A group of eleven members from the Oregon Disciples of Christ churches came to Ecuador to work with FEDICE for ten days. Many of them have been to Ecuador before and have fallen in love with the country and its people. They love the work of FEDICE and are one of the organization’s major fundraisers and supporters.
This week, the group worked in a small indigenous community called Cachiviro located in the Otavalo region. Every member of this community speaks Kichwa, Ecuadorian’s indigenous language. Most of the men speak Spanish and the majority of the women understand Spanish but don’t speak it. However, all the kids speak both languages.
On the first day, we attended the local church with the community members. They sang upbeat worship songs in both Kichwa and Spanish with lots of clapping and dancing. All the church members wore their traditional Otavaleno indigenous clothing. It was a beautiful and spirit-filled church service. One of the pastors from Oregon preached a beautiful message of “two peoples and cultures coming together and even though we can’t speak the same language, we are one in God.” Then the Oregon group sang a song in both Spanish and English called “Somos Uno/We Are One.” It was a wonderful way to start off the week; praying for each other in our own languages (English, Spanish, and Kichwa) and asking God to bless the week ahead.
The project of the week was to help construct a community center. Obviously the Oregon group did not have enough time to finish the building, but a lot of progress was made. We sanded and scraped the brick inside and outside of the top story of the building. Then we painted the columns white and lacquered the bricks. On the last day, we put cement flooring on the second story.
One thing I love about this community is that each member is very dedicated to improving the well-being of his and her own community and people. Every day, there were at least 30 community members helping with the construction. No one was getting paid and the only benefit was the hope of receiving a new community center. The construction process has been slow because the community doesn’t hire outside construction workers to build their building; they build it themselves. This is somewhat of a foreign concept to me, yet it’s a very beautiful picture of collaboration.
I have seen this in other small Ecuadorian communities as well and I think this concept of “willing and selfless collaboration” is something very unique and special to Ecuador. When there is a community project, everyone sacrifices a day (or two or three) of their own work to help with the project. Their volunteer work is not self-motivated and has nothing to do with “feeling good” after helping. It’s from the simple intention of “I want my community to improve and I want to improve the well-being of it’s members.”
In the afternoons, we had a vacation bible school for all the children in the community. There were about 100 children at VBS each day. They spent the afternoon in VBS rotations: arts and crafts, coloring, playing games, and listening to bible stories. I was in charge of reading bible stories and helping the kids put on skits of the stories they heard.
While the kids were at VBS, one of the Oregon members, Berniece, led a workshop on Self-Esteem and Motivation for the women of the community. There were about 30 women who attended the workshop each day.
On Friday, we had a big celebration with the Cachiviro community. They organized a large presentation to honor the Oregon group for coming to help their community. The program started by taking our group on a boat ride on lake San Pablo, which is surrounded by four volcanos.
The entire community came to the celebration. I translated for some of the program, which was nerve-racking! At the end of the program, they gave each of us presents. Each Oregonian received a wool hat and an Ecuadorian textile scarf. I was overwhelmed with the showering of gifts. I know that the people of the community do not make much money and it was somewhat hard for me to accept such an expensive gift from them. However, this is one of the lessons that I have been learning during my time in Ecuador. Letting someone else serve and bless you could be one of the best gifts you could give them. It’s a testament that giving is better than receiving.
At the end of the ceremony, the community members laid down tarps in the middle of the field. Each of the families had brought homemade beans, rice, potatoes and corn tostados. Everyone poured out all of their food on the tarps and when the jefe said “Go,” they all ran to the tarps to fill their bowls with food. And of course, no one used silverware to eat. Although not very sanitary, if you ask me, this is a great way to do a potluck!
Overall, we had a wonderful time working with the people of Cachiviro. May they be blessed in all ways!
Somos Uno en Cristo, Somos Uno, Somos Uno, Uno solo. Somos Uno en Christo Somos Uno, Somos Uno, Uno solo. Un solo Dios, un solo Senor, una sola Fe, un solo amor, un solo bautismo, un solo Espiritu, y ese es el Consolador.