Updates

Donor Spotlight: Mary Wei

Our monthly donors are an exceptional community that are instrumental to meeting the ongoing needs of vulnerable children here in Ecuador. Mary Wei, a longtime monthly donor, kindly agreed to share her history with Mission Santa Maria and the reasons she continues to give. Here is her reflection.

Mary and her husband, Albert. Mary has been a monthly donor to Mission Santa Maria for many years.

“Jim and I went to college together and then reconnected in NYC years later. I was living and working at my dream job while Jim was planning how he was going to change the world. I went to a Mission Santa Maria fundraiser with my sister, which was where I donated for the first time. I did it partly to support a friend and partly because prior to being in New York, I had attempted to work as a medical missionary in Belize. I did it with my best friend at age 24. I don’t know why, but I couldn’t do it. I felt I had failed in being someone I had wanted to be. Donating to Mission Santa Maria somehow healed some of that and gave me a new part to play in missionary work. I also truly believe that education can end poverty.

It was some years later that I met my husband, Albert. He converted to the Catholic Faith after we married and we now have 3 kids, for whom I am very thankful to God. We moved out of the city, since our 2 bedroom apartment couldn’t fit our family. It was a hard transition to the suburbs of Philly, but I stayed working in pediatric oncology and Albert could work remotely for SAP.

Then, when COVID hit and I lost my job as a nurse, I happened to read one of the updates for mission Santa Maria. Due to the pandemic, their education focus had to change and feeding all the local families and children became the priority. I thought then of my own children and what if I could not feed them and my heart broke. I remember sitting in my bed and just crying. That reaffirmed my desire to continue to donate. I believe in Jim, I believe in his calling to be in Ecuador to help the people there. I thank the Lord everyday for Jim and Grace. There is not a question in my mind of where my money is going and that it is being used for a greater good! I know that it is a difficult job and it is an honor to be a part of their amazing contribution. May God continue to be with them.”

Thank you Mary, and thank you to all that donate through monthly giving! 

 

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Join us at our Fall Fest, 10/27, in NYC

Please join us at Mission Santa Maria’s Fall Fest in New York City. It will be an wonderful evening of fun for an even better cause! Enjoy an open bar, delicious food, and hear how we are changing lives of children through our programs. Bring a coworker and invite your friends to our party with a mission! 

We appreciate your support and look forward to seeing you on October 27th! Each ticket costs $150 and includes open bar and heavy appetizers from 6:30pm – 10:30pm. All proceeds support Mission Santa Maria’s programs in Ecuador.

EVENT DETAILS: 

LOCATION: THE CHELSEA BELL 316 8TH AVE, NEW YORK, NY 10001

DATE: THURSDAY, OCTOBER 27TH 2022 6:30-10:30PM

CLICK HERE FOR TICKETS

CLICK HERE TO LEARN ABOUT SPONSORING THE EVENT

Special thanks to our event committee: Alyssa Bonnesen, Colleen Cirrotti, Matt Deis, Rob D’Amico, Mac Donoghue, Regan Donoghue, Rachel McKenny, Jennifer Ramirez, and Dan Sheridan

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Scholarship Plus Program Update

We are well into the school year in Ecuador and are happy to be able to write about one of our new initiatives this year, our ‘Scholarship Plus’ program. Living in Ecuador, we get to see first hand the impact of our programs. At the same time, living in the community surrounded by so many of the Mission School students, we also witness and hear about additional needs. Over the past few years, we noticed that there were many families that needed support in addition to tuition scholarships. These were families struggling to earn incomes after the economic shutdown during the pandemic, single-parent homes trying to make ends meet, and others. We hired a social worker to speak with the families in our scholarship program, visit their homes, and assess needs. As a result of this work, the ‘Scholarship Plus’ program was born.

Uniforms for students in the ‘Scholarship Plus’ program

The ‘Scholarship Plus’ program provides tiered assistance on top of tuition scholarships. For families that need it, the program provides transportation scholarships to cover the $1 bus fare a day to get to and from school, uniform and school supplies scholarships, and even monthly food assistance. By making sure that students can get to school, have the supplies they need, and are appropriately nourished, they are given the best chance at excelling academically.

One such student is Miguel*. Miguel had just been to visit a doctor when the social worker visited his home. Sixteen years old, his mom forced him to go to the medical clinic when he continued to fall asleep between 8 and 9 pm (very early and abnormal for Miguel, and any teenager) and appeared to be losing weight from his already skinny frame. The doctor told Miguel that he was severely malnourished, and his exhaustion was caused by not eating enough calories to get through the day. The social worker was immediately able to recommend Miguel for our a full scholarship plus. Now, in addition to his tuition, his family receives bus fare, his school supplies, and a monthly food allowance. Miguel shares that he is happy to be gaining a little weight, and his mom is happy to have to yell at him to go to bed at night. Miguel can finally focus on what he should be able to, his studies.

*Name changed to protect privacy.

 

 

 

 

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Classroom Construction is Almost Complete!

