Ecuador: Living off one dollar a day

By Jessica Hagerty
March 13, 2008

For my spring break I didn’t take the typical trip to Cancun, Florida or any other vacation spot. Instead I spent my 10 days off from school living in poverty in Duran, Ecuador.

Why, you may ask, would I ever want to spend spring break living off of $1 per day? But, the experience I had with Rostro de Cristo was much more valuable than anything I had ever learned before.

Nine others and I interviewed and began planning for the trip since about October 2007. Even then I really didn’t know what to expect and what I would encounter during my travels.

We flew into Guayaquil, a major city in Ecuador and drove to the neighborhood we were staying at. I was amazed as we crossed the first bridge to get where we were going. The houses were huge, like the mansions you would see in Florida or California. Our leader explained that this was a very wealthy section of Ecuador and it was obvious.

Soon enough we were crossing another bridge. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing; the houses were made of wood and looked like broken down shacks for the most part. The area we were entering into after the rich wealthy area was Duran.

We stayed in a neighborhood called Antonio Jose de Sucre; it is the most developed of the neighborhoods in Duran. They didn’t have running water and most didn’t have septic systems. The majority of the roads had just been paved about two months prior to our visit. The houses were one floor with typically 2 rooms, a living room and bedroom, definitely not with enough sleeping room.

We also visited a neighborhood called Arbolito, which was the second most developed in Duran. Arbolito had about one paved road, the rest were dirt and because of the rainy season had been under about two feet of water. The houses were very similar to those of AJdS still with no running water or septic systems. Electricity was mostly pirated from other houses.

The least developed neighborhood we visited was 5 de Junio, which was basically a swamp. The houses were in the worst condition I had ever seemed and could have ever imagined. All of the houses were standing on stilts that didn’t look very stable and had neither running water, septic systems, paved roads or any sort of trash pick-up.

The Director of the Rostro de Cristo asked up the question, “Why do you think people would want to live here?” We were all puzzled. “Because wherever they came from was better than this,” he said. I couldn’t even imagine what could possibly be worse than living in 5 de Junio.

Two thirds of Ecuadorian people live between $1 and $2 per day. As American’s we are born into a culture with opportunity and freedom. Many of the Ecuadorian people struggle each day just to feed their family. These people are not poor because of a natural or man-made disaster; it was what they were born into.

The transition going into the trip was easy. Simple living was not the problem but coming back to the U.S. to continue my normal life was and still is a challenge.

The RdC program has done a lot to help them out but they can’t do it alone. Because we are born into such a great country it is our responsibility to help the Ecuadorians and the other one billion people around the world that also live off of $1 per day.

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Jessica Hagerty

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