Ecuador Service Wrap-Up and What’s Next

Written by Jennifer Hays

In October 2013, Rotaract members Stephanie Graham and Janine Kolbeck traveled to Ecuador to volunteer with El Refugio de los Suenos, an after school program that serves children who live in the slums of Quito. For a recap of their trip, click here.

Stephanie and Janine spent a week at the Refugio, playing with the kids and helping out around the Refugio in any way they were needed. One of the special activities they did with the children was bake chocolate chip cookies, which many of the kids got to try for the first time.

Ecuador Service Trip 2013

Volunteering in Ecuador with El Refugio de los Suenos. To see more pictures from the Ecuador Service Trip, please visit our Facebook Page.


International Service Model

We have adopted a two-year service model for international service projects. Every two years, we choose an issue from Rotary International’s Areas of Focus. In Year One, we plan an international service trip so our members can learn about the issue firsthand. While traveling overseas to volunteer can be very costly, it is a unique and transformational experience that will ultimately help our members to become better global citizens.

We strive to pick an issue that best reflects our membership’s interest and through which our service efforts can have a measurable impact. In 2013-2014, Supporting Education was our area of focus. El Refugio provides a safe place for children who live in the slums of Quito to spend time after school. They receive meals, a safe place to do their homework, and vocational training.

Once we have selected an issue, we begin to look for a nonprofit organization that is working on the issue at the grassroots level.  When selecting an organization to work with, it is important to find a group that has the capacity to host a small group of volunteers and has ties with a local Rotary chapter. El Refugio fit both of these criteria. They regularly host volunteer groups, so we knew our visit would not be disruptive to their work. Furthermore, El Refugio has ties with the Rotary Club of Quito, as well as Rotary clubs in the United States.

In early 2014, Janine and Stephanie gave a presentation to the Rotaract club on their trip and as a group we discussed how to best help El Refugio going forward. We decided to raise funds to support El Refugio’s expansion efforts.

Janine and Stephanie share their Ecuador experiences with Rotaract  

We organized three fundraisers in support of El Refugio.

Fundraiser #1- Guest Bartending at AJ Bombers

On May 30, 2014, we headed to AJ Bomber’s to make drinks and sell raffle tickets. AJ’s has amazing burgers, shakes, and a great Bloody Mary. They also have free all-you-can eat peanuts to complement their tasty menu items.

 We took turns getting behind the bar to make the Quito Crush (vodka cranberry). Thanks to AJ Bomber’s generosity, all the sales of the Quito Crush went directly to our cause! We also sold raffle tickets for some cool prizes!

 Many thanks to AJ Bomber’s and all the other organizations that donated items for our raffle! There were a lot of generous people at AJ Bomber’s that night because we sold quite a few raffle tickets.

Our 2015 fundraiser will be at AJ Bombers on Friday, March 13, 2015. If you want to support our international service efforts, all you have to do is show up to AJ Bomber’s for Happy Hour, order our drink special, and buy some raffle tickets for awesome prizes. Bring your friends!

Guest Bartending

Rotaractors got behind the bar to make our signature drink, the Quito Crush (vodka cranberry).

Selling Raffle Tickets

Selling Raffle Tickets at AJ Bomber’s.

AJ Bomber's

  Sporting our Campaign for Quito T-Shirts!

Fundraiser #2- Rain Barrel Sale

 On June 6, 2014, we partnered with the City of Milwaukee Department of Public Works to sell rain barrels and compost pins in Washington Park. The Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service wrote an article about the sale, check it out here.

Fundraiser #3- Zumbathon

On June 21, 2014, we had a two-hour Zumba class at b-Fit Milwaukee. Zumbathon was a fantastic deal: we sold tickets to the 2-hour class for just $10.  The b-Fit instructors challenged us with some intense dance moves and awesome music. Huge thank you to b-Fit for providing their studio and their instructors for donating their time!

 Zumbathon: Getting in shape to support the kids at El Refugio

The Results

We raised over $1,200 to support El Refugio de los Suenos! Thanks to everyone who supported our fundraisers and all of our community partners. None of this would have been possible without your generous support.

El Refugio is currently expanding their building in Quito, and the money we raised will be put toward a study room for children in the after school program. Right now, there is no dedicated space for the kids at El Refugio to work on their homework. Only through education can the kids at the Refugio build a better life for themselves, so the study room is a sorely needed resource.

What’s Next

In the 2015-2016 cycle, we will be focusing on Water and Sanitation. Our sponsor club, the Rotary Club of Milwaukee, has been working with Engineers Without Borders in the Guatemala Highlands on various water projects. In early March 2015, our International Chair Jessica Boling will travel to Guatemala with a group Milwaukee Rotarians. Jessica will engage with local Rotaract clubs in Guatemala to determine how our club can best help Guatemala Rotaractors with their service efforts. Stay tuned for updates from Guatemala!

And don’t forget: Friday, March 13, 2015, Rotaract will be returning to AJ Bomber’s for a pre-St. Patrick’s Day happy hour fundraiser. We’re bringing back the drink specials, raffles and good times to benefit our service efforts in Guatemala!

Water filter project in Joyabaj, Guatemala sponsored by the Rotary Club of Milwaukee and Engineers without Borders
Photo credit: Rotary Club of Milwaukee