Semillas de Mostoza (Mustard Seed) and Manos Abiertas (Open Hands) After School Programs (ASPs) have for many years been a defining ministry of our community in Durán. These programs provide a healthy, safe and positive learning environment for over 150 of Durán’s most impoverished children. They have also been a favorite place for our retreat groups to come to know our neighbors. Semillas de Mostazajust a few blocks from the Arbolito Volunteer and Retreat House while Manos Abiertas is located across Durán in one of the city’s most neglected communities, 28 de Agosto. Each program provides tutoring and homework help, recreation, and a healthy snack. RdC volunteers serve as facilitators of these programs, usually 2 volunteers per site along with an Ecuadorian staff member.
Casa Padre Damien (Damien House) is a hospital and ‘house of dignity’ for people who live with Hansen’s Disease (leprosy). Sr. Annie Credidio, BVM, a religious sister originally from Brooklyn, founded the hospital. RdC volunteers spend time with patients listening, talking, playing games, doing crafts, organizing events, and hosting visiting retreat groups. They also assist the Damien House in an administrative capacity, including helping to design the newsletters and providing technical support.
Fundación Vida Digna (Life of Dignity Foundation) is run by Sr. Fanny Bolaños Suarez, a Santa Mariana Sisters from Ecuador in an area on the outskirts Durán called Una Sola Fuerza. Like Arbolito and Mount Sinai, Una Sola Fuerza is an under-resourced community of immigrants. The center has a holistic approach emphasizing a healthy mind, body and spirit, and especially supports women and youth. They offer exercise classes, prayer and meditation, a nutrition program, and a variety of holistic health care to people who would otherwise not be able to afford these services. RdC volunteers have worked at the center supporting the holistic health activities and currently help facilitate Semillitas, an afternoon tutoring and homework help for local children.
Hogar de Cristo (Christ’s House) is one of the largest nonprofits in South America. It is Jesuit organization that brings resources and training to impoverished and marginal communities, especially women and children. Located in Mount Sinai, Hogar de Cristo offers various programs including providing low income housing to families in need and a micro financing program that serves over 4000 women. RdC volunteers serve or have served in various outreach projects including community organizing, pastoral formation, and public health outreach.
Casa Acogida (Shelter) is a shelter for women and children escaping domestic abuse and in need of a safe secure home for a few weeks or months. An outreach our partner Hogar de Cristo the Casa has about 10 families living in it at any given time, including 25-30 children. The women participate in different workshops gaining new skills and building self-esteem. Two RdC volunteers serve at the shelter tutoring the children, running various activities for the clients, and providing a pastoral presence.
Escuela San Felipe Neri (St. Philip Neri School) is a primary school opened in 2009 in Mount Sinai just a few blocks from the volunteer community. Run by St. Phillip Neri Sisters from Colombia it serves 210 students in grades Kindergarten through 7. RdC volunteers have served as teachers in English and Computer classes and supported other various activities at the school including tutoring and administration.
Proyecto Salesiano Refuerzo Escolar (Tutoring/Homework Help) is an after-school program run by the Salesians. Located in Voluntad de Dios, a community very close to Mount Sinai, the program serves children who are at risk of living on the streets. Many participants have been in and out of school, have worked on the streets themselves or have siblings who have. RdC volunteers assist running the program, which provides homework help, workshops, recreation, and a snack. They also have opportunities to assist in home visits to do outreach with the parents and assess the living situations of the children. Most of the children who attend come from Mt. Sinai and the surrounding invasion communities. During school vacation two other RdC volunteers joined the program to assist a vacation summer camp.
Parroquia Nuestra Señora Virgen de Perpetuo Socorro
This parish is in the heart of Arbolito and has grown from a local chapel to a fully functioning parish with many active church groups. RdC volunteers actively participate in the parish through these groups including the choir, youth group, Caritas (a social services program), and the many events and celebrations within the community.
Parroquia Bautismo de Jesus
RdC’s main partner in Monte Sinaí is the Catholic Church, where volunteers participate in prayer groups, work in the parish, serve in music ministry, and teach catechism in one of the parish chapels.