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Servicemembers lend helping hand to Ecuadorian school

  • Published
  • By 1st Lt. Beth Woodward
  • 478th Expeditionary Operation Squadron public affairs
Forward Operating Location (FOL) Manta Airmen delivered $5,400 in materials to the San Juan Elementary and High School in Manta, Ecuador, April 2 as part of U.S. Southern Command's Humanitarian Assistance Program.

Over 500 children, many of whose families work in the city's landfill, will benefit from the refrigerator, stove, blenders, projector, fans, desks, chairs and school supplies.

"We hope this equipment makes a lasting impact on the education and well-being of kids attending the San Juan schools," said Lt. Col. Jared Curtis, 478th Expeditionary Operations Squadron commander at FOL Manta. "Our Airmen have volunteered at the landfill for some time, and we are thrilled to bring a donation of this magnitude."

The donation is one of seven local initiatives in the past year coordinated through HAP, a U.S. Southern Command program managed in Ecuador by members of the military group at the U.S. Embassy in Quito. HAP emphasizes infrastructure development and is geared toward building stability and security in local communities.

"All of the stuff you're bringing for the school will help," said Hitler Carvajal, a computer and English teacher at the school. Of greatest significance, according to Mr. Carval and the school's administrators, is the stove and refrigerator. Staff will now be able to cook donated food on the school's campus instead of in homes.

"Some students were left standing because there weren't enough chairs," said Mr. Carvajal, referencing the utility of the desks donated through HAP.

Other HAP projects initiated by the FOL in 2009 include equipment donations to a daycare in Colón and a community kitchen in Manta. In addition to HAP, FOL volunteers donated over 9,000 hours to bring 180,000 items, including clothing, school supplies and toiletries, to local organizations in 2008. Over 1,200 kilograms of food and 2 million packets of vitamins were also distributed last year with the help of FOL volunteers.