Volunteering in Ibarra

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July 14th 2010
Published: July 14th 2010
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From the coast we did a marathon day of bus rides, into Quito and out again to Ibarra, 3 hours north. We found a small city, fairly clean, pretty well run, lots of trees planted and the first night we found our way to Cristo de la Calle, or Christ of the streets. It was founded 12 years ago by a priest and 2 social workers, and they poured themselves and all their resources into helping kids in desperate circumstances. Eventually the church disagreed with the social focus of the priest, and they parted ways. He left the priesthood, and is now married with 3 kids and continuing to put his devotion into the program. They help nearly 200 families, and run 4 houses, each of which is set up in as much of a family setting as possible. They accepted our offer to volunteer, and welcomed us warmly. Katrina and Lisa went to one house, Steven, Dave and I another. It´s charming to be greeting by smiling little people in pajamas, and all through our time here we´ve continued to be charmed by the children and all the workers. We are very very impressed with the practical solutions they find to the needs of families, the hands on work. There are several feeding programs, there are services by psychologists, nutritionists, social workers, legal workers. The focus is not the kids, but the healing of the family, and much is done for the families.
Steven had heard that there was an animal rescue center, and after we checked that out with him, it was decided that he would move there, and volunteer. It´s only a 20 minute walk from us, but he liked having some independence and his own room! He has lots of tales to tell anyone who listens, including animal bites and close encounters.
We have helped pack food bags, we´ve run a week of morning camp for 10 children, and we´ve chipped in whereever else we could.
On the weekend we got up early to head to the famous Otavalo market. The animal market was incredible, with animals from A to z for sale, and lots of people in traditional dress. Some of the animals we would keep as pets were future lunch menu items! Guinea pigs and rabbits for example!
Then we went back into town to the overwhelming market in the streets, which includes hundreds and hundreds of stalls of tourist items. The color and noise and bartering are certainly a world away from conservative Canada! Suffice it to say, we spent some money there! Later that day, after picking up some of the kids from our house, we headed to downtown Ibarra to sample hand churned icecream, which was ... indescribably yummy. Of course the Saturday soccer game was on too!
And yes, we did watch the final game... in Spanish. Just too sad for our Dutch relatives!
We are almost done, but these last two weeks with this agency has maybe been some of the best time of the trip!
Blessings to all!

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