Updates

Cook with us! Encebollado – Ecuador’s Fish Stew

One of the most popular dishes along the Ecuadorian coast is a fish stew called encebollado. It is tuna fish based, with tomatoes, onions, yuca and spices, garnished with pickled onions, and always served with a side of chifles (plantain chips). Though we would understand if the sound of fish stew does not immediately entice your appetite, we are here to share that encebollado is absolutely delicious. And no one makes it better than the mission home kitchen. 

At the mission home, the children eat encebollado once a week. Cooking begins at 5am when the albacore tuna starts boiling. Yuca is peeled and chopped and placed in a separate pot of boiling water. Next all the vegetables are chopped, sautéed, and added to the yuca along with spices to form the base of the soup. Once the tuna has been cooked, it is a long process of deboning and separating the filets into small slices that finally get added to the base of the soup. Simultaneously, the plantains are peeled and cut into thin slices using a “mariquitera” or plantain slicer. They are then fried and sprinkled with salt to create the crispiest most delicious hot chip you have ever tried. 

By about 12 noon all the food is ready and it is divided into portions based on the size of the various “houses” within the mission home. The “chicas”, or adolescent girls’ house, gets a large pot of soup, since they have over 25 people in their home. The “niños” or little boys, get a smaller but equally impressive amount given the 19 people in their home. And so it continues until each house has their portion. Designated children from each house arrive at the kitchen around 12:15 to retrieve the food for their group. The children eat in their respective homes with the missionaries overseeing them. After all the children have eaten, the missionaries take turns eating their own lunch. As we say in Ecuador when food is served, buen provecho! 

A photo catalogue of cooking encebollado at the mission home:

1. Peel and chop yuca. Chop all veggies. Boil tuna, yuca, and sautéed vegetables.

 

2. Add vegetables and spices to boiling yuca to form base of soup

3. Debone and separate tuna meat.

4. Add tuna to soup base to form encebollado

5. Divide into smaller portions for serving

6. Peel and cut plaintains using a “mariquitera”

7. Fry plaintains to form chifles

8. Garnish with pickled onions. Buen provecho!

 

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Birthdays at the Mission Home

One of the best ways to see love in action is on a birthday at the mission home. For each child, employee, and missionary sister, the home goes to great lengths to make a birthday feel special. A birthday usually starts out with a special breakfast, including a fruit display with the child’s name carved from melon, and pineapples in the shape of stars. It continues with an afternoon party on the patio, usually with several song and dance presentations. The presentations stand in the place of gifts, as groups of children get together to ‘present’ something special to the birthday boy or girl.

There is always a special cake, and usually jello as well, and of course there is enough for every child to enjoy. You can be sure that in addition to the party, the birthday boy or girl will receive many beautifully and carefully crafted handmade cards from the other children and missionary sisters. At night the celebrations continue with a smaller dinner in the home where the birthday boy or girl lives.  

When many children arrive at the mission home, they have never celebrated a birthday before, and may not even be aware of the date of their birth. When they have their first birthday at the mission home, most are overcome with emotion. Some have shared that their birthdays are an emotional reminder that they no longer live with their biological families, some have shared that it is simply overwhelming to feel so special and loved. We understand that it is probably a combination of many things.  

There are so many good reasons to approach birthdays with as much enthusiasm as the missionary sisters do at the mission home. Child psychologists have stated that celebrating birthdays with children can help increase their self-esteem, can establish or strengthen social relationships with friends, can create positive memories, and can help children have a perception of time. But most importantly, and the reasoning the missionary sisters give for their detailed and extensive celebrations, celebrating birthdays helps acknowledge the worth of each child, and is a simple way to express the love and care that the missionary sisters hope that each of the children feel during their time at the home.

 

 

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Tutor Spotlight: Jackie!

Today we wanted to shine the spotlight of one of our tutors at the mission home. Jackie is a former teacher and has been a tutor at the mission home for the last year and a half. When the pandemic began and the Ecuadorian ministry of education mandated virtual learning, she took on the impressive task of leading a class of 3-7 year olds at the mission home.

