Many of you may recognize Dodie’s name as she has been TravelNurse Canada’s longest-standing employee who has worn many hats over her years with our team. Dodie started as an LPN traveler representing us in the field. After a few contracts under her belt, she opted for a change and joined our internal team, as a Recruitment Specialist. As years passed, she moved onto become a Client Services Manager, which is still, to this day, her primary position. But if you know Dodie, you know she still manages to help in every way, that is just who she is.
In 2011, Dodie and her husband, Randy, packed up all their belongings and departed Canada to live a much warmer life in Ecuador. You can read Dodie’s full story on our blog, if you haven’t yet; You’re Moving Where?
Once she found her spot to call home, she began immersing herself into the new culture that surrounded her. Step one was to learn some Spanish. This was necessary for her as she wanted to ensure she was able to communicate with the locals and be part of the community she had just joined. Quickly, she recognized the number of individuals who were in need – living in less than ideal environments, lacking food, and general amenities that many of us take for granted here in North America. It didn’t take long before she got involved helping families, young children, and animals – as her heart was too big not too.
For the last 6 years, Dodie has been involved in fundraising, organizing, planning the delivery of food, clothing, creating Christmas gift baskets, helping children get an education, and helping to repair, paint or build homes. It is no small feat. Dodie’s support team in Ecuador has grown over the years, so it is no longer a one-woman show, but she still plays a very active role in organizing fundraising events and putting together logistics for all of this to take place and come to fruition. Due to all her ongoing commitment to the families, she has been received as a true local, a savior. As she does not scare from the truth of what is happening around her, she faces it head-on and does whatever it takes to help a child or family in need.
Pre-Crisis days, Dodie joined forces with Pastora Gloria, Solutions Staffing frontline nurses and internal employees, Garry Vatcher of Hogar de Esperanza (a fellow Canadian that created a foundation in the mountains of Ecuador), along with a number of private friends, her Facebook friends and family to address everyday needs of residents in the outlying barrios in her area. With the help of local fundraisers and generous donations from people near and far, they have been able to improve a lot of lives plus provide some tools needed to attend school. In the days leading up to the crisis, Dodie, Garry and their teams were involved in a project to rebuild the center hall in barrio San Raymundo 2 to provide services to the residents that live in deep poverty. This project is at a standstill, construction materials sit waiting, while the most immediate needs are dealt with. Here is a list of their current accomplishments:
- In 2014, 6 children were sponsored for annual school supplies; today the list has grown to 192.
- 80 families with more than 200 children are on the Christmas Hamper list
- 13 house builds and/or repairs have been completed, to help improve their living conditions.
- Countless meals and crisis food baskets have been prepared and delivered to families.
In November 2018, I was fortunate enough to visit Ecuador and stay on the beautiful property that Dodie and her husband have created (Casa Blanca Playa Cautivo). It was a goal of mine to work alongside her in a different capacity for once, to join her in the collection of funds to organize a food run to the barrios in her local area, which is a very poor neighborhood.
This experience was very eye-opening for me. Not only witnessing Dodie put everything together but seeing how she was welcomed with open arms in the barrios, instantly made me realize that she was more than just a person delivering food, she was a part of their families. Always greeted with a huge smile and many hugs. She had helped them see the light, even in moments of darkness and despair. It was the most rewarding day of my life, on our final stop of the day, we delivered food to a family of 6 living in a one-room house. After we walked out, the mother ran up to me and put on two bracelets she had made to give me thanks. I knew she sold them to make money, so I tried to let her keep it, but she would not have it. Moments after, when we got back in the car, I broke down. I now understood why Dodie does what she does. As once you experience that, you never forget it.
Now let’s fast forward to current times, where we are all faced with the reality of COVID-19. Many of us have been hit hard by this, however, COVID-19 has hit Ecuador extremely hard. The country has implemented strict lockdown regulations, limiting those in need of their necessities to survive – such as food. Families are more desperate for help than ever before.
Dodie has joined forces with even more motivated souls that have bravely stepped up to address the crisis that is unfolding around them. I am not referring only to the virus, but the starvation of the poorest due to the restrictions in place. She was quickly joined in her efforts by Amy and Bettina, they are now part of a team they call Week-end Warriors, although they work all week! Jointly with Edith and Jaime Garcia of the Thomas Engel foundation. Combined they have been able to supply food to more than 2500 families and counting.
