Ecuador is the poorest country of South America, second only to Bolivia. 15 % of the population live on less than a dollar per day. 40% of the 15 million inhabitants are younger than 15. At an average age of 23, only Peru and Paraguay have a younger population in South America. Like in other Andean states, there is a particularly high percentage of indigenous population.
Balerio Estacio is a slum area of Guayaquil. The city authorities named it the area with the greatest needs. People there live in extremely basic conditions. There is no running water and no garbage collection. The neighborhood is so dangerous, even the police avoid going there. Armed robbery, violence, and gang wars can occur at any time of day. Most people live in small bamboo or wooden huts with a corrugated roof. Some are built on stilts for protection against flooding in the rainy season. As parents usually have to work all day, the kids are locked into their homes. Due to the high crime rate it would simply be too dangerous to let them play outside. But when the kids who are locked inside try to cook meals for their younger siblings, it is not unheard of for the entire house to burn down. As the kids cannot escape, they die a painful death or suffer severe burns. But these are only the external damages. Just as severe are the internal wounds caused by the feeling of being abandoned which is predominant in all of the kids.
Abdón Calderón is in the region of Manabi. In April 2016, it was hit by a devastating earthquake. Our team in Guayaquil took humanitarian aid to the area, which then developed into a long-term project. In December 2016, we started with regular creative workshops for children aged 5-15 in Abdon Calderon, plus counselling services for adults. For the children in the area growing up in abject poverty these workshops are the only highlight they look forward to all week.