A Place to call “Home”
The Ark Children’s Homes were founded to meet a need in the province of Chimborazo in Ecuador to care for homeless children. Homeless children include orphans, lost kids, abused and neglected kids, and children that have been abandoned. Many of our babies are found in cardboard boxes at the side of a road, in parks or outside public buildings.
The Ark was founded in 1996 when the Allan family and their ten children (ranging in age from 19 years to 6 months old) arrived in Riobamba. Having only recently rented a home to live in, the Children’s Hospital directed them to a government social worker. When the Allans asked how they could help, the social worker responded quickly by saying the need was a home for the kids. The Allans met with officials at the Children’s court where the judge explained the two-year procedure to become legalized. Prepared to merely settle in and learn the Spanish language, the Allans were leaving the meeting when they were called into the office once again. The social worker handed Glenda a newborn baby, and asked them to care for him. Astounded, the Allans asked about the long waiting period of the legal procedure, but the court officials assured them that they would provide legal documents to receive children in the interim.
The children arrived quickly after that. The Allans were still without furniture, finances or fluency in the language, but God was in control. The Allan family pulled together, working day and night as in the first 6 months, 14 newborns arrived as well as several street children. The foundation grew to be home for 85 children living in 6 rented houses. In 2003, generous donations allowed the Ark to purchase a home and piece of property. Construction began on additions to the house and some storage space. Eventually the number of homes was reduced to two – one for the babies, and one for the other children to make it easier to oversee the children and caregivers.
Two more Quichua children were adopted into the Allan family including the baby that was placed in Glenda’s arms that first day at the court.
Location and Overview
The Ark Homes are located in Riobamba, Ecuador in the Andes mountains. The homes are in the middle of what’s known as “Volcano Alley” where at present there is one active volcano, Mt. Tungurahua. The altitude is high, more than 9,300 ft. Ecuador is known as a third world country. Even though computer technology is rampant, there are still thousands of people who live in shells of homes with dirt floors. The country has a blend of cultures and class distinctions. There is the very rich, international level of people, usually from a Spanish background. There are the Quichua, an indigenous people group that make up 80% of Riobamba’s population, and there are the mestizos who are a blend of the other cultures. On the coast there is a high black population as well.
Among the Quichua, there is a higher level of poverty and suffering. They were only granted the right to vote in the late 60’s and the education level is very low. While there are Quichua people who’ve been able to advance out of ignorance, many don’t. As a result there are more misunderstandings of health-related problems, economic problems and political issues. Fiestas play a big part of Riobamba culture and result in more widespread drunkenness. Drunkenness causes more family breakdowns, and more abuse. The Latin culture is very family oriented; nevertheless there are many unwanted children. Begging is prominent on the streets and many lazy people will send their children to do the begging so they won’t have to work. The laws speak of children’s rights, but they are difficult to enforce.
An unwanted pregnancy may mean a baby abandoned at the side of the road, unclaimed. Unwanted children sleep in old buildings, the bus depot and under the bull ring downtown. New laws speak of keeping children with their families, and banning institutions. That would be great if all people were righteous and loved their children. Although “institutions” are now labeled “the bad guys,” they are still very much needed.
The property is home to the central building; one long outbuilding that includes future bedrooms; storage and a shop; and some older more dilapidated buildings where we have the laundry facilities and extra storage.
One large corner of the property is reserved for a baby home that we hope to build in the future. For now, the babies are down the street from us in a rented house.
Just behind the baby house, we have a rented building that is our school. The Ark school includes only the children from the Ark homes.
Staff and Volunteers
The Ark has 26 paid staff including, teachers for the school, a psychologist, a physical therapist, a social worker, accountant, secretary and child care workers. Some of the long-term volunteers receive a monthly donation. Volunteers are only accepted from out of country. The law won’t allow volunteer help in Ecuador so everyone is expected to receive money for his or her work.
The Ark receives children from newborn to twelve years old. If they kids grow to be older than twelve years old in the Foundation, that’s not a problem. Usually by sixteen years old, kids don’t mind trying to go back to an abusive home because they feel they can no longer be subjected to the same abuse they received as children. Others, who can’t leave are welcome to stay. Many leave, but spend their vacations here or visit often.
