Giving Children and Youth a Voice in Ecuador

by Daniel Kertesz
ChildFund Web Developer

Editor’s note: This posting was updated on April 14 to make corrections to the content and caption, clarifying that the young people are members of a ChildFund Ecuador youth group enrolled in training to be community reporters. They have not yet completed the training program as previously reported.

This past week has certainly been a busy one. Following introductions with the Ecuador National Office staff, we gathered in a large meeting room to go over what is expected of everyone to ensure ChildFund Ecuador’s new Web site will launch by the specified date.

The developers of the site do not speak a lot of English (nor I, Spanish), so I’ve been spending quite a bit of time with translators. The real challenge here is to try and describe some of the technical terms the translator does not understand in a way that makes sense.

The closer we get to delivery time, the more excited we get. ChildFund’s Ecuador office has already produced an excellent Web site, and the content for the site was actually gathered by the youth in the project areas. They are enrolled in a program called “Youth Reporters,” and from the content we’ve seen so far, they are doing an excellent job.

Toward the end of the day Wednesday, we learned that members of the Ecuador office, as well as the lead on the site development were actually meeting with members of a ChildFund youth group in a room next to us. So, I scrambled back to the hotel to grab my cameras, and following a few debacles with batteries upon return, we managed to film and interview some of the youth who are enrolled in a program to become community reporters. What came as an incredible surprise was finding out that some of the reporters in training were actually once enrolled in the ChildFund sponsorship program!

ChildFund Ecuador is training members of a youth group to be community reporters.

We interviewed three youth about the program, how they felt about sponsorship and so forth. Following our battery of questions, we extended to them the opportunity to ask questions of us. And let me tell you, this Youth Reporters training program has most certainly paid off. At one point, one of the youth seemed to ask more questions of us than we did of him. I can’t blame anyone for their curiosity, so I was more than happy to oblige.

These young people demonstrated the success of the child sponsorship program. One had graduated from the program and had recently passed the certification test to become a professor. He is currently waiting to hear from the Ecuadorian government as to his assigned location for teaching. He’s expressed a desire to remain in the Cotopaxi area so he can be close to his community.

Today is the last day most of us in Web site development group will be together. I’ll be staying on for a few more days to visit some of the ChildFund project areas in Cotopaxi, but everyone else will be heading out the door today and tomorrow.

They’ll be leaving me in good hands though, because the staff here in Ecuador are courteous and knowledgeable, and I’m glad to get the opportunity to work so closely with them.

Playing Tourist in Ecuador Before the Work Begins

by Daniel Kertesz
ChildFund Web Develope

This is my first trip out of the country. I’m headed to Ecuador, which isn’t that long of a flight. However, with the three-hour layover in Atlanta and time spent in immigration (I was one of the last people to deplane), the entire day was eventually shot traveling.

I was a bit surprised as we prepared to land. I’m accustomed to U.S. airports being separated from the city, at least by a good stretch of grass or forest, but when I looked out the window and saw cars, businesses and homes streaming by as we approached the runway, my initial thought was, “Are we actually landing in the city?”

I had the luxury of being forewarned that the airport itself is located smack-dab in the middle of Quito. They weren’t kidding, yet I wasn’t exactly expecting to see cars practically beside the runway itself. All in all, it wasn’t a bad trip out here.

Since it’s Saturday, we have the day free and we decide to soak in some of the culture and see what Quito has to offer.

Merchants selling newspapers and trinkets on the side of the road were pretty commonplace, and even one person selling papers decided it was beneficial for him to remain in between the lanes of the road even though the streetlights were green. Jugglers would run out in front of stopped cars to put on a show in hopes of receiving payment for the performance.

Our first stop was the Plaza de Independencia, home to the Governor’s Palace. The plaza was packed with people milling about. Children offered to shine shoes for $1, tourists were taking their photographs with the statue located in the center while police stood watch ensuring nobody crossed the chains meant to keep people off the statue itself, and people selling various wares from food to cloth were all commonplace.

