Shelter 4 Change: Transformation Stories from Ecuador
Unity 4 Orphans’ latest Shelter 4 Change project, a Learning Center in Ecuador, will provide a dignified, safe place for local impoverished children to receive tutoring and holistic support.
Our end-of-year blog series features transformative stories from 5 different locations, each highlighting a separate program: Education 4 Change, Healing 4 Change, Nutrition 4 Change, Play 4 Change, and Shelter for Change.
Learning Center in Ecuador Provides a Safe Place for Education
Shelter 4 Change, one of our five core programs, focuses on raising the standard of living and learning for the children in our care. In Ecuador, current sociopolitical factors fuel an unsafe environment, especially in poor communities, and often prevent children from receiving an education.
We’re building a Learning Center with our in-country partner Dame Tu Mano so kids can learn English and receive help with other subjects to not fall behind in their education.
–Joe Brandi, U4O Founder
Overcrowding is a serious problem for many public schools and they’re unable to accommodate enough students. Without being enrolled in school, children are left to their own devices during long work days in which adult guardians are absent, making kids vulnerable to gang violence, abuse, prostitution, and teenage pregnancy.
Dedicated In-Country Partners Nurture and Teach Children from Poor Communities
We announced our expansion into Ecuador in 2022 with a vision of opening up English as a second language classes for local children experiencing poverty. While this remains at the core of our mission, we also see the need for further holistic support, beginning with shelter and nutrition. Through our in-country partnership with nonprofit Dame Tu Mano, we empower local educators and volunteers to help achieve our shared mission.
Many children are unable to get an education and live in unstable homes with no bathrooms or running water. The communities surrounding all of our locations are susceptible to gangs and violence, and it’s important to have time with the kids to teach them that God loves them.
–Amy V., Ecuador Partner, Dame Tu Mano
Although they currently serve 80 children in their most consistent location, more continue to arrive as word spreads of the safe place to be tutored, receive nutritious food, and learn about Jesus. This space holds classes on Saturdays and Sundays, while under construction, and Dame Tu Mano hopes to be able to open for the children every day of the week in 2024.
Shelter 4 Change Gives Vulnerable Children a Dignified Space to Learn
The first phase of the Learning Center has been completed, and classes are being held while the project continues, with windows and doors being next. Following this will be restrooms, a luxury for most children as they don’t have plumbing in their homes, and a kitchen, which will provide regular vital nutrition.
Some locations are serving children one meal on weekends and we want to increase that to feed them during the week. Ideally, the kids will always have somewhere to eat, learn, and find shelter.
–Karen J., Ecuador Partner, Dame Tu Mano
Dame Tu Mano also provides emotional support to the children in their care. A teenage girl named Isabel recently found her depression overwhelming, her mind flooding with thoughts about how to end her own life. Feeling hopeless, she reached out to Karen who immediately intervened with compassion and wise counsel. Now Isabel says she feels that God loves her and she is free of suicidal thoughts.
Teachers and Volunteers Need Safety to Help Kids in Dangerous Communities
We’re humbled and encouraged by the dedication of everyone at Dame Tu Mano who put their own lives in danger to help so many children with nowhere else to go. Their jobs have put them in harm’s way on multiple occasions, including being mugged on their way to teach and subsequently adapting in ways such as dressing as if they live on the street just to avoid attention.
Dame Tu Mano’s staff and volunteers may be the only adults willing to advocate for these children. They’re being the hands and feet of Jesus and reminding them that they’re worthy. With how hard the world is right now, we can become numb to life’s difficulties, and these people consistently and intentionally enter hard places and allow the Lord to use them.
–Caitlin Snyder, U4O Engagement Director
As we begin a new year our shared vision with our partners in Ecuador is not only to provide safe shelter but to use those spaces to strengthen support for education, ESL classes, regular nutrition, emotional support, and spiritual guidance. Through these sacred spaces, we know God will continue to transform lives in every part of Ecuador where we serve vulnerable children.