Your gift changes lives
Access to daily, nutritious snacks helps to improve a student’s focus and attendance. Education creates a lifetime of improved opportunities: your support helps to end the cycle of generational poverty.
How we support rural communities
Dance for Ecuador supplies healthy snacks for stronger communities tomorrow.
Fresh fruits and healthy snack foods procured locally.
Supports local farming community and improves distribution reliability
Reliable source of healthy snacks supplied to rural school children, often undernourished
Healthy snacks on a consistent basis improves students focus & cognitive function
Students develop into adults better equipped to contribute to their local economy
Sponsor Meals for Children in need.
Change lives today!
Chronic malnutrition is one of the biggest problems facing Ecuador today. In fact, the numbers remain alarming despite efforts taken to reduce poverty.
According to the National Institute of Statistics and Census as of December 2019, the national poverty level stood at 25.5% while extreme poverty was at 8.9%.2
There are regions, in particular rural areas, where over 50% of the children and adolescents live in poor households, without access to potable water, sanitation or health care facilities.1
According to Children International: “Malnutrition and undernourishment in childhood can lead to numerous long-term difficulties later in life including low academic performance and early school-desertion. A child suffering from malnutrition has lasting effects including a weakened immune system…”
Ecuador’s School Milk and Feeding Program, which aims to provide breakfast and lunch to all students ages 5-14 regardless of their family’s economic status, is failing to support the nutritional health of the students in vulnerable, high poverty rural areas for two primary reasons:
- Distribution is inconsistent, particularly to outlying areas.
- The food provided is highly processed, high sugar, low nutrient food leading to increased obesity without significant reduction in rural area malnutrition rates among children.
Without a reliable source of school-provided sustenance, young students are unfairly challenged to maintain their focus over hunger, and eventually choose between school and working to supply food for themselves and their families. Leaving school early to begin working in often manual, low-paying jobs contributes to generational poverty.
Dance for Ecuador aims to provide food, support, education and joy to elementary school children across Ecuador by supplying 365 days of nutritious snacks to rural school children.
When we embarked on the mission to make a difference in the lives of school children in Ecuador – a mission our inspirational founder, Martha Tenorio Espinoza dedicated her life to – we aimed to identify a way to impact positively in an achievable way.
How could we make a difference in these children’s lives without the resources to build sustainable housing, supply a lifetime of food or create jobs for all of them?
We turned to our family and friends in the Esmeraldas, Ecuador community for insight. We knew that education is imperative to ending generational poverty, so we started with the mission to improve conditions for school children and encourage them to stay in school longer.
Focusing on improving young student’s ability to better their future through education, we worked with teachers and educators in these rural areas.
“What do these children really need, something that we could reliably give them?”
The resounding answer: snacktime.
Every parent knows that maintaining the focus of a hungry child is nearly impossible. So when asked how to make a difference in the daily life of these rural Ecuadorian school children, having reliable access to healthy, energy improving snacks was a need we heard time and time again.
But how to make it happen, reliably?
We knew that limited infrastructure would create a challenge if we were to import snacks (high cost of transportation, unreliable delivery). So our first step was to identify local food sources that would allow us to support the local farming and retail community while reducing the challenges to delivery.
Dance for Ecuador maintains a dedicated network of friends, family and contacts in the Esmeraldas, Ecuador community who are able to coordinate food acquisition and distribution to the rural communities we serve.
We are committed to coordinating with local food banks and government agencies to identify resources that already exist in an underutilized way to ensure that schools in rural communities gain access to food programs and student support services.
Martha Tenorio Espinoza has served her community of Esmeraldas, Ecuador, and her family, for over half a century as an elementary school teacher, a single mother of four (while caring for more) and as the beloved matriarch of her family.
For decades, she worked at elementary schools in the City, teaching children from all over the region. She traveled by canoe for many of those years, back and forth from school to home until adequate roads were built. Martha showed up and showed out time and time again for those children and families in need.
Now in her seventies, Martha has modeled to the Napa-Albee-Rohrer family – and to our organization – what it means to joyfully sacrifice for others. Martha exudes passion and patience to teach in spite of life’s challenges. This is how we strive to be day in and day out through our work. Martha has inspired us all.
