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Ecuador Earthquake: How You Can Help

Ecuador Earthquake: How You Can Help

As you know, a major 7.8 earthquake struck Ecuador two days ago, the strongest in Ecuador since 1979. Several hundreds have died and thousands are homeless. We have been posting information on our Facebook page for those wanting to get regular news and where to donate.

Many friends in Sierra have reported they are safe by checking online through Facebook. All Peace Corps volunteers have reported that they are safe.

Epicenter was on the coast with major damage in cities like Pedernales, Porto Viejo, Muisne where there has long been a history of volunteers. Several hundred people have died, including friends of RPCVs and volunteers. Volunteers are mobilizing to get resources to the coast for rescue and relief operations, though it sounds like some areas are dicey in terms of security, as there is some desperation in towns for re-supply.

Here are photos of the damage, with people sleeping outside for fear of aftershocks. This photoset from Manabi is heartbreaking and includes aerial photos of the damage.

How You Can Help

Current Peace Corps volunteers have expressed an interest in helping and many of them who live along the coast are mobilizing funds to try to help. In general, it’s hard since unless you are trained in disaster response, it’s difficult to be useful, especially since outsiders converging on an area may themselves need food, water and shelter that are in short supply. It sounds like some coastal based volunteers, current and former, are working with local foundations and law enforcement to try to provide assistance. Others are channeling money to them. Money is probably better than donated goods.

Here are three sources that came up that are known to us personally or through the Peace Corps network. At bottom, we provide links to more well-known charitable organizations. We’ll try to update as we have more information.

Ouida Chichester who has worked with Friends of Ecuador in the past in Pedernales with a foundation for people with disabilities has a donation site and is working to mobilize funding.  Read More »

Fundraising Appeal from PCVs for Gender Empowerment Camps

Fundraising Appeal from PCVs for Gender Empowerment Camps

Feb 3, 2016 update. Thanks to all of you. This project is now fully funded. Friends of Ecuador made a $500 donation, and along with other individual donations, this project was able to raise the $7700 for the camps to go forward. We should be hearing news of how the camps went in coming weeks. We also hope that this proves to be a model for succesful collaboration between RPCVs and Peace Corps Ecuador going forward. Thanks to all of you who supported this effort! 

We just received this fantastic fundraising appeal from PCVs in Ecuador to support GLOW camps for gender empowerment. Three volunteers on the coast — Jackie Urban in Bahia, Julia Schiffman in Pajan, and Yajaira Hernandez in Portoviejo — are organizing camps to be held in February 2016 to help young girls be aware of their rights and the impact of gender roles in their community. Please make your tax-deductible donation now by the end of January so camps can go forward righty away. Click on Girls Leading Our World link at the bottom of the linked page.

See below for a more detailed description.  Read More »

El Clima June 2015 – “Posh Corps”

El Clima June 2015 – “Posh Corps”

by a PCV in Ecuador

This is re-posted from the volunteer magazine El Clima.

Definition: Peace Corps site placements that lack the stereo- typical hardships of service. Sites with: running water, electricity, internet, washers and dryers, in- door plumbing, and/or hot water.

Among volunteers, this term can be loaded, implying that a volunteer is not suffering enough to earn real PCV status. The need of the countries we serve reflects the type of work and lifestyle that volunteers lead while they are abroad. I’d like to break the stereotype, without going too far into murky waters, which seems to be rooted in the nostalgia for the 1960s and reflects a paternalistic ideal of the world beyond U.S. borders.

