We did research and felt good about donating money to World Vision. However, there is always trust and speculation involved concerning how the money is actually used; maybe you have felt the same. We don't want to be “ripped off” in our charitable giving, yet we have to trust because we can’t see for ourselves. But wait...what if we could? Geoff and I decided to do some further investigation; you may be interested in the experience we had recently when we showed up unannounced at a World Vision site in Pujili, Ecuador.
After we moved to Ecuador my dad contacted us to let us know that he began sponsoring a little girl from Pujili, Ecuador, through World Vision. He chose her because her Birthday falls on the date of our wedding anniversary, September 30. My dad rocks. During our trip around Ecuador we decided to take this opportunity for an “on-site” glimpse into World Vision. Armed with nothing more than a child’s name and the town she supposedly lived in, we headed toward Pujili.
Throughout the highlands we had already seen several alpaca’s - a smaller, cuter (my opinion) variety of llama. They are very fundamental to the indigenous people’s way of life. In fact, as I type this I am wrapped in a wonderful, warm, hypoallergenic, blanket made from Alpaca that I bought in Otavalo, where we first recognized the vital cultural importance of this animal. Amazing blankets, scarfs, sweaters, hats, clothes - you name it - are fashioned from alpaca “wool” that they sell for pennies to the dollar of what they would get in the States.
They invited us to return the next day to see some of the work for ourselves, but we had to get to Quito that night. Instead, we scheduled a return visit immediately following our time with the Huaorani.
Our “guide” spoke only Spanish, but we managed to follow along. We were told it would be cold, but never anticipated the kind of weather waiting for us on top of the deceptively beautiful hills. I don’t do well in cold of any kind, but neither of us had ever experienced anything like this. When we first got out of the truck, strong winds whipped us, sandblasting us with the fine dirt from the hills. We had to shout to hear each other as tears rolled down our cheeks from the sand blowing in our eyes. We were instantly freezing even with good jackets and warm layers. Suddenly the beautiful scenery was not so wonderful and we wondered how anyone survived up there.
We picked up a young boy at one point, who hopped in the back of the freezing truck to help us find the migrating herd of alpaca that World Vision provided for the community. We searched the hills, passed several lonely “shepherds” with sheep, and fields of onions – one of the few things they can grow in the harsh weather that World Vision also had a hand in establishing. At one point the truck would go no further up the steep, deeply sanded roads - we were stuck.
These are lands the indigenous people are able to work because they are survivors, and probably because no one else can!
Finally, we found the alpaca’s! Donations to World Vision provided the community with 9 of them (from what we understood), and the community shares the work of caring for them and they now have a sustainable herd that provides clothing, and a source of income for several families, year round. These are priceless animals in such poverty because of their original cost to acquire, ease of raising them, and most of all the resources they provide.
People were few and far between in these barren hills, but we were taken to a small concrete structure, provided by World Vision as a “community center” of sorts, where young kids were able to go to school during the day. These preschool aged kids would normally be in fields, huddled under blankets as their older siblings and parents worked. Though they already had the characteristic cold, red, chapped cheeks of all who lived there, we were so thankful to see that a safe place was provided for them!
After a final, freezing walk over the nearby hills, where they showed us areas where Incan artifacts had been recovered, we loaded into the truck and headed back down the hill. We never expected to experience so much, and were more thankful for World Vision than ever.
The day before we had been traveling up river, laughing in a rainstorm with our Huaorani friends as we bailed out the canoe to keep from sinking. A day later we were in the central highlands with a very different indigenous group, in the harshest environment we had ever experienced. It was mind-boggling. What made it more incredible was the contrast between the mission efforts we witnessed. With the Huaorani we had to be on guard at all times because the missionary efforts had caused a lot of trouble and were an understandable hot topic. They came to convert, and helped as a way of building trust to do that. With World Vision, we witnessed numerous people receiving help, in the name of Jesus, just because they needed help. Our “guide” was obviously well-known and loved by all he came into contact with. The love of Jesus was obvious in every interaction.
We were excited to be able to make a donation to them at the end of the day, but they would accept nothing. I wanted to fight this (we all knew the organization was run by donation, after all), but they seemed to feel that it was important that their time was a “free” gift to us, as a reflection of their gratitude for our interest. We thanked them profusely before ending an incredibly blessed, eye-opening, heart-changing day with World Vision. Our undercover investigation proved World Vision to far surpass our greatest expectations, through the power and grace of Jesus. We are thankful.
The video below was created by World Vision in the exact area we were in - we even met one of the men in the video! It's a great taste of the blessing just the alpacas are to the communities.