Thursday, February 16, 2012

Why should I donate?

One of my friends asked me "What is so special about this community? Why should I donate to help them?" While I can go on and on about good reasons, I'm not blind to the need across the globe. However, the thing that I find extra moving and more unique about this community than some is the fact that the community has already banded together to donate land and will volunteer to help with construction. There is high need in this community. Camarones, Ecuador is located about 3 hours from Quito via bus. The geography of this community is unique, so it is not as developed as surrounding communities. Camarones is surrounded by mountains and rivers, making it difficult to receive phone signal, transport materials and people, or to communicate with the outside world.

Approximately 70 families, composed of roughly 80 men, 64 women, and 160 children, reside in the community, most of whom live well below the poverty line. There is no schooling beyond the 7th grade within the community. There are very few jobs within the community for young people, resulting in many individuals moving to the larger cities, such as Quito or Guayaquil, in order to study or search for jobs.

The name of the town, Camarones, is Spanish for shrimp. Shrimp can be found in the river running through the community, which you have to cross 3 or 4 times in order to enter into the town from the main road.

In 2009 there was a potable drinking water project started by a Rotary Club, but funding from the municipality fell short, and the project was left incomplete. Currently, community members use the water for washing clothes, bathing, a bathroom, and also drinking. Many of the homes do not have any mechanism or system set up for filtering the water. As such, when I was there volunteering, I, not surprisingly, came down with giardia. Because of the dependence on water in this community (just like anywhere), I am also working on raising money/soliciting help from Rotary Clubs and other agencies to help complete this potable water project and enable there to be safe drinking water for all of the members of the community. I am also working with the Wisconsin Water for the World group to provide assistance in developing environmental educational programming for individuals in Ecuador and then connecting with individuals back in Wisconsin.

When I was volunteering in the community I also participated in a community-led initiative to clean up the river. The goal was to bring awareness to the problems with disposing of waste in the same river that's being used for bathing or drinking.

The community members are extremely friendly, genuine, and wonderful people. Even though they are living in poverty, they are willing to share meals and time with anyone interested. I learned how to make many wonderful Ecuadorian dishes, including making blood sausages from a pig killed for a baile (dance) celebrating a family of volunteers that was leaving; improved my Spanish while teaching kids and adults in the local school; and learned a lot about organic farming and coffee making from various community members.

And, well, while all of these things are wonderful, and help to explain why I fell in love with this community, you may still be asking, but why should I donate to help them build a community center? I believe this community is primed and ready to take the community center and use it for sustainable development and income generating projects in the community. With current income being generated, in part, from deforestation of an area that is considered by many as one of the most bio-diverse regions in the world, or through shrimp farming practices that have resulted in depletion of ecologically important mangroves, as an Ecologist and Psychologist I am especially interested in finding ecological and socially relevant solutions to community development. I believe this community will be successful because the community has already donated the land, has requested our help in soliciting donation, but has continued to work with me as we developed the NGO and call even though it is really difficult to get to a phone, and has the energy and people to take the space and be successful. I view the Camarones Community Coalition, and my role, as assisting in this process, and then taking the process and enabling it to be a model for other communities interested in sustainable development projects, or community developments in their community.

So, what are you waiting for? Help me reach my goal! Thanks!!

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