As a volunteer in a middle-class community of educated professionals, I count myself among those who are in “posh corps” placements. At times, because of the idea that people have of “rough and tough” for Peace Corps, my middle-class life- style made me feel that I would let people at home down if they knew how much I was not suffering in Ecuador. Or that, frankly, my family would not support my being here if my placement were not “hard enough.” I signed up for worldwide service; yet here I am, working and enjoying some amenities common to the U.S., just like the population of the teach- ers I work with. I am as guilty as anyone for believing my experi- ence would be like the posters, something like a very rainy season on M*A*S*H with fewer martinis, and English teaching instead of surgery. It is nothing like I imag- ined, except for the teaching part. Also, there’s a lot more rum and zhumir here than gin. This may be a sign that recruitment propaganda is in need of an overhaul.Cuenca

Needless to say, I was uneducated about Ecuador and the TEFL program. That in itself is an important reason to come: to expel provincial ideas about the world that I unknowingly maintained. Volunteers live at the level of the people in their community with the goal of integrating into that community. This allows us to better share our expertise with the host country nationals who request it. In the countryside, volunteers may have an outdoor toilet and live at home with the family for their entire service. It all depends on how the people they work with live, and the cul- tural expectations of the commu- nity. On the other hand, I live in an apartment in a mid-sized city. I continue to eat with my Ecuador- ian family, but I have the option to eat at home. I have hot water and a bath tub. On weekdays, I go to work in heels and a suit jacket, just like I did in the US.

Among PCVs, enduring hard- ship during service comes in various forms and can be self- inflicted. There are volunteers who bathe in cold water though they have hot water available, or who do laundry by hand regard- less of having access to a washing machine. The idea is that suffering is a requirement to be a dedicated volunteer. It’s worth reflecting on why the notion exists that hardship is part and parcel to sharing information with the people we live and work with. Though I worked with struggling communities in the U.S., I never once felt that I should hand wash my clothes or take a cold shower to better serve their needs. I ask, how would host nationals inter- pret this motivation to go abroad to endure hardship? If the shoe were on the other foot, how would I feel if someone came to visit me and decided to camp on my lawn because my house was nicer than expected?

In short or long, being a volunteer is about sharing skills with and learning new skills from our communities. There are difficulties inherent to integrating and working abroad; we are people from distinct cultures, languages, and ideologies, and it is work to build friendships and working re- lationships in spite of these differences. Yes, I’ve taken a few bucket baths when the water was out. I’ve done this at home in Colorado, too. Thankfully, the world is a dif- ferent place than it was in the 1961 and the work we do has evolved according to the needs expressed by the countries who host volun- teers. There aren’t “posh corps volunteers” so much as there are volunteers who fulfill the requests for skills in a variety of communi- ties, like we always have. The reality that we are serving in increasingly better-off communities may just mean that soon we’ll be out of a job—just—as we hoped.

El Clima June 2015 – Taming Public Transport

El Clima June 2015 – Taming Public Transport

by PCV Alex Albanese…

You won’t find a slow bus driver on the coast. Whoever assumes buses are too large, have too much weight, and are too bulky to go fast has it all wrong. They haven’t felt the force of first gear and grappling onto any stationary object. They haven’t shot into a pack of passengers like a bowling ball after being caught off guard. They haven’t seen a bus pass taxis. They haven’t seen buses race.

Although I liken these vehicular drivers to Ricky Bobby, Jeff Gordan, or your crazy 17-year-old cousin who just got his license, there is a rhyme and reason for the accelerated lifestyle. One reason lies in the music culture. Almost every bus has the “accel- erated” thump of techno, salsa, reggeaton, and bachata. The rhythm fuels the need for speed hence the fast pace.

Surprisingly enough, the locals remain calm throughout this adventure. Me on the other hand, I am on edge, expecting the un- expected, and jiving to the music. So, if you are ready to make the leap physically and metaphorically to coastal public transportation, here is a comprehensive 8 step guide to success.

  1. Wave
    Each bus runs at about a 15 minute interval. Once you have identi- fied the desired bus, you must flag it down within one block, which is enough notice for the driver. The wave: stick hand out with palm down, wag hand furiously.
  1. Run and jump or hold your ground

Running to catch a bus grants you not only the good graces of the driver but also the accreditation of being a local. Many people of the Peninsula of Santa Elena walk slowly in the heat of the sun, yet, when they see the bus, they turn their Latino jets on. They waggle towards the bus, grab the outer bar, and swing in.

