It certainly has been a while since we’ve posted an update, but let me assure you MANY exciting things have been happening along the Onzole River! The following is both an update and a reflection on how far we have come as a group of people, across borders, cultures, and language, convinced that together we can make a difference.
In February 2008, the school in Santo Domingo de Onzole serving well over one hundred elementary school children, was on the edge of closure as a result of a lack of government attention and persistent under-funding. This would result in many youths losing access to basic education. The Santo Domingo community, having faced decades of neglect from its national government, were losing hope and had few remaining, if any avenues, for appeal. It was just prior to this time that a few Canadians, responding to an invitation to help, had begun to take regular trips to visit the community. Hearing about all the obstacles the school was facing, we somewhat spontaneously determined that this was a matter of justice that needed a compassionate, and immediate response. None of us, from Onzole or Ontario, knew what we were embarking on but we all knew it had to be done together.
A partnership began to form between Ontario and Onzole; Ontario would carry the financial responsibility of the school and help bring in volunteer construction groups, while the community would assume local leadership of building projects and advocate to the government for funding. We gave hope to each other, that the possibility for change existed in the efforts of each one of us. It took a year, but finally the Onzole community was able to secure a promise that the school would receive 50% of the required funding to pay teacher salaries. Ontario responded with a commitment to make up the difference. This enabled the community to preparethe school for the quickly approaching term and to initiate a year of classes and full curriculum. That was 2008-2009. At the same time teams from Ontario were invited by the Onzole community to help them restore their school building. The school leaders renewed their efforts to advocate for their students with an aim to secure 100% government teacher funding. The partnership between Canada and Ecuador grew and become stronger. Relationships grew, trust developed and dreams became reality. The Canadians provided modest financial help and encouragement to various projects within the community but HOPE was fueled by the Onzole community and all their efforts. Small, humble beginnings remind us that we all must start somewhere, we mustn’t wait, because change happens when ordinary people work together to accomplish extraordinary things.