On Easter, a new youth group was born from the visit of the youth group from Quito and Sr. Meir. It was actually basically the kids from the English class that formed the new group. A great theme of my time in Ecuador regarding English and language was the theme of water turning into wine, especially from the story of the Wedding at Cana from the Gospel of John. That theme really picked up in my time in Chontal when "Santa" turned water into snow, and shortly afterwards, this English class turned into a youth group. We do a whole variety of dynamic activities in our meetings, including a spiritual theme, and we use videos, music, dance, and arts and crafts, and more. The kids had already started fundraising by selling jello and watermelons, and we talked together about services we could do for the community. We came up with our own name, Guardian Angels (the patron of Chontal is St. Michael the Arcangel), and theme song, "My God, Give Me A New Heart", which you can hear here.
I had tried to start a youth group for about a month or two before the kids from Quito came, but with no luck. The older kids - high school aged- were not responding, as I didn't have as good rapport with them, having never visited any of the high schools because they are an hour's drive away and I don't know any of the the faculty. But I do know the kids and faculty in the elementary/middle school, and so as it turns out that's what was happening all along!
In 2014, these kids lived through the natural disaster of the mountains collapsing on the village in landslides that destroyed seven homes. Several of the kids' families were directly affected - in fact one family lost their house completely and just escaped alive. These kids also experienced the loss of 4 of their schoolmates - and for some, classmates - to suicide just several months earlier. So, it was such a grace and gift to be a part of! I love the kids!
My last day in Chontal before leaving in May 2016 was spent in a spontaneous pick-up soccer game with the kids of Chontal, a memory I will never forget! And despite troubles finding another adult to continue, the kids continued to meet throughout the rest of 2016. I'm planning on returning for a visit in late 2016. and introducing them to a youth group from St. Monica/Lucy parishes in Methuen,MA. And the story continues...