Almost there…

Thursday, July 26th, 2012


The Las Mercedes English class

Over the past few weeks, several visitors have arrived in Huaquillas to volunteer.  Jairon and Ana were students of mine at Hawaii-Pacific University, and they arrived in early July to help out in various aspects of the project.  They leave in a couple of days but everyone is sad to see them go, particularly the kids of the Las Mercedes elementary school who woke up everyday excited to work with them in their classes.  For this blog, we have the pleasure of sharing some brief remarks that Jairon and Ana have would like to share with everyone regarding their experiences:


Jairon and Ana, the newlyweds, enjoying some amazing tortilla de yucca at Sra. Carmen’s house.

After graduating from Hawaii-Pacific University, my wife and I wanted to put the academic life aside and celebrate our achievement, for that reason we came to Ecuador to visit some family and enjoy the wonders this country has to offer to the world. After traveling around the country, we met with Professor Dana and visited the Las Mercedes Community. While at HPU we had the chance to work and learn about the community through our Sociology practicum, and now that we are here in Las Mercedes everything makes more sense.  I clearly understand that development does not come from ideas in a textbook, but from the willingness of the people to create better days. In Las Mercedes, we worked as English and gym instructors, we also went door by door taking surveys about the economic situation of Las Mercedes, and we even had the opportunity to contribute to the construction of the health center that will open soon. After all that hard work, we ended up with more than we expected to receive from the community; new friends, new experiences, a stronger understanding of world societies, and the satisfaction of having contributed to making this planet a little more joyful for new generations.

— Jairon Jarrin


Coach Jairon with the 6th grade class from the Las Mercedes basic school.

From the time Professor Dana invited me to come to Las Mercedes, he warned me that this community had a lot of needs, but he affirmed that help of any kind would be greatly appreciated. I decided to come to Las Mercedes with my husband to get to know the community and help in any way we could. A couple days later after getting to know several people and watching them working in their own projects, Professor Dana suggested that I could help by giving English classes to the children and helping out at the local elementary school. After interacting with the children and talking to the school’s principal, I felt a great sense of appreciation. I feel people in Las Mercedes have been very open and welcoming to me and my husband and have taught me that even with very little resources there is always hope if the community is willing to unite and work together.  Therefore, I would say that my experience in Las Mercedes has been a mixture of hard work and satisfaction.

–Ana Figueroa-Jarrin


Jairon and Ana stretching out the kindergarten class before exercising.

The Health Center Construction Progress

One of the Ecuadorian expressions that I have learned over the past few years that always seems to be relevant to everything that we do here is “poco a poco,” which basically means “little by little.”  Without a doubt, this has become our motto for the health center construction.  As an American, my culture has drilled into me the idea that time is money and everything must be done as completed as quickly as possible or all else is simply lost.  In Ecuador, and in Latin America in general, there is a quite a different concept of time, which can be a very refreshing approach to say the least but also this philosophy of how time flows can be incredibly frustrating and stressful at certain moments.  I can recall a countless amount of times where we, those pesky and annoying Americans, have borderline harassed people on a daily basis waiting for what seems like an eternity to receive an answer, response, or sometimes just an acknowledgement of some sort.  But, to our surprise, Ecuadorians rarely become annoyed, angered or act out by refusing to participate, do business with us, or by telling us to get lost.  I certainly couldn’t see myself having so much patience.  In fact, what is particularly surprising is that they often respect the fact that we simply refuse to give up.


The installation of the health center water pump. We have water flowing now!

In order to reciprocate, we attempt to put aside our “time is money” concept for the most part and carry out similar practices.  In this sense, we treat our Ecuadorian amigos and familia with respect, patience, and care with the aim of always looking to solve the issue and reach an agreement instead of allowing the “ugly American” to creep out as our frustration and anger takes over.   In all, the reciprocity and mutuality that we have practiced certainly has been tough but this type of empathetic approach based in humility, sensitivity, and understanding has created the path for the building of a new world where seemingly opposing cultural beliefs and ideas are able to work harmoniously to reach places where so many people thought we would never arrive.  With this approach in hand, we have surpassed a tremendous amount of barriers over the past year and we have now reached the final phase of the health center construction!  All that remains is the painting and beautification of the building – perhaps the most enjoyable part – that will take a few weeks to complete.  So without going on for much longer, I simply want to share an assortment of pictures that depict the progress of the construction over the past several weeks.  Thank you for all of your support and soon our dream will become a reality!


The sun setting in Las Mercedes.


We decided on the “orangsicle” color for the inside of the health center.


After digging the holes, the next step for the health center enclosure was to put up all of the pillars. There are 24 in all. This is a slow process as you can see.


Once the pillars were in place, the blocks were laid one by one. This is all such labor intensive work in the hot sun of Huaquillas.


Every day we advanced just a little bit more…


Along the sides and for the front of the enclosure only the bottom portion has traditional blocks. For the upper portion of the walls we used what they call “claraboya” in order to provide some light and make it look a lot more “bonito.”


The front of the health center will have two doors: One for vehicles (ambulance) and another for the patients.


The front of the health center before the doors were installed.

The main gate for the health center where an ambulance, car or truck can enter.

The entrance for the patients.

The only step remaining for the enclosure is to paint it!




About lasmercedesproject

The Las Mercedes Project is a grassroots organization with the aim of creating social justice in the field of health care in the city of Huaquillas, Ecuador through a democratic, inclusive and participatory community based health care program.
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