She is naturally skilled with all things kindergarten related, and has built a beautiful relationship with her students centered on developmentally appropriate learning, creativity, and fun. Her lesson plans include everything from helping her students make predictions about what will come next in a storybook, dancing to learn the parts of the body, finding creative ways to practice counting, and building science experiments with balloons, vinegar, baking soda, and a whole lot of childhood awe.

Feeling inspired or want to implement one of her lessons with little kiddos you know? Here are step by step instructions for one of her recent science lessons:

Walking Water Experiment

Materials:

-3 empty glasses of equal size

-Water

-2 paper napkins each folded into a skinny strip

-Yellow and blue food coloring

Steps:

  1. Place 3 empty glasses on the table about 2 inches apart.

2. Fill the first and the third glass halfway with water. Leave the second glass empty.

3. Put several drops of blue food coloring in the first glass. 

4. Put several drops of yellow food coloring in the third glass.

5. Place one folded napkin from first glass into second glass. Make sure the napkin is submerged in the blue colored water. 

6. Place the other folded napkin from third glass into second glass. Make sure the napkin is submerged in the yellow colored water.

7. Wait 1 hour then return to find that the second glass has been filled with green water! 

Explanation:

How does the water get from the first and third glasses into the second? By something called capillary action. The force between the water and the napkin is stronger than the force between the water itself, so the water is pulled up and over the napkin into the second glass. The blue water is pulled from the first glass, and the yellow water is pulled from the third, creating green water in the second glass.

 

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2020 Annual Report

We are so excited to share our first annual report with you! Please click here to view the report.

 

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El Día De Amor y Amistad / The Day of Love and Friendship

In Ecuador, Valentine’s Day is not just a day to celebrate romantic relationships, but also the love shared between friends. It is common to see female friends gift each other flowers or male friends share cards, in addition to the stereotypical romantic gestures shared on this holiday. So what better way to honor Ecuador’s inclusive approach to celebrating than by sharing the story of a friendship that blossomed from the mission home.

Jenny and Jocelyn both moved to the mission home as preadolescents. Adapting to life with so many other teenage girls was challenging at times, but when they became roommates they fell into an easy friendship and life got much better. Jocelyn often talks about how beneficial it was to have a friend like Jenny, who was going through something similar to her in those first few years. Though they arrived at the mission home for different reasons, both were unable to stay with their biological families, and both had experienced trauma and had to adapt to being placed in a new living and school environment in their formative adolescent years. But thankfully it wasn’t all serious. They still laugh about the time when Jocelyn tried to hide her portion of tomatoes during dinner, her least favorite food, eventually leading to a huge mess and Jenny and Jocelyn being punished to clean the dishes for the next week.

When they graduated from high school they each desired to study in university, and through the support of Mission Santa Maria are both enrolled in university courses now. Jenny is in her final semester at a university in Guayaquil, studying to become an occupational therapist. Jocelyn lives and works at the mission home and is studying tourism through a part-time online university program. Despite several years living in different cities, the two remain incredibly close, sending each other WhatsApp voice and text messages daily. Jenny often returns to the mission home to help out during her university breaks, and when she does she always stays with Jocelyn. They refer to each other as ñaña, or sister in Quechua, the language of several indigenous groups in Ecuador and other neighboring countries. It is a term of utmost affection and signifies their bond beyond the bounds of blood and genetics. 

Over the years they have spent many Valentine’s Days together. They have gifted each other flowers, detailed hand made cards, beaded friendship bracelets, small cakes from the local bakery, and more. Though this year they will celebrate Valentine’s Day apart, you can be sure that they will be sending each other many electronic messages of care and love to honor their friendship. We are so grateful for the friendships that grow out of the mission home, as well as for all of our friends across the world who support young girls like Jenny and Jocelyn. From all of us at Mission Santa Maria, we want to wish you a very happy ‘día de amor y amistad’!

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Happy birthday, Fátima!

