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 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
ER 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 $10 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 a month. Visit extremeresponse.org/take-action/extreme-kids/10-dollar-lunch and become one of our $10 Quito Kids Fund partners!
Robyn Wallace 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 oversees the medical and dental clinics, which address families’ physical needs.