Place of Hope is happy to announce the resumption of our takeout breakfast service in Barrio San Jose as the central part of our efforts to address food scarcity for Cotacachi’s elders and needy families. With the arrival of the pandemic, we were forced to suspend Place of Hope’s regular sit-down breakfast program, but we’ve been working hard to re-orient the program to work within the new constraints of finance, health safety, growing community needs, and logistics.
Our normal sit-down breakfast program was suspended in March 2020, by both Municipal limitations on social gatherings, and on a legal directive from the local community and Barrio San Jose presidents, who were concerned about the possible health risks to our indigenous elders. In April 2020, we were stricken with the loss of our Founding President, Micky Enright. This required some serious re-thinking of our program, to preserve Micky’s vision under drastically different conditions. Our normal breakfast group consisted of people from 15 different communities, so we needed to consider how we might continue to meet food needs in a de-centralized fashion.
COMIDAS UNIDAS (United Foods) — Starting in May 2020, in an effort to coordinate the multiple food relief efforts going on in Cotacachi (urban and rural) and adjust to the new circumstances, we convened dozens of meetings in an energetic working alliance of community leaders and activists called Comidas Unidas (United Foods) — to brainstorm, evaluate and coordinate our different strategies for alleviating food scarcity. Although a wide range of individuals and groups in Cotacachi were invited help coordinate food relief efforts, not all of them chose to join the Comidas Unidas discussions, so as a result there were some misunderstandings, some duplication of efforts, and some regrettable working at cross-purposes as a result. The attached graphic shows the main invited participants and the different program components we discussed as possibilities.
We developed a three-part plan to address both immediate and long-term nutritional needs.
In the early months of the pandemic, Place of Hope worked with local fundraising teams (kudos to Heidi and Janet!) that raised over $1500 for emergency food needs in three rural communities, delivering food kits of rice, tuna, pasta, sugar and other basics to over 150 needy families, directly benefitting over 500 family members.
We also decided to open the thrift store – Micky’s Place – two days a week to increase donations and sales. We also provided family support for Venezuelan migrants who were returning, by foot, to Venezuela, having walked hundreds of miles from Peru and Chile. Micky’s Place donated clothing and discount-priced strollers for desperate Venezuelan families and children who had no food, clothing, money, or shelter. We also consulted with the regional UNHCR representative (United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees) to ascertain the most appropriate way to help, and attended meetings with other benefactors in Cotacachi and a Venezuelan association in Otavalo, to coordinate relief efforts.
At the same time, we developed a two-stage plan to help poor families and communities in Cotacachi become more self-sufficient in meeting their long-term needs and decrease reliance on the collapsed cash economy during an unpredictable global recession.
We created a “Gallinas Ponedoras” (egg-laying hens) project that donated 5 chicks per family to 5 families in 6 rural communities – a total of 150 chicks to 30 families, directly benefitting over 100 family members. Once they mature into egg-laying age in two months, the hens will be producing a steady supply of eggs for the family to eat, or to hatch, producing additional chickens for food, sale or trade. The donations include training on proper care and feeding for the chickens. This approach not only helps with near-term nutritional needs, but also provides a potential basis for poor families to have a small family business that will help relieve their severe economic stresses. We plan to extend this program to other families and communities, as donations permit, to help the poorest families who are identified in consultation with community Presidents.
We initiated a street-level distribution three days a week of hardboiled eggs, bread and fruit to 30 poor elders who live in urban areas of Cotacachi. In October, with the ending of the national state of emergency, we are now resuming takeout breakfast distributions in the San Jose barrio, two days a week to approximately 40+ additional elders, many of whom were regular patrons at the sit-down breakfast.
The longer-term plan involves the promotion of community seed banks (to help families diversify the crops they grow, to improve their diets and reduce dependency on store-bought foods), and activation of idle community kitchens where each community can pool their local food surpluses to insure that everyone in the community has enough to eat. We anticipate that the take-out food distributions will continue at the Barrio San Jose location for the foreseeable future, until there are sufficient improvements in the national pandemic conditions to warrant resuming the sit-down service.
Needless to say, it has been challenging to undertake these projects in the midst of a global health crisis, a global economic recession, and with significant overall declines in online and cash donations and thrift store income. Speaking concretely, our income from online and cash donations has declined substantially in the past 12 months, making the daily provisions of food for 50-60 people in the sit-down model financially unviable.
Our online donations from August 2019 to August 2020 averaged $490 a month – barely 25% of the minimum $1800 operating budget for the sit-down breakfasts. With the onset of the pandemic, the average online donations dropped from $490 to $260 per month. Thrift shop sales from Micky’s Place, the Pancake Breakfast, JetBlue donations and ticket raffles have helped supplement the online and cash donations somewhat; but in the past year, we have nevertheless not reached the average minimum income needed to resume the monthly sit-down breakfast program costs of $1800 per month. Only emergency loans from the Board enabled the program to continue at all during the months of income decline, so we have had to reshape the program to do what we can with the money and people we have.
We hope that this report will help revive and expand support and cash donations for the program, so that we can build on the successes and re-orientations of recent months.
These options are all proven and doable. So we want to say thanks in advance for your help, and promise to make the most effective use of your donations. If you have any questions or suggestions — or if you wish for your donation to be targeted to any of the program initiatives described above — please contact our Development Manager, Heidi Small by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
You can also check our Facebook group page for other updates, photos, and videos of what we’re doing, by clicking here!
From the Place of Hope Board , Administrative Council and Volunteers