Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Gary Duncan, Assistant Director of Marketing

Our Study Tour group to Ecuador arrived in Quito late at night after a long delay in Atlanta. Seems there was more luggage on the plane than identified passengers and airline officials had to match each piece of luggage with each passenger on board the plane---we sat in the hot, humid plane for almost two hours before getting clearance to take off for Ecuador. Almost six hours later, we landed in Quito---a small airport that was built right in the middle of the city and surrounded by multi-story buildings. With the TAM Airline crash in Sao Paulo, Brazil, it is not hard to imagine the same thing could happen here.

Our CCF-Ecuador staff was waiting for us at the airport and we were quickly cleared through customs and on our way to the hotel. Immediately, my body could feel the affects of being in a city that is almost 10,000 ft. above sea level---there would be no climbing stairs tonight! I had urged the sponsors to bring altitude medication and several of them needed it immediately.

On Tuesday, we were welcomed to the CCF-Ecuador National Office by the National Director and staff. They presented an excellent overview of CCF programs in Ecuador and generously answered every question asked by sponsors. We had just finished breakfast an hour before arriving at this office, but coffee, juices, sandwiches, and cakes were waiting for our consumption and digestion. Eating during a Study Tour is an obligation, not an option.

Sponsors were very impressed by the program visits that day to rural communities in the Andes. CCF-Ecuador has very impressive programs in micro-credit, early childhood education, and health-sanitation services. At each stop, we were warmly welcomed by the parents committees that actually administer the programs in a truly rural community development process that allows the community to decide the priorities for their children and village.

Ecuador is the leading grower and exporter of roses in the world, and CCF has been instrumental in help poor farmers start rose and carnation production farms. These local farms have brought new vitality and income to communities that have high unemployment and the consequences of poverty primarily impacts young children. Our sponsor group was very impressed by these programs and wanted to know how they could invest in helping rural families establish more self-help businesses.

We leave this morning for the Galapagos and for more discoveries about the beautiful country of Ecuador.

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