MINGA: The work of solidarity in Ecuador

MINGA: The work of solidarity in Ecuador

Juanita Tocagón, lives in the community of Caluquí.   Caluquí is an Indigenous community north of Quito. It’s on a mountainside above San Pablo lake. It is surrounded by green fields, the volcano, Imbabura, and steep hillsides. It can probably be a “homeowners dream.” Unfortunately, many in this area may live in a beautiful place. Still, they may not have much to make a comfortable life.  

Juanita, at 57, had to take responsibility for the upbringing of the child Eydan Tamba Paisano. Juanita is the mother of Jenifer Karina Paisano Tocagon, who, at the age of 20, was murdered by her husband. Eydan Yareth Tamba Paisano, 1 year and 2 months old, remains an orphan, with his deceased mother and father in jail. I had a recent conversation with Blanca Puma, Executive Director of the Ecumenical Foundation of Integral Development, Education and Capacity Building, FEDICE, our Global Ministries’ Partner in Ecuador. She shared the story of “Mama Juanita,” affectionately called. “Mama Juanita works in agriculture by cultivating strawberries. She only earns $12.00 per day ion that work. She uses her salary to provide food for her family. The house where she lives with her family is not currently suitable to inhabit. The walls are deteriorated, lying with leaks, crawl spaces, and wet. Those conditions are very harmful to the health of the child. “Karina’s dream was to keep on working so someday she would be able to fix our little house and give Eydan a decent place to live. Now that dream can no longer be fulfilled”…She said that to me in tears.”

Knowing about this situation, Blanca started thinking, what can we do? How to stand in solidarity with this family?

Blanca continued sharing the story. With Elvia Farinango, coordinator of the FEDICE’s child development center in Caluquí, we decided to find a way to help. First, we shared a message to the family, expressing our support, condolences, and strength accompanied by food, gifts, and Christmas toys for Eydan.  But, we wanted to go. Further, we want to fulfill Karina’s dream once, to build a house for Eydan, his mother, and her family. This, of course, requires resources, manpower, and time. So, we said, as always, “Lord, we put this dream in your hands, and here we are to be instruments and to be able to support, accompany these brothers and sisters.”

Give all your works to the LORD, and your projects will be fulfilled. Proverbs 16:3

We planned the activities, involved the family in decisions, established the budget and commitments. We seek strategic alliances and ways to move forward with the activities. We asked for the support of groups with which FEDICE works in the immediate area of ​​González Suarez. The response was quick, their commitment to support with work, with food, with generosity in his time, participating in this MINGA for Eydan’s family and Juanita.”

“I have neither silver nor gold, but what I have I give you.” Acts 3:6

In the sense of the biblical quote, as lived by indigenous communities in Ecuador, they provide what they do best: to work together collectively. Minga is a Kitchwa and Quechua word meaning “collective work” with wide currency among popular and poor sectors, both indigenous and mestizo, of the Andean republics. Minga, then, is a concept associated with solidarity that runs through indigenous ideals of community life.

In the particular case of Mama Juanita and Eydan’s house, once the community counted with their initial resources and some financing by Global Ministries and churches in the U.S., the big day arrived. On January 15, the FIRST MINGA started building the house for Juanita, Eydan, and his family. Then, on Monday, January 31, they had another MINGA for cement placement on the roof (casting with cement, as we say here in Ecuador). On Monday, February 14, they had their third MINGA to continue working with the house’s interiors.   Sure, it has been days of great emotions, joy, and happiness, but above all of gratitude, first to God and then to all of the people working in this MINGA. 

Sebastían Caiza, a member of the FEDICE’s Board of Directors, said that “we express our faith by the way we can work together. If we don’t work together for the child, the child would have no future. We are building here the future so that the child can be happy with his house. In that sense, we organize ourselves through the MINGA, here in this indigenous land. We still preserve that value in our community.”

They are advancing in the home’s construction for Mama Juanita and Eydan. In a video sent by Blanca, you can see how the project is moving forward. With your help, FEDICE and the community of Caluquí will have the resources for materials and expenses related to the Minga. What we can say at this moment, along with FEDICE, is the same message of a “corito” or short liturgical song sung by our churches in Latin America and the Caribbean:

Si todos trabajamos, unidos, unidos
Si todos trabajamos qué gozo será
Tu obra es mi obra
Nuestra obra es de Dios
Si todos trabajamos que gozo será

If we all work, together, together
If we all work (together), what a joy it will be
your work is my work
Our work is of God
If we all work (together), what a joy it will be

To support FEDICE, our Partner in Ecuador, you can contribute financially through Global Ministries.  Information on sending gifts to Global Ministries online, by check in the mail, or by phone can be found at www.globalministries.org/give.