Making good on the ‘Ecuador Challenge’
Editor’s note: Kelly Lemon has spent a lot of time in Ecuador over the last two years. Her most recent trip, detailed in the following story, took money and supplies to the For His Children Orphanage in Quito. Lemon had raised money for the trip during her senior year at Battle Mountain High School.
This summer in Quito, two weeks into the “Ecuador Challenge,” I was unexpectedly approached by an Ecuadorian Rotary club member, telling me about a family in great need.
I followed him into a local clinic, and found a beautiful three-year-old boy, Mateo, in his older brother’s arms. Mateo was not even able to sit up on a couch by himself because of his extreme cerebral palsy. His older brother Jose, now 18, had dropped out of high school when he was 15 so he could carry and care for his brother all day.
The doctors described how we could customize a wheelchair for Mateo’s body, and that he could adjust it for use the rest of his life. I immediately told them to go ahead. We could help because of the support raised from Vail.
My breath was taken away when I presented the chair to his mother, who began to cry.
“Ma’am… you have changed our lives today,” the woman said. “My son now can live his own life… and his older brother can go back to school and eventually work, because of you and your town. Gracias… thank you!”
I felt so honored to be able to stand there. I was blessed to be a blessing for that family.
After spending my junior year of high school studying in Quito, Ecuador, I expected a culture shock. I just wasn’t expecting the shock to be when I returned home.
It’s not always an easy transition to go from a third world country back to Starbucks, skiing, and BMWs. We don’t know what hunger or poverty means. We live in such a blessed community, which really spurred the “Ecuador Challenge” into existence.
Now, as I leave for college and bid my home town farewell, I look back at the past year and remember what an amazing community we have and what we have achieved together.
My senior year service project, the “Ecuador Challenge,” started as a small effort to support an orphanage in Quito, called “For His Children Orphanage.” We sold Ecuador bracelets for $3 and my classmates “adopted” orphans by making small donations and writing personal letters. We also designated funds for the medical needs of these disabled children.
But after the project exploded at Battle Mountain, I realized that I might be able to bring the project beyond the school’s walls. Vail Mountain School, Rotary clubs, churches, and local residents generously gave. The response from the Vail Valley blew away my expectations.
I looked at the list of sponsors and donors, and thought, “What a beautiful thing, people of different ages who are all coming from different beliefs, value systems, and countries uniting to support the same cause. That’s a community.”
I hope to be able to keep the Ecuador Challenge going even while I am away at college. Local girls Kelsey Plath and Karlie Moore have volunteered to help keep it going at the two high schools for the coming year.
We will continue to support the For His Children Orphanage and expand our help to the indigenous mission, “Pan de Vida,” which helps the minorities in Quito, many of them homeless, teaching them trades and giving them food, clothes, and an education.
Our community can really affect the lives of others, one orphan or homeless person at a time.
The documentary of my trip will be presented this December, and in the spring of 2007, the Mountain Foundation, the nonprofit organization started by the Lemon family, sponsoring the Ecuador Challenge, will be launching the challenge once again.
For more information about bracelets, our projects, or how to get involved in the Ecuador Challenge either write Kelly at EcuadorChallenge@hotmail.com. For more information about sponsoring an orphan from the For His Children Orphanage, e-mail Melinda@forhischildren-ecuador.org
Vail Daily, Vail, Colorado
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