“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” Marget Mead
Two people, a foundation that helps street kids in Quito get an education, a mess of problems having to do with legalities and Ecuadorian bureaucracy, and the passion and will to keep going. This is the story of Project DCR.
Project DCR started out of necessity. The necessity to keep helping some of the most overlooked people in Quito. Almost everywhere you go in Quito there are kids who are working on the street to support their families; they sell candy and cigarettes, they come into shops and restaurants and ask for money, or they are with their parents who are selling goods and tourist trinkets. They don’t go to school and for someone who likes to think of himself as aware of his surroundings, they are missing in plain sight.
This is a stark contrast compared to most other aspects of life in Quito. The sun shines brilliantly over the mountains and hills that surround the city. Smiles and indigenous people dressed in colorful traditional garb are everywhere. Even the bus drivers seem happy. In this setting it’s easy to miss the small children who stand on corners till the early hours of the morning so that their families can eat – a report I just read states that 45 percent of the children in Ecuador below the age of five are malnourished.
Project DCR’s aim is to fix this and they are serious about it. In fact the two founders, Karin and Diego, took over the foundation when the former organization got into trouble, and started a school in one of Quito’s poorest neighborhoods. In Ecuador this is by no means easy or cheap. Taking over the foundation meant that they needed to start from scratch and go through the complicated, costly process of getting the foundation legally recognized by the Ecuadorian government.
Karin and Diego started here volunteering just like you or me. They aren’t from Ecuador, didn’t have a lot of experience dealing with such processes, and aren’t fiscally independent. In fact, their office right now is a spare room in the house that they share with Diego’s mom. Despite these odds they kept going and raised money from a weekly pub quiz, a recycling drive, and generous donations from family and friends back home to get the paperwork sorted and start a school.
A large portion of the philosophy behind what DCR does is based on the belief that all people have a responsibility to the community around them. They have written the curriculum for the school, hired a great teacher, and actively found children who are eager to learn. The whole concept revolves around the fact that the kids haven’t been in school before and have unique needs in comparison to traditionally schooled kids. The curriculum incorporates part of the Waldorf philosophy, art, and much attention to health and family issues. This is the real deal.
The foundation has been operating for just over a year and as word spreads about it in the area that it is located, more families ask that their children be admitted. This is great progress and to facilitate the growing number of students the school is currently being remodeled to expand from one room to many. Although this is amazing considering how far they have come in a year, it also presents new challenges financially.
Currently the foundation is funded by two innovative fundraisers, a pub quiz and a recycling project. The pub quiz is held at a popular bar called Finn McCools in the tourist district and has a reputation of being a night to meet other travellers while supporting a worthwhile cause. Each participant is asked to donate two dollars to play.
The recycling drive consists of local restaurants giving DCRs volunteers plastic and glass which is stored at the volunteer house until enough is gathered to sell to a recycling company.
Between both efforts Karin and Diego can pay the teachers they hired and feed the children daily. Currently because of the growth of the school Project DCR needs help in the following areas:
- 1. Volunteers
Volunteers help run the foundation, assist with the school, run the pub quiz and help collect the recycling by hand. They are asked to donate three months of their time as consistency is crucial for the children’s stability. No fees are charged for your time and often volunteers want to come back in the future to help further.
- 2. Materials
The school needs help with school supplies, books, and clothing for the children. If you are coming to Ecuador travelling and want to support the school, drop me an email for a list of what the school could use. I have started a bring-a-book campaign on my blog where I ask people coming here to bring one book. Tomorrow I am meeting the first person to respond who is bringing an extra bag worth of materials.
- 3. A truck
Currently volunteers pile bags of recycling on top of the founders’ car and make multiple trips between the volunteers’ house and new town to pick up recycling. We are currently looking for someone who has a truck in Ecuador to help a few times a week with the task. The hopes of someday buying a truck for the project are also on the list.
Lastly, if you are travelling to Ecuador and interested in helping the project but don’t have three months or a huge chunk of money to spend on donating materials, get in touch with me directly as I work with two companies that offer tours to the Galapagos and volunteer trips around Ecuador that help to support the project. I can fill you in on who they are and how a donation in your name can be made if you utilize their services.
I have spent a large portion of my two years in Ecuador finding information about volunteer programs and the organizations behind them. My background is filled with friends who worked in the Peace Corps, for non-profits in refugee camps in Africa, and who have started foundations of their own in the States. Project DCR stands out in my eyes as one of the overlooked effective foundations that deserve a lot of attention.