For 30 years, Nancy Calle worked in adoption with some of the most vulnerable children in Ecuador. At the age of 63, when most people are preparing for retirement, she applied to register her family home as a “Casa Hogar” for children in transition. Some of the children now living here will be adopted, some will be reunited with their families once the court’s orders have been met, and a few will continue to live here, because their circumstances – or age – render them “unadoptable”.
But this is not a house of sadness.
The children at Hogar Para Todos are thriving with the support of an incredible staff, including a Clinical Psychologist working with a team of 5 interns, an Early Childhood Intervention Specialist, an Educational Psychologist, a team of specialist support workers, a Social Worker, and the “tias” of the house, who prepare meals, clean the house, ensure school uniforms are ready in the morning and much more.
At the age of 76, Nancy generally rises at 6:30 and weaves her way in and out of meetings and children and staff support until well after dinner is served. All of the children are engaged in education and both group and individualized therapy, as well as numerous other activities every week.
This is not a house of sadness.
But it is a house that has fallen on hard times. While the staff’s salaries and the food for the children are paid by social services and the provincial government, all other costs must be covered by donations: electricity, water, gas, general maintenance, toys, clothes, activities and more. The cost of this part of operations was $82,068 in 2013, $72,841 in 2014, and is projected at $63,558 for 2015.
Until this year a large percentage of the funds to cover those costs came from a Belgian partner organization that sponsored the Casa with donations from many individuals. This year, the director has retired and following the closure of this organization, the Casa has effectively lost 23,000€. For the past two years, costs have exceeded donations, and so there is currently a deficit of nearly $30,000, and it will worsen next year.
There are so many reasons to support this Casa – we have seen with our own eyes how differently it functions, how immediately one gets the sense of “home” here. But the biggest reason to support HpT is because it is invaluable to this community, where there are significant socio-economic problems leading to substance misuse, neglect, abuse, and abandonment. Whatever the future holds, in debt or with healthy finances, the existence of this place is absolutely imperative.
Nancy Calle is an extraordinary woman. But she is human, and will eventually need to pass the torch on to the next generation, who will continue the life-changing – and literally life-saving work – she began. But before she goes, she wants this house in order.
For many, $30K doesn’t sound like much, and with a little support from a lot of folks, it really isn’t. But is the world to the future of this organization. And this organization has, is, and will continue to improve the world for countless children.
If you can donate absolutely any amount at all, please go to Ammado, where with a couple of clicks you can donate any amount you wish.
And rest assured that this drive for funds is not an end-all effort. At the moment, several players are working together to ensure that in the years to come HpT’s finances are stronger than ever. The organization’s website will be launched in July, and volunteers from Holland, France, and the US are working together to fundraise in a variety of ways. One of these is developing a network of sponsors who can commit to giving a small sum every month. If this is something that might interest you, please let us know.
It has been so tremendously difficult to write. To find the time. To find the words.
In the Casa every day is an impossible adventure, with very good and also pretty bad things happening all around.
On the very good side, C was able to convince a couple of seriously talented photographers to make the kids part of their portrait project. Basically – and I hope my humble words do their incredible journey justice – they’ve come to appreciate how difficult it is to get portraits of strangers while they travel, so they concocted a plan to bring the necessary equipment to print out the shots they shoot and give a copy to the subject on the spot. The kids thought it was magical and the pictures turned out amazing.
As a rule, since leaving the UK, I’ve tried to keep my role within organisations purely consultatory. That is, I knew when I decided to do this that I didn’t want to work directly with the people the organisations supported – the “beneficiaries,” or more appropriately, the community partners. That is a role I felt – and still feel – should be occupied by the people who work directly for the organisation. The people who know those they support best because they are from the same community and cultural context, and know best what those folks will need going forward in part because they will be there with them.
Wanting to work in communities from which we do not come and in which we will not stay is a difficult path to tread. And of course it doesn’t always pan out the way we plan, in spite of our best intentions.
There are at present 29 children living at Hogar Para Todos. The house belonged to the director’s parents, who from what I understand left it to her when they died. Nancy is 76 years old and usually is woken by a staff member or a young person whose problem can only be resolved by her at around 6:30 in the morning. From there she starts her day, never seeming to rush, but always making progress. By 8:00 or thereabouts she is fully dressed and has had her breakfast and is getting to the day’s to-dos. She has no office, and her only device is a Blackberry from which she occasionally checks her Facebook page. Throughout the day she floats between the accounting office (which has become my temporary home, as there is a computer I can generally use if no one else needs it), the “Director’s office,” which is a funny misnomer because of course Nancy is the director, but there are 3 desks in there and none of them are hers, and the various other parts of the house where care and support are the order of the day: the kitchen, the babies’ room, the playground, the dining room.
I am not exaggerating in the least when I say that the last 2 weeks feel a whole lot more like 2 months…such an incredible amount of things have happened.
I literally taught up to the minute we left Le Puy – my last lesson ended at 9:30 on Tuesday morning, and we were on the road within the hour. We drove up to Paris with C’s sister, with whose family we stayed whilst in town, save for one dreamy night with our good friends in the city, who happened to prepare a gorgeous Thai/Indian feast for us to boot. The rest of our visit was spent marveling at how fast our nephews are growing and changing, complete with a Saturday on the rugby pitch. Paris was lovely, but we were off pretty quickly from there…