Boxes of Hope for Ecuador

Published: 20 May 2016 7:24 CET

With thousands in western Ecuador reeling from the April 16th earthquake, help has arrived from both near and far.  Several organizations have sent funds, resources and/or personnel to tackle the needs and vulnerabilities caused by such an overwhelming event.  The aid received so far is going towards tangible and measurable solutions for health, water and sanitation, shelter and/or livelihoods.

The Ecuadorian Red Cross, however, is also doing its part to restore something critical to the people of Ecuador, something that can’t be measured – hope.

“There are almost 4,000 Boxes of Hope in Quito just waiting to be delivered,” says Ana Marcela Mullo, a National Psychosocial Support specialist for the Ecuadorian Red Cross.

As part of its ongoing Psychosocial Support activities, the Ecuadorian Red Cross designed a collection campaign called Cajitas de la Esperanza, or “Little Boxes of Hope” to provide children under 11 in affected areas such as Pedernales, Manta, Portoviejo, Jama and Muisne the means to cope with the emotions of enduring and recovering from such a tragic ordeal.  The campaign calls for one child to fill a box for another child with gender neutral toys and clothes, crayons, candy, colouring books, storybooks and most importantly, a handwritten letter of encouragement for that child, and deliver to their nearest Red Cross branch.

“Providing psychosocial support to the children in the affected areas was a real challenge, we were trying to figure out how to maintain continuity as communities began to recover,” notes Ana Marcela.

By devising a way for all of Ecuador to participate in providing much needed emotional relief to affected children, the Ecuadorian Red Cross Psychosocial Support team unexpectedly tapped into a powerful source of good will that shows no sign of letting up.

“Once the first call for donations for these boxes was made public, our headquarters in Quito got flooded with calls asking about this…  It has been very popular throughout the country, we’ve even gotten boxes from people outside of Ecuador!” adds Ana Marcela, in awe at the amount of interest and the results that the Boxes of Hope campaign has generated.

“We’ve heard so many stories from volunteers that have gone out to distribute the boxes.  Children have asked when they’re coming back or if they can stay longer.  It’s been so well received, we’re extending the campaign.”

The positive impact of the Boxes of Hope campaign extends beyond the support given to the children of Ecuador’s coasts - Ana Marcela has noticed that the campaign’s success has affected positive change in those who have been giving as well.

“I think one of the reasons why the Boxes of Hope works is that it strengthens family bonds of those who are making and sending them as well - it teaches children the value of giving to others.”

“It’s been wonderful to see people outside of the Red Cross supporting us through these donations.  Not only has it proven to be an effective tool for psychosocial support, it’s really made us evaluate our methods - it’s the simple things that work in child psychology.”