Quito Kids: This Generation is Breaking the Cycle of Poverty

Extreme Response has been serving the recycling community in the Quito Dump (AKA Zambiza Garbage Transfer Station) since 1997. We’re excited by the impact we’re witnessing, especially in the next generation.

We’re seeing a huge change in self-esteem, educational achievement and entrepreneurialism. Positivity pulses through a community that was once hopeless, boosted mightily through the teamwork of donors, volunteers and dedicated staff.

Nothing is more painful than seeing malnourished, under-educated and hopeless children. While that was once the case, today our programs are populated by happy, hopeful and bright-eyed kids.

Yesterday: Kids who grew up in the Dump suffered from poor health and self-image and typically dropped out of school very early. 

Today: ER’s Children’s Programs have created an entirely new dynamic. Through nutrition, the kids’ weight, height and health has improved. Through ER’s After-School Program, they are earning praise from their teachers. Through mentoring, they are confident and eager regarding their futures.

Tomorrow: We see a day when every child in our programs has the opportunity to graduate, seek advanced education and qualifies for employment opportunities beyond recycling.

These children represent our biggest hope – the generation that breaks the cycle of poverty.

The realty of achieving this is within reach – but only if we complete the mission to which we’ve been called. To accomplish this, we need the help of new volunteers, short-term teams, staff and donors to join us.

Interested in visiting or helping? Click here or email us at info@extremeresponse.org.

 

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Quito Kids: A Second Chance for Tayra

By Robbie Murdoch, Quito After-School Program

Tayra has a very hard home life. Her parents are no longer together. Her father is a drug addict. Her mother is hardly home. She often misses school and she has a hard time keeping up in her studies.

We noticed Tayra had been coming to the program without her school uniform for a few days. This was strange, because she tends to come straight to the program after school. When we saw that she also didn’t have homework two days in a row, we asked why. As it turned out, Tayra was no longer in school. Discouraged by her poor grades and the cost of keeping her in school, her mother decided to pull her out.

We immediately worked with Tayra and her mother to find a solution and to get Tayra back in school as quickly as possible. The problem was that now the school didn’t seem willing to take her back.

Our teacher, Adolfo, finally went in person to the school and asked them to allow Tayra back into classes. After missing two weeks, Tayra was allowed to return and finish the schoolyear. We are hopeful that she will continue her studies as we continue to work alongside the whole family.

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Quito Kids: Awestruck in the Andes

By Robbie Murdoch, Quito After-School Program

We love having teams come to visit, especially because it is full of new opportunities. The people who come down on teams often have never been to South America before. Sometimes they have never even left their home countries.

But the new opportunities also abound for the kids in our program. When a team from Clinton, Iowa said that they wanted to take the kids on a special outing, we jumped at the opportunity. Many of our kids are from families that cannot afford to take family vacations. A special outing as a family might be as simple as a trip to a park here in the city. So we wanted to find a way to get our kids into a whole new experience: Mindo.

Mindo is a town about two hours west of Quito, situated in cloud forests high on the western slope of the Andes Mountains. It is famous for its outdoor activities and its abundance of bird life. It’s totally distinct from Quito, feeling and looking much like a tropical jungle, but without being quite as hot.

We loaded all the kids on a bus and drove out of the city. It was amazing to watch the kids’ faces as they experienced the change from high mountain paramo to tropical forest. We visited the Mindo butterfly farm and enjoyed seeing the kids interact with butterflies of all shapes and colors. Then we spent our afternoon doing a hike through the forest and swimming at the base of a waterfall.

These are experiences the kids will remember for the rest of their lives. Thanks to the team from Clinton, Iowa, we got the watch our kids be amazed by some of the world’s natural wonders.

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Quito Kids: Erika Finds Forgiveness

By Robbie Murdoch, Quito After-School Program

Erika comes from one of the most difficult families we work with. Her parents have an on-again-off-again relationship. Her siblings come and go from the house. Her father is known for getting into fights and spends much of his free time out of the house drinking. Her mother either laughs at her or beats her silly. All of this turmoil contributes to a lack of security and stability in her life. She has mentioned that she is not even sure if her parents love her.

