To work with the Ecuadorian people to find long term solutions to the problems of poverty and together seek opportunities to improve the lives of the people.

That is an essential part of Rostro de Cristo’s mission. One of the concrete ways we live that out is through work at our after-school programs. Education is key to any hope of long term change, and one of the goals of our programs is to encourage critical thinking and help the children of Duran succeed academically.

As our ASP’s have grown and matured, Ecuadorians have played a growing role in shaping and leading them. At Valdivia and Semillas de Mostaza, teens ages 15-18 who grew up in the program now serve as ayudantes – young volunteers who play with the children and assist with homework and running activities. At Manos, volunteers are working with several older participants to prepare them to step into an ayudante role.

In addition to these young volunteers, there are three very special Ecuadorians who are crucial to the success of our programs. Aide Cuenca, Diana Cornejo, and Ricardo Pin serve as paid employees, working with ASP’s and retreat groups. Each of them started as a volunteer with Rostro and their outstanding work made them natural candidates to become RdC Staff. Their work at the programs helps volunteers and retreatants understand the cultural expectations in the educational system – from how to maintain control of a large group of children, to the Ecuadorian grading system, to the uniquely Ecuadorian way of teaching long division. In addition, they are all incredibly positive role models for local kids. Their desire to be leaders in their communities is inspirational, and their example shows kids at our ASP’s that they too can go to college and become a teacher, or a computer scientist, or a published sociologist addressing the problems facing their community.

While spending their afternoons working with the children of Duran, during the mornings and evenings these three are an essential part of the retreat group experience. They help set up neighborhood visits, translate for groups, and serve as their first introduction to life in Ecuador. Whether it is helping retreatants barter at the market, showing them how to make patacones and llapingachos, or discussing the relative merits of Liga de Quito vs. Barcelona in the national soccer tournament, Diana, Aide, and Ricardo serve as the face of Christ and the face of Duran to hundreds of visitors each year.

We are incredibly blessed to have them as part of our program and are proud of the work that they do. Mil Gracias Diana, Aide y Ricardo.

Hi I’m Ricardo. I’m 22 years old and work at Semillas de Mostaza. It’s funny how I became involved in Semillas. At first I only came at 4pm just to play soccer, that was all I was interested in. As time passed and all the kids started to get to know me and I them they started asking me for help with their homework and activities so I started going at 3pm. I didn’t even realize it at the time but they made me forget what was happening in the world outside. Pretty soon I was hooked because their energy and excitement is contagious and for me that’s something pretty special.

Semillas is a program that helps children with homework and provides learning development activities for kids who don’t go to school. We’ve also got recess where some play in the local park and others on the soccer court. It’s pretty funny, when recess starts we’re all dry and clean but when it ends we’re dirty and soaked in sweat, especially me. Afterwards we all have a small lesson where we reinforce the pillars of the program. This is a time for the kids to participate and bring their own thoughts to the discussion.

The kids of Semillas care and are very perceptive. They notice when something happens to one of us, when we are tired or preoccupied and they ask how we are. I say this because when I first noticed it surprised me and made me realize how much they care about me. Once in a while they don’t behave but they’re kids of course and I’m very happy and grateful to God to be able to work with them.

Being a part of Rostro de Cristo has left me with memories that I cherish in my heart. Since starting as a volunteer almost eight years ago at our afterschool program Valdivia, I have had the chance to get to know many retreat groups and each takes something different from its experience here in Duràn. To now have the responsibility of receiving them and making them feel comfortable is a privilege. I especially enjoy spending time with each group’s participants, whether it is sharing our different cultures, visiting a neighbor’s house, or simply talking together – I know that their presence is a blessing for me and the people that live here and I am grateful to be able to make these relationships possible here in our Duran community.

I recently spent a week with a group of girls from Dominican Academy with whom I became very close – the energy they brought and the care and concern they showed for the people was evident; I could tell that it was hard for them to realize how people live here and the struggles they face but I know that they will share this experience with others. I will truly miss them. The groups are here simply to share in our lives and that means a lot to me. I feel very lucky and blessed to have had the chance to meet such wonderful people through this program.

Working with Rostro de Cristo is one of my dreams that has been made a reality – especially since speaking English is one of my passions. It is a wonderful experience and I always thank God for having made my dream come true.

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