound business practices, established a multi-faceted Fundacion offering a wide variety of programs focused on providing desperately needed assistance for children and real-world training for adults. Their efforts are impressive. Here are a few of their ongoing programs.
Shining Gems offers educational activities for children 4 – 13 years old. The program is composed of 355 hours of classes including art, English as a Second Language (ESL), human rights lessons, exploring youth values and virtues, and motor skills for toddlers.
Effective Parenting is designed for teen parents. This program is directed by a pediatrician, a breastfeeding expert, and a neuro-psychoeducation expert who provide professional guidance as well as supplying items for the mother and baby, at no charge. Monthly evaluations and educational meetings round out this comprehensive approach to childcare. Crises support in the event of abuse is provided by two psychologists.
NÚR’s Health and Vitality program includes twice-yearly medical exams, nutrition for children and adults courses supervised by the University of Cuenca, and updated programs on preventive measures for optimal health.
Fundación NÚR also offers a six-week virtual Holiday Camp for children 4 – 13 years old. It features 60 hours of classes under the direction of six volunteer tutors and two supervisors.
And then there is this: Political considerations and funding issues prompted GRACE, another Fundacion serving refugees, to hand off their clothing distribution program to Fundacion Nur several months ago. Since that time over one dozen new families have been provided with warm clothes and shoes in good condition every week.
I recently sat down with the Founders/Directors of Fundación NÚR, Patricia Garcas and Jorge Araujo, and asked them about their background and how they decided on their mission. Araujo said, “ I was a professional photographer catering to an international clientele. Although my business was doing quite well — my team averaged 1,000 photos a week — I felt something was wrong with my life. I had a calling but did not know what it was. So, nine years ago I founded a men’s group in my hometown of Buenos Aires, Argentina. Our goal was to promote a world of solidarity.”
Garcas said, “I’m Ecuadorian, but lived in Colombia for 25 years. I began my professional career teaching engineering and concluded by founding the engineering school at the University de la Guajira-Extension Fonseca. I felt there was more to do.”
After careful searching, Garcas and Araujo settled on Ecuador, and eventually found their way to Cuenca and began the long process of growing Fundación NÚR. That was six years ago. They currently serve more than 40 children in psychological activities, 25 children in progressive art classes in San Joaquin, and ten pregnant women, or recent mothers, 40 families in need of food, and 27 adults in ESL classes in Cuenca. They maintain a professional staff of 12 who serve on a volunteer basis.
I left Fundación NÚR feeling the warm glow of gratitude offered by the many mothers and children who rely on the services offered by the Fundacion. I was also deeply impressed by the founders’ attention to detail and rock-solid commitment to push the world towards a solidarity, hope and progress. The visit is my highlight of the year.
I suggest you take a few minutes to visit their Facebook or Instagram site @fundacionur and read for yourself their towering achievement.