Hope In Ecuador

The Foundation for Hope and Grace was formed to advocate and support efforts focused on orphans.  Our early work looked at the growing rate of orphans brought on by conflict, disease and poverty.  We certainly knew that the scope of the problem was large.  We knew that our impact would be small and deliberate.  What we did not expect was being moved to expand our work.

One of our partnerships was formed in Guayaquil, Ecuador with another non profit called Foundation  Restoration.  Pastor Darios was a charasmatic teacher in a poor slum area called Mapisinge.  The translation for this was "runny nose" and the community reflected this negative descriptor with high rates of violence, street children and severe poverty.

Pastor Darios recalled his own life.  He told us about his days of living on the street as a child.  He recalled the violence and abuse that he faced and how it formed him into an angry and abusive man.  He wanted a better place for his community.  He wanted to restore hope to Mapisinge.

He had passion for this idea.  He had a vision for how to begin the process.  We met and shared stories and dreams.  We understood that despite our wide differences there was adequate common ground in seeking a greater good for the children of this area.

Our partnership involved developing an afterschool program that he would host at his church.  This program encouraged children to be enrolled in the public school but also gave them a place to go after classes ended.  This was the time when they were most at risk.  The program would feed them lunch and then assist them with homework and life skill training.  It was also safe and gave them an alternative to running the streets.

We had made an organizational decision to pursue an innovative model that focused on develoment within the context of self sustainable business models.  This focus was born out of concerns that ongoing support only bred dependence and we wanted to help shape social change on a more long term basis.  We also knew that with limited resources there would always be a point where we could help no more.

Mapisinge was out first attempt to put into action a plan that was designed with self sustainability in practice.  Our initial partnership was built upon a plan to fund the afterschool program for 3-5 years while we worked together to develop a business model that would support the program longterm.  This effort to develop sustainability was a significant change but we were able to encourage enough buy-in to the program that our partners looked for options.  We evaluate many models including a sewing shop, restaraunt and bakery.  

As we neared the two year mark we learned of an opportunity to buy a private school entity that needed to move locations.  The school had teachers, enrolled students and a history of providing quality education.  The proceeds from the tuition provided a revenue source to supplement the afterschool program.  It was not the perfect solution but it was one that our partners embraced.  

We assisted with the purchase price and sent several work teams to help build the structure where the school would meet.  Over time, we also initiated a scholarship program to encourage some of the afterschool program kids to go to the private school.  

This mix of program development and self sustainable business practice affirmed that this model could be utilized in a variety of settings.  Hope can be sought after while also recognizing the need to establish practices that are self sustaining.  

Thanks for listening, 
Bill Legere