Thursday, 25 August 2011

Laura Flores

Wednesday pm:
A pretty name; “Laura Flowers” for a place that you could never describe as pretty. It is hard to put into words what Laura Flores is like. It is built on a rubbish dump. The houses do not have access to running water. People have tin roofs, bare concrete walls and not much else. Today I went there to work with some 4 year olds. Today was quite a struggle. I went feeling tired and a bit emotional. Laura Flores is physically, spiritually and emotionally challenging. I was mid-session working on colours with about 6 kids (and some 7-9 year olds who seem to want to join in too) I had 4 coloured pieces of card on the table, which I was holding down with my elbows and with my hands, trying to stop the children from hitting each other and grabbing the card.
“Rojo” (red) I said to one child, expecting them to find the colour, to which they found green. With tears in my eyes, I paused and wondered if I had not explained this well, whether the child just didn’t know the colours or if I should just give up and go home! Wiping my eyes, pausing to smile at the child, I realised we had done enough for the day. We got through the session and even though I didn’t feel I did a good job, I think they had fun.
On reflection, these children aren’t going to learn their colours from sitting working at the table. They need to be outside, exploring and learning the names of different colours, through experience. I would love to take them to the park, look at the green grass, the orange flowers, see the colours of the birds and ducks and talk about it. These children haven’t had these experiences or will have the opportunity. They live in a small community, which only has houses with metal roofs, grey concrete walls and dirt track roads. How am I supposed to teach them colours when their home, town and experiences seem to be colourless?


Ok, today has been boiling hot. I’m not actually sure if it has been all that hot or if I have just felt it more! My friend Victoria is poorly at the moment. She has Typhoid and so is feeling cold. She is wrapped up in a fleece. Every time I go into her room I make sure she has the windows open, for some fresh air. Our supervisor is poorly too and in contrast, every time she visits Victoria, she makes sure the windows are closed to avoid a draft! Poor Victoria doesn’t know what to do!
I have rushed around today. After school in the morning I headed off to work in the other school. I had packed my rucksack full of papers and therapy activities and toys/games like any good Speech Therapist and headed off to school. I walked fast to make my walk purposeful and walked right past the school. I was looking for the glass door but realised that I had walked too far. On my return the school was shut, shutters down and everything! It was closed for the day and I hadn’t been told. Never mind! That used to happen in England too. So I dashed off to buy some more school T shirts to find I had to come back later, so I killed some time and checked the post box (which was sadly empty) and went back to get my t shirts. By this point I was boiling. I had to go and explain what kind of t shirts I wanted to this lady and all the time I was thinking about how I could cool down! I wondered if I could go and buy a drink and stand with the fridge door open for a bit. Or would the shop keeper notice if I actually got in the fridge, or even the freezer! So after ordering some t-shirts (hoping I have got the right size and design) I headed home thinking about how I wish I could jump in the sea or the swimming pool near my house. Would the swimming lessons be really that interrupted if I just jumped in, fully clothed and got straight out again! Or just hose me down with the hose pipe, or a bucket of water will do! I eventually made it home to a nice refreshing shower!

Friday, 19 August 2011


I have found joy in my work. It is so great to work hard, doing what I love and realising what joy it is to do a job that I really love. My work here is so varied, no 2 days are ever the same, I live in expectation of the next challenge and I never really know what surprises will come my way! Life is exciting!

