Four years ago, a short-term team from Bridge Church, Easton, PA, traveled to Quito, Ecuador to help build a home for a family who gleans its existence from the trash at the Quito Dump. After many hours of work, the home was completed and one family of recyclers had a new outlook on life.
The home construction provided Victor, Tania, daughter Kelly and son David with a well-constructed home. Having a home to call their own provided the family with something we often take for granted – stability and hope for the future.
Last month, a new Bridge team of 11 volunteers made a trip to Quito and visited with the family. It was a sweet reunion and a reminder that volunteer work can result in impactful and sustainable results. It was a joy for the Bridge team to see the family flourishing.
In addition to visiting the family, the Bridge team worked on a retaining wall for another house build ER volunteers will be doing in July. We believe this is the 16th home built for Recycling families, although we’ve started to lose track.
The team also volunteered at ER’s after-school program and with the Quito women’s group. And if that wasn’t enough, the volunteers took at-risk youth to some hot springs and hiking, as well as a field trip to a park.
Pete Emery coordinates volunteer team activities in Ecuador shared his enthusiasm for the Bridge team reaching out to vulnerable people with love and compassion.
“I saw great relationships taking place among the kids and the women on the team,” Emery said. “And one team member’s testimony about fighting terminal cancer and yet growing stronger made a huge impact.”
Many thanks to the Bridge team and all ER volunteers. Through your ongoing compassion and generosity, you are helping people lift themselves out of poverty and into a sustainable futures.
Short-term Team Mobilizes in South Africa
A team from Bridge Church in Miami, Florida recently served with Victory Kids and the Dream Centre. The team’s name is an apt metaphor for its work, for they bridged the sizable gap between South Florida and South Africa by strengthening previous established relationships and building new ones.
Four members of the 12-person team had served with us a year-and-a-half ago, and some of the kids remembered them. Those kids were able to grow their relationships with team members, and by the end of the week, they had eight new friends as well.
The team led a morning club for about 100 kids at Victory Kids. In the afternoons they helped children with homework at the Dream Centre and led a small kids club there. They also did some work projects around VK, including an extension to one of the classrooms, fixing up the playground, and buying and installing new TVs in each classroom. The latter are very important, because when it rains, the kids are stuck inside all day and attention spans tend to wane.
On the last day, we bought Kentucky Fried Chicken for all of the kids and teachers. This was a huge hit – the kids love KFC and it is something they don’t usually get to enjoy.
It was awesome to see this team work. During the debrief at the end of the week, it was great to hear about all of the new relationships they made with the kids and staff. They are already planing a trip for next year.
Bridge Team Volunteers: Crazy or Inspired?
(July 18, 2018)
By Mike Bishop
It is so great to see a work team catch a vision for a trip and then keep coming back and building relationships. This happened with a team to Ecuador who started coming in 2012 to work on a the church of ER’s Jose and Teresa Jimenez.
The resulting long-term relationship has led others to call the team either crazy or inspired! Phase one of the project is to build a temporary two-story building for holding services and having classrooms for teaching. The team from Bridge Church in Miramar (Miami), Florida has come back every year to add their efforts to the project while in their absence the local congregation continues what they can.
The goal is to build a larger meeting room (possibly starting next year) which will hold 1,200 or more people and can be used for joint services of the smaller churches in the area. This church is located in a poor community near to the airport which is a developing area.
Over the years the two church consider themselves extensions of the other. Most of the team members have come over several years and plan to return and continue the endearing relationships established with the congregation.
Interested in sending a team to Ecuador, South Africa or the Philippines? Click here to learn how ER mobilizes people and teams.
“The Minga”: Michigan Volunteers Invest In Ecuadorians
(July 31, 2017)
When a team of volunteers traveled from Lapeer, Michigan to Ecuador to serve the poor, they brought a fresh perspective. Yes, they would build an addition to a church/school. But their top priority was to build relationships with, and learn from, the people of Pifo.
Short-term teams from North America venture around the globe to help alleviate poverty. They focus on worthy projects like clean water, construction, food distribution, medical aid and more. But often, the volunteers misunderstand poverty alleviation. They view poverty as a lack of material resources and assume the poor bring nothing to the table to impact their own positive change. This perspective implies the poor need us, but we don’t need them and we are going to solve their problems in a two-week trip.
Lapeer Community Church took a different approach. They made it a priority to meet together regularly and learn the principles taught in the group study “Helping Without Hurting In Short-term Missions.” They not only learned about being culturally sensitive, but they discovered a new definition of poverty that changed their perspective.
The team learned that material poverty is deeply rooted in a poverty of being, and that even the materially rich have this in common with the materially poor. In 2000, the World Bank conducted a comprehensive study of the poor and effective approaches to lasting change. They compiled their research into a three-volume set titled “Voices of the Poor.”
In this study, a poor woman in Moldova shared this: “For a poor person everything is terrible—illness, humiliation, shame. We are cripples; we are afraid of everything; we depend on everyone. No one needs us. We are like garbage that everyone wants to get rid of.” Page after page, poor people describe their plight as a poverty of being—psychological and emotional brokenness that correlate with broken relationship.
“This is a profound insight. If poverty is primarily rooted in broken relationship, then the solution is rooted in relationship.”
This is a profound insight. If poverty is primarily rooted in broken relationship, then the solution is rooted in relationship. Approaches that encourage dependency or exacerbate inferiority will not produce effective, lasting change. Focusing on what the poor lack and not on what they have to offer will not encourage change in the lives of the poor.
The 10 members from Lapeer Community Church brought their newly learned perspective to Pifo, Ecuador to lay a foundation for a church/school for ER partner Buen Pastor. They were not sure how these principles would apply throughout their two weeks, but they were open-minded.
