Update from San Luis de Las Mercedes

Hola amigos y familia!  Estamos muy emocionados para compartir con ustedes todo que ha pasado durante nuestro viaje apasionante…

We are writing to you from San Luis de Las Mercedes, where we are currently building a comedor (kitchen) for the local school!!!  After our week of orientation in Otavalo, we drove 8 hours to San Luis de Las Mercedes, where the community welcomed us with open arms and a delicious feast full of local watermelon, papayas and avocados, cheese empanadas, corn, grapes, fresh papaya juice, and banana chips (with banana leaves used as plates).  After some eating, dancing, and introducing of ourselves, as well as the community, we headed over to meet our host families and new accommodations.  All of the families were extremely welcoming and very excited to share their homes and customs with the students.  From teaching us how to take bucket showers and how to manually flush the toilet, to having us walk our sisters and brothers to school in the morning and bathing in the river, we have all learned an exorbitant amount solely in the last 3 days.

On Monday, we finally started working on our project!  Because we had to wait for some materials to arrive, groups of students spent a couple of hours teaching the local children English in the classrooms.  From colors and welcome phrases, to body parts and animals, the students incorporated a variety of lessons and games to teach the children some of the first English they had ever heard.  All of the children here are incredibly loving and adorable, and we love getting close to all of the students.  Meeting all of these new people gets overwhelming at times, but as we get accustomed to our new homes and the people we are living with, it gets easier to understand and communicate with everyone here.  As no one in the community knows English, we are all constantly improving our Spanish and feeling better about our communication skills.  Unfortunately, we cannot post any pictures for this post, but in the future we will share many more photos of the project, the community members, and the children.

A little more about our project…The current elementary school of San Luis de las Mercedes is located in the center of the village, with 3 classrooms and 36 children aging from 1 to 12 years old.  Here, children have class from  8 am until 11 am, which is when all the mothers work to cook them lunch.  Although the children eat lunch at the school, there is no actual kitchen for the food to be cooked, which makes it very hard to provide healthy and sanitary food for the children.  By July 27th, the children, mothers, and community of San Luis de las Mercedes will have a place to cook, eat, and sit together: something that is often taken for granted back home.

We miss you all and will be calling sometime next week!

-Nicole Sinno

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