Meet Cheralyn, also known by her Spanish name, Charito. She's been faithfully serving Casa de Fe since 2009, sometimes here in Ecuador, but mostly from her home in Ontario, Canada. About her homeland, Cheralyn says, "Contrary to what many people I've met here believe, Canada is not part of the United States; we are a different country, haha. Yes, I speak some French. No, I didn't usually ride a polar bear to school."
How long have you lived in Ecuador/worked at Casa de Fe?
I came in August 2009 with a small team from my church in Belleville, ON. We were only here for a week, but I knew I had to come back. I worked here for the next three summers and then I was here again from January - April of this year. I returned (again!) a few weeks ago and will be here until the end of this December.
What did you do before you came here?
Currently, my time is divided between being here as CDF staff and being in Ottawa, ON as a student at the University of Ottawa. I'm studying International Development & Globalization. My program has a CO-OP option and they've allowed me to do my co-op placements here at Casa de Fe. How great is that?!
Why did you come here?
At the beginning it was a combination of really wanting to be part of these kids' lives and feeling very strongly that God had something(s) for me here. More recently, I've begun to see how those have become the same thing.
I saved this question to answer last, because I really didn't know how to answer it. The first few times I was here, I spent most of my time organizing and leading activities for the kids within the summer schedule. I've taught a variety of "classes" over the years, facilitated teams' times with the kids, tutored kids in a number of subjects to get them ready for the upcoming school year, helped out with some administrative stuff and I've even done some construction. Somehow I've been accumulating more and more responsibility, so more recently I've helped out with various aspects of coordinating and hosting our work teams. During the summer of 2012, I spent months researching the possibility of developing a child sponsorship program for CDF and was able to launch our program in April. I'm currently managing that and some of our web-presence. I think the sponsorship program and communications work are officially my main jobs, but I'm also involved with CDF merchandise, writing grant proposals, and other fundraising initiatives. Unofficially, I have been known to carry children across raging waters and capture runaway toddlers during naptime.
I have way too many favorite things.
My favorite things about Ecuador include (but are not limited to): the mountains, the price and variety of fresh produce, street food, artisans' markets, wild flowers, special teas and spices, the music, and sometimes the rain.
I have even more favorite things about working at Casa, but especially since I hardly work directly with the kids anymore, I've come to count the few interactions I do get with them as even more precious... whether it be a serious conversation over dinner, or a quick hug on the way to my office, or a silly face from across the room, the simple (and sweet) interactions with the kids bring me lots of joy. Finally, as I sit with the kids to draw pictures or write letters to their sponsors, it is delightful to see the way their eyes light up as they internalize how much they are loved by so many people. This is when I will be spending most of my time with the kids from now on, and I'm very much looking forward to it!
I also adore the staff. I love getting to know the tias, the teachers, and the maestros. And I love figuring out how to do life with the ever-changing community of American staff as well. I love them a lot.
What is your least favorite thing about Ecuador/your job at CdF?
There really aren't too many things I don't like about Ecuador. I hate red tape when it comes to anything official, I strongly dislike both the privileges and the disadvantages of being white, and sometimes I hate the rain. Oh, and I'm not particularly fond of rats either.
I really love my job. I think the hardest thing about working here is watching kids struggle with their pasts and/or being separated from their biological families. I also dislike a common assumption that working somewhere like this is just fun and games because the kids are beautiful and so eager to love and be loved. It's hard to find a balance between highlighting the hard realities we face here and living out of a place of hope that God will do great things. That said, despite everything, it's been worth every single drop of blood, sweat and tears.
How can our readers pray for you?
Sometimes working here is really hard. Sometimes it seems like things are constantly changing with very little time to process the last thing while preparing for the next. God has been teaching me a lot about finding rest and peace in Him in the middle of everything. That's something I always still appreciate prayer for, though. Sometimes it's also really hard to deal with the brokenness I see here while dealing with my own. My desire is that God will be able to use my story to encourage people and point to Him. I would also appreciate prayer that I would continue to find hope and grace in Jesus as I try to trust him to restore the brokenness as he brings his Kingdom here. I want to live vulnerably, lead fearlessly, and love fiercely - that is my prayer.
What is your time commitment to CdF?