Fall Fest 2022

Last Thursday, October 27th, we celebrated Fall Fest! New and old friends of Mission Santa Maria came out to the Chelsea Bell in NYC to support our work in Ecuador. The evening was full of merriment and boasted an array of pub food, flowing drinks, a silent auction, and more.

Most significantly, we were able to share some of the impact your generosity has made in Ecuador through videos and first hand stories. We are so grateful to everyone that was able to attend and hope to see you again next year!


One of the sweetest details we were able to share at Fall Fest was personalized notes and drawings from the Mission Home. When the kids from the Mission Home heard that Jim would be traveling to the United States for Fall Fest, they wanted to be involved, and specifically wanted to find a way to say thank you to all of the people that support our programs in Ecuador. They spent over a week drawing pictures of their lives in Ecuador and sharing words of gratitude. Every house participated, including the teenage boys. On the back of each picture was the handprint of the child that created it. Just like the children, we feel so grateful for the loyalty and generosity of our donor community, as well as all the new friends that we made through Fall Fest. Thank you!

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Evelyn’s Impact

Although students have returned to in-person learning at the Mission School, twelve children from the Mission Home continue to learn through our tutor program. These children range in age from 6 to 15 years old, and each suffered extreme educational neglect prior to arriving at the Mission Home. Many have never been to school before, most come to the home without being able to read, but all of them are eager for the opportunity to learn.

Evelyn’s classroom. Currently, Evelyn is teaching twelve children from the Mission Home ranging in age from 6 to 15.

Our tutor, Evelyn, works with this unique group of children. Evelyn is a certified teacher and every weekday you can find her creating individualized lesson plans to best meet each of her student’s needs. Despite the fact that her students begin at different academic levels, some have developmental delays, and all have survived trauma impacting their socio-emotional wellbeing, Evelyn finds a way to work with them all and ultimately prepare them to enter the formal school setting.

Most significantly though, Evelyn provides encouragement and motivation to children that have thus far been overlooked in regards to their educational wellbeing. Javier* is one such student. When he arrived at the Mission Home he was 10 years old and had never been to school. He should have been entering 5th grade, but instead he spent his childhood on the streets selling pieces of candy or anything else he could find to buy food and stay away from his abusive home.

Javier working on digraphs (two letters that make one sound). He has advanced significantly since beginning his education in Evelyn’s class 6 months ago.

When Javier started attending Evelyn’s class, he was extremely apathetic. Through an array of strategies including enlisting the help of his caregiver at the Mission Home, setting goals based on effort not academic success, creating a needs assessment identifying Javier’s strengths, and incorporating Javier’s personal interests (such as soccer statistics during a recent math lesson), Javier is slowly progressing. Even better than his academic achievements, he wakes up excited to attend class with Evelyn everyday.

The greatest gift of our tutor program is how it opens doors to children previously deprived of the wonders and benefits of education. Thank you for making this program possible.

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2 New Classrooms! September marks the end of construction

We are excited to share that the construction on the new classrooms at the Mission School is officially complete! Over the past few weeks the team added the final details including painting the new staircase and moving the desks into these new learning spaces. With these 2 new classrooms, high school students will no longer have to learn in repurposed classes, and the library and video lab spaces can return to their original intended purposes. Check out a few photos of our new building and classrooms below, as well as a video montage of the construction progress.

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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.



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



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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