As the RdC After-School Programs (ASPs) enter their 8th year, having become a staple to the work that we do in Ecuador, it is hard to imagine a time in which we did not have these programs. For many, they have come to embody what RdC is all about – being in relationship with the communities in which we serve, and through those relationships finding the ways in which we can best serve our neighbors and make use of the resources that we have: volunteers, time, energy, financial support, in order to fight the structural injustices of the realities in which our Ecuadorian friends and families live.
As the programs have grown and evolved over the years, they have been true to the initial model laid out by 2001-2002 volunteers Richard Zielinski and Vanessa Smutnak of “providing an experience for the kids that is educational, enriching, and meaningful” in a place they can come and “enjoy an atmosphere of respect, kindness, safety, and peace.” The programs are a fluid model, and are continually being re-evaluated and improved upon in order to better live out this mission. Each year, volunteers build on the model from the year before, strengthening the academic program, incorporating various new and engaging activities and projects, and evaluating the best ways to make use of the with the children. Most recently, this constant evolution has led to the incorporation of PAl – Proyecto de Activacion de la Inteligencia – a program aimed at teaching and practicing critical and creative thinking skills. The program was initially incorporated little by little in the spring of 2008, and with this current group of volunteers, it has been fully initiated in all three afterschool programs.
All three RdC after school programs – Valdivia in Antonio Jose de Sucre (AJS) , Semillas de Mostaza in EI Arbolito, and Manos Abiertas in 28 de Agosto – are thriving. Each program differs slightly in structure and set-up, given the different locations and space available to them, but all incorporate elements of: homework assistance, reinforcement of school skills (math, reading, writing, slightly in structure and set-up, given the different locations and space available to them, but all incorporate elements of: homework assistance, reinforcement of school skills (math, reading, writing, etc.), creativity, physical activity, and a strengthening of positive values (Character Counts Program – Respect, Responsibility, Kindness, Justice, Spirituality, Trustworthiness, and Citizenship). At the end of the each day, children are given bread, bananas, and a multi-vitamin (when available).
By former volunteer & assistant director (’07-’09) Jessie Hallerman