Testimonial: “Clara Luna is an experience of life and deep humanity!” by Annabel Wiest

Translated by Lorraine Smart.

Hi, I’m Annabel, I’m 25 years old. I spent these last five years in college and now have a Master’s degree in Cinematographic Studies. Before I came to Ecuador, I had already fallen in love with Latin America through many films that had caught my attention and that marked me deeply. And it was after a trip to Colombia, and another to Costa Rica that I discovered a real passion and a desire to spend some time of my life in this part of the world and do something meaningful there.

But what does it mean to “do something good”? First of all, it’s knowing what you want. The opportunity for civic service appeared as a logical consequence after I finished my studies. I had matured and wanted to live a unique experience that made sense and would help people. Volunteering is about engaging, it is about creating sense and cohesion among people. I was fortunate to be able to volunteer in Ecuador, and find a mission with goals that immediately caught my attention, with a community that joined me as a family member.

In Puerto López (Manabí) I work every day. Here, access to culture, art and books is difficult and particularly expensive. The Clara Luna Foundation welcomes a group of children for our “children’s club”, organizes English classes and intercultural encounters, and works with people with disabilities. In addition, I am fortunate to work with a group of highly motivated teens to open a library in Clara Luna, the only community library in town, which will provide free access to books for all. Each week is different and finds new projects and new activities splashed with increasingly surprising stories.

Ecuador is full of secret places, legends, and you will find a varied and delicious meal. Ecuadorians are so kind. I was pleasantly surprised by their patience and calmness, and I really like the musical atmosphere on every corner. I arrived in the “cold” period of the region, but human heat prevailed over the climate.

Puerto Lopez is a coastal town, a paradise on our planet, which can be immediately recognized for its blue fishing boats. There is a very quiet and familiar atmosphere where on Saturday the city turns into a salsa-flavored party. It is a city where people meet you, I was quickly known as “the girl of Clara Luna” and where you quickly feel at home. My first experience was very warm with a very understanding people and I see Clara Luna as a great family.             

Volunteering has made me grow and has given a real and profound sense to my life. I feel involved and see my experience not as a mission but as a way of life. In these times of health crisis and quarantine, I am very frustrated that I cannot continue working with children on a daily basis. I am particularly concerned about some families whose parents are no longer able to practice their profession and who no longer have any income. I can’t stand idly by: We’ve distributed food, we’re distributing books to children, and we’ve transformed our daily lives: Clubs continue virtually. Children keep pace by reading a story I prepare in advance with Paola’s help. And we organize virtually all of our activities. We have managed to adapt and renew ourselves, turning such a difficult situation into an opportunity to create new things for our Club de Niños.

Volunteering means opening up to others and learning from these people. Some people think volunteering should be done at 18, to gain maturity and responsibility. At 25, I am discovering a lot and learning more every day. I already felt mature but I feel more and more understanding and with more resources needed to life, thanks to Clara Luna. There is no age, only and above all willingness.

Clara Luna is an experience of life and deep humanity!

November at Clara Luna by Annabel Wiest.


“A month of Rights and Respect” by Annabel Wiest.

Translated by Lorraine Smart

  Here we go again! This month of November was intense and full of wonderful themes. We are still recording our Facebook Lives and we’re working hard for our kids’ clubs. The good news is that winter is coming, so is the sun, actually …

 Clara Luna’s team was working on new themes in relation to Human Rights and respecting others. We celebrated the day of non-violence against women, the gender equality, and the day of disability. The challenge was getting to explain such important themes to children from 6 to 12.

With the Library group, we could get deeper in these themes especially the ones that concerned women’s rights. It was incredible to have the group on Saturdays: we had debates, free talking, and activities to understand what exactly gender does mean and what questions it does bring. We also talked about harassment with them, and cyber harassment. We tried to get more comfortable about the theme in order to prevent harassment; we even made an activity where we had to put ourselves in someone’s shoes and get to know at what point we were talking about harassment. These kids are so open-minded and were able to talk about their own experiences. I feel that when they’re coming to Clara Luna, they feel safe and know that they can share with us. Clara Luna is also a place of support where you can express yourself without any sort of shame.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is getting to its end. In December, we’ll have one or two chapters left. So we are already thinking about our next book to finish the year. The movie night’s celebrity was “Matilda” so that we could stay with Roald Dahl’s theme.

