Happy couples make the best volunteers


It is the last sunset we share with Emilie (France) and Alberto (Spain). During their fruitful volunteering with us, we have become allies and friends. This energetic, enthusiastic couple worked tirelessly and way beyond their obligations to make sure the most vulnerable population in this tiny fishing village was imbued with a sense of self-worth and pride in their culture. We want to take a few minutes of our afternoon to hear their opinion about our common dreams for this village.

Q: How would you describe Don Juan?

Alberto: Don Juan is a small fishing village with 1200 inhabitants, a few main roads and 3 little stores. It has a beautiful natural heritage, with an amazing beach, an unforgettable landscape. It is quite fascinating to discover the fishermen downloading their catch in the morning. Don Juan has a smooth daily rhythm, and it is very peaceful to live there.

Q: Has your experience as a FAMM volunteer given you a different perspective on Ecuador?

Emilie: Volunteering at FAAM definitely gave us another perspective about Ecuador. First, we were able to understand the impact that the 2016 earthquake had on people's lives. We honestly hadn't realized how hard and terrible this earthquake was. Second, we discovered the richness of Manabi culture, gastronomy, and natural heritage. Beaches and landscapes are amazing, food is delicious and craftsmanship is a real treasure. We also got to see first hand a very strong artisanal fishing trade in Ecuador. Third, this experience gave us a more realistic image of machismo in this part of the country. It is directly linked with the education level that we have seen in Don Juan. Thanks to FAMM, we have a much more authentic and profound feeling about Ecuador.

Q: Describe your daily routine, something like "a day at the Don Juan library"

Emilie & Alberto: A day in FAAM usually started with either English classes for adults or the remedial reading program where kids who do not know how to read yet come to the Library for help. We would algo go to the local school during recess to play with the kids in the playground. Our intent was to promote more gender equality in the use of the tiny playground. In the past, a few boys usually took over the ground to play soccer while the girls and little ones were left to idly watch them from a distance. We would usually bring some games like balloons or jump ropes so everybody could join in organized games. This part of the day was very exciting and it was interesting to see how slowly the gender dynamics among boys and girls started to shift towards equality in the playground. After that, it was our break time: lunch and swimming at the beach! Afternoons were different every day of the week depending on the topic of the day: Monday: computers; Tuesday: art; Wednesday: music; Thursday: environmental education; Friday: board games. But we would always have a moment to read with the kids. At 5 pm the library would close and we would usually head towards the the beach for the beautiful sunsets! During our last week at FAMM, we were invited to offer marketing and sales pitch workshops in the Night School for adults. This was such a cool way to connect and get to know many of the young women that have returned to the classrooms they had to leave due to teenage pregnancy. By the time we left night school and headed back to the Library, we were exhausted and happy. We went to bed with a rewarding feeling of having spent our day in a meaningful way. This project is changing the lives of locals and volunteers alike.

Q: After your experience with FAMM do you think this NGO is the same or different from what you understood as an NGO?

Emilie: This NGO is similar to what we understand as NGOs should be as its aim is to implement actions to help people in need. However, it is different from the majority of NGOs as every bit of help and donations go directly to the project. We have witnessed that any kind of external help is going directly to the project. This is a huge advantage and the reason why we definitely want to encourage people to contribute to FAMM.

Q: MM: Do you think FAMM's purpose to empower girls and women in northern Manabi is realistic?

Emilie: We believe that empowering women and girls in northern Manabi is necessary and a perfect goal for FAMM. It is absolutely pertinent to work on this matter. Women and girls need this support to grow as adults, to become responsible moms, spouses, and women capable of making their own decision and believing in themselves. FAMM is playing a key role in making this goal possible. We also believe that these changes will happen if the endeavor includes little boys. FAMM is helping them to discover "new masculinities" that will enable them to grow to respect women and girls.

Q: What do you think about FAMM 's preference for volunteering couples?

Alberto: We think it is a great idea to receive couples as volunteers. They can create a good synergy and vibe, and share it with the kids. Couples also dedicate their full time to the project while they are in Don Juan. In our case, there is no doubt that this experience has enriched us a lot, both as individuals and also as a couple.

The afternoon slowly fades into a peaceful night and we have to say our final goodbyes to Emilie and Alberto. They will take the early morning bus to their next destination. The last few days of their stay were full of going-away gatherings at the Library, at the beach, and at our home. Many tears were shed, children and young girls and boys grew very fond of them and we all are sorry to see them go. But this is the nature of A mano manaba, to welcome new friends and send them on their way wishing them safe travels and a future return. Thank you, guys! You are a wonderful couple!