End of the week

What a week! Wednesday morning my poorly friend went for a blood test and I worked at the school. It was a challenging morning. I worked with one little girl, doing some sewing with her. Bless her, the task was quite challenging as she has very limited fine motor skills. She flatly refused help from me but I wanted her to finish the task, and so, ignoring the amount of times she stuck her tongue out at me, the 2 of us and the sewing needle finally finished the task! Hooray! I then had the whole motorbike surprise and also found out my friend has Typhoid, which is treatable with the right medication. We are blessed to be able to afford the good medication, see a good doctor and go to a good clean clinic for tests. Many people here do not have that privilege and without treatment, suffer awful symptoms and it can be life threatening.
Thursday came and I pottered into town and headed to a birthday party in the afternoon! Things are just never how you expect! I saw how this group of women had fun playing party games. I ended up singing a song in front of everyone, in English (as I did not know any Spanish ones) and later found out people thought I was German and sang them a German song! Surprisingly I wasn’t that embarrassed, like I would have been if it was in England. I don’t sing very well and do not sing in front of many people, however, I think I am getting over being embarrassed and getting used to being challenged!
Friday I worked in the school in the morning and now as I write this, I am looking forward to going to the beach for the day tomorrow to visit a short term mission team. I am looking forward to seeing the sea and having a busy day. One of my good friends is getting married on Saturday and I am sad not to be there so I want to be busy. I’m sad to miss her big day and celebrate with her. Sad not to be able to give her a hug, catch up with friends and laugh with them. However, I am actually very happy here.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Half way through the week:

This week is definitely going to be one of those significant ones. It is only Wednesday and there is so much to share!
Tuesday started fairly normally but in the afternoon I didn’t work and spent the time with my friend who is poorly. It is hard to know what to do or say, but I always think, just being there and doing little things for them is helpful. We had a trip out to the English doctor and I enjoyed a nice swim in the evening. (Although I spent the whole hour avoiding talking to the teacher because I knew he would make me swim butterfly and I don’t like doing it!) Wednesday came and was the usual busy morning in the school and at the end of the morning I sorted out my lift to Laura Flores. It turned out I was being picked up and we would go on a motorbike! I have never liked motorbikes. I don’t know why. I flatly refuse to ever go on one and don’t think they are safe. I can throw myself out of a plane to do a skydive or parachute off a cliff but I was more scared about going on the back of the bike! I could have got out of it, taken the easy option and got a bus or taxi but if I always take the easy way out, I don’t think I will experience new things or grow. So I did it… hopped on the back of the motorbike, burnt my leg on the exhaust pipe and headed off to Laura Flores. I knew I wasn’t in England when I sat on this bike, with an old helmet, the sun beating down on me, dodging in-between buses and yellow taxis and getting dirt and dust in my face. I survived and got to Laura Flores. That place still has an effect on me. In a funny sort of way I am pleased. I don’t want to grow hard hearted and not see the hardship and poverty that is there. Last week I cam home feeling dirty, this week I literally was dirty!

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Is it really only Monday!?

Monday evening:
I can’t believe it is only the start of the week! It feels like it should be Friday! I went to an Ecuadorian wedding at the weekend which was so much fun, but tiring! It was the daughter of the family I live with. It gave such an insight into the Ecuadorian culture, emphasising to me Ecuadorian time keeping when the bride turned up at 4:45pm for a 3pm wedding! She wasn’t the only late one… most of the guests had only just arrived at that time!
Sunday was a nice day at church, celebrating the churches birthday and an afternoon with the family. Monday came all too quickly! We had a lot of family staying with us over the past week and some of them were leaving to go home that day and I asked at what time. They were going at 11am so I reassured them I would be home by 10:30, during breaktime in school, to say goodbye. By the time I got home at 10:40 they had already gone. I was so upset. I don’t know why it had so much of an effect on me. I knew I probably wouldn’t ever see them again. The whole rest of the day the feelings of missing people were really close to the surface. I returned to school with tears in my eyes but you can’t help but smile when working with children, especially the special ones I am working with. Today was a really positive day for so many of them; achieving new things, being co-operative/doing what was asked of them or working well as a group. After lunch I set off to work in another school. I got a taxi as I was short of time and in hindsight, I think I was really rude to the driver… poor man! It really wasn’t his fault, I think I was just a bit sensitive and he caught some of the brunt of it! He didn’t know where the church/school was and he kept talking about something that I just didn’t understand. I did the whole, “say it slowly and loudly and hope he will understand thing” and kept repeating the name of the church! Fortunately I was with my friend and after trying to understand I just said to her “I don’t understand what he is saying” and she dealt with him calmly! I think he was new to the area, didn’t know where he was going and we ended up having a magical mystery tour of Santo… not what I wanted when I was short on time! Anyway, the afternoon was full of working with other children in another school and a set of twins in particular who have real potential. Their mum said they struggled to say their “r” and “l” sounds but once I heard them talking, I was so shocked. They don’t use any sounds except vowels! They say the right amount of syllables and use the correct intonation but that’s all. For example the word “carro” for “car” would be said as “ah-oh” I have a challenge on my hands to get them speaking but I am excited by that!
The day was rounded off with a swim in the recently cleaned pool (which doesn’t seem to happen often) and I carry on with the rest of my week!

