By Jacqui Smith
Living in Estero de Platano, Ecuador is definitely the simplest way of living. There is no cell service or internet. Only one person in the town owns a car. For the past six weeks there has been no running wáter and on most days no electricity. Everyone bathes and washes their clothes and dishes in the local river. And life is great. The poverty here is very real and often extreme, but people manage to keep themselves happy and busy through cooking, gossiping, fishing, playing soccer, and just living on the most beautiful and picturesque virgin beach.
Despite the intense poverty, the simplicity to the ways of life, and extreme illiteracy and lack of education throughout the majority of the town, Estero is definitely developing and changing for the better. And fast. Adults are attending night classes and learning how to read and do basic math. Kids are excited to go to school. In town, I teach both English and art clases, and in my free time I help tutor numerous children with reading and math. This is the first generation where the majority of teenagers are attending and graduating from high school (my host sister graduates this week!). A health center was recently established with a doctor, a dentist, and two nurses. More and more tourists are coming on the weekends and holidays, inviting great work and monetary opportunities for artisans and cooking groups. I am working with a local artisan to sell his exquisite jewelry to the tourists as well as back in the US and at Union. On weekends, I help the women´s cooking group sell their food to the many incoming tourists. The people here understand the importance of working hard and invite the help of others.
Not only are things here changing and developing fast, but the youth are motivated with great ideas for the future of their town. I recently painted the Biblioteca (library where the youth often meet) with a myriad of goals that the Grupo de Jóvenes (youth group) had written out for their community. These wishes include more books in Spanish, cell and internet service, a cleaner beach, better teachers in the primary school, a reliable trash system, and more.
Change is slow, and sometimes it feels even slower, but the people here are gaining esteem and working hard to help better their own community. I have complete confidence and pride in the people of Estero de Platano, and cannot wait to watch and help with the continuing progress and development of this beautiful town.
To read more about Jacqui’s’s experience in Ecuador, follow her blog at jacqui-en-estero.