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Farewell Message from Alexis Vaughn

Farewell Message from Alexis Vaughn

This is a post from outgoing Peace Corps Ecuador country director Alexis Vaughn. We hope to have a note shortly from incoming country director Michael Donald.

Time certainly does whizz by. It seems only yesterday I was greeting you as the new Country Director for Peace Corps Ecuador, now I am bidding you farewell as I embark on my new assignment as Peace Corps Country Director for Guatemala. In the past three years, Ecuador has seen many changes and challenges – a new airport in Quito, new modern roads, a sharp decline in the price of oil (the country’s economic bread and butter) and a devastating earthquake. Through it all, Peace Corps Ecuador continued to strengthen its partnership with the Ecuadorian people, nearly doubling our Teaching English as a Second Language Program, solidifying our partnership with the Ministry of Health and, with generous funding from the Friends of Ecuador, launching a successful series of GLOW Camps (Girls Leading Our World). It’s been a wonderful ride, and I thank you for the ongoing support you have provided. Peace Corps Ecuador continues in excellent hands with the new Country Director, Michael Donald, and with Friends like you, I’m sure he will find his time in Ecuador as rewarding as I have.

Camp GLOW Thanks to Friends of Ecuador

Camp GLOW Thanks to Friends of Ecuador

In 2016, we provided some matching funds to Camp GLOW, which was an opportunity for Ecuadorian girls to learn about empowerment, self esteem, and and gender equality. We look forward to supporting similar programs in the future. It seems like it was a roaring success. Below is the thank you note from the organizers on behalf of the 55 girls who participated.

Ecuador’s Elections

Ecuador’s Elections

Ecuador held presidential elections last weekend, and it looks like the left-wing candidate Lenin Moreno holds a lead but may not have exceeded the 40% threshold (and 10% difference with his nearest rival) to avoid a run-off. This from Reuters:

Ecuador’s leftist government candidate Lenin Moreno looked set for victory on Monday in a presidential election, but slow results meant it may take days to know if he will face a runoff with former banker Guillermo Lasso.

As results trickled in from Ecuador’s Andes, jungle, and Pacific coast, Moreno, a disabled former vice president, was just short of the 40 percent of votes and a 10 percentage-point difference over his nearest rival to win outright.
For more background on the election, see this piece on the Guardian that talks about how the left-wing tilt of the early 2000s in South America has subsided, but perhaps not in Ecuador where the ruling party may yet win, as Rafael Correa steps down:
The favourite is Lenín Moreno, a former vice-president under Correa who is standing for the ruling Alianza País coalition, but very different in style and politics from the outgoing president. As his first name suggests, Moreno is from a leftwing family, but he has a reputation for inclusiveness openness and humourthat earned him approval ratings above 90% when he quit the vice-presidency in 2013 to take up a United Nations post as special envoy on disability. If he wins, he would be the first paraplegic head of state, having used a wheelchair since he was shot in a robbery.

Voting is obligatory for the 12.8 million people eligible to cast a ballot in this country, which covers an area bigger than the United Kingdom and ranges from Amazon jungle and Andean mountains to the Pacific coast and the Galápagos Islands….

Correa leaves power with ratings around 40% – impressively high in a country where no previous leader in a century had lasted more than five years….

Most Ecuadorians are far better off than when he took power in 2007, poverty and inequality have gone down and infrastructure, schools and hospitals have been impressively upgraded….

But 10 years in power and a downturn in global oil prices have taken their toll.

Ecuador’s economy shrank by more than 2% last year and the IMF forecasts a similar decline in 2017. Many voters are weary of authoritarian leadership. Indigenous groups and environmentalists accuse the government of putting Chinese oil and mining interests above local people and protected areas in the Yasuni national park and among the Shuar territories near the southern border with Peru. The middle class complain of high taxes, excessive bureaucracy, clampdowns on NGOs and attacks on the media.

 

RPCV Translation of an Ecuadorian Book

RPCV Translation of an Ecuadorian Book

RPCV Ecuador 2009-2011, Rob Gunther, translated an Ecuadorean book, that is available now on Amazon. It is called Drums for a Lost Song by Jorge Velasco Mackenzie. If you’re interested in Ecuador, the African diaspora, Yoruba, magical realism, Peace Corps, or race/class/history from a South American point of view, please consider buying a copy and sharing news of this release on social media. Thanks in advance!

Friends of Ecuador – Back after a Long Hiatus

Friends of Ecuador – Back after a Long Hiatus

All,

We have a series of stories to post in the coming weeks. There is a new country director in Ecuador, and we have a message from the departing country director. There are upcoming elections in Ecuador for a new president of the country. We have some updates on projects we supported over the last year or so. And, the United States has a new president.

The last point is only germane to the extent that we at Friends of Ecuador have been transfixed by the unfolding challenges to American democracy. I’m a political scientist so this is something I study for a living, but it’s also been a tough time to be an observer of U.S. politics. I don’t say that as a partisan but just as a concerned citizen.

In any case, that has left me with less bandwidth to dedicate to this important cause, but we’re going to try to collect some stories in coming weeks to inform our readers. We’ll have a new newsletter for the first of March when these will be published collectively. In the meantime, I’ll try to get them out a bit at a time.

Mushuk Yuyay School Breakfast Appeal

Mushuk Yuyay School Breakfast Appeal
We are proud to partner with the Association of Producers of Seeds and Nutritional Andean Foods on a pilot school feeding program in the Cañar region for which we are requesting donations on their behalf. This has come to our attention from RPCVs Stuart Moskowitz and Alan Adams (Ecuador 1967-69). We are seeking to mobilize $1000 to support a fall program. Read on for full details about the project.




Read More »

Message from PCE Director Alexis Vaughn on cancelled omnibus

Message from PCE Director Alexis Vaughn on cancelled omnibus

Dear Friends of Ecuador,
By now, you have seen the news of the 7.8 earthquake the struck Ecuador on April 16. Though the epicenter was on the coast in Manabí, the earthquake was felt in areas throughout the country, including Quito. All of our peace Corps Volunteers and Staff are safe. The 19 Volunteers whose sites were in affected areas have been evacuated to safety while Peace Corps Staff, government agencies and international relief workers assess the damage. If volunteers cannot be returned to their original sites, they will be assigned to new sites within Ecuador.

Read More »

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.