Emily chose to stay. She chose to re-engage. She chose to accept the opportunities before her. She chose a future and she is thriving!

By Robyn Wallace, Quito Dump Program

(April 30, 2019)

“Emily” made some big decisions recently.

Emily first attended the Quito School After-School Support Program as an eight-year-old in 2013. We’ve watched her grow and mature. Today she is a 14-year-old participating in our newly renovated adolescent program. She has access to leadership training, mentoring, micro-business skills, a community of other teenagers and tutoring for her homework.

Like many youth, Emily discovered she had her own opinions and desire to live by her own rules. Her choices led to a two-week suspension.

As much as we love Emily and foresee a bright future, we know the next steps in life need to be chosen by her. After two weeks away, Emily was given the option to stay or to leave. The decision was totally up to her.

Emily shared that she LOVED the first few days that she was on her own. She had no pressure, went where she wanted, did as she pleased. Rather quickly, she began to miss her community, her tutor’s support, and the opportunities our program provides her. She had some hard choices to make.

Emily chose to stay. She chose to re-engage. She chose to accept the opportunities before her. She chose a future and she is thriving!

Pray with us as we support the next generation through middle and high school in Quito. These youth are forging a new path in their families as most are the first to make it this far in school. ER is reaching out a hand to help, and we passionately want these kids to latch on. We’ll do this together!

*Name changed for privacy. Scroll below to read more about how the Quito Dump Program is helping kids like Emily.


Quito Kid: Sara Overcomes Adversity

By Robyn Wallace, Quito After-School Program

(March 21, 2019)


Now we can add “OVERCOMER” to describe nine-year-old *Sara at ER’s school support program in Quito, Ecuador. This past week, we passionately applauded Sara in recognition of her high performance at her school. Sara received a certificate for her achievement.

Sara comes from a family that has eked out a meager living for generations by recycling materials from the local garbage station. Her grandmother and mother have attended our women’s program since its conception in 2013. Sara joined our school support program in 2016.

Tragedy struck Sara’s family this year when her grandmother passed away from cancer, leaving her single mom to support herself and her two young daughters. Sadly, her mother’s fight with an extremely rare disease came to head last fall, preventing her from recycling and earning money. In fact, her illness is costing exorbitant amounts of money.

Sara is wading through some huge emotions this year as she grieves for her grandmother, worries for her mother and stares at an empty refrigerator more often than not. Her most recent report card in March tells the tale of a girl who is successfully overcoming immense challenges with excellent grades and even better behavior. With determination, day after day, Sara chooses to walk through the door of our school support program, embrace her community, and tackle her homework. Her community is embracing her back.

Sara’s classmates have completed several food drives taking food from their own limited supply so she and her family can eat. Sara’s family is part of the Quito Dump Recycling Community that ER has been serving for many years. Despite community members having so very little, they share money, time, food and many prayers on behalf of Sara’s family.

Creating a community is part of what we do at ER. Together, we celebrate overcomers like Sara.

Why it matters:

  • *Recognizing effort, positive attitude and resiliency reinforces work ethic
  • *Supporting children during hardship demonstrates compassion
  • *Sara represents the generation breaking the cycle of poverty

*Name changed for privacy. Scroll below to read more about Quito kids.


Quito Kids: Breaking the Cycle of Poverty

(June 28, 2018)

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.


Quito Kids: A Second Chance for Tayra

By Robbie Murdoch

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 school year. We are hopeful that she will continue her studies as we continue to work alongside the whole family.


Quito Kids: Erika Finds Forgiveness

By Robbie Murdoch

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.


Quito Kids: Leftovers Help Michael’s Family

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.


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

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.

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. Brian serves as the ER America’s Director.

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