Onzole, Ecuador 2014

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The Beauty of Partnership

And the Importance of Education   Thirty minutes up river from the village of Santo Domingo lies the much larger village of Colon, another Afro-Ecuadorian settlement. It is the last Afro village along the Onzole River and has received much less government and NGO attention than the villages that come before it. Over the past few years, however, our partnership with Colon has grown and strengthened. Every aspect of this relationship was recently on display when my co-worker Nikki and I went to the village to examine the school that’s in place. We had decided to work with the community to repaint the school together with a group of Canadians who will be here over the next two and half weeks. When we got to the school, however, we realised the true scale of disrepair it had fallen into. The government had started construction on a new school in Colon but the architect in charge of the project took off with the money he had been paid before construction had gone very far. The project stalled and still remains far from finished, with only a few pillars standing, a constant reminder to the village of the government’s unwillingness to provide basic services. The students have been forced to remain in the old wooden school, a building not fit for anything, let alone as a place of learning and inspiration.

It was then that we decided we were going to help Colon build a new school.

After a meeting with the community the project was ok’d. This was barely 2 weeks ago. Now, as I sit here writing this, the group of Canadians is about to arrive and together we’ll set off for Onzole. The community of Colon, however, has been hard at work ever since the meeting. The very next day the old school was torn down and work begun on cutting all the boards necessary for a brand new building. Cement, paint and other materials were purchased with funds raised from the Onzole Scarf Project, a project many of you directly assisted with your purchase of scarves. 

By this time next week Colon will have a new school, just in time for the start of the new school year here. It will be the result of a beautiful partnership between the Onzole River Project, the community of Colon and all of you back in Canada. It will stand as a testament to the power of relationships, love and mutual respect and hard work. It will be a beautiful thing indeed.

Nelson Mandela once said that “education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”.

While I personally believe the most powerful catalyst for positive change is the unconditional love of God, I do believe that championing the emancipation gained through education is something that flows directly from God’s great love. 

This is what this school will represent for the community: the power and importance of education provided by the immense love of Christ. It will be the work of the community, for the community and God will, without a shadow of a doubt, bless it greatly.

Your thoughts and prayers over the next few weeks would be greatly appreciated as we move forward with the build and the rest of the time the group of Canadians are with us along the Onzole River. 

With Love!

C3 C2 C1

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Learning from the Margin of Life

My office walls are lined with books, so many that they spill into the room next door room. love books! I have sat through multiple sermons, listened to grad school lectures, conversed with some very experienced and wise people, but nothing, nothing has brought me more learning or promoted greater personal growth than my involvement with those who have been forgotten, who struggle to make life work or who have been bruised by our world. The lessons learned have been truly transformative. They form the bedrock of life. I am not anti-luxury, anti-wealth, anti-privilege or anti-power… but my experience has taught me that these do not lead us to the real value of life, if anything they tug us away.

 Recently, I had the opportunity to spend a few days with the families of Pambil, Ecuador. The people of this very remote and largely forgotten village have established their lives on the daunting precipice between life and death; the place where each day brings survival struggle. Our time has served to pound home a number of truisms for me. I am keen to share these with you in the hope that all of us may be reminded of that which matters most in life.  Next post – “People: Simply Astonishing”

Together We Must Change the World

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Questions abounding

8 days traveling around Ecuador with two global studies grads from Wilfred Laurier University. Whether we were in the squatter communities that surround Guayaquil, or among the forgotten people of African descent that live along the Onzole River deep in the northern jungles or walking down the streets on a mountain village the theme of change was our constant companion. How can we work with others to make change possible? What would real meaningful change look like? How do you know when change really is taking place? And what are the dangers of trying to empower people to hope? Questions abounded for us. Concrete, achievable and clear answers seem so elusive.

It is clear to me that a lack of answers is not enough to persuade us from working for change and joining with others who do the same. We three have been struck by the indomitable spirit, the generous character and the irrepressible attitude of so many we encountered who truly live hard lives. A little 9 year old who works daily in a factory, a young journalist student who has taken on leadership for a youth camp, or the father of 3 who farms, teaches, leads his community, advocates. We were struck anew with the how are Canadian privilege must lead to ever increasing sense of responsibility to a world of immense need.