New weekly radio program on the Overseas Radio Network focuses on issues facing Ecuador expats

May 4, 2012

By Sylvan Hardy

Ecuador at Your Service is on the air.

The radio program, aimed at English-speaking residents and prospective residents of Ecuador, debuted earlier this year on the Overseas Radio Network. The program, which airs Tuesday from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m., is hosted by Cuenca residents Ashley Rogers and Michel Blanchard.

The show features a variety of guests, as well as lively banter between Rogers and Blanchard. “We try to keep it light and fun, but at the same time, we want to provide useful information and insight into what it’s like to live in Ecuador,” says Rogers.

Internet-based Overseas Radio Network, which began operations in January, describes its mission as providing quality programming to English-speaking expatriate communities around the world. It currently produces more than 70 hours of on-air programs weekly, from such far-flung locations as Mexico, Panama, Thailand and Paris, as well as Ecuador.

“We liked the ORN concept as soon as we heard about it,” says Blanchard. “The idea is to provide a live forum for the discussion of issues affecting people living overseas.”

In their early shows, Rogers and Blanchard have interviewed a variety of guests on topics ranging from immigration, health care and alternative medicine to real estate, bringing pets to Ecuador, shipping household goods, running a business and Ecuador’s cultural and entertainment scenes.

Guests have included Edgar Rodas, former Ecuadorian health minister, who discussed the work of his foundation to provides mobile surgery services to the poor; renowned jazz saxaphonist and part-time Cuenca resident Sue Terry, who chronicled her life as a performer; real-estate developer Juan Heredia, who described restoration projects in Cuenca’s historic district; and restaurant owners Carol and George Evans, who recounted the challenges of running a business in a new country.

The program is divided into two segments. “During the first hour, we deal with practical subjects that that are part of everyday life in Ecuador,” says Rogers. “I think one of the most important things we do is talk to guests about their lives here and the challenges they face. For people thinking of moving to Ecuador, these discussions are especially valuable.”

During the second half of the show, Rogers and Blanchard focus on cultural issues and the arts. “Both Ashley and I are big supporters of the arts,” says Blanchard. “We do everything we can to promote artists.”

The repartee between Rogers and Blanchard, and their well-crafted questions to guests, provide the fuel for the show, reflecting not only their knowledge of Ecuador, but lifetimes of exceptional experiences.

Rogers spent most of her professional career in television production for the major U.S. networks and a variety of cable outlets. She has worked on such programs as “Up Close and Personal,” “Hard Copy” and “Entertainment Tonight.” Following her years in television, she moved into directing and producing documentary films, winning a number of awards in the process, including Best Director at the Los Angeles Director’s Guild/Parables Film Festival.

Her most recent work, 333, based in Mali, is an exploration of the ancient manuscripts of Timbuktu and of the Sufi Ambassadors of Peace in West Africa. The film premiered at the United Nations in 2011 and is currently seeking worldwide distribution. Rogers is beginning work on another film project, highlighting the life of New York improvisational dancer Margaret Beals.

Blanchard is a graduate of New York City’s Parsons School of Design and has worked as a fashion model and designer. Born in Canada, he has lived and worked in Hong Kong, Thailand, Japan, in several European countries and the United States. Before moving to Ecuador in 2009, he was a fashion stylist for Palm Springs Life, in California.

As an international fashion model in the 1990s, Blanchard represented such brands as Giorgio Armani, Hugo Boss, and Calvin Klein, appearing frequently on billboards, often modeling underwear. Besides his modeling and design career, Blanchard has worked as an interior designer, personal trainer and certified nutritionist.

Rogers and Blanchard met three years ago on a real estate tour in Cotacachi, north of Quito. “We were both looking for a change in our lives and ran into each other during our explorations,” says Rogers. “We discovered we had similar interests, which led to forming a partnership.”

Rogers, who had spent most of her professional life in New York and Los Angeles, had checked out such big cities and Buenos Aires and Panama City, but eventually settled on Cuenca. “I wanted to get out of the rush and Cuenca turned out to be a good fit for me.”

“I was looking for a new adventure too,” says Blanchard. “A smaller city with a vibrant cultural scene appealed to me. I like to go to the symphony and to art openings and I can do that in Cuenca.”

In addition to the radio show, “Ecuador at Your Service” is also the name of Rogers’ and Blanchard’s business, which provides assistance to new Cuenca expats. “We are a concierge service for newcomers,” says Blanchard. “We make arrangements for tourists, translate documents, help people find real estate, design and manage renovation projects, among other things.”

According to Rogers, the radio program and the concierge service go hand-in-hand. “We’re in the business of introducing people to our new home,” she says. “We love it in Ecuador and want to tell the world about it.”

Ecuador at Your Service airs every Tuesday from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m., EST. To tune in, go to http://overseasradio.com and click on the “listen live” button at the top right of the page.

Credit: Reposted from the Miami Herald International Edition, May 2, 2012. Photo captions: Ashley Rogers and Michel Blanchard on the air during their Tuesday morning radio program in Cuenca; Ashley on the set of a documentary film she produced and directed in Mali; Michel in a fashion shot for Hugo Boss, during his career as a fashion model.

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