Examples from Ecuador: Empowering Women to Thrive

Celebrating her 11th year as an ASEA Executive, Cindy Buck is proud to be involved with the ASEA® Advancing Life Foundation. Her passion is serving the cause of other women, so when her husband and daughter (Bo and Mackenzie) joined her on an expedition to Ecuador in 2019, they took special note of the opportunities before them to help women get out of poverty.

Building a School, Building Opportunity

In Ecuador, Cindy and the expedition group laid the foundation for a new vocational school: the Inta-Kara Advancing Life Center. Today, the school is open and offers welding and culinary classes, with plans to expand its curriculum. Cindy was honored to be part of the first group to help build a place with opportunities to propel those in the local area to an improved, safe, and secure life. 

“We learned that the locals who can’t find work often travel to big cities looking for jobs, which can often lead to being trafficked,” says Cindy. “Advancing Life works so closely with Operation Underground Railroad that this was something front of mind for me as we dug ditches and hauled concrete. Working side-by-side with the locals gave me the strength I needed to keep working. I didn’t want to let them down.”

A Day in the Life of a Local

When the expedition focused for a day on the living conditions of local women, Cindy was thrilled to be part of providing new tools and skills to help them in their future. For the expedition, she was taken in by a woman named Paula. This experience gave Cindy not only a close perspective on local living conditions; it opened her eyes to the generous hearts of the people there:  Expeditioners slept throughout the community in the villagers’ homes. This allowed the local families to earn money and learn how to be hosts for tourists. Cindy’s family stayed with a woman named Paula, while her two little children and newborn all shared a bed with her and her husband in a small back room. 

Witnessing the giving nature of the locals has inspired Cindy to find other ways to contribute to women in her life and the local community. 

“Pregnant women were working as hard as us, knowing their children would be able to have a better life with this school,” says Cindy. “The welding and culinary programs were other opportunities for these women to have extra money and stable employment. We wanted to be respectful of their culture while also giving them new ideas and options for advancement in life. They’re such hard workers and so eager to learn. It made me realize there is an opportunity to reach out to other women in my life and around the world.”

Business Skills That Change the World

During the trip, the Buck family witnessed how passionate the villagers were to gain new skills, new opportunities, and contribute to improving their lives in even the most creative ways. One woman raised Chinchillas to sell. Others spent time picking through individual coffee beans to separate and sell. Cindy thought about how new opportunities at the school, for both the women and their families, provided the women unique ways to earn money, escape poverty, take care of their children, and keep them safer. 

“I watched a humanitarian awards presentation once about a woman who had been through horrible things, and she said something that’s always stuck with me,” says Cindy. “If we can focus on even one grain of self-respect and self-worth that we have, we can foster and help it grow until our cups runneth over. Then we can turn and help another woman find her small grain of self-worth and help her cultivate it, believe in herself, and succeed. It’s not just about helping a few women on these service trips. It’s about starting a ripple effect that continues to pass along once we empower women to believe in themselves and their worth.”

Making an Impact

The Buck family was so inspired by their trips to Ecuador that they joined the 2020 service Cambodian expedition. They raised money to donate three freshwater wells to families in need. Their generosity has blessed the lives of over 100 people, who can now live healthier. Women in the community no longer have to fear that their children might fall ill or die from water-born illnesses. 

Cindy and her family plan to join future Advancing Life expeditions to contribute to making an impact. But she says the trips have helped her realize the areas of service that she can focus on in the United States and around her local community. This experience is a lesson for which she is forever grateful. 

Join the Effort

To help with the continual community building of the Intag region of Ecuador and aid other worthy Advancing Life service projects worldwide, visit our Monthly Pledge Portal to become an ongoing donor. ASEA will match any contributions throughout 2021.