Martha’s niece, Yanil Napa, along with her husband Francisco Napa, set off to build a better life for their family in the United States almost thirty years ago. With a knack for cooking flavorful Ecuadorian cuisines and her Mormon faith, Yanil made feeding everyone in sight a family pastime. She’s instilled charitable habits in the next generation. Her children now sit with their in-laws on the DFE Board, volunteering their time for Dance For Ecuador to serve children who need it most and may one day be able to follow in their footsteps.
Travis Albee was inspired by the Espinoza and Napa family’s dedication to caring for the rural Ecuadorian school children that Martha Espinoza spent her life serving and supporting. Travis founded Dance for Ecuador along with his wife Veronica Napa Albee in order to utilize his decades of experience in business development, sales, and client services to give back to the communities that – generationally – brought his wife Veronica “dancing into his life.”
Veronica Napa Albee embodies her family’s legacy of charitable dedication, co-founding Dance for Ecuador in order to carry on Martha’s cause and support the children in her ancestral community of rural Ecuador. The daughter of Yanil Napa and Martha Espinoza’s niece, Veronica is committed to using her United States resources and connections to facilitate resource procurement and work with her local family, friends and contacts in Ecuador to ensure that on the ground challenges (infrastructure, transportation, etc.) don’t impact Dance for Ecuador’s ability to reliably provide nutritious snacks to these young school children in need.
The School Milk and Feeding Program in Ecuador was founded in 1980 to provide breakfast (milk and crackers) and lunch to school age students in an effort to improve school attendance and student performance for over 1.4 million students in Ecuador.
While this is the goal of the School Milk & Feeding Program, it isn’t the reality. Many rural schools that need it most don’t receive any food or funding. Deployment is problematic and unreliable, and the schools in Esmeraldas have yet to receive any food or support from this program.
Also, the top school food providers include the international food and beverage giant Nestlé, as well as Modern Elementos, an Ecuadorian firm, which provide calorie-dense but nutrient-lacking sugary, processed foods that are contributing to ever increasing obesity rates without aiding childhood learning.
They are, but it’s not enough.
Transportation and infrastructure – particularly to rural areas of Ecuador – pose challenges to a single organization supplying food and aid to multiple regions.
With an area of over 280,000 km and a population of over 17 million, the nation of Ecuador has around 4 million people (about 35%) living below the nation’s poverty line. Poverty rates are much higher in rural areas, where 2 of 3 people are impoverished.5
The two most established food banks in Ecuador are:
Banco de Alimento in Quinto: active since 2002 they provide 485 families and 45 institutions, such as schools and orphanages, with daily food.
Banco de Alimentos Diakonía (Diakonía) in Guayaquil: Diakonía was the first fully established food bank in Ecuador. It now reaches more than 1 million people in its service area (a more than 30% increase compared to 2019), responding to the increase in need driven by the COVID pandemic.
Esmeraldas is located more than 300km from Quinto and Santo Domingo (the nearest major cities to the region) so students in the Esmeraldas region do not benefit from Banco de Alimento programs. Dance for Ecuador intends to work with Banco de Alimento in Quinto in order to determine if there is a reliable path to extending their food bank services to outlying rural areas such as Esmeraldas.
There is a strong correlation between the use of processed foods – which are cheap to produce and purchase, but are generally energy-dense and nutrient-poor – and worse nutritional health for young people.
Dance for Ecuador is dedicated to supporting local farms and suppliers while providing a reliable source of nutrient-focused snacks including fresh fruits and vegetables and healthy snack foods with the micronutrients children growing up in areas of food scarcity often lack – iron, iodine and Vitamin A.3
Distribution problems faced by food aid organizations are well known:
- Food supplies are irregular
- Food is often lost to spoilage or the black market
- Rations are often inadequate in calories and other nutrients
- Transporting large quantities of food to areas with poor infrastructure
Dance for Ecuador has local representatives in the Ecuador communities that we support. These “on the ground” representatives coordinate procurement of snacks from local sources. Less importing and transportation logistics improve reliability of food while supporting local farms and families.