Friday, 12 August 2011


Wednesday evening
I feel really tired and weak. My hands are dirty, I am really hot and I really need to take a shower and to change my clothes. I have worked hard today. It has been the kind of day that I have really got my hands dirty-literally. I have had children clamber all over me, got jelly down me, whilst helping a child in school eat her snack and my trousers are visibly dusty. I have been sat on the floor, working at a table with 12 children, in a small, concrete room, with no air or electricity. There wasn’t a tiled floor, painted walls or clean windows- there wasn’t even any windows. Today I worked in the school in the morning, quickly stopped for lunch and then set off to work in Laura Flores with some preschool children. Their mothers have a bible study class in the afternoon and I work with some of their children. Some have got really poor attention and listening skills, others struggle to say some sounds in their words and others have poor language and do not say very much. They struggle to keep up with what there are learning in their classes in the mornings. So I arrived, not knowing how many children I would be working with, but realising this was Ecuador and nothing ever turns out how you think it will turn out. I had packed a bag full of toys and set off for the afternoon! Laura Flores is a very interesting place. I say interesting because it is hard to put it into words. Each time I go it has an effect on me. It drains me physically and emotionally. I realise how fortunate I am. I am reminded how much I have and how blessed I was throughout my childhood and how many opportunities I had. It reminds me not to take so much for granted. It brings me back down to earth. I used to complain about an old clinic I used to work in within the UK. This clinic was a very old NHS building and actually now the Speech therapists don’t work their anymore. It was quite a depressing building. However, it was far nicer than the building I was in today. But that didn’t seem to matter to me. I was so focused on the children and the time just passed by so fast. I realised I switched off from all of my worries, thinking of my plans for the future and all the things I need to do when I get back to the house. I was totally focused on the children; Learning their names, getting to know them, informally assessing their skills, working out what kind of things we could be working on next time. I am not saying I was overly confident in myself. Not at all. It was a real example of God working through my weaknesses. I was working on my own with 12 children, some of whom have additional needs, I was talking in Spanish, in a hot airless concrete dark room. At one point I even had a baby in my arms and I wondered if I had just started up a crèche service rather than providing some therapy! It was a real challenge and I am pleased that God helped me and that I can be a witness that God totally works through our weaknesses.


I love it when you look into someone’s eyes and you can see that they are smiling. I worked with a child in school this week, who can be quite handful. During an assessment, she looked up from the assessment book, and smiled through her eyes. She made me smile, laugh even. She had something special in her eyes. She is a real character. You know when she is in school and the (quiet) days when she is not there. She often arrives with un-brushed hair, her shoes in her bag and dirty clothes from the day before. I love the fact that the school offers her some sort of consistency. There are people who want to help her learn, teach her life skills and guide her in learning the difference between right and wrong. When she is testing my patience, I will always try to look into her smiling eyes and remember that even though I can’t have a very good conversation with her, I can love her and try to be Jesus to her.

Special Branch

Today I was blessed with a surprise package in the post. As I opened it up, out came lots of multicoloured drawings and messages from the Special Branch (Sunday School) children in my home church. It was such a joy to read them and to be reassured that I was being prayed for, by them. The children asked me questions and reminded me of lots of truths for example: “God is with you wherever you go”. I got lots of pictures of rainbows, as a reminder that God keeps his promises.
I feel very blessed today.


