Local Cambridge volunteer Susan Stobbs recently visited SOS Children's Village Quito and wrote this brief report:
"During a recent holiday in South America I found that I had a few days free in Quito, the capital of Ecuador, and was delighted to discover that there was an SOS Children’s Village on the outskirts of the town. I immediately made contact through the Cambridge SOS office with Cristina Padilla, who is the Sponsorships Co-ordinator for Ecuador, working in the main Quito office. She was so welcoming and enthusiastic about arranging a visit for me, and best of all, she spoke excellent English – I was worried that my rather limited European Spanish would not be sufficient to allow me to talk to the children and their house mothers. Although at the time this was not a Village that I was sponsoring, it seemed a very good opportunity for me to see for myself exactly how the villages were organized and how best sponsors could help in supporting the whole worldwide organization.
Cristina picked me up from my hotel in Quito and drove me to the village, which was beautifully situated on a hillside at the edge of the town. The delightful, modern individual family houses were well separated in gardens with lots of places for the children to play. When I arrived mid-morning the older children were all at their local schools, and the village seemed very quiet! This gave me an opportunity to meet the people concerned with a large outreach programme that is aimed at supporting over 2000 vulnerable families within the city, offering, amongst other things, nursery provision for 0 – 5 year olds. The nursery classes were uncannily like such classes in the UK, and everyone gave me such huge smiles, particularly when I offered to take their pictures!
I had a delicious lunch with the administrative and support staf , and then watched the older children coming home from school for lunch in their houses, all wearing smart school uniforms and carrying heavy cases of homework. Cristina and I visited several of the houses to meet the children and their house mothers. Each mother undergoes a very thorough training – making them far better equipped than I ever was with my first child! They have eight children to look after, and talked with affection about their extended family of ‘grandchildren’ : what is so nice is that the family group sees each child through to adult and employment and even marriage and parenthood. There is also a policy of keeping in touch with whatever birth family relatives are still around, and sometimes children are able to ‘go home’ when they are older, with continued support from their SOS mothers. Some of the older children wanted to try out their English with me, and I showed them some pictures of my grandchildren. I was introduced, with great glee, to the house pets, usually cats and dogs who were clearly much loved. They all wanted to ask me about the Queen and whether it snowed in England!
The village was established as a result of a very generous bequest from German philanthropists, who employed an enlightened architect to build some lovely, simple, spacious houses, each one a little different from the others. Cristina explained that SOS Ecuador was suffering financially as a result of the global recession (there are several other villages to support) , and I was surprised to discover that their main support comes from Scandinavia, Germany and the UK, and not the Spanish speaking world or the US. Their financial need is great, and it seems to me that every penny is being very well spent to give each child as good a start in life as possible. I am now a sponsor of the village, and hope very much that my visit and report will encourage others to contribute. "