Service with a Smile in Ecuador
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Service with a Smile in Ecuador

Grand Circle's Quito staff gives a daycare center a much-needed facelift

Daycare childrenThe name of the daycare center is "Caritas Sonrientes"—or, "smiling faces." But behind the scenes, the director of this facility in the small village of Rumicucho, Ecuador, often has little to smile about. The center serves the poorest people who live in the area, and operates under a monthly budget of just six U.S. dollars per child. While the daycare's capacity is technically 40 children from one to five years in age—already a challenging number for the four teachers on staff—sometimes the director is compelled to accept more children so that their single mothers can work to support them.

This past September, however, everyone at the center had a smile on their face when Grand Circle's Ecuador team stopped by for a day of community service. "We chose Caritas Sonrientes for our project due to the great need they face here," says Gabriel Bohorquez, Grand Circle's Regional General Manager in Ecuador. "They have really basic facilities—and we planned to improve all of them."

Quito DaycareTo help meet this ambitious goal, the staff of eight called upon family members, area vendors, and Overseas Adventure Travel Trip Leaders in the region. They painted the center inside and out, fixed up the yard and playground, and renovated the kitchen and restrooms. The daycare staff and some of the children's parents pitched in, too, which gave the Grand Circle team the opportunity to learn more about their struggles. "They explained how difficult it is for them to work and care for their children," says Gabriel. "They also mentioned that the daycare center is supposed to receive food supplies from the government, but they haven't seen any help for some months now." Yet despite their busy schedules and limited resources, the parents demonstrated their gratitude by preparing a delicious barbecue lunch for the team of hard workers. "We were impressed by their assistance and their willingness to help," says Gabriel.

At the end of the day, everyone had a reason to smile: the parents and teachers, who learned that a group of complete strangers truly cared about the future of Caritas Sonrientes; and the volunteers themselves, who gave a little of their time and energy to make an enormous difference. "We all enjoyed the day very much, and we were very happy with the outcome," says Gabriel. "I know for sure that the kids will appreciate it."