Children in Ecuador Vulnerable to Extreme Poverty and Crime

Take a firsthand look at the challenges of children we serve in Ecuador as told by a Unity 4 Orphans volunteer who visited a few locations where lives are being transformed through education and counseling.

We began partnering with the nonprofit Dame Tu Mano in Ecuador a year ago, and together we are changing the lives of vulnerable children living in extreme poverty. By joining forces with a tireless group of in-country volunteers with huge hearts, we’re able to offer support to kids with few resources to lead them to brighter futures.

A Firsthand Look at Why Poor Children in Ecuador Need Our Help

U4O volunteer sits outside of building with Ecuadorian children and adults

The team that traveled to Ecuador this summer, comprised of our founder Joe Brandi, U4O champions Nick Ospina, and Paul and Sara Giret experienced an intense few days touring several sites. As a videographer, Paul captured footage under some difficult circumstances and Sara recently shared what it was like to visit the locations, get to know the amazing women behind Dame Tu Mano, and meet some of the kids whose lives are being changed.

It’s really inspiring and challenging to see the love, service, and sacrifice of volunteers and staff in Ecuador. For over seven years volunteers from Dame Tu Mano have taken dangerous transport weekly for no pay. They have been threatened and mugged on the bus, so to see their heart and faith in action is inspiring.
–Sara Giret, U4O Volunteer

Local Pastor and Volunteers Need Support to Reach Vulnerable Kids


Sara shares that driving through Ecuador felt overwhelming, and in the poorest areas, she found both heaviness and hope. One location they visited is nothing more than a concrete building with one section that the pastor has curtained off as living quarters for his family of five. What meager accommodations they have they are sharing with others amidst circumstances deemed unacceptable by most American standards, and they do so with grace and joy.

I’m here as long as God calls me to be here.
–Pastor in Ecuador

Along the simple walls of the church are pictures of missionaries from other faraway places, such as the Philippines, a shining example of how the poor people in the village are not only thankful for what they have but are mission-minded and praying for others. Working hand-in-hand with Dame Tu Mano, they tirelessly extend helping hands to those in need.

Enduring Unsafe Conditions in Ecuador to Serve the PoorA U4O team member sits at a child's table with children in need

In one of the areas the pastor took them to view, the living conditions were the worst Sara had ever seen. A makeshift slum town has risen up on top of a dump, with shacks built on stilts and crude electricity rigged to supply power. Fires are not uncommon as a result, and every day is a struggle to find enough to eat and survive the violence that keeps taxis and even law enforcement from going there.

The kids are so cute, filled with joy, a love of learning, and hospitality . . . In one location we recognized some young men [in their late teens and early twenties] who came up through the program. They could easily be pulled to the wayside of drugs and gangs, but instead, they’re giving back by helping the younger kids. It’s a touching example of U4O’s goal of multiplication.
–Sara Giret, U4O Volunteer

Brighter Futures Are Possible Through Education and ESLJoe Brandi smiles at one of U4O's events

Sara also shared witnessing desperation in Ecuador that she hasn’t seen in other slum neighborhoods, such as India. In many of the one-room “homes” belongings lie in piles on dirt floors, and the feeling of hopelessness permeates the air.

The purpose of our programs is to disrupt generational patterns for those who are born and raised here and aren’t capable of aspiring to anything else. Helpers are coming from outside the community and seeing hope for a better future for kids who stay in school and learn English, rather than being susceptible to gangs, teenage pregnancy, and human trafficking.
–Sara Giret, U4O Volunteer

Witnessing the Joy of Vulnerable Children Puts Priorities in Perspective

In stark contrast to the visuals surrounding them, the U4O team witnessed children who delighted in playing with curious American visitors, a beautiful reminder of the heart of our mission. Whether it’s extreme poverty in Ecuador, Nicaragua, Mexico, or Panama, the spirit of children to evolve and thrive despite their circumstances motivates us to help as many as we can.

A trip like this always challenges me to reevaluate my expectations of comfort, lifestyle, and priorities. It shifts perspective away from our first-world problems and is a reminder of what kingdom work is.
–Sara Giret, U4O Volunteer

Shared Hope and Vision for Impoverished Kids in Ecuador

Joe Brandi instructs a group of children on an activity

In visiting other areas of Ecuador, such as near the airport and a few beach towns, it’s evident that not all of the country is impoverished and there’s a sense of hope around the corner. Our calling is to intervene in vulnerable children’s lives and redirect their paths. It’s a blessing to align our vision with others who have boots on the ground.

Through our partnership with Dame Tu Mano and staff in Ecuador, we are serving and propelling transformation that is already moving along well. The in-country teams are resourceful and we’re honored to come alongside them and fuel the fire they’ve ignited to change young lives through education, ESL, and holistic support.

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