Colville group feeds hungry, child cancer victims in Quito

Roger Harnack

Members of Colville Interact and their chaperones took a break from the high valleys of the Andes Mountains today and turned their attention to the homeless and cancer-stricken in the capital city.
The troupe of 30 spent the day at Albergue San Juan de Dios, a Catholic religion-based homeless shelter and services center.
There, they baked bread, made homemade hot chocolate, served lunch and even helped with teeth cleaning and fluouridiation of homeless residents.
About 30 elderly indigent residents live permanently in the shelter, which provides meals, medical and dental services, and socializing they would not otherwise receive. Additionally, the center houses several refugees for up to two weeks. And on each Wednesday, street workers visit the shelter for a hot meal.
Today, June 19, was different for those at the shelter as Colville Interact cooked, served, cleaned and entertained the residents while they were receiving assistance.
The visit began with an introductory tour that culminated with Interact students performing a variety of Spanish and American children's tunes, including the "Baby Shark Song" and "The Lion Sleeps Tonight."
The students received several rounds of applause for their performance.
After entertaining the residents and staff, the students went to work.
About a half-dozen students spent the rest of the morning mixing, kneading and baking bread under the direction of one of the center's breadmakers. That afternoon, they melted chocolate and mixed it with boiling milk to create "real" chocolate milk -- not that powdered stuff sold in American grocery stores.
Meanwhile, the rest of the entourage took up posts in the shelter's lunchroom.
There, they served a lunch of chicken, lentils and other items to the residents and street workers who came in for a hot meal. The street workers typically wash car windows, sell snacks and drinks, and perform for drivers.
After lunch, the volunteer work shifted to Albergue San Juan de Dios' new dental clinic.
The grand opening celebration for the clinic planned for Thursday afternoon, June 20, but the clinic officially opened with Colville students assisting dentist Fernando Zurita of Combaya.
A successful Quito dentist, Zurita volunteers his time at the clinic.
The dental area was recently updated at a cost of $20,000, including $2,000 raised by Colville Interact.
After a trip to the dentist's chair in the newly remodeled clinic, residents would make their way to tables manned by Colville students.
The students would sanitize and clean any residue from the residents teeth -- or tooth, in some cases -- before using fluoride-filled tooth trays on those seeking services to help improve their oral health.
A long line formed for the service.
As the wait time grew, Colville Rotarian Scott Thompson and a couple students put together some fake sports plays, first trying American football, then trying South American "futbol." When a mock score occurred, Thompson would lead those waiting in line with a scoring celebration.
Thompson also took time to hug the residents -- most of which were about 2 feet shorter -- and pose for selfies, keeping the crowd entertained as students kept pace with their dental assistance.
A couple of street freestylers were also in the crowd, and it wasn't long before some freestyle Spanish rap tunes filled the air.
The clinic closed at 4 p.m. and those who had been waiting were given a pass to come back to the head of the line on the next dental day.
At the close of the clinic, the students got to sample some of the bread and hot chocolate before taking time to pass it out to any remaining homeless and refugees.
Tired, most of the Colville group returned to the homes of their host families for the evening.
But not all.
Seven members of the group took 100 of the fresh-baked baby bread loaves and a cauldron of steaming hot chocolate to the ASONIC Foundation, which provides residential assistance to families of children that need cancer treatment, typically chemotherapy, at Baca Ortiz Pediatric Hospital.
The director of the foundation said about 35 families are currently living in the foundation house near the hospital.
The foundation is funded by groups, such as Rotary International, and the goodwill of donors.
But ASONIC is in the process of launching a new dried fruit business to fund its operation.
Organizers said the goal is to raise $1 million to purchase a more modern, larger facility to care for families and children with cancer while they are in the capital city for treatment.
With the bread and hot chocolate depleted, the last of the Colville workers headed to their host families' homes for the evening.
On Thursday, the Colville entourage will return to Albergue San Juan de Dios for more charity work in the morning.
At 2 p.m., the grand opening of the remodeled dental clinic takes place with formal festivities followed by a three-hour shindig, complete with food, music and dance.
Check back daily for more updates on Colville students' activities in Ecuador.