Community Engagement Inspires The Team
On their second work day on the construction site, people from the community began showing up to work alongside the team. Men, women and youth moved gravel and mixed concrete with simple hand-tools. They worked hard together, shared food, played soccer between shifts, laughed and built relationships.
Oh, believe me, a lot of work got done, but the focus was on relationship. The Lapeer team saw first-hand the skills, knowledge and ingenuity this poor community brought to the table. They saw a community filled with passion, life, dignity and a undeniable will to engage in the process of their own positive change. This is something Extreme Response strives to achieve. We seek to build lasting-relationships, living and learning alongside of the poor daily.
The Latin culture has a term for it: “minga.” Entire communities frequently band together to work on projects that benefit the whole and then they eat and play together. This is a product of collectivist cultures, in contrast to Westernized individualism. We don’t really have an English word that communicates the concept of a minga.
By the end of the trip, the Lapeer team had dug 10 footers, each more than six feet deep and four by four feet in diameter. They mixed the concrete with hand-tools, poured the footers, tied the rebar framing together for the foundation, poured the concrete for the foundation and purchased the materials for the community to finish the floor.
The community was so impacted by the relational approach of the team that they threw an elaborate going-away party. The Lapeer team realized they were there to learn more than they were there to teach and to receive from the community just as much as they gave. They learned that lives change because of long-term relationship. And they realized that their part does not end when they get back on the plane to head home. They went home with a zeal to continue their relationship with the community of Buen Pastor and Extreme Response staff members as encouragers and supporters of lasting change.
From Green Home to Dream Home
(Aug. 25, 2015)
Every day, Miguel and Jane, their daughter Patricia, their sons Luis, Edison, Miguel and Jefferson, plus two more extend family members, squeezed into their tiny home that featured green paneling near the entrance. Built with scavenged boards, the dilapidated house was all they had.
In some countries, the little structure would have been condemned and the family would be out on the street – homeless. But for these nine family members, the home meant survival. They were living like canned sardines, but at least they had a home. Unfortunately, what the home couldn’t provide was hope for the future. They were stuck in a perpetual cycle of poverty.
You see the Guachi family are “miners”, a term used to describe people who scratch out a living by wading into mounds of steaming garbage at the Zambiza Dump to remove recyclables like metal, glass, cardboard and plastics. The work is dirty and dangerous. It pays pennies per pound of recyclables – barely enough for the family to eat.
The outlook for the Guachi family was grim. But they had one chance to change everything. They knew ER volunteers had built homes for 12 other dump families. They asked to be considered for the program. After years of hoping, praying and waiting, they received the news that would change their lives. They would receive the next house, to be built in July 2015.
As part of the program, the Guachi family would work alongside Extreme Response volunteers and contribute their sweat equity. By helping build the home, the family’s confidence and sense of personal investment would grow.
Team Omaha Comes To Serve
Building homes for dump families would not be possible without ER volunteers and donors. They come from around the world for a week or two to help people they have never met. We call these volunteers Extreme Teams.
One Extreme Team in particular has been a huge blessing to the dump families. “Team Omaha” is compromised of volunteers from multiple churches in Omaha. The team steadfastly journeys to Quito year after year to change the lives of people living in desperate conditions. In addition to constructing homes, the team provides appliances, furniture, bedding and more.
The Guachi family home project began by tearing down the little green house. The family had to sleep in an old tent and makeshift hut during the new home construction. Seeing their home destroyed must have been both exciting and scary.
Not including the preliminary prep (foundation, utilities), the home was built in about one week. The 22 members of Team Omaha worked alongside family members, building both a home and relationships.
As far as construction projects go, this project was ER’s largest build yet. The home has five bedrooms, a bathroom, living room, dining room and kitchen. With the inclusion of other family members, 13 people moved into the house. (Plus, an uncle and brother also live in huts next to the house.)
Move-In Day: The Guachi Family is Overwhelmed
On the final day of the project, the family left so the team could finish and set up the house.
“I am sure their minds were full of wonder and joy,” said Paul Fernane, Americas Teams Coordinator. “The move-in day was crazy, busy and full of emotion. The team dashed around painting, finishing the electrical and plumbing, hanging curtains, making the beds, adding sheets, pillow and comforters, filling dressers with clothes and hanging special items on the walls.”
The team team carried the furnishings along a slippery narrow dirt path to the home. The bathroom was outfitted with towels, a medicine cabinet and a shower curtain. The kitchen received a stove, dishes, pots and pans, a blender and other kitchen utilities. The refrigerator and kitchen cabinets were filled with food. A bowl of fruit was placed on the dining room table as the centerpiece. Living room furniture was put in place.
Fernane shared the family’s introduction to their new home: “When they toured the home, their smiles were precious, especially the kids, as they opened the doors and saw the furnishings, clothing and food. They expressed extreme joy and gratitude. It was an awesome time of thanksgiving by both the family and the team. Tears and words of thanks went on for some time, before ER’s Zambiza Program Coordinator, Jose Jimenez, and everyone dedicated the home.”
For the Guachi family, life will never be the same. Hopelessness has been tossed to the curb. Now they have a safe, secure and spacious home, plus hope for the future.
Team Omaha wasn’t done with its service to at-risk families. The hearty volunteers also reached out to the women, children and men at the Zabmbiza Dump, Quito Family Resource Center.
ER has worked with dump families since 1997. We’ve met hundreds of people desperate to exit poverty. Most won’t make it because the crushing cycle of a lack of income, education and opportunity leaves them hopeless.