People will forget what you say,
And people will forget what you do
But people will never forget the way you make them feel


Facebook is really insightful. From people’s profile status, you get a glimpse into their lives. It is crazy how much you can learn from it and how much is going on in people’s lives. How did we live without it!? I have learnt that a friend is getting the keys to her house, another writes about the shocking riots happening in her town and the effects of the aftermath, another is celebrating their recent marriage and others counting down the days until theirs. One writes about what their child has just done and another asking for prayer for a sick friend. One is advertising a gig they are holding and another celebrating the return home from a camping holiday.

I wonder what I could update my status to??
“…Off to an Ecuadorian wedding this weekend”
“…Helped a child to learn the difference between good and not good behaviours in school”
“…Taught a child the difference between 2 speech sounds”
 “…Received some lovely surprises from England”
“…Had to wear a jumper in Santo Domingo!!!!!!!”
“…Helped children learn some colours by throwing balls into a plastic bag”
“…Overwhelmed by kindness and generosity I have received from the Ecuadorians that I came to serve”

Yes or no

I frequently do not understand everything that is said to be in Spanish. I have to rely on knowing the general gist of the conversation, peoples expressions and tone of voice. I get by. I make mistakes and do mis-understand but I get by. The funniest/most challenging times are when people ask me a question and expect a “yes” or “no” answer! I pause to think, take a deep breath and with my 50/50 chance… I spurt out an answer and wait… wait to see what my answer will bring. Have I agreed to something I will later regret!? Have I just turned down dinner!? Have I said I would go somewhere I don’t want to go!? Welcome to my World of surprises!

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Hopes and dreams

I often think about the future and dream about where I will be and what I will be doing. I have lots of things I would like to do and achieve and make a positive difference in the World. I dream big. Very often they are unachievable dreams to be honest. They involve changing the World. I made a 5 year plan with a few friends, 4 years ago and have not got any closer to achieving it! This is just one example of something I have planned to do and it obviously doesn’t fit into God’s timing. I have learnt I can’t tell God what to do and when to do it. His plan is far more supreme than my plans and his timing is far better than my timings. I wonder why I am here now. Sometimes it is hard to understand and sometimes, I would like to be in another place BUT knowing deep down that you have surrendered to God and are somewhere that you should be is a very secure feeling.

“Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this.”
Psalm 37 v 4-5


Today I drove past some cocoa plantations. It was really great to see the growing bean. I had not seen it before. It made me think of the process of it getting from the plantations in Ecuador, all the way to England and the many hands that would have been involved in the process. I have been to the Cadburys factory in Birmingham and seen what happens to the beans and how they turn into the World famous Cadburys Dairy Milk, which is well loved! It was really cool. I don’t know why it excited me so much and made me keep thinking about it. I wonder how much the farmers get paid? I wonder if the people who handle the beans are treated well? Do they have good/reliable jobs? How long does it take for the beans to go from trees in Ecuador to become a bar of chocolate? How can I make a positive influence in this process? Will buying Fairtrade help to ensure that the farmers and workers get a fair wage?  So many questions but one thing I know for sure, chocolate just isn’t as nice here as it is in the UK!

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

In Ecuador

I literally just had a thought... I am actually in Ecuador! It kind of shocked me, surprised me, made me smile and I didn’t feel worried by it! I am pleased to be here.

Santo Domingo routine

Let me give you an insight into what my week vaguely looks like here in Santo Domingo, contrasted with how it would be in England. Obviously every day is different here and plans, if made at all, are loose plans. Things often never work out as you think they will and time runs on “Ecuadorian time”

Monday 7am:
England: Wake up, have some cereal or museli for breakfast, drive to work in my car.
Ecuador: Wake up, have breakfast: broad beans with scrambled egg or soft boiled eggs with a cheese toastie, with a fruit smoothie. Walk to school, across the road for an 8am start.

Tuesday 2:30pm
England: Following my sandwich for lunch, I continue working through the afternoon
Ecuador: Following my main meal for the day of soup followed by anything with rice (chicken, tuna salad, avocado or fish) I would walk to the school attached to the Baptist church. I walk along one of the main roads into Santo Domingo. It is hot, humid, cloudy and there is a lot of pollution from the cars. Once in town, I walk past many people on the pavements selling jewellery or food they have made. (I long for a nice cool swim in the sea, but I know I would have to take at least a 2 hour bus journey to get there.)I hope to spend the afternoons providing some speech and language therapy to some of the school children and helping to improve their attention and listening skills.

