EDUCATION FOR A BRIGHTER FUTURE
The following is taken from information supplied by Scarboro lay missioners Eric Lagacé and Julia Duarte, working in Ecuador.
David Beatty is just another one of the local folk. This wasn’t the case when he first arrived to live among the Indigenous people of Pulingui San Pablo, a small remote community of 57 families in the mountains of Ecuador. His arrival spread like wildfire. Everyone in the community wanted to meet the long-haired man from Canada.
At first it wasn’t easy for David to get used to life in San Pablo with no electricity, running water or washroom facilities. Yet he quickly adapted to his new home and the community learned to accept him as one of their own.
Living among the people, David noticed that the younger children (between three and five years of age) had no one to look after them during the day. Their parents worked the land and shepherded their livestock all day and the children were left on their own.
With permission from the mothers, David organized a small nursery school. He kept the children busy with various activities. He organized games, colouring, hikes in the mountains, and even midday naps. He also provided a snack of soya milk and bananas to supplement the children’s poor diets.
David got to know and became close to many of the families. He also developed a close friendship with many of the children who went to Pulingui’s elementary school. He was shocked when told that most of the children do not make it past grade six due to a lack of money.
In order to continue their schooling, the children must enroll in high schools in the city of Riobamba, 15 miles away. Unfortunately, most families cannot afford transportation, tuition, school uniforms or supplies. With the economic crisis gripping Ecuador, government funding for public schools has been greatly reduced. The government pays for teachers’ salaries and nothing more.
This situation seemed almost tragic for David who got to know children like Modesto and Justo, teenagers who are sharp, hardworking, dedicated, diligent and ambitious. How unfair it seemed that these young people would not be given the opportunity to continue their studies.
Returning to Canada, David told friends and acquaintances about these young people. He received contributions sufficient to send seven of them to secondary school. Today David continues this enormous challenge. Together with a school director in the community, David created a project to raise funds which allows 10 young people each year to enroll in high schools in Riobamba. A committee has been formed within the community to oversee this project.
As well, another member of the community agreed to carry on the nursery school. For this, David sends money to pay the person a small wage and to buy the food and supplies needed.
A new way of life
David first came to this remote mountain community at the invitation of his lifetime friend, Thomas Walsh, to experience a new way of life, different from the life he had been accustomed to in Canada. He came with an open mind and a generous heart to share with and to learn from a people with different customs and ways of thinking to his own.
The greatest asset that a country has is its children and the greatest gift one can give them is education. For those of us who know David and are privileged to call him a friend, his example and response to a challenge is the greatest blessing.