Children, who are completely orphaned or abandoned, are investigated to see if we can find any family at all, and then they are placed for adoption. The Ark does occasionally help out a family financially to receive their children again. Sometimes we pay for schooling or rent, and usually we help by supplying clothing and goods.
Street kids or lost children only stay temporarily until we can locate family members.
There’s recently been a new network set up between The Ark, the Children’s Court, the police and a child find organization, to make sure kids who have family are returned as soon as possible. This has also served to move adoptions a bit faster. As a result, we are lower in numbers of children this year, which has provided a break for us, and extra attention to the children under our care. At present we have forty-one children, thirteen who are below two years old and eight with varying levels of handicaps.
The Ark spends about $15,000 a month for basic needs. The funds received through the Be A HERO Child Sponsorship program contribute towards the care of the children.
The Ark Children’s Home
Update – October 2007
Glenda and Ron Allan is a couple from Kelowna BC, Canada that has 10 children of their own. They went to Ecuador, in October of 1996 and gave their lives to children in need. Each day is a struggle as they battle the environment and conditions of the country.
The Ark Children’s Home was founded to meet a need in the province of Chimborazo, Ecuador to care for homeless children. Homeless children include orphans, lost kids, abused and neglected kids and children that have been abandoned. Some of the babies are found in cardboard boxes at the side of a road, in parks or outside public buildings.This couple works exceedingly hard to provide a safe and healthy life for children that are abandoned. Children are often found in the garbage and the police deliver them to the Ark.
The new addition to the building started this spring (six bedrooms and two more bathrooms) is not finished and funds ran out before the roof was put on. Corners have been cut on everything: no more disposable diapers, no extra purchases and staff that leave are not being replaced.
There are a total of 58 kids in a small area right now and many are very ill. All the monthly income is going to hospital and medication costs leaving nothing for wages. The Allans long for more space to separate the ill from the healthy little ones. In October, whooping cough traveled quickly through the home.There is a need for another $20,000.00 to be able to complete this project.
There are 10 to 12 children in each room, and more than eight babies living in the little apartment along with the Allan family. Twenty one (21) of the children have special needs and require as much love as can poured out on them.
Some of the children had a game they played called sardines; this meant they crammed as many of themselves as they could into a small space. The game of sardines has become a way of life.
Living in a sardine environment is not good especially during the seasons when sickness travels from one to another.
As well as the bedroom/bathroom addition there is hope that a second section can be done that will hold a laundry room and food storage. The laundry room is the priority.
There is great need for a van that runs and will be reliable. Ideally, what is required is a vehicle with a standard transmission for mountain road driving that could hold 15 children. If anyone has contacts in the Rotary please call or email Ron Allan as it is understood that perhaps a program is available to supply a car or van for this type of situation.
Be A Hero is happy to report that the kitchenette upstairs is done and lots of plumbing for the kitchen downstairs has been completed. The Hobart dishwasher has been installed and with the new transformer they will have the use of this great appliance.
A group called I-TEC has generously provided funds for the new transformer that will enable the use of the new industrial washing machine. As well, this will run the water pump and all the heavy duty equipment and machinery
We have many Heroes that take it on their hearts to help. A lady named Rose decided to take on fundraising for this kitchen project after reading the Be A Hero book. She had a desire to help out but did not know how. When she read the book and she started to cry, she was determined to not permit the tears to flow unless doing something about it. It started with a Polar Dip then lead to selling organic chocolate and coffee along with donated knitted items. The church family at Grace Harvest of Greater Saint John, NB, was a BIG support; as well as the staff at the school where she works.
Macas is a quiet town located on the edge of the jungle and surrounded by villages of indigenous people. Due to an increasing need the Allans met with the Ecuadorian board to confirm plans to move into Macas to rescue children. The board backed them completely and blessed the move.
Isaac Allan is in charge of the new home and has a quality team of help lined up to get started. The mayor’s wife said she had 10 homeless children just from one of the 103 sectors there waiting for this move. Isaac left October 17th with furniture to set up in a rented location and already he has children waiting for him.
With the opening of another home in Macas, there is a greater need for sponsors.
All of these children need sponsors. A sponsor is not just a financial help to cover the children’s needs, but a support to the kids themselves. They love knowing that there is someone out there who is actually interested in their lives.