Lead Adventure’s childcare program is unique in that it is located next to a trash dump in Quito, Ecuador’s capital city. While the parents work at the dump during the day, volunteers and staff ensure that their children are given proper care.
This center is actually fairly new; it was opened by a larger non-profit organization in 2006. Besides ensuring that the workers at the trash dump have a safe place for their children to go, the organization also provides tutoring, club programs, and more. The childcare center is also fully funded by donations from people who really want to see it succeed and grow.
Because of the center’s east-side location, it takes about 45 minutes to get there. But luckily, Quito’s bus system is fairly convenient and cheap, so you only have to pay 25 cents for each ride. After that, volunteers work from 8:30 AM to 1:30 PM, leaving the afternoons and weekends free to explore all of Quito’s interesting sites.
The main thing that I liked about the center was that it wasn’t overcrowded with foreign volunteers. A huge issue that people often consider before volunteering abroad is the fact that it’s not always done ethically. However, here there is quite a decent balance between volunteers and their Ecuadorian staff. During the high season, they generally receive eight to ten volunteers while during the low season they have about four to five. Their staff has around seven people including a part-time pediatrician, two chefs, three teachers, and the coordinator. I appreciated the fact that they had plenty of workers on their staff to give the children professional care and stability.
Throughout the day, the staff and volunteers had specific activities planned, which were based on the children’s age group. While the younger children did simple tasks, such as identify which toys were yellow, the older children were doing activities such as matching pictures together on a board. What was said on the brochure was true; the daycare center wasn’t only about giving the children somewhere to go while their parents worked. They were also receiving a basic preschool education while they were there. However, despite the apparent simplicity of the lessons, the teachers were always there to help. Because of this, it didn’t seem as though there was too much pressure on the volunteers.
The building itself was fairly nondescript and isn’t too big, giving it a cozy atmosphere and making it difficult for any children to get lost. A couple of children tried to wander off a few times but they were quickly found and reined back in. There is also an inner courtyard where they could play games safely. Because the center is so close to the trash dump, I thought that it wouldn’t be possible for the children to get any time outside. But having this inner courtyard was the perfect way for them to get some air in a safe environment.
Inside, you walk into a large room with small parts sectioned off so that the children could have their own spaces for the different activities. The organized groups of high chairs and cribs showed that they center was well prepared to care for children of all different age groups. In the back, there is another room where children take their lessons.
The children are given lunch in the afternoon in addition to their two snacks. There wasn’t any prepackaged chips or pizza rolls here; the center’s amazing cooks made fresh food in the kitchen that even made me hungry.
The roles of the volunteers were fairly simple: help out with all of these tasks. This ranged anywhere from singing songs with the children to helping them clean up. They all seemed to be content with their role and seemed to have a lot of fun playing with the children. After all, with about 50 children attending the daycare center in total, there’s plenty of work to go around.