Walking through the streets of the old city, you could smell the fresh herbs packed in huge burlap sacks and soups cooking on portable stoves set outside the doors of shops. You could hear the sounds of the various musicians strolling the sidewalks. Ancient (by several hundred years) cathedrals loomed above us as we continued our trek; we entered one. I was in awe. The walls were adorned with gold and old faded paintings while the ceilings seemed to stretch up to the sky itself. The place was huge.

Quito's Winged Virgin

Upon exiting the cathedral, we could see the statue of the Winged Virgin off in the distance. From our understanding, that’s one of the best places to catch the view of the city from above, so that was our final stop of the day. Atop the statue, we could see from one corner of Quito to the other. The city wrapped around the edges of a mountain and disappeared from view, so I’m not quite sure how much further it went on. Storm clouds began rolling in at this point, so we called it a day and returned to the hotel.

On Sunday we took off and headed out to a soccer game. Being a fan of watching soccer on television, but not following any team (much less attending a game in person), catching the game between Liga and Barcelona was nothing short of amazing. There is a strong rivalry between these two teams, strong enough in fact to warrant plenty of security, including riot police.

Whenever any player on a team flopped, fell or was legitimately injured, fans from the stadium launched rolls of toilet paper, receipt paper or just plain trash out into the field itself. Periodically, someone on the sidelines would rush out to clear off the garbage, but after a while it appeared as though they gave up. Neither team scored a point, but throughout the entire game, a steady thumping of drums was audible and fans of both sides loudly sang chants for their team. It was truly an enjoyable experience, and one that I’d like to have again.

Tomorrow we begin our work, which involves collaborating with youth in the community on a Web site.

Empowering Children and Youth in Ecuador to Tell Their Stories

Our final stop on the 31-countries-in-31-days tour is Ecuador, where children have been given an outlet to express themselves while making a difference in the community. It’s been a whirlwind trip around the globe in October. Thanks for joining us.

By Virginia Sowers
Community Manager

The voices of children and youth are telling vivid stories of Ecuador’s Cotopaxi Province in a new pilot web site initiative now in development by ChildFund International and its offices in the Americas Region and Ecuador.31 in 31

“The idea for this project is to explore creative and innovative ways to share information with sponsors and engage them in our work,” explains Mike Raikovitz, director of Sponsorship at ChildFund. “Our goal was to better share what we’re doing in the field.”

The concept for the web site originated at a ChildFund Alliance meeting last year to facilitate a strategic goal of cohesively sharing and accessing information in each area where ChildFund works. Alliance members envisioned that the web site would spotlight children, featuring video and content they developed.

“When we met with the Ecuador office last year, we set up the challenge of building a web site that contained descriptive information about ChildFund and ChildFund Alliance programs, yet developed in a way that engages children and youth,” says Raikovitz. “What’s interesting about this initiative is that it’s real information about the work ChildFund is doing in communities. It will allow sponsors to see how their money is being used, and better understand our programming and priorities that help children thrive in the Cotopaxi area.”

ChildFund Ecuador, which was already working with youth to do community reporting and radio spots, accepted the challenge. “It was a natural extension to add this new component,” says Raikovitz.

Through the web site, children are using their training in multimedia technology to capture stories about their community and integrate video, photographs and music. ChildFund is training community mobilizers to help the children develop web content.

Given this outlet to share their voices and their perspectives, youth in the Cotopaxi area are bubbling with ideas and energy. They’ve already produced a number of videos, including the story of a long-dreamed-about reservoir for the community, and how fresh water is improving sanitation for families and aiding the environment. They’re also documenting the success stories of individuals aided by ChildFund Ecuador.Screen shot 2009-10-30 at 9.56.29 PM

Once the web site is up and running, it will likely be a model for other regions and countries to consider. In Ecuador, the expectation is that children and youth will maintain the web site, keeping it continually refreshed with new information, program updates and child and youth contributions.

There’s no shortage of stories to tell

For more information on Ecuador, click here.

More on Ecuador
Population: 13.7 million
ChildFund beneficiaries: More than 264,000 children and families
Did You Know?: The province contains the Cotopaxi volcano, an intermittently active volcano, with a summit height of 19,388 feet.

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