Meeting all of the families in Guasmo and Flor de Bastion, whether or not we had space to accept them in our program for this year, was definitely a highlight of my time so far working for Starfish. Each family was so unique and each had their own story to tell – of how they came to live where they live, and the challenges they have in providing for their families. All of our scholars come from families living with very little economic resources. Many families told stories of past years. “We didn’t know how we were going to do it, but we knew we had to provide for our children’s education.” “We did raffles in our neighborhood to be able to afford the four books our daughter needed.”
Out of all the visits, there is one house visit that I will surely never forget for two main reasons. The first reason – the story. William does not have any contact with his mom or dad, and lives alone with his elderly grandmother in a donated house made out of sugar cane. Before re-marrying William’s mom came to live with him and his grandmother for about a year, but when she left she did not take William with her and since then they have not seen each other. William is 15 years old and works when he can to pay for his school supplies, but the legal age to work in Ecuador is 18 so it is often hard to find work. While interviewing his grandmother, several times she began to cry and hold me because it was so difficult to answer the same questions I had asked all the rest of the families because sometimes she had no answer. “If no one works, where does the money come from for food or other necessities?” “ –Sometimes my daughter helps.” Imagine that.
The second reason I will never forget this visit? – the RAIN! While at William’s house, the interview became harder when it started to rain so hard I could no longer hear the grandmother who was sitting right next to me. She was kind enough to let us wait out the rain in her house and then give me a plastic bag to make sure all my forms didn’t get wet on the walk back to Mi Cometa.
In Ecuador, rainy season lasts from about December – May without stop. This year the rains have been worse than usual and many areas are flooded. You can’t walk around without boots up to your knees in some of the poorest sectors. Water enters houses even in nicer sectors. Kids play in the dirty street water and get sick. Schools are forced to delay sign-ups and start dates because of flooding. It rains everyday, for many hours, and harder than any rain I’ve ever seen in the United States. Read more about how the rain is affecting the opening of schools and daily life in Guayaquil here.
–Jenn Zocco, The Starfish Foundation In-Country Representative