After last year's trip here, Jeff O'Brien was particularly touched by the poverty that surrounds the city of Guayaquil as well as the outlying areas between here and Canoa. He decided that before coming back again this year he would raise some money from the US flying community and try to help out, even if just in a small way. He and Ricker Goldsborough (a new comp pilot that just came onto the scene at Santa Cruz Flats) worked to gather several thousand dollars and connect with the right people down here to put it to good use. With the help of Gry (the great Norwegian girl we met here last year and then traveled to Peru with), he hooked up with Father Frank who runs a mission in one of the larger slums on the edge of the city.
Today we went with Father Frank to see the mission and all that he does there. He comes originally from Manchester, UK and has worked here in Ecuador as a missionary since 1975. He operates a mission that consists of a school, day care center and medical clinic. He gave us the grand tour just as the kids were letting out of classes. They were energetic and incredibly friendly. We played with them on the playground and took heaps of pictures - they seemed to love that. After the tour and some chat about how he got started here and how everything works, he took us for a tour of the slum that the mission benefits. Father Frank told us that the sick people tend to not want to go out of their homes to visit a doctor, so the nurses in the mission make rounds through the community checking on people and seeing if anyone needs medical attention. The money that was raised will go to supply medicines to this community through Father Frank and the nurses.
So many parts of the slum were difficult to see - heartbreaking to say the least. But everyone smiled warmly at us and made conversation that we enjoyed despite our limited Spanish. Jeff and Ricker hope to make this an ongoing effort to help supply the $500/month needed for medical supplies. We finished the day with lunch at McDonalds with Father Frank and his nurses and a few staff members. He was incredibly appreciative of our small effort and thanked us for coming out to see all he does here.
This isn't a bed of grass beneath the stilted houses. It's moss and trash growing on the surface of the filthy water. The houses are built on stilts because the river is tidal and the government hasn't yet finished filling in this marshy area.