Ted Eldridge, Teaching with Love in Ecuador

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Teaching with Love in Ecuador

Christ Church member and lifelong educator, Ted Eldridge has spent all of this school year teaching in Ecuador. Christ Church recently made a donation to the organization Ted works for as a thanksgiving for Ted's ministry and presence there. Below is a report from Ted about his work with students in Ecuador.

I remember a motivational speaker sharing wisdom gained through his experience: It takes five positives to offset a negative in life. He was speaking specifically about children and their treatment by the adults in their lives.  

I have been serving as a teacher volunteer at a small school in Ecuador since February 2017. Casa Victoria is supported by donations only and is free to children in the neighborhood that surrounds the old Spanish hacienda. In my Skype interview for this opportunity, I asked how, in addition to teaching English, I might help. “You will be a positive male role model, something unknown to most of our kids,” was the response.   

My 56 students, ages five to thirteen, live rough lives, with few, if any, strong adult role models.   Swirling around them in this poverty stricken section of Quito are violence in homes and on the streets, alcohol and drug abuse, and prostitution. They have no way of escaping these powerful influences in the neighborhood. In the crowded buildings that surround their one or two-room apartments and, often, in their own cramped quarters, they are not only subjected to this lifestyle. As with all children, our kids have to look to, and depend on, those around them as their life coaches. The negatives are discouragingly overwhelming. They need more than five positives every day.         
I receive and gladly return hugs constantly from these bright, excited, resilient, young people I have come to love. They yearn to sit as close to me as they can when we talk, when I teach, when we laugh, and when I correct behaviors. They crave physical and emotional attention. They find these at Casa Victoria, where they are safe, loved, guided, taught, and appreciated. It is so easy to give them more than five positives.  

These kids have no phones, no computers, no way of developing skills with technology that could lead to jobs. On seven donated laptops we utilize Google Translate, learn word processing, and explore safe use of the Internet every day. With a gift of our two robots, Diego and Andy, and two Amazon tablets, even the youngest child has learned basics of coding. They cheer each other on in developing algorithms to stage robot races, negotiate mazes, and complete scavenger hunts. Their enthusiasm led me to offer Saturday classes to extend learning and practice.  Their successes are more than five significant positives every day. What they are learning can open doors that can change their lives.   

As I complete my last two months here, I am compiling a manual of sequenced lesson plans to meet my goal of making this year’s program sustainable. While there will be new, local adult volunteers to monitor and supervise in the classroom next year, there is no way of knowing if an adult volunteer will be available to teach. Alicia, the founder and director of Casa Victoria, says, “God will provide. He always has and always will.” I share that faith. However, to offer God a little assistance, I have made official the role of “teacher helper” a few from among my classes have assumed over the past months. These seven capable, dedicated, and effective leaders have been attending Saturday workshops to become “student teachers” next year. No group could be more qualified. They have “lived” each lesson with me this year. Yes, they are only 10, 11, and 12 years-old – but they have proven themselves. When I leave, I will be giving them Flash Drives with all the files of the teaching manual on chains to wear around their necks and keep as their own. They are excited, knowing they will be receiving these powerful little symbols of their importance. They will be reminders that they are ready –  ready to give more than five positives every day to kids of Casa Victoria. 

[The photo of Ted, above, was taken in Belize, on a Project Smile Mission.]