At first, Dodie was able to work around the limiting lockdown regulations, but each day things were changing making it harder for her and her team to purchase and deliver food. The time constraints they have been faced with due to lockdown hours meant that everything had to be organized almost to the minute. As of today, the team needs to work around the following restrictions:
- Curfew of 0600 to 1400 Daily, loudspeakers all over the area will announce to stay in your homes at 1400.
- Vehicles are only permitted to drive 1 morning per weekday on the road depending on your plate number. This is true of taxis and private vehicles.
- No public transportation of any kind available.
- No vehicles on road (including taxis) on Saturdays and Sundays with few exceptions to military, healthcare, police and food distribution companies with special permit.
- Only 1 passenger allowed in vehicles with the following additional restrictions:
- No one under 18 and over 55
- only for purposes of food, medical or pharmacy
- must have mask and gloves
- Food is only sold from approximately 0700 to 1230 leading to long line ups for the basic food shopping excursion at malls and supermarkets
- Mercado is barricaded to limit the vehicles and to monitor the people, it is not uncommon to be fumigated with foggers as you enter on foot or be refused entry for not having mask or gloves
- Vehicles that once had Salvo Conductos which was an exception for food delivery on the roads were all rescinded this week, and everyone is forced to reapply with much stricter criteria’s to be met.
- The Mayor of Salinas went on national TV recently asking for permission for a 24/7 lockdown that sent shudders through the souls of people. Thus far this has not been enacted, but things change quickly in Ecuador.
Because Dodie doesn’t let anything stop her, they have teamed up with local municipalities of Salinas and La Libertad to ensure the food delivery does not stop. The municipalities have been lending trucks and volunteers to deliver foot kits to those families in need. The food kits are worth around $10 and tend to feed a family one meal a day for 3-4 days depending on their family size and rations.
As of this week, with the help of local authorities, volunteers, and residents they have delivered a total of roughly 1600 food kits as the Week-end Warriors and more than 2500 in combination with Thomas Engel Foundation, and more are planned to be distributed.
Currently, most of the food kits are being handed out by the residents in the barrios. By allowing the residents to do the door to door delivery, they are minimizing exposure for those volunteering and the people. There are still smaller barrios’ that they step in to help deliver but also need to keep in mind the safety of one another. Working alongside barrio presidents, leaders and representatives have helped them keep a headcount and identify needs. It also allows for the residents to help one another, bringing back the sense of community and purpose in their lives as so much is already upside down.
Learning and hearing of these stories, while I am nestled into my home in the Kootenays, I cannot think of what these families are facing. For us in Canada, many of our services are still available, having access to food and all our basic necessities. Man y of us are fortunate enough to have a roof over our head, fridges/freezers to store our food, no forced curfews are limiting us on when we can go out, we have financial support from our government, and much more to be thankful for. So, let’s take a moment today to think of those just a little less fortunate than us. Both in and out of our own country, think globally. As we are in this together, as one.
Today, I hope we can all honor Dodie, as she is putting others in need before herself. Just as she did when she was caring for her patients, but now she is caring for the children and families in Ecuador – as she believes no one should go hungry. Oh, and she does this all between her regular, full-time job as our incredible Lead Client Services Manager. I know I call her a super-hero, but Dodie has a different view:
“Over the years, we have completed many projects in the barrios, and I made a lot of mistakes along the way. One of the biggest lessons I learned was to remove my super-hero cape, and work beside them, not above them. Swooping in to save the day is not productive and not taken well. I learned to ask them what they need, rather than tell them what they need or to presume to know what they need. I have learned to apologize as needed.”
Dodie, I (we) salute you. You are a force and a light in this world. Thank you!
To follow Dodie’s story and keep up to date on things are progressing or how you can help, click here: Ecuador from the Heart
If you feel the call to help, you can send donations (all proceeds go to purchasing food and necessitates for the families) to the following:
USD Paypal: FundEcuadorChildren@gmail.com
Canadian Funds: Paypal and E Transfer firstname.lastname@example.org
Written by: Brianne Nikula, Client Services Manager