Classroom construction is almost complete for our two new classrooms at the Mission School! Over the past few weeks, the open air windows were installed and roofing was completed. The classrooms are located upstairs and will provide much needed spaces for learning. Thanks to the generosity of our donors that contributed to our Classrooms for Change Campaign, this construction zone will soon be a learning zone!

 

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The Mission School Celebrates 27 Year Anniversary

Last week, the mission school celebrated 27 years of service to students and the community. In honor of the anniversary, the school hosted an art contest for students. Students were asked to create an art piece that represented the school.

Bird’s-eye view of part of the mission school campus as well as El Santuario across the street. The large blacktop area is where many assemblies take place, and where older students participate in physical education.

Many students drew “El Santuario”, the church directly across the street from the school that was founded at the same time. It is an iconic building, mostly known for its dramatic location on the edge of a cliff and beautiful outdoor services overlooking the ocean.

But even more prominent in the students art was the founder of the school, Padre Othmar. Padre Othmar was a priest from Switzerland that came to Ecuador over 50 years ago. He spent his life working in the coastal communities surrounding the mission school, supporting everything from road infrastructure development, to the first medical clinics, to the founding of the mission school. Padre Othmar passed away a year ago, but his memory and influence are still powerfully felt.

 

 

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A new baby, a new scholarship program, and new housing!

We welcomed baby Amelia to our family at the end of June. We have been in the US awaiting her arrival and are grateful Grace and Amelia are healthy. Regan has been very generous in sharing her toys with Amelia. We plan to return to Ecuador at the end of the summer and can’t wait to introduce Amelia to everyone at the Mission.

Regan loves holding baby Amelia

Thanks to the generosity of our donors we launched a Scholarship Plus program for students in need of support on top of tuition assistance. With the help of a social worker assessing family situations, over 100 of our students are now receiving a ‘scholarship plus’. These scholarships cover tuition costs, but also provide school supplies and uniforms, financial help for transportation to and from school, and monthly food distributions.

In our university program, we enrolled several of our students in online English classes to increase employment opportunities after graduation. We acquired a house in Guayaquil that is now home to 5 of our female university students. The young women share how wonderful it is to have a common safe space to live while they focus on their studies.

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Classroom Construction Update

Despite nationwide strikes that impacted all types of labor over the past few weeks, construction on our new classrooms continues. The walls and roofing are complete for the new classrooms that will be located upstairs, and progress continues for completing the downstairs space. Continue to follow our updates here or on our Classrooms for Change Campaign page.

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University Student Spotlight – Cindy

Meet Cindy! Cindy joined our university program in 2022. She is a graduate of the Mission School, and comes from a very rural town in our area. 

Cindy is currently studying medicine at a university in Cuenca. She agreed to share a little about her education experience and what motivates her to study medicine in the interview below. 

Q: Tell us a little about yourself, your family, and your education up to this point. 

A: My name is Cindy Alejandro, I am 20 years old and I am from Sitio Nuevo. I have 6 brothers and sisters, my father is a farmer and my mother stays at home to take care of my siblings. I graduated from the Mission School in 2021. I loved my experience studying at the Mission School because of the values it incorporated into our education. I was grateful to get to know so many wonderful people including my teachers and friends, and I will always remember the experience as one of the happiest and best of my life.  

Q: Why did you want to go to university? 

A: I wanted to go to university in order to be able to study a high-level profession and degree. A university degree opens many doors when you seek employment, which is important for economic stability in the future. 

Q: Why did you want to study medicine? 

A: I am studying medicine because I really enjoy it. I want to be able to serve and help others as my vocation and profession. 

Cindy learning to perform emergency respiratory care in one of her practical labs at medical school.

Q: Until now, how many people in your family have attended and graduated university? 

A: I do not have any family members that have graduated from university. 

Q: How do you feel about starting university this year?

A: I am so happy to have started university and to be studying the career which I wanted to study most. I am very grateful to the foundation for giving me this opportunity. Medicine is not an easy major, but with effort, I know I can succeed and graduate.  

Cindy learning to identify different types of bacteria under the microscope.

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Save the Date! NJ Donor Appreciation Reception

You’re invited to our Backyard Bash, a donor appreciation reception in Stirling, NJ! Join us for cocktails and appetizers in the comfort of the home of a good friend of Mission Santa Maria. Allow us to thank you for your support and share updates on the work you make possible in Ecuador.

Invite a friend and help us expand the mission family! RSVP here, contact us with questions at grace@missionsantamaria.com.

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Our New Desks Have Arrived!

As we previously shared, we hired a local carpenter to make new desks for the Mission School. The new desks were desperately needed to replace broken plastic desks, as well as to correct a desk shortage that the school has been experiencing over the past several years. Due to distance learning as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, the shortage did not need to be addressed until this school year, when all students returned to in-person learning. 

The new desks were moved into classrooms over the last month and are already being put to great use. Thank you for helping make this improvement possible for all the students at the Mission School! 

A few teachers meet in one of the classrooms with new desks.

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