It's all about the kids!
Who are the Kids
Maria de la Esperanza (Santa Maria Orphanage) is located in the province of Santa Elena near the village of Olón. It is directed by Isabel Dietrich, who left her native Germany over 40 years ago to work as a nurse with a Swiss priest helping children in Coastal Ecuador. The orphanage was founded to rescue abused or homeless children from all over the coastal area. These children, whose numbers vary (but are usually around 65), range in age from infants up to 18 years old.
The facilities consist of separate housing for boys and girls by age groups. The older boys live on a separate campus called the Gandhi, which is actually a working farm. This gives them more living space, and more room to play their favorite sport, soccer! In addition, the main campus has a communal kitchen and a central gathering area.
Care givers live with the children, helping with homework, giving emotional support and so much more. The housing is basic, but the love is genuine. It’s a safe haven for these kids, where they learn life skills, take music lessons and share in each other’s growth.
As a nonprofit organization, the orphanage receives some government aid, but it is far from enough to provide the physical and educational needs of the children. The orphanage has for many years been under-funded, so donations from various sources are essential to helping these children have a better life. Many of them do, in fact, go on to graduate from high school and some even attend college.
The orphanage is a beacon of hope for Ecuadorian children in desperate circumstances.