As a result, Erika’s behavior has been one of highs and lows. When she is doing well, she wants to spend her time hugging the teachers, talking about life, and playing with whoever is free. But most days, she gets to a point where she hits a wall and shuts down entirely. She stops participating in all activities and deliberately does the opposite of whatever she is asked. She stops talking and refuses to acknowledge other people’s presence. She doesn’t respond to punishment, which makes it really hard to correct her behavior.

One of our beliefs in the after-school program is that we need to be a place where the kids can be safe – a place where the schedule doesn’t change and the consequences for our actions are consistent and fair. After many failed attempts to help Erika cool down after a meltdown, we were beginning to lose hope. Until recently.

One day Erika didn’t want to do her homework and went into full shutdown mode. Robbie Murdoch, the coordinator of the after-school program, spent some time talking with her and gave her some space to cool down. After speaking with the other teachers, it became clear that a suspension would be the likely outcome of this particular incident. When Robbie returned to the office to speak with her, Erika stood up, walked over to him, put her arms on his shoulders and said, “Teacher Robbie, can you forgive me?”

The result was immediate forgiveness and tears. This is why Extreme Response works with these kids. We long to see life change that will drastically redirect the future of everyone we work with.

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Quito Kids: Joy for Jandry

By Robbie Murdoch, Quito After-School Program

From the beginning, we struggled with Jandry in our Quito After-School Program. If he did something to get into trouble, he would often compound the problem with rather explosive behavior. He used to shout over any teacher who stopped to correct him. If he was asked to be quiet for a second, he would respond by kicking or punching something before storming off.

What Jandry lacked was a space to be heard. When he felt like he was not being respected, he had a hard time respecting others. So we set aside a special time when Jandry could sit down and speak with a teacher every day at the end of the program. In the heat of a difficult moment, the teachers would simply say, “We’ll talk about this at the end of the day,” giving him a chance to cool down and reflect.

These post-program sessions always started with Jandry being asked how he did that day. He could talk about his successes. He could lament his failings. The whole time, the teacher would listen and affirm what he did well, and thank him for admitting what he had not done well. Even though the conversations often resulted in some sort of consequence for his poor decisions, Jandry would leave the office with a smile on his face. He valued the opportunity to sit down with a teacher, all by himself, and just talk.

Jandry no longer has to meet with his teacher following the program – and he was sad to see the practice end! But he is making wise decisions now, and he is quick to apologize when he has erred. In general, he has changed from being one of the most challenging kids to work with, to being one of the biggest pleasures. In a world where he likely has received little encouragement and been expected to do as he is told without question, it’s no wonder Jandry was so frustrated. We’ve made a regular practice of listening to our kids in the After-School Program, with four more kids currently involved in this endeavor.

It’s amazing to see how much effect just stopping to listen to a child can have!

Robbie Murdoch works in at the Quito Family Resource Center overseeing the after-school program. The program has been instrumental in helping kids from the Quito Dump Community by providing tutoring, nutritious meals, teacher engagement and school supplies – all in a loving environment. Children who previous would have dropped out of school are now thriving socially and scholastically.

Want to help kids like Michael? Learn more about our Quito Kids here.

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Quito Kids: Leftovers Help Michael’s Family

By Robbie Murdoch, Quito After-School Program

Michael is one of those kids you love to work with. The 11-year-old seventh grader is joyful, mature, and responsible. He likes to spend his time hugging the teachers and you will always find him with a smile on his face.

He lives with his mother, who is a recycler, and three siblings about 15 minutes away from the Quito Family Resource Center by bus. His father had another family, but tended to stop by Michael’s house in the evenings to visit his kids. He also helped with the rent and brought food for the whole family.

But when Michael’s father didn’t show up for a few days, the family started to worry. When a phone call was finally answered, it wasn’t answered by Michael’s father, but by a mortician. Michael’s father had fallen off the roof of his house and, unfortunately, had passed away.

