About a year ago, Yesenia Velez and Cynthia Cardona were presented with an opportunity to serve with their church on a mission trip abroad. Although Yesenia has previous missions experience, this would be Cynthia’s fist mission trip. They were both excited for this opportunity and accepted the challenge to serve in Ecuador.
Yesenia who actually lived in Ecuador during her younger years knew the scope of need for this trip. As we celebrated the recent launch of Evergreen Embrace, our thinking wheels started turning. Yesenia quickly contacted Evergreen Staff with a plan to reach out to our communities and vendors in order to collect donations. We saw this saw this as a great initiative and gave the “go ahead”.
A flyer for clothing and a donation drive was sent to many of our vendors and Evergreen managed communities. We started to receive so much feedback, support and follow up that it seemed un-real. As the mission’s team at Yesenia and Cynthia’s local church started putting the agenda together, they definitely had their work cut out for them. The church pulled together the first aid supplies, transportation, food and living accommodations.
We received boxes and bags of gently used clothing from Bellalago and Waterview residents. Yellowstone Landscaping provided string tie bags, Envera Systems provided small towels, Nelton Dsouza and the Lions Club provided eyeglasses. Vital Security provided school supplies, and we received donations from Lake Juliana Estates residents and also, Evergreen Staff.
Seeing our communities and vendors came together to support, this trip filled our hearts with joy, hope and so much gratitude. Over 12 duffle bags full with all the donations were backed to ensure their safe arrival to Ecuador. On June 15th, Yesenia and Cynthia along with 10 other members of their church embarked on this adventure.
They arrived at the busy city of Guayaquil, Ecuador around 1 a.m. safely and with all their belongings at hand. That same morning, they started packing 300 string tie bags with hygiene items to take to the community of Simon Bolivar. This town is approximately an hour and half away from the city of Guayaquil. A town that survives from agriculture, they are set off the main roads and can be reached by mostly dirt roads.
Throughout the week, this group visited this town along with some surrounding neighborhoods called Arenales and Zapote. The tie bags with hygiene products and the small towels were handed out to all of these communities. Over 500 children and adults received clothing from the many generous donations, the look on their faces will forever be engraved in our hearts.
You see miles and miles of crops such as cocoa, plantains, bananas and rice surrounding these communities. However, the residents grow these only for export. Their homes are on the dirt, the walls are made of aluminum sheets, pieces of wood or bamboo. The water supply comes from wells and technology is still very limited. This awesome group provided reading glasses to adults and elderly residents in the community as doctors and medical offices are often only in the big cities, this is part to the donation made by Nelton Dsouza and the Lions Club. They welcomed our donations with so much joy and excitement.
They also visited Albergue Soldaditos de Dios in Guayaquil, this place is much like the Ronald McDonald house here in the United States. They provide temporary stay to children with serious illnesses from the surrounding communities while they get treatment in the city. During this visit, the school supplies as well as many first aid items were also given. Cynthia says “It was truly impressive to see their excitement over the colored paper, the crayons and markers as we did arts and crafts with them”.
On the last day of the trip, this group visited a juvenile detention center for young women. They were able to provide hygiene supplies in the string tie bags. Cynthia described the amazing opportunity of being able to speak to these young women and empower them through our testimonies as life changing.
All of these experiences have truly been life changing and none of it could have been possible of course without God’s blessing and the support of Evergreen Lifestyles Management, our vendors and residents. The sense of serving our communities goes beyond our regular day to day. It extends to even the remote places where their needs might be different from ours, but we were still able to come together and provide some hope for them.
We encourage each one of our communities, vendors and staff to take that sense of Embrace and make it a tangible thing. To perhaps engage in serving others or simply making a difference in someone’s life. It could be as simple as going out of your way to smile at another resident, opening a door, helping someone find his or her way or just simply waiving and saying hello to your neighbor. There are many ways that we can make a difference at home and abroad.
We hope that this is the first of many embracing initiatives that we get to be a part of so be on the lookout for those flyers or emails.