El Clima Fall 2013 Story # 2 – VAC Grant Recipients

As you know, FOE supports VAC calendar sales, and these sales go to support volunteer projects. In the last issue of El Clima, volunteers reported on the recipients of VAC grants, some of which were supported through calendar sales purchased through Friends of Ecuador. We include that story from El Clima but just edited to include province rather than town name of all the volunteer who received VAC grants.

VAC is proud to announce the passing of a successful grant season!

VAC grants serve as a small source of funding to kick start or enhance sustainable projects in your community (grants are awarded at a maximum of $100). VAC raises money for grants through t-shirts and calendar sales.

This year we received 20 applications for grants. It was wonderful reading about all the different PCV projects. PCVs applied from the coast, sierra, and oriente, which made for a very diverse list of projects.

We would like to recognize the following applicants who received full or partial grants for April 2013:

Lindsay M – Grant to build a greenhouse and composting system, give environmental classes, and to print an environmental education manual for teachers at the schools where she teaches in Napo.

Heather P – Grant to buy materials to start a school garden and hold an Earth Day event to initiate the project and begin teaching the children and their mothers about gardening and nutrition in Imbabura.

Amanda B – Grant for her community in Napo to build trash and recycling bins to be placed strategically around the community to teach people to separate recyclables, organic and inorganic waste.

Peter B – Grant for his colegio in El Oro to build a giant Scrabble board to be used during classes and at the after-school English club so the students will have a fun way to practice and learn English.

Nikki R – Grant to fund a workshop day with her English teachers in Azuay to make classroom materials they can share and use among themselves to improve classroom methodology.

Chloe P – Grant to start a women’s income generation project in Chimborazo making traditional Kichwa jewelry while also teaching the women business skills.

Cherith C – Grant to print informational tourism brochures to place in the tourism information center in Guayas. The brochures will also be used to teach the locals how to distribute them at a tourism center.

Rich – Grant to buy a router to make new wooden signs to promote community tourism in Guayas.

We would like to recognize Cherith and Rich for the exceptional work they are doing in their site. Cherith and her husband Rich are business volunteers helping to develop tourism in the Canton of Bucay, in the province of Guayas. They received funding for two grant projects and acted very quickly to use that funding for their tourism/map project to promote tourist attractions.

Rich and Cherith assembled a group of 11 business owners who all work in tourism, and helped facilitate conversations with them about projects they could do together. The group applied for a VAC grant to help fund the creation of 1,000 tourism fliers for their community. Each of the 11 business owners chipped in some money as well. The fliers they created have a tourist map and the contact information for the 11 participating business owners.

On the weekend of June 14th and 15th, the group set up a table at the Tourist Information Center (which previously had never provided any tourist information) to distribute the fliers. Cherith and Rich reported that about 15 tourist cars each day stopped and asked for information. The group also made a schedule so that each weekend from now on, a different business owner will take responsibility for distributing the fliers.tourist tourist

When asked how the project is going, Rich and Cherith responded very positively. They say that the group is very proud of their work and keeps coming back to meetings week after week. They have been planning for this project for a long time and are excited to see the final product.

Like all PCV projects, Cherith and Rich did experience challenges. It took a long time to identify who was really interested in helping the group (and not just saying so). Rich and Cherith also had to budget their own re-sources to be able to get to/from the meetings and stay in constant contact with the participants. They also say that running efficient meetings was a challenge because people often got off topic or did a lot of complaining, but they eventually learned how to get the group refocused and on task.

Cherith says she also had to learn how to communicate in “Ecua-style” in order to improve attendance at meetings. She learned when to send initial invitations (Monday before the meeting) and when to send reminders (the morning of the meeting) and who to call and who to text. Cherith also says, “I have become more confident because I had to. I was petrified to organize such meetings and to stand up and talk in my mediocre Spanish, but they kept coming to meetings so I thought something must be going ok.” She credits the relationships she built in the first 9 months in site for enabling her to do successful work with this group of business owners.

Cherith says that one of the most positive results of this project so far is that the group seems to still be interested and excited about their project. They continue to show up for meetings and they are learning that as a group they can do many things they could not do as individuals. They are realizing they can take responsibility for their lives and are proud things are changing.tourist2

When asked to share any funny stories regarding their project, Cherith shared “One time I had to borrow a bike to go to a meeting…Luckily I left plenty early because I ran into a cow or a bull (not sure which….it had horns!) in the road and I thought it was coming after me so I spent 30 minutes trying to get up the guts to pass it. I made it to the meeting just in time and the campo folks thought it was quite funny that I was scared of the cow, of course! I got head butted by a sheep a few months before so I didn’t want a second encounter with an even bigger animal!”

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