While Michael is going through a difficult time, his spirit isn’t broken. He has been coming to the after-school program since 2013 and wants to study robotics and be an engineer. In the midst of struggle, Michael has hope.

Now we (ER staff, volunteers, donors) have another opportunity to help this family. Every day we have food left over from our after-school program, and every day we get to send that food home with Michael so that his family has something to eat. This is one way that Extreme Response is helping change the life – not just of one kid – but the lives of an entire family.

Robbie Murdoch works in at the Quito Family Resource Center overseeing the after-school program. The program has been instrumental in helping kids from the Quito Dump Community by providing tutoring, nutritious meals, teacher engagement and school supplies – all in a loving environment. Children who previous would have dropped out of school are now thriving socially and scholastically.

Want to help kids like Michael? Learn more about our Quito Kids here.

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Michelle-2

Quito Kids: Teenager Turnaround – Michelle’s Story

By Robyn Wallace

Sorting trash for recycling has long been a meager source of income for residents at the Quito Dump. ER’s Quito After School Program is trying to break that cycle by improving kids’ chances to complete their education and, ultimately, earn a better living.

Michelle is one teenager who has benefitted from the program. Her mother approached Jose and Teresa Jimenez, the program’s directors, in early 2014 when she realized she could no longer adequately feed Michelle and her three other children. She was considering taking Michelle out of school so she could help recycle trash and help feed the family.

Michelle-3Michelle is 17 and her siblings are 14, 10 and 7.  Michelle first connected with ER as a young child when she attended a kids’ club at the Zambiza Garbage Transfer Station (previously the Quito Dump). Her grandmother continues to sort trash there. She and her 10-year-old brother were admitted to the After School program and now receive a hot, nutritious meal five days a week, as well as tutoring and homework support. Her 14- and 7-year-old siblings are still home with their mom.

Michelle is on track to graduate from high school next summer and hopes to receive a scholarship to the government university. There are several government universities here in Quito.  The government will review Michelle’s grades in March and decide is they will allow her to attend a university on scholarship. If granted, Michelle would start college in the fall of 2016.

To top it off, Michelle hopes to be our very first person in the Quito Dump Program to return with her degree to help with the children at the Family Resource Center.  The changes in her life all began because ER said “yes” to helping hungry children.

Educational Is Now A Priority

Michelle-1ER began to focus on supporting children through education in September 2013 and we now serve 34 kids in the After School Program. Our goal is to break in cyclical pattern of not finishing elementary school and joining the family sifting through trash to earn their living. We want children to have options.

To get into the program, families approach our directors, Jose and Teresa Jimenez. They do a general interview with the family and follow up with a house visit and a socio-economic survey to evaluate each situation.

Finally, the Jose and Teresa conduct an interview with the child to determine if we should bring a child into our program. Currently, there is a waiting list.

Most of the children go to school half days in Ecuador.  After school, children arrive for a hot meal around 1 p.m., which is often their only meal of the day.  It consists of either a hearty soup or a rice/meat dish. Then they start on homework and receive tutoring as needed. Kids work in teams to encourage each other to finish in a timely manner and do quality work.  When finished, they do chores and then enjoy free play time.

We also provide hour-long workshops at the end of the day, including English, Music, Art, and ecological type classes. The day ends at 5 p.m. This school year we have begun to support five children in the mornings and send them off to school at noon.

Creating More “Michelles”

ER recently introduced the Quito Kids Fund to help kids such as Michelle and her brother participate in the After School Program. Our vision is to create more success stories like Michelle’s. You can help a child like Michelle get a hot meal, help with homework and learn life skills for just $10-$20 a month. Visit extremeresponse.org/take-action/extreme-kids/10-dollar-lunch and become one of our Quito Kids partners!

Robyn WIMG_5534allace and her husband Brian have been serving in Quito, Ecuador, since 2014. They work at the Zambiza Garbage Transfer Station, also known as the Quito Dump, where they help care for the nearly 300 families who work as recyclers. Robyn has been instrumental in identifying curriculum and testing so the kids in the Dump Daycare can enter preschool and kindergarten at levels on par with other kids. Brian serves as the ER America’s Director.

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