Meeting with our University Students

Over the past weekend we gathered with the majority of our university students for a chance to socialize and offer encouragement. The meeting took place at the Mission School over lunch and was led by our University Program Coordinator, Jenny, and Jim. Eleven of our seventeen university students were able to attend the gathering, traveling from Santa Elena and Guayaquil. 

Eleven of our seventeen university students with Jim.

The meeting was a small representation of the support and accompaniment we want to show to our university students. In the past, our University Program was small enough that beneficiaries were required to show a high level of independence and self-determination to advance. The closest university to the mission is located in Santa Elena, one hour away, followed by a few universities in Guayaquil, 3 hours away from the Mission. In Ecuador, there is no university sponsored housing (or dorms), so all students live off campus and travel to school each day for classes. These factors mean that all of our university students must move to a new city and live independently when they begin their studies. 

Thankfully, the growth of our university program has made this process much easier. We now have enough scholars in both Santa Elena and Guayaquil that the students in our program can share housing. This provides practical support in terms of orientation to city living, as well as increased safety and socio-emotional wellbeing. 

Big smiles for all these students have accomplished (pictured here with Jenny, our program coordinator, third from the right).

Most importantly, though, having Jenny as our University Program Coordinator has been exceptional. We are so grateful for the mentorship she provides. We have four university students  

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Play Virtual Trivia With Us on April 23rd!

REGISTER HERE

You’re invited to our third annual virtual trivia night! Join us for an evening of competition and fun while learning more about Mission Santa Maria!

Our virtual trivia night will take place on Sunday, April 23rd, from 8:00-10:00PM EST. Sign up in teams of up to 10 people. There’s no fee to enter, but there is a prize for the winning team!

Want to create a team with friends that live near and far? No problem! Our virtual trivia night will take place over a zoom call, so you can participate with whomever you want from the comfort of your home.

Only one person per team needs to register, but please include your team name and the names and email addresses of your other team members in your registration form.

REGISTER HERE

For questions, or if you have issues registering, please contact Grace at grace@missionsantamaria.com.

 

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2022 Annual Report

We are excited to share our 2022 annual report with you! Please click here to view the complete report.

As you will see, our annual report includes an overview of all we were able to accomplish last year, personal stories from our beneficiaries, and a closer look at our finances. Your generosity and support made our work possible. From the bottom of our hearts, thank you!

Please consider sharing this report with anyone you know that might be interested in learning more about Mission Santa Maria. We are so grateful to partner with you in this work.

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University Program Graduate Becomes Our Program Coordinator!

Thanks to your incredible generosity, our university program has grown exponentially over the past few years. We currently have 17 students attending university all over Ecuador, including 2 students studying medicine in Cuenca, one studying to become a petroleum engineer in Santa Elena, and several studying a variety of subjects in Guayaquil. We expect 4 of our university students to graduate this year and will be excited to share their stories as the year progresses. 

Jenny graduated from our university scholarship program in 2020 with a degree in Occupational Therapy from the University of Guayaquil.

A little less than a year ago, we hired Jenny part-time, to coordinate the university program and be the main point of communication with the students that are receiving scholarships or potential scholarship recipients. As you may remember, Jenny grew up at the Mission Home and was one of the first to benefit from a scholarship in our university program. She graduated from the University of Guayaquil in 2020 with a degree in Occupational Therapy and has been working with children as an Occupational Therapist ever since. 

Jenny works as an occupational therapist with children.

Jenny’s first hand experience in our university scholarship program gives her the unique ability to mentor and guide current and potential scholarship recipients. She communicates with all our university students individually regarding their academic progress, their living situations’, and their budgets’. She helps our scholarship recipients problem solve to ultimately gain the life skills necessary to not just succeed in university, but also successfully obtain a job and live independently post graduation. She is kind, loving, and firm. 

Jenny (second from right) with two of our newest university program scholarship recipients (third and fourth from the right).

We have noticed that with Jenny in this role our university students are thriving. Jenny is able to provide practical guidance with cultural knowledge and sensitivity that we never could on our own. We are so grateful she has been able to fill this role to strengthen the university program and ultimately help more students succeed in the same way that she has.

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Partnership to Expand Post-High School Employment Opportunities

As 2023 begins, we want to share a few details of one of our newest projects involving a partnership with DP World. DP World is an international shipping company that owns one of the largest shipping ports here in Ecuador. Shipping represents a large portion of the economy and there is a need for skilled port employees. DP World recently created a program that would send admitted high-school graduates to the best public university in Guayaquil to receive logistics training. Students from Mission Santa Maria’s programs have been given the chance to apply to this selective program. If admitted, the students would complete a two year university program and would have countless doors opened toward future employment. 

As part of the partnership, Mission School graduates took a tour of DP World’s shipping port in Posorja. They spent the day hearing about what it is that actually happens at a port, the various components of the company, and what the two year university program would entail. The students heard from some of the leadership team and saw everything from the administrative offices to shipping containers coming into the port. 

After the tour, the young adults understood what it might be like to work at a port. They also understood the importance of English studies, as several members of the DP World team reiterated how important English language skills were to professional work in Ecuador. This is one of the many reasons Mission Santa Maria has invested so heavily in the English department at the Mission School. 

Many of the Mission School graduates were unaware of the importance shipping plays in Ecuador’s economy. The tour and presentation by DP World helped orient the graduates to all the employment opportunities available.

The next step for the graduates is to take several entrance exams for the program. Those that are selected will then move to Guayaquil to begin the two year university program. It is our hope that this partnership with DP World is the first of many focused on post-high school income generation.