The second choice is waiting for the bus to stop because you are not ready for the local run down. In order to wait for buses, you must know the bus stop marked by a blue sign “parada.” If there is no bus stop sign, you must wait after a street light.

3. Board the busBus2

Once you are successfully in the door, beware! First gear will  punish those who don’t prepare. People have fumbled branches of bananas. Passengers have been knocked to the ground banging into bus bars, armrests, or even elbowing seated passengers.

You must spread your legs decently while boarding the bus steps, and make sure one arm is always on a bar. If you lose your footing and know you’re about to lift off, turn your back, cross arms, and ping pong off of the closest person standing in the crowd.

  1. Prepare payment

Exact change of 25 cents is always recommended. If you are ahead of the game, use the Tarjeta de Re- carga with the new scanner ma- chines across Santa Elena.

  1. Buy a Helmet?

Precaución de la cabeza!” Quite often, the height of the aisle hand- rail only serves for the average Ecuadorian height. Don’t be distracted by the driving, music, or crowds, because TVs, bars, and overhead storage provide possible hazards for the cranium.

  1. Proceed to desired open seat or area

The first two seats are always reserved for the elderly, pregnant women, the handicapped, and kids.

AlexProceed to desired seat and feel free to brush others to arrive at destination with polite remarks such as “con permiso,” and “perdón.” When passengers bulk up in the front, there is a higher chance of obtaining a seat if you move towards the back.

If no seat is found, lean against a seat and spread your legs for lower center of gravity.

  1. “Pare! Esquina! Gracias! Se queda!”

This is the fun part. Once you have reached your landmark, approach the driver one block before your stop and say, “Gracias, dé- jame aquí.” But, in the case you can’t make it to the front in time, warn the driver at an audible level to stop. “Se queda!” “Pare!” “La esquina!

  1. Disembark

It’s a 50/50 chance of jumping or walking off the bus. Be ready to jump and aim for a flat surface. Upon landing, you have successfully ridden coastal transport.

Each ride presents new discoveries of coastal Ecuador. After three months, I progressively find faster lines, new restaurants, or more stabilizing postures while riding. At first, I always allotted myself taxi fare as a Plan B, but I learned the lines as time passed. Local transport opened up the small comunidades between cit- ies, and that brings me closer to living like a common costeña. I struggled to integrate in some ways, but yelling “STOP” in a full bus gives me a rush of adrenaline and the confidence to live among

June 2015 El Clima – From the Editors

June 2015 El Clima – From the Editors

We were fortunate to get the latest El Clima from PCV Chris Owen. Here are some select stories.

It is with our June issue hitting the streets—and as the overzeal-ous, water-gun-packing, Big- League-gum-smacking gang of story-chasers that we are—that El Clima rolls out a new chapter of our collective narrative here in Ecuador.

In this quarter’s edition, El Clima brings you tales of Peace Corps adventure from across the country. We hope to light a match: a single flame, which, upon meet- ing other tendrils of wandering smoke, spreads and infuses a greater spirit for adventure. May you reflect on your greatest ad- venture as you peruse all that is action-packed; from traversing the monstrous slopes of Cotopaxi with ice in your veins, to curling up for the night on Quilotoa’s treacherous rim. May these authors’ testimonies prove to readers of all shapes and sizes that, indeed, adventure is out there. All we must do is seek it.

And so our literary version of the Ron Burgundy legend carries on here at El Clima. As of this is-sue, we happily initiate two new team members in the forms of Content Editor, Tori “Trees are people, too” Sims; and Photo Editor, Alex “Living for the present” Albanese.

Lastly, congratulations to Omnibus 113 for successfully swearing-in to service, and a big welcome to Omnibus 114, as they join us on the adventure of all adventures, more commonly referred to as Peace Corps Ecuador!

Sharing your Peace Corps story,

The El Clima E-Team


Summer Visit by the Pope to Ecuador

Summer Visit by the Pope to Ecuador

The pope spoke to a million in Ecuador earlier this summer.