The Virtual Language Exchange is welcoming more and more people. And our surprise is that we have now a lot more people who want to practice their Spanish … So we are waiting for you, you’re the only one left!

Thanks for reading us, we’ll see you in December with Christmas stories …

June at Clara luna by Annabel Wiest

Translated by Abril Mendoza

Environment, art, and fun!

June was a busy month. Our famous Willy, from Anthony Browne’s tales, was visiting the Clara Luna’s children, again, through virtual transmissions.

Also, Fathers’ Day allowed us to continue reading a book from our book’s collection of the same author titled “My father,” a tale where the author describes his father through funny illustrations and texts that are as deep as ever.

It was an opportunity to do a puppet show, which we recorded and edited before broadcasting it on our Father’s Day transmission. The show was “Yo mataré monstruos por ti (I will kill monsters for you).” It tells us the story of a young girl that is afraid of the monsters under her bed, and at the same time, it tells us the story of a young monster girl scared of humans! In both cases, the father figure reassures the child before they fall asleep. He does this until the two children meet and become friends because they realized they were sharing the same fear.

Another important day in June at Puerto Lopez is Oceans’ day. It allowed us to evoke nature and its marine animals. We took advantage of the event and did a puppet show that we adapted from Marcus Pfister’s rainbowfish

In Clara Luna, we care a lot about the environment, so the team of Clara Luna asked the children to talk about an endangered animal that they loved and to make a short video about them. The goal was to understand why these animals are in danger and how we can help them. Paolo, a volunteer at Clara Luna, took the step and talked about the hippocampus. To keep a fun aspect for the kids, we added to his video a clip of behind the scenes where he makes mistakes, does a horrible job explaining, makes jokes, and demands his prize. Some children happily participated; we played their video during the live. Besides all these activities, we must talk about all the background work dedicated to the “Festiartes.” It’s a festival in Puerto Lopez, which takes place every year since 2018; it brings together international and local artists: musicians, magicians, singers, street artists, drawers, photographers, and so on. The festival was virtual this year. The Festiartes’s team made it to all the meetings, thanks to the Zoom Platform. It was necessary to collect the works of the artists, classify them, ask the artists to make a ‘trailer’ to announce their participation at the festival. It was necessary to manage all the communication and publicity of the festival. We conducted radio and TV interviews with local channels. Some artists were going to realize an interview during the live show via our “BeLive” platform, so we had to bring the artists together virtually to organize test sessions. Some of them were going to organize a virtual workshop. So we had to manage all the inscriptions. The job was very tiring, and the virtual method was new for everyone, especially for the organization of a festival. Yet the result was amazing even though it was only two days of live sessions, and different workshops online. One live was dedicated to children, and the second one was for adult viewers. We had a great audience, goodies to give, a lot of fun, and great artistic works.

We invite you to visit the Festiartes Facebook page to see the live shows!

March in Clara Luna by Annabel Wiest

March in Clara Luna: a strange ordeal.

The month of March at Clara Luna began with something new: a large group of volunteers traveled from Quebec to lend us a hand. They arrived with the goal to improve upon their Spanish and themselves, and went to live with families in Puerto Lopez for a total change of life: new family, new culture. We organized an afternoon celebration to welcome them, complete with a presentation of the Clara Luna group and a puppet show put on by the children of the library group. With new volunteers, the idea was to do more activities, more meetings and more outings. It was a huge change!

            The Quebequois began their work by helping us reorganize our stock of equipment for manual activities and sports with children. They offered us new equipment, such as colored pencils. It was part of the big clean-up!

            Our weekly meetings became much busier and took more time because we had to organize weeks with a lot of new volunteers. “Cuentos en la Plaza” is usually organized once every two weeks. We take our books to the streets, the children read, we read a story aloud, we do manual activities and sometimes a puppet show. With the Quebec volunteers, we organize this event twice a week! So we form teams to have an adequate number of volunteers for the Clubcito, the children’s club and the library group. We had to find the right rhythm and the right organization, but in the end, everything went well. The Quebequois seemed happy to be with the children and very motivated to participate in the activities as they helped with the preparation of the clubs. Their help has been invaluable to us.