Wednesday 9pm
England: Watching TV, talking to a friend on the phone, writing emails
Ecuador: Driving in the mini bus, dropping people home from the Prayer meeting at church

Thursday 7pm:
England: Going to a bible study or for a walk in the evening or just watching TV!
Ecuador: Going for a swimming lesson, in the outdoor pool. Before this i would have spent the afternoon working with a few orphaned children, supporting them with their speech and language.

Friday 10am
England: Working.
Ecuador: Start of break time in the school. The children have a short playtime outside followed by a snack inside. Following this I will either do some 1:1 assessments with the children or help them in class.

11am Sunday
England: Church. Most people tend to arrive for the start of the service.
Ecuador: Church service starts at 11. People are relaxed about what time they arrive for the service.  Following church, lunch with the extended family here and a free afternoon (which is a good time for Skype)

Good and bad times:

August 1st

There have definitely been more good days than bad days for me here in Ecuador. I have loved being in this country. It certainly isn’t a place I would have chosen to live but I think most of the time I enjoy being here because I feel so sure I am meant to be here now. I feel encouraged by friends and family at home and I am enjoying getting stuck into my work and getting to know the children and people from church.
Last week I have a week off school and so I went to the beach with 2 English friends. It was so nice to go and have a little break and go to the beach. The little town was very beautiful and the sea was lovely. We did some exciting things like seeing the whales and doing a parachute jump off a cliff, over the sea. (You can see some videos/photos on my facebook page)

I definitely felt relaxed after the week off! I thought a lot about the place we visited. It was so laid back, life was very simple there and the people who lived/worked there all knew each other well. I wondered if I would like to live there as it is so nice! I came back here, back to work and a normal routine. It felt a little boring in comparison. However I came to the conclusion that I am the most happiest when I know I am in the right place, working hard, doing what I love. I think that is working with children with special needs and I want to do everything well to glorify God.
Colossians 3 v 17
“And WHATEVER you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus”
This Sunday was a really up and down day. I didn’t have a very nice walk to church and ended up getting to church with tears in my eyes, trying my hardest to fight them away. Once I arrived at church I was greeted by a group of 20 or so Americans who were visiting, doing a short term mission trip for week, encouraging our church. They were all so full of energy, life and excitement. They had been working alongside the church here and definitely brought a lot of enthusiasm. They were exactly what I needed that day! They were all so excited by everything Ecuadorian; things that I have begun to take for granted here. I went with them to visit a shanty town and they shared some of what God has done for them and then played some football with the children and adults. It brought a lot of fun and happiness into that place and it was great to see all the families there together.
I guess life is full of ups and downs but through it I really do want to try to live out Colossians 3 v 17, doing everything to glorify God.

Communication breakdown! 18.7.11

So today I had a funny example of a communication breakdown! Fortunately it didn’t make me feel sad, like other times when I have not understood or people have not had the time or patience to explain something to me!
Today I was going to meet the director of a school, attached to the church. I thought we had arranged that I would meet with her to discuss what Speech Therapy is and that after the holidays I would work with the children. So I arrived and met her and then it was soon explained to me that I had 6-8 children to see! I wasn’t expected to assess them, just get to know them! Eek! I wasn’t prepared but I did my usual thing of saying, “Yes that’s fine, no problem!” when I was thinking, “I don’t know what to say” I didn’t have the time to think about it, too much, fortunately!
It was a real example of TOTALLY relying on God!
So I saw the kids, worked out some of their problems. I didn’t understand everything but I understood the main parts. Some children I know how I can help them and others are just a bit tricky! Some have Autism, or difficulties with tongue and mouth movements, some have short attention spans and poor memory. Some are simpler e.g. those with difficulties saying certain sounds but our slightly different to our sounds. 
What a funny afternoon and even funnier, I am going back for more tomorrow!