In honor of her birthday today we wanted to share a little about Fátima, one of missionary sisters at the Mission Home. Fátima has been a part of the Mission Home since the very beginning, taking care of abandoned, abused, and neglected children for over 30 years. She is the epitome of motherly love…compassionate, patient, caring, energetic, affectionate, guiding, and stern when necessary. She has been in charge of caring for the little boys for many years now, and at one time cared for as many as 100 little boys at the same time. She calls her life easy now that she only has to care for 19 (ranging in age from 2 years old to 12). But anyone who comes to the Mission Home can see how it would be impossible to find someone else who could do all that she does. 

More impressive than her incredible work ethic and dedication to her calling is her simple and pure love. She is gifted with the ability to make anyone that comes in contact with her feel special, cared for, and genuinely loved, a characteristic that goes a long way with the children she cares for. If you come to the Mission Home she will likely be the first one to greet you with a big smile on her face. And even if she is in the middle of doing laundry for her 19 boys or helping get each of them bathed and ready for bed, she will be sure to take a moment to ask how she can help you, and let you know that you are welcome. Since we arrived back at the Mission Home, she has offered daily to take care of Regan to ‘give us a break’. We laugh at the absurdity that we could possibly be the ones in need of a break, when she cares for so many every second of the day. But it is in this way that she demonstrates how much she cares.  

We learned of the capacity of Fátima’s love from a past volunteer. An 11 year old boy arrived at the home having survived physical and verbal abuse from his guardians. For the first several months at the home he screamed at everything, and everyone, often throwing all of the contents of whatever room he was in onto the floor or at whoever was passing by. He refused to eat, and flailed his body out of control when asked to complete any task. His destructive behavior was a common manifestation of the trauma many of the kids experience. Fátima was patient. Each day when he would begin to scream or lose control she would hug him, tell him it was okay, and that she was there. After 3 months of this, Fátima knew that she needed to help break this cycle so the boy could have a life again, succeed in school, and begin to heal. So that day when he began to scream she wrapped him tight in her arms and held him for more than 30 minutes repeating that it was enough, she understood his suffering but he could stop the screaming now, she was there and she loved him. He did. And though it took many more months and professional psychological services to advance the healing process, the boy is stable now. He is a good student and a caring older brother and friend. 

Fátima motivates us to work harder and to put love at the center of everything we do. Happy birthday to you, our dearest friend Fátima! 

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Back in Ecuador!

We have been back in Ecuador for almost 2 weeks now and we are so happy to be here. Looking back on 2020 we continue to feel overwhelmed with gratitude for your support, and we have exciting plans for the upcoming year. Here is a quick update on what’s going on at the Mission.

The Mission School continues with virtual learning as mandated by the government in response to COVID-19. It is challenging, especially for all our families that do not have access to internet, but the school is doing everything it can to accommodate all students. 

The Mission Home has welcomed over 15 new children since the pandemic began. They are adjusting well and it is incredible to see the transformative effects of the love and care they receive here. The kids are divided into small groups to complete their school work each morning, and the tutors we hired provide supplemental education. Many of the children at the Mission Home are thriving with the smaller ‘class’ sizes, and are able to bridge some of their educational gaps better than they otherwise would be. So there’s one positive to virtual learning! 

Our University students are doing well while most of their classes continue online. We have one student preparing to graduate in April!

On a personal note, our 5 month old daughter, Regan, is loving Ecuador! We are in the midst of summer so it is very hot and humid, and a drought has forced water rationing so we have no running water after 2pm. It is certainly a new (and at times challenging) adventure with Regan here, but the missionary sisters and the kids at the home already love her so well.

Thank you for being on this journey with us!

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Christina’s Story – A Message of Gratitude

Happy Thanksgiving!

Christina gives thanks and shares her story about how Mission Santa Maria is changing her life though education.

 

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Watch our Virtual Event!

Hear how we are changing lives of children in Ecuador.

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A New Video for You

Thank you to everyone that was able to join us at our virtual event last night! We are so grateful for your support and ongoing generosity. If you were not able to make it, here is a short video that we shared last night:

 

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