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The Hope You Bring

Here is the story of Liz and Edwin’s family. Thank you for bringing them joy and hope through your generosity. Wishing you and your families a very Merry Christmas and happy holidays!

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Our Christmas Wish List

Would you consider adding Mission Santa Maria to your Christmas list? Here is what we need most to continue to best serve the children in our programs.

– A Christmas meal for a scholarship plus family $50/family 
Our scholarship plus program employed a social worker to identify the needs of students from the most impoverished families. These students now receive comprehensive scholarships including tuition, transportation, school supplies, and food assistance. We would like to give this group of a families extra food this month to celebrate the holidays.

– Bedroom furniture for a University student $500
We are grateful to have a house where the girls in our university program can live in Guayaquil. But three new young women are moving in and their bedrooms have no furniture! Help us create a safe and dignified living environment by purchasing furniture for them.

– Computers $600
The Mission School needs 10 computers for the computer lab. For students without computers at home, the lab is the only place to access the internet and learn important technology skills.

– Return hot water to the Mission Home $2,000
Help us fix the hot water system at the Mission Home so that the children can take hot showers again!

– An extra set of hands at the Mission Home $5,000/year
Taking care of 85 children is all encompassing and exhausting. Help us continue to alleviate some of the workload of the Mission Home caregivers by hiring staff to assist with tasks like cooking, laundry, and cleaning. $5,000 covers the salary of one full time staff member for one year.

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Mission School Olympics

The Mission School is hosting their annual olympics. The school olympics is a chance for the children to learn about countries from all around the world while participating in a variety of sports challenges.

Each class is assigned a country to represent. The students and teachers become wholeheartedly committed to their team, decorating an olympic banner, coming up with a dance for the ‘opening ceremony’, and making sure to cheer the loudest when competing in the games.

While from the outside, it may just seem like another party (and we are the first to admit that there is a genuine love of parties here in Ecuador), the olympics provide more than just festivities. They offer a chance for students to bond with their classmates and teachers outside the classroom, they promote teamwork, introduce a more global mindset, and most importantly, allow students to develop both physically and intellectually.

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A Day in the Life of Fatima

As the holidays approach, do you feel stressed by the list of people you still need to shop for, the food you need to prepare, or all the packing you have to do to get ready for holiday travels? When I inevitably start to feel some of this burden, it helps to spend time with the missionary women to put things in perspective. Recently, I had the pleasure of spending the day helping Fatima in order to give you a glimpse of her life. Here is her schedule:

Fatima currently cares for 19 boys ranging in age from 3-12 years old. Life is hectic, messy, and full of love.

5am: Wakes up all the children. She currently has 19 boys, ranging in age from 3-12 years old in her care.

5-6am: Helps the children (especially the youngest) go to the bathroom, get changed for school, and make their beds.

6am: Leads a prayer and serves breakfast.

6:30am: Helps children clean up their breakfast. Checks all 19 backpacks to make sure every child has their school supplies and homework ready.

7am: Walks children to school.

8am: Walks children that are studying in the Mission Home tutor program to their classroom to begin their day of specialized learning.

8-9am: Cleans up the house (that has inevitably become a disaster by this time)

9am: Eats breakfast with the other missionary women, a rare chance to spend time together.

9:30-11:30am: Helps with the general functioning of the mission home. Today, she organizes a delivery of personal care items (toilet paper, soap, etc), folds sheets, and then meets with the psychologist to review a few of the cases of the children in her care. She shares that this time is far less stressful than it used to be, as she now has help with tasks like laundry and cooking that used to fall on her shoulders as well.

11:45am: Welcomes the 3-5 year olds back home from school.

12:30-1pm: Welcomes the rest of the children back home from school.

1pm: Serves lunch to the kids. Fatima eats her lunch at the counter while watching over the kids

2-4pm: Helps the kids with homework

4-5pm: Oversees playtime in the patio!

5-6pm: Directs the older children in their daily chores (sweeping the patio, taking out the trash), helps the younger children take baths

6pm: Older children take baths

6:30pm: Serves dinner

7:30pm: Reads the youngest children stories to put them to bed

8-8:30pm: Chats with and reads books to the older children to put them to bed

9pm: Eats dinner

10:30pm: Goes to sleep

10:30pm-5am: Wakes up 3 separate times. Once when someone has an accident and she has to change their pajamas and sheets, once when someone has a bad dream, and once to make sure everyone is sleeping in their own bed (she says that this is an important boundary to maintain especially when children just arrive at the home and have survived abuse)

Two times stand out to me most in Fatima’s crazy day (apart from how exhausted I felt after only one day of her life). First, when all the children return from school. She makes sure to greet each one and ask them a specific question about their day – she asks one boy about a presentation he is working on, another if a fight with a friend has been resolved, and another if he liked the orange that was packed as his midmorning snack. She says it is one way to demonstrate her love for each one of the children in her care.

The second is when the older boys don’t want to do their chores. They yell and whine, saying they want to play soccer for a few more minutes. She calmly picks up a broom and begins sweeping herself, saying she will help them but it’s time to sweep the patio and take responsibility for where they live. Soon they have all joined her with the exception of one, a newer resident of the Mission Home. She waits until she has finished helping with all the chores to talk to him privately. They agree to a plan where he will help put away all the dishes after dinner, a task usually reserved for Fatima, in order to make up for the missed chore and to spend more one-on-one time together.

Fatima’s example inspires me to be a more patient and loving mother all the time, and especially in the seemingly insignificant moments of the day.

Fatima has been caring for abused, neglected, and abandoned children for over 20 years. Her love and patience is seemingly unending.

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Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving from the whole Mission Santa Maria family! Here is a short video message to extend our gratitude.

 

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