Cristobal Colon (Ecuador) -- Social work amid extreme poverty

More than 80 percent of the people in the community of Cristóbal Colon, in Esmeraldas Province, live in poverty. For five days, from March 28 to April 1, a group of university and high school students who take part in the means of formation at Alfil Cultural Center in Quito, carried out a social service program there. They cleaned up an area where a day-care center is to be built, dug a septic tank with a drainage ditch, rehabilitated the existing day-care center, and gave catechism classes to the children.

“Although the work was hard—especially the digging—what the people thanked us for most was the possibility of receiving the sacraments. A priest who accompanied us heard confessions and celebrated Mass for them, something they don’t usually have available,” said Pablo Cordero, who directed the project. Mateo Ruales, another volunteer, added that, of all that he did, the most important for him was giving catechism classes to the children and preparing them for their first confessions. For his part, Juan José Paz said he was especially moved when a teacher at Cristóbal Colón invited them to plant several trees next to the Canandé River: “She told us that this would commit us to returning. I certainly would like to go back, and not just to see whether the trees have taken root.”

Romana, No. 40, January-June 2005, p. 148-149.