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Eyes on Ecuador: New Website Opens Window on ChildFund Program

Eyes on Ecuador
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The opening scene of an energetic online video: a sports park in Ecuador, with children in team uniforms milling about. A teenage girl, perky in a pink hat, stands with a young woman – perhaps a coach – and speaks into a microphone. “We are interviewing Angelica to tell us how youth have been involved in this championship.”

Angelica explains that the tournament was created by the local organization Association Sembrando Vida “to motivate children to practice sports, make friends and get along well.”

Cut to next scene: The winning point is scored amid happy screams.

Cut to next scene: Our intrepid youth reporter interviews one of the players’ mothers, who remarks that she is very happy to see her child involved in this event. “Why?” asks the reporter.

“Because all the neighbors must share, right?”

Welcome to the newly launched, which has a particularly remarkable aspect to it: The site’s content is generated largely by youth – all of its video, interviews, black and white photography, even some elements of the site’s sleek design.

ChildFund began working in Ecuador in 1984 and since then has introduced many pilot programs. One of the most recent, an outgrowth of ChildFund’s focus on bringing the voices of children and youth more strongly into the development of programs, is the Youth Reporter program that ChildFund Ecuador launched in 2009 in the Cotopaxi Province.

In after-school and weekend workshops, youth reporters learn photography, video, editing and writing. They also learn life skills – communication, teamwork, creativity, analysis. After all, in order to tell a story, one must understand it.

Meanwhile, there was the ongoing wish of ChildFund sponsors for more immediacy in the information available about children and their daily lives. As Ecuador’s youth reporters grew in skill, it became apparent that they represented a unique opportunity to communicate with sponsors in a new way: through a website specific to their community.

“The idea for this project is to explore creative and innovative ways to share information with sponsors and engage them in our work,” explains Mike Raikovitz, director of sponsorship at ChildFund. “Our goal was to better share what we’re doing in the field.” This spring, an e-mail went to Ecuador sponsors asking them what they would like to see on such a website.

The resulting website, recently introduced to sponsors of children in Ecuador, documents not only ChildFund’s work in Cotopaxi, but also the community’s experience of that work, their participation in various projects and the benefits they see. Youth reporter-generated photo and video content generously supplements informative text that details history, culture, socio-economic conditions and more.

Daniel Kertesz, a Web developer for ChildFund, traveled to Ecuador with ChildFund system administrator Margaret Revere and Nicole Duciaume, the regional sponsorship coordinator in the Americas Regional Office, to help prepare the site for launch. After extensive groundwork optimizing the multimedia content and the site’s structure for accessibility, as well as developing a plan for maintaining it, Kertesz had the opportunity to visit with a group of more than 30 youths involved in the program.

“The ones that were more experienced would ask me question after question after question,” says Kertesz. “They really enjoy getting involved, learning all this stuff, talking about what they’re learning, and sharing their experiences.”

Since its launch in May, the site has been accessed daily, according to Kertesz, who reports that the youths have even more content that they are preparing for upload.

For now, there’s plenty to see: Community leader José Pilu, standing before a new reservoir against the magnificent backdrop of the Andes, tells how the community came together to create that reservoir, making irrigation possible for 150 families. Nursery worker Ms. Nancy describes how she plans menus for her charges, with a strict eye toward balanced nutrition. A classroom full of youth reporters learns about script writing, using radio equipment, broadcasting and interviewing.

“Now we can observe how our people have changed little by little, right?” says Pilu. And you can too, at