            During the month of March, we prepared the Clara Luna Olympic Games, an event that takes place at the end of the month. Each children’s club had a theme related to a sport, and we were in the habit of talking about the continents and countries. Each volunteer presented a sportswoman from his or her country. The story of Anthony Browne’s “Willy the Wizard” immersed us in the atmosphere of football in England … The books “Hippo doesn’t swim” for the Clubcito and “Malena the Whale” invited us to swim and gain confidence. Our routine was very sporty, at all levels. For the activities, we stayed on the theme of sports with, for example, making a football field made of paper with a ball that moves thanks to a straw. And with the theme of confidence, we prepared a dance related to self-esteem for the Olympics. So we used the song “Soy Yo” by Bomba Estereo, and the kids who were motivated to, came to practice twice a week.

            The beginning of the month was full of emotions, dances and events. Unfortunately, the global pandemic reached Puerto Lopez and forced us to cancel the Olympic Games and close Clara Luna’s doors. The volunteers from Quebec were the first to leave Puerto Lopez for their country. Maddie, our Peace Corps volunteer, was repatriated to the United States, as was Franka, our German volunteer. What a shame they didn’t have the time or opportunity to say goodbye to the children… Annabel, the French volunteer doing her civic service, was able to choose to stay at Clara Luna, in the hope of being able to return to work for the association “as soon as possible”. The quarantine was declared on March 17th and all public places were immediately closed.

            Clara Luna, like many others, was very disappointed with this devastating news. But we all keep in touch with the volunteers and look for solutions so that we can continue our activities. It was very difficult to have to cancel our events, close our doors and separate ourselves from our dear volunteers, but we do not lose hope or motivation. See you soon for future adventures!

November at Clara Luna by Annabel Wiest

November in Clara Luna rhymes with Girl Power!
As you guessed, the month of November was dedicated to rebellious women who fought for their rights, who struggled to get justice, and who did everything they could to acheive their dreams.
During each « Club de Niños » we presented a woman or group of women considered « rebeldes ». We started with Frida Kalo as a transition with the mexican Día de los Muertos in October. And we made a world Tour, starting of course with Mexico, then Iran with Yusra Mardini, Pakistan talking about the incredible Malala Yousafzai, travelling through Italy and the Maria Montessori’s innovating system of education, and finishing this incredible journey with the Mirabal sisters in Dominican Republic. This tour allowed children to get to know women’s conditions throughout the world, see  that war is still running in some countries, that children can’t always go to school and understand that men and women must be equal and must have the same rights.
We got to know various famous rebel women. We learned together how was the political situation in Pakistan and Iran, we learned the meaning of the word « refugiado » and admired the strenght of Malala and Yusra, as examples of bravery. We made homemade medals that children offered to their mothers, to show how strong and brave they are. We made our own butterflies to celebrate the power of the Mirabal Sisters, also knonw as « Las  mariposas ».
The mothers also celebrated during November as we organized a photo session with accesories to remaind us that we’re mothers, but we are also women and proud to be, no one can’t blew this off, not even the wolf of the little red riding hood, because when you say « Dije No!» it’s no. We stand for the women’rights and against gender violence. We all worked on the children’s rights : to education, to be loved, to have fun, to alimentation, to have an identity, and so on. And we made an awesome video about it as a fun souvenir of the month and to celebrate el Día Internacional del niño.
Our event « Érase una vez » was also dedicated to women and we really wanted to work on gender violence. After searching for old socks to make the puppets, a group of 5 kids participated to the muppet show called « La princessa vestida con una bolsa de papel » where the Prince Ronaldo and the Princess Elizabeth are supposed to get married but a dragon burns their castle and sequestred the Prince. Elizabeth’s clothes got burned in the fire, she only finds paper bag to use as a dress. She’s really intelligent and succeeds in munipilating the dangerous dragon so that she can save Ronaldo. The only thing he says when he finally get free thanks to her is that she looks terrible in her paper dress, and doesn’t look like a real princess anymore. So Elizabeth reponds « Eres un TONTO » and they never got married. It’s was simply amazing to see how children reacted to this story because it was funny obviously, but it was also meaningful.

«One child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world» Malala Yousafzai.

“One child, one teacher, one book, one pen can change the world.” ― Malala Yousafzai