Monday, April 7, 2008

By Nicole Duciaume, Documentation and Sponsorship Support Officer

Our plane circled the mountains and volcanoes before delicately descending into the Quito Valley in Ecuador late Tuesday night. The flight was seamless but immigration/customs were as expected, complete with long lines and weary travelers. As you can imagine, when you emerge from the airport doors, there is nothing more reassuring than seeing a familiar face. In our case it was the Ecuadorian Sponsor Relations Manager, Zoraya, who made the late drive to the airport to greet us.

For the first time in CCF history, a select group of sponsor relations managers from all of the ChildFund alliance members gathered to discuss key issues. Topics included programming, best practices with children’s participation and how to best engage supporters in the lives of the children, the communities and the countries themselves.

CCF is a member of ChildFund Alliance, a group of global, developmental child sponsorship organizations. Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Japan, Korea, New Zealand, Sweden and CCF International in Richmond, Va. make up the alliance.

Prior to the meeting, myself and Margaret (a colleague from Richmond) arrived in Ecuador to assist with last minute preparations as well as an orientation with the communities.

The first morning we gathered to meet at the National Office. After a brief introduction to the entire National Office team, we delved straight away into the meeting agenda discussion. In just one week, it is very difficult to find the balance between community visits, directed presentations and open discussions. It is also very difficult to balance ample information satisfying all questions without packing the agenda so tightly that the participants are exhausted from information overload.

Though we worked into the early evening on general preparations, the clear highlight of the day was that it ended at a soccer game with Carlos Montúfar, the National Director. It was an Ecuadorian professional team (Liga) against an Argentine team (Arsenal) to move into the second round of a Latin American tournament called the Liberation Cup. For anyone who has not been to a soccer game in Ecuador (or most Latin American countries, for that matter) the sights, sounds, emotions and energy is nearly inexplicable and practically beyond words.

There is an entire percussion section set up behind one goal that swings and dances along with thousands of fans chanting, singing, running up and down the stands after every goal. Your eyes dart between the field and the stands, equally mesmerized and transfixed by both the games and the supporters. We quickly became fans of the home team: L – I – G – A! LIGA, LIGA, LIGA!!!!! It wasn’t hard to support them, as they handily defeated Arsenal 6-1.

Though the game was exciting and the perfect cap to the first full day in Ecuador, the game itself was not necessarily the highlight of the soccer experience. As we watched the game, the National Director pointed out one player in particular. He played defense on the left side and was quite skilled. Not one attacker breezed by him and he won just about every contest, header and sprint to the ball. He played with passion and commitment. His name is Diego and he is a former CCF enrolled child. We spoke with the National Director about reaching out to Diego and encouraging him to serve as an inspiration to currently enrolled children. Hopefully that will be a future endeavor of the office…to let Diego speak to the children and spread the word of hope and pride in his accomplishments and his enrollment.

Soon, I hope to share more information on Diego.

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