Expanding ESL Education to Vulnerable Children in Ecuador
Unity 4 Orphans founder Joe Brandi and longtime champion Nick Ospina share an exciting update about bringing ESL education to vulnerable children in Ecuador.
If you’ve been on a service trip with U4O, you may have met Nick Ospina, a frequent volunteer, trip leader, and close friend of Joe. Nick’s bilingual skills always provide much-needed communication with the children and staff at the orphanages in Tijuana, but his talents stretch even further.
A Shared Love for the Country of Ecuador
Nick has been visiting Ecuador on a regular basis since he was a child. As an adult, he moved to the country to operate his family’s tuna business and fell in love with the people and the rich culture. When U4O began looking for a second location to offer our English as a Second Language (ESL) program, Ecuador stood out as an area needing our holistic approach to education to help break the cycle of poverty.
I was really impressed how in Ecuador family and friendships are valued; that’s the number one thing that’s important to the culture there.
– Nick Ospina, U4O Champion
Cultivating a Vision to Help Poor Ecuadorian Children
Every summer Joe visits the children in our ESL program in Nicaragua, and in 2022 he continued on to Ecuador, where Nick joined him. Together, they visited possible sites to host English language classes and the holistic services that U4O provides to students enrolled in our programs.
In Ecuador, similar to Nicaragua, many people rely on tourism, farming, or fishing for income, which can be volatile. Learning English provides the children we serve with an advantage in finding consistent work, whether they stay in Ecuador or seek employment in another country.
I think that we can make a difference and I feel like my heart is led like I know Joe’s is too, and we definitely want to be involved in whatever we can to help those people.
– Nick Ospina, U4O Champion
Local Volunteers Share a Passion for Helping Impoverished Families
While searching for sites and staff members in Ecuador, Joe and Nick met the volunteers of the group Dame Tu Mano, which means “give me your hand.” They are also known as Mercy’s Hands. This group has been providing tutoring and nutrition to local children near Isla Trinitaria in Ecuador who have little access to quality education and few opportunities to break the cycle of poverty.
I turned to this little girl . . . I said in my broken Spanish, “Would you like to learn English?” Her eyes lit up and she said, “It’s my dream to learn English!”
– Joe Brandi, U4O Founder
We’ve been blessed by the guidance of these selfless individuals and the support from our U4O community to bring the pieces together to officially launch an ESL program in Ecuador. This long-held vision to bring transformation to children in Ecuador is exciting and plans came to fruition quickly thanks to our proven program in Nicaragua.
Forty students are now enrolled in our ESL classes in Ecuador on Saturdays and we look forward to sharing their English language journeys with you! We’re able to sustain our programs thanks to the donations of generous supporters like you and are excited to transform even more children’s lives together.