Cuenca, Ecuador Special Olympics

Here is a note from Super Spanish teacher, Rick Brown.

Special Olympics Azuay

ecuador children

“What I noticed specifically was that the youngest were first in line. “

A recent Sunday provided me an introduction to some of the athletes and organizers of the “Olympiad Especial de Azuay”

Most of you will be familiar with the international “Special Olympics” organization.  This organization has sub units in many countries of which Ecuador happens to be one.  Most provinces in Ecuador have a chapter and each chapter fields team of disabled athletes in soccer, track and field and other sports.

If you want to learn how to operate on an absolute shoe string budget these people can show you how.  They receive no government funding and rely totally on donations either from the families of the athletes or the Ecuadorian public at large.

They are predominantly a volunteer based organization and up until recently operated a small office in Cuenca.  This was closed recently due to financial lack to keep it open.

The current situation here in Ecuador has become rather difficult with the petroleum industry (one of Ecuador’s main export products) in an absolute mess financially.  Many of the traditional supporters of the Special Olympics movement have been forced to back away from providing the financial support they once did.

At the moment Azuay has about 150 athletes.  The difficulty of fielding teams with no budget is quite daunting.  One of the primary difficulties is team uniforms.  While some families are able to help out financially others are desperately poor and cannot afford to contribute.  This leads to their kids not being able to compete as they have no uniforms.

What leads to all this is the Sunday meeting I referred to above.  I was with Nelly Sarmiento the director of the Azuay committee.  We were attending a get together in a park with about 40 athletes and  some of their family members.  When lunch time rolled around there was nothing to eat.  I asked what the plans were and was told that today there was no money to provide the usual lunch that the kids were accustomed to.

Apparently the lunches that they were used to were pretty spartan.  A sandwich and a drink was the usual.  I drew Nelly aside and asked her if I could provide the lunch for the kids. She lit right up and said sure but that it would be expensive.  I asked what expensive meant and was told about a dollar each person.  This would provide a hot dog and a drink.  There were about 45 people all told so it would amount to $45.  I thought it over for about 2 seconds and agreed.

We took her car to a local take out place and emerged about 15 minutes later with 45 hot dogs and 45 cups of coconut drinks and wheeled it back to the park.  There the volunteers took over and distributed the food and drinks to all.

ecuador children

What I noticed specifically was that the youngest were first in line.  The older kids hung back until they were sure that the younger were fed.  Then the older kids lined up and got their rations.  There did not seem to be anything said that obliged them to work this way.  They just did it. Then the parents received their food and then at last the volunteers.

Following the meal they all placed the empty cups and papers in the garbage container and solemnly made their way over to me and with a hearty “Gracias/Muchos Gracias” each and every one shook my hand.  They were very grateful for the treat.  I don’t know for sure who told them I had paid for the food but I have some suspicions.

A few came back several times to thank me.  They seemed to get a kick out of it.  I was quite touched that they took the trouble to do this. I don’t imagine that in Canada or the US the response would be as heart felt as it was in Ecuador.  The Ecuadorian people, as Merri Scott says, are most gracious and hospitable.  They seem to sincerely appreciate it when someone does something for them.

I have yet to see someone intentionally being ignorant or overbearing here in Ecuador.  This is not to say that there are not people who cause problems but just that I have not personally encountered them.  They must be pretty few and far between!

In future posts, I’ll discuss further adventures with this organization.

Have a great day!


ecuador children

The older kids hung back until they were sure that the younger were fed.

Rick often helps Ecuador Living club members in Cuenca.

How Ecuador Living Club Works

Here is an example of what the Ecuador Living Club can do for you in Ecuador.  A club member sent this note.

We are coast looking at real estate.  Thanks so much for hooking us up with the brokers and attorneys.

“My wife & I need some assistance, please Gary.

We both have seen the local Doctor, both for what she said were respiratory track infections.  Our symptoms were similar but not exactly the same.

After injections and prescriptions my wife is coughing too much and is now awake most of the night, almost finished her antibiotics, and stopped taking the antihistamine because of severe shaking and nausea.

I developed a nose bleed after the course of prescriptions, and had to go to the Hospital. They were able to stop the steady flow of blood, but each night I wake with a nose bleed.

We both need to see another doctor ASAP.   We have a friend who has a Hostal here who is letting me use his internet service for now, so I will try to wait for your response.”

We contacted a member of our Ateam Ecuador and were able to help this couple within the hour.

The club members sent this note the next day:   Thank you so much for the referral.  My wife was able to see a doctor immediately, and received first class treatment and is feeling much better from a tracheal infection. Total bill $40 + about $30 for prescriptions. I saw a ENT specialist within 3 hours who cauterized a broken capillary vein in my nose, all professional and a total bill of $50.

You were a great help to a couple of new Gringos in Ecuador.


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