I have a new found appreciation for historical preservation. I appreciate the donors, both public and private, who help support architecture they recognize as significant.
Why bring this up? Read on…
Today I visited one of the five Congregación Misioneras de la Niñez orphanages inside Quito. Well, it used to be an orphanage. About a month ago, the city elected to construct a parking deck behind the children’s home, located in a historic and very old building on La Ronda, the oldest street in Quito. This construction would shake the very foundation of the orphanage – literally.
The erecting of a parking deck is slowly tearing down the walls of the orphanage. The work next door has caused tremors just strong enough to cause major cracks in the structure, some over an inch wide. The whole building has also shifted enough to cause the windows to no longer fit in their frames. The end result? A catch-22 so sinister it could find it’s way into a novel.
Cracks can be found throughout the orphanage.
One structure goes up as another comes down.
La Ronda is popular among locals and tourists for it’s quaint city-within-a-city charm. The nuns have capitalized on this by opening up a small bakery in front of the orphanage. The parking deck would allow more tourists to flock to the street (it’s car free), and having the deck behind the orphanage would mean they would have a steady stream of customers. Sounds good until you learn that as of just a few weeks ago the building was condemned by the city from habitation. It was deemed too much of a risk for the children.
The nuns hired a lawyer to apply pressure to the city to pay for the repairs. As red tape rolled on and on and lawyers fees racked up, the nuns had no choice but to abandon their suit – without any compensation from the city.
The nuns haven’t given up. They continue to solicit for funds any way they can and have managed to make some of the repairs.
The story isn’t all bad. The children have relocated their sleeping quarters at the other orphanages and rest comfortably. They still return just about every day for lessons and to attend mass. The bakery remains open and helps to generate funding.
I took time to deliver clothing and supplies to the head nun to distribute to the five homes. It wasn’t much but to see her eyes light up and her smile so broadly was moving. I was glad I visited. Among other things, they asked for a computer because their old one had failed and I vowed to try to get one together for them to send down.
Just before I left, three children, around the age of six came in. I pulled them in close with big hugs. They were absolutely precious. Seeing them was all the motivation I needed to try to help make things better.
Lenin, my guide and translator, speaking with the boss. One of the rooms of the orphanage made up and waiting for the return of the children.
A classroom. The chapel.
Imagine the children lining up to brush their teeth before bed. Looking over a new donation.