QUITO, Ecuador— Pope Francis praised the family as society’s primary haven of virtue but said its joys still elude many, and he voiced hope that a meeting of bishops at the Vatican this fall will help those who feel left out of family life.

The pope’s schedule for the week features a number of events reflecting his concern for social and economic justice. Arriving in Ecuador on Sunday, he called for sharing the benefits of development with the “most fragile of our brothers and sisters and the most vulnerable minorities.”

The pope had traveled to steamy Guayaquil, on the Pacific coast, from the Andean city of Quito, Ecuador’s capital, where he was scheduled to remain until departing for Bolivia on Wednesday.

He also made environmental protection a major theme:

Pope Francis on Tuesday called for increased protection of the Amazon rain forest and the indigenous people who live there, declaring that Ecuador must resist exploiting natural riches for “short-term benefits,” an implicit rebuke of the policies of President Rafael Correa.

In his final stops of a busy day, Francis made environmental protection a central theme, invoking the biblical tenet for humans to be guardians of creation, while praising the way of life of indigenous peoples living in the rain forests. Several indigenous leaders attending Francis’ final event of the day have been fighting the policies of Mr. Correa to expand oil exploration in the Ecuadorean Amazon.

Update from Peace Corps Ecuador

Update from Peace Corps Ecuador

Here is a belated August update from Peace Corps Ecuador.

Peace Corps Global Gender Workshop

The GGW was held in Washington, DC, March 16-24, 2015. Youth and Families Development Program Manager Cristina Rojas attended the workshop and represented PC/Ecuador in this worldwide initiative. The Global Gender Workshop came on the heels of First Lady Michelle Obama’s announcement of the Let Girls Learn initiative, a powerful collaboration with the Peace Corps to expand access to education for girls around the world. These two events provided Peace Corps with an excellent opportunity to reinvigorate our programming and training in gender. Currently, PC/Ecuador is in the process of redefining our gender strategy at post.

As Peace Corps Director Carrie Hessler-Radelet has said often in recent months “Peace Corps Volunteers were integrating gender long before it was mandated in the Peace Corps Act in 1978. And, they have continued to do so not because it is required, but because it makes sense. Our Volunteers see gender roles up front and personal and it is our task to give them the tools to make sure that everyone in the community—women, men, girls, and boys—are included in our work”. Read More »

The Way You Make Me Feel in Quechua

The Way You Make Me Feel in Quechua

“Buen Provecho” Cookbook Featured on National Geographic Website

“Buen Provecho” Cookbook Featured on National Geographic Website

An update version of the “Buen Provecho” cookbook was published on the National Geographic website.

“You’re holding a wonderful book in your hands, one that was crafted with a scientist’s mind and an artist’s heart. It’s a collection of recipes, wisdom, care, and knowledge that if used right will ease your day, fuel your dreams, and spread a bit of goodness in the world.”

It was the product of many but led by a particularly generous soul who served as a PCV in Ecuador 1997-2001. We remember and honor Laurel Zaks through her many good works, among them, the more-than-a-cookbook Buen Provecho.


Hey Cotopaxi is active again!

Hey Cotopaxi is active again!

In August, Cotopaxi started jetting smoke and ash for the first time in 70 years, leading the country to declare a state of emergency, with the possible evacuation of hundreds of thousands.

Here is what it’s like living nearby in Latacunga, which was destroyed in a mudflow in the last major eruption in the 1870s.

“The city just went crazy,” Mauricio says. “We kicked opened our doors and we took what we could and we just ran. We were not prepared with masks or first aid kits. It was mayhem.”

And sadly, it looks like a lot of people have left the area:

“A fifth of the community has left,” claims Mauricio. “Some forever, some temporarily. The little tourism we had is gone because most people come to see or climb Cotopaxi and the national park is closed. And now because people don’t know what’s going to happen, they’re holding on to their money to wait and see what happens. They’re scared.”

Here is some pre-activity before the eruption this summer