Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Volunteering In Quito

So what have I been up to since I got back to Quito and finally settled down? Well, I have been taking Spanish classes everyday of the week because my goal is to keep improving on the language plus I do enjoy learning Spanish.


In addition to taking Spanish classes I decided to volunteer at this great organization called ASONIC (Asociacion Ecuatoriana Para Niños Con Cancer). The website is in Spanish so I will explain a little bit about the organization to give you an idea of what it's all about. ASONIC is an organization that provides support to parents who have children with cancer.

A lot of these families live outside Quito but they have to come to the city for treatment so while in Quito, they do need a place to stay that's within their means. ASONIC offers them shelter at no charge, food and emotional support through a psychologist who comes in to talk to them because what they are going through is not easy. The shelter is not only for the parents but their kids as well, the ages of the kids range quite a bit, from 2 years old to 16.

I volunteer my time playing with the kids, reading to them and basically keeping them company and entertained. I also help with translation because sometimes the organization gets letters written in English from donors or supporters from other countries so they do need someone to help with translation. There are other miscellaneous stuff that I help out with as well.

The ambience at the shelter provided by the organization is very warm and inviting plus it has all the necessities to ensure the kids are kept busy and entertained. They are already going through so much so it's good for them to have distractions that make them laugh and enjoy themselves.

I took a few pictures so you can get an idea of how the place looks like.


For some of the older kids there are computer games that are available to them.


The main sitting area. This is at the lower level of the house, upstairs you will find: bedrooms, bathrooms, a laundry room and there is also an area to watch TV and relax.


Here I am with one of the staff from the organization, she is really great with the kids and treats them like her own.


The two kids in the picture below are regulars at the house and the younger boy follows the girl everywhere like a big sister. It's so adorable! as you will notice with all the kids at ASONIC, they wear hats because they are going through chemo and have lost most if not all their hair. When we were taking pictures of the little boy for the parents, they wanted him to remove his hat but he cried and insisted on keeping it on because he felt shy exposing his bald head. The little girl removed her hat but kept rubbing her scalp shyly. All her hair is gone. I just wanted to cry, it was so heartbreaking for me seeing her feel so self conscious about her hairless head yet giving the cutest smile that just made her so adorable.



Honestly I was nervous about volunteering at this organization because I feel awkward around kids as I have not had too much experience interacting with children. Once I met some of the kids however; I just fell in love with them especially those who warmed up to me so fast and would come sit on my lap or take my hand and lead me to play with them.

I really don't know how the staff at ASONIC deals with the tragic cases of some of these kids because unfortunately not all come out of the cancer ordeal alive. I was talking to one of the staff and she was saying that they do cry but not in front of the parents or any of the kids, it's not an easy job sometimes but they all enjoy what they do.

One a lighter note, I live about 5 minutes from ASONIC which is super convenient for me. Unfortunately I have to cross the roundabout you see below which happens to be pedestrian unfriendly. There are no traffic lights so you have to be strategic on how you go about crossing to the other side. In the afternoon traffic is crazy so you can imagine the ordeal! seriously you should see how pedestrians run across, we look like chickens trying to cross the road.



That's it folks, I have to admit that I have never been very active in volunteering so this is a great experience for me working at ASONIC. One thing I realize is that good health is priceless! be grateful that your body functions as it should, the little things we take for granted mean so much for others and I am reminded of this everyday when I volunteer at ASONIC.

Random Thoughts of The Day:

The little girl who's picture I have above has a strong personality and I find it so cute! you should hear her making demands with her tiny voice. Everyone just bursts out laughing when she starts talking, she sounds so darn cute! I started noticing that every time I would carry her by the armpits to lift her to my laps she would say, "catéte" pointing to her armpits. At first I thought she was referring to her armpits but I noticed she would flinch whenever I lifted her up by the armpits. I asked one of the staff at the organization what "catéte" means and that's when she explained that the kid was trying to say "catheter." Apparently that's where the doctor injects her with drugs and it gets sore so whenever anyone touches her armpit area it hurts her. 

Seriously I hope I will last long volunteering at this organization because I have such a soft spot for kids and I hate seeing any kid suffering. I am afraid I might get so emotional when we lose a kid that I may decide to call it quits, I hope none of this happens.

So the caretaker at our apartment has a hobby, he likes to raise chickens and guess where the chicken coop is? right next to our bedroom!!!! have you had a rooster wake you up at 4 am and crow continuously for what seems like hours on end???? I talked to him about the noise but he just laughed and said after a week I will get used to it. Aaargh!!!! 

Speaking of apartment gripes, so apparently every tenant in the building has to share the cost of water. It doesn't matter how much water you consume, everyone will bare the same cost. When I read this in the contract that the apartment provided I went complaining to the caretaker and jokingly asked if we are living in a communist apartment building. He laughed so hard at this then said that's how certain things function in Ecuador and there is nothing he can do about it. Aaargh!!!

We have a laundry room but guess what? no one can access it besides the caretaker so anytime you want to do laundry you have to look for him to get access to the washing and drying machine. The apartment building charges $1 per kilo for laundry so the caretaker has to be present at all times when you want to do laundry to make sure you pay for the services. What does this mean? when I need to do laundry I have to look for him to open the door, weigh my clothes and put them in the washer. When I need to dry the clothes I need to look for him again to open the laundry room so I can put my clothes in the dryer. Once laundry is done I have to look for him again to open the laundry room so I can get my clothes. Seriously! someone needs to invest in coin operated machines.

I have to say though, I have developed a rapport with the caretaker so we joke around a lot and I like giving him a hard time once in a while.

My favorite time of the day is in the evening when my boyfriend comes home from work, it gives me great joy seeing him walk through that door. 












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