“Today five of us (Ama, Elena, Felipe, Nacho and myself) returned to the four improverished houses to give presents to the families. We gave each family a box with things like cooking oil, sugar, and toilet paper accompanied by a large bag of white rice. When we arrived at the first house, they were slaughtering cuyes (guinea pigs), and the mother had to wash blood off her hands before accepting the gift box. She was incredibly kind and made us promise to return so she could say a proper thank you to us. The second family lived a 5 minute’s drive from the school, followed by a 20 minute walk, a trip the kids do twice a day to go to and from school. Only the mother and grandmother were there when we arrived with the gifts. The mother kept saying “may god thank us later for the gifts.” The grandmother, who spoke broken Spanish—her native language is Quichua, an indigenous language of Ecuador—couldn’t stop hugging Amanda while we were there. At one point, the grandmother asked if I was Amanda’s owner and, later, if I was her husband. I’m not sure which is farther from the truth.
The third house was a little walk from the road through some maize, but not nearly as far off the beaten path as the second house. Again the mother and grandmother were home. The mother started to cry and gave us Coca-Cola and oranges to say thank you. The grandmother, who referred to herself as “mamá waque,” wanted to take pictures with us, but she would inspect the photos to make sure she looked bonita. She was close to 100 years old and couldn’t have been any nicer. From my two interactions with her, she seemed like one of those people who naturally brings out the best others. I want to be that cool when I’m her age.
The last family was austruck by our gifts. They didn’t have words to express their gratitude.
All these families are severely improverished. When we asked the director of the school how to best support the school and community, he said give these families food. Coming from a comfortable, American family, I expected to have a reflection of “this is what they have, and this is what I have,” making me appreciate what I have. I did have that reaction. What surprised me, however, is I didn’t feel bad for them. All the houses had a view of the Ecuadorian valley, which seems straight out of The Sound of Music. More importantly, three generations of the family live under the same roof. Although their missing many luxuries, they had each other and were grateful for it. At least to me, that’s more important than Netflix.” Uly Felipe Gavin