It’s Time to Join a Christmas Team

Gifts Open Door to Boy’s Heart

By Alyssa Carrel, ER Writer

Since his arrival in 2012 at African Hope Trust, an ER partner operating safe homes for children located in South Africa, Ekundayo* has kept himself at arm’s length from everyone aside from his house Mama. He doesn’t show affection and rarely expresses emotion, reflecting his troubling journey.

During the 2018 Christmas party for African Hope Trust, ER staff had the privilege of witnessing a different side to Ekundayo. In previous years, he was always assigned a “helper” who was tasked with the job of constant supervision. Because of his progress, this was the first year he was able to attend the party helper-free.

The day of the party the children received their presents and were told to wait (the wait, as you can imagine, was torturous). Once all the children had their gifts, they tore into them in a frenzy of excitement. There were oohs and ahhs and boisterous giggles of joy.

Dawn Carnill, ER co-founder and Director of Christmas Outreach, has known Ekundayo since his arrival at African Hope Trust. She sat with him as he began opening his present. He proudly showed her his new backpack and the mirage of school supplies, toys and treats. With a grin covering his typically somber face, he turned to Dawn, “Thank you! Thank you for the present; I love it!” and wrapped his arms around her frame.

Knowing his typical distrusting nature, this encounter was a highlight of Dawn’s 2018 South African Christmas Outreach season. There is no better gift than to witness a child opening his or her heart.

African Hope Trust works tirelessly to make sure every child in its care knows without a doubt that they are dearly loved. With this love, Ekundayo is beginning to learn how to love and how to trust.

Watching children open their presents is always a highlight of a Christmas party, but our real joy comes from watching these children grow and change and thrive.

Thank you to all who have participated in 20+ years of Christmas Outreach as volunteers or donors. Your investment helps shape the futures of vulnerable kids.

*Name changed for privacy. Scroll below to for more on ER Christmas Outreach Teams.


7 Reasons to Join an ER Christmas Team

By Tim Fausch, ER Communications (Feb. 4, 2018)


So you’ve survived winter and are looking for something exciting to do this year. You’ve thought about planning a vacation, but the idea of another beach trip leaves you empty. Fortunately for you, we’ve got the perfect solution: Join an Extreme Response Christmas team and help change lives!

Join an ER Christmas team? Why would you want to do that?

We’re glad you asked. Here are seven reasons why you would be crazy not to join a team.

1.  Why settle for celebrating Christmas once when you can celebrate it seven-plus times? ER Christmas teams go where few others go in order to connect with people living in extreme conditions. Our Christmas teams typically host at least one party each day for a week, with each party taking place in a unique setting.

2.  You dislike “touristy” trips. We feel your pain. Nothing screams “snoozer” like a visit to some man-made theme park or shopping district. As part of an ER Christmas team, you’ll meet real people living on the edge of society and you’ll play a central role in providing them with hope!


3.  Your passport needs a stamp from Ecuador, the Philippines or South Africa.  How can you say you’ve seen the world without visiting one or all of these incredible countries?

4.  You want more friends. Christmas teams are a great way to meet people who share your passions. You’ll enjoy meeting people from different places and learning about their lives.

5.  You still have a couple megabytes of space left on your digital camera.  Get ready, because you’ll meet some of the cutest kids on the planet. You’ll be unable to resist snapping pics of them
_MG_0309having the time of their life. For most kids, it will be their only chance to celebrate Christmas.

6. Your heart needs warming. Exhausting jobs, household chores and busy schedules can suck the life out of us. It’s easy to misplace our compassion. We’ll help you find it! Every day will be filled with opportunities to help “the least of these”.

7.  You’ve always wanted to join “an assembly line of love”. Our teams
IMG_0267participate in something we like to call “organized chaos”. This is when we gather as a team to assemble gift bags for the children. It’s actually a bit of slap-happy fun and a great way to bond with your team.

But seriously…

So we’ve shared some fun and funky reasons to join a Christmas team, but the real reason is that you’ll be investing into the lives of people who are often forgotten by society…families who live in squatter communities, people who glean their living picking through the trash for recyclables, children who are sick, abandoned or orphaned, and the victims of human trafficking. These are the people we reach and we’d love to have you join us.

If you’ve never been on an ER Christmas team, perhaps this is the year. We’re celebrating 20 years of Christmas parties, starting with the very first one (see a video of that party) in the Quito Dump in 1997. In the years since, we’ve become more organized and efficient as  you 12279062_10153032967721920_7145267726201177551_ncan see in these more recent video. But one thing hasn’t changed. We continue to share the story – and joy – of Christmas to those who eagerly want to receive it.

This year we have three Christmas Teams planned in early December. You can learn more about our Christmas teams by visiting our Christmas Celebrations page.

If you are unable to join a team in person, we would still highly value your participation as a volunteer or donor.  For general information, email


Christmas Celebration Transforms Graciela

By Robyn Wallace , Quito Dump After-school Director (Dec 5, 2014)       

It’s party time!

Why does Extreme Response organize Christmas celebrations every December for the oppressed in Ecuador? How can these parties be worth gobs of volunteers flying into town, the time, the energy, and the money?

Right here is your answer.

ogar de Ancianos Happy Woman

What caused this joy?

This is “Graciela”.  I approached her when I saw her sitting separately from all the other people during the party. She is a resident at Extreme Response affiliate Hogar de Ancianos, a Quito-based home for the elderly who have no one to care for them, no money to pay for care, and are often homeless.

Within minutes of our introduction, Graciela expressed how she didn’t like the other people at the home. In her mind, they had stolen her favorite platter from her. When asked if she had any friends, her answer was, “no”. She said she has no idea where her children are or how to contact them.

Unhappy, bitter, angry, alone.

Somehow, within 30 minutes, Graciela transformed. You’d have had to see it to believe it. The change was set into motion by an invitation to paint her nails. That grumpy face took on a new shape: a smile, a sparkle, a surge of energy.

As Graciela was about to join the nail station, she realized that she was next to play a game. Forget the nails, it was time to show the other folks how to throw a beanbag through a hole like a champ. Check.

img_6651-2Graciela then invited the gal next to her to the nail station. She returned with glittery gold nails and a friend. Being Ecuadorian, it was nearly impossible for her to resist a free travel coffee mug at the craft table. (Their love of coffee has no end in this country!) She and her gal pal decorated coffee mugs and the smile never left her face.

We talked. We joked. We laughed. She was alive and loving it!

Pretty worth it, wouldn’t you say?

Hogar de Ancianos is an ER affiliate that cares for people often forgotten by society. ER staff and volunteers regularly visit the home to encourage the residents, provide supplies, and offer help and hope.