I visited the Centro del Muchacho Trabajador (then translated as The Working Boys’ Center but should probably be translated as “childrens'”) in my junior year of high school. Well, more accurately, I was a rising senior sent away on the longest trip I’d yet been on. I’d gotten my shots, my tickets, and my huge bags, and set off with a number of other guys from my New York all boys’ school to just outside Quito. The CMT is a Jesuit mission, set up by Father John Halligan – Padre Juan, as he was known down there – and I attended one of two Jesuit high schools in Manhattan, so it was a natural fit.

Founded in 1964 the, er, mission of this mission is to provide an education to Ecuador’s working children – since kids can make up a huge part of their family’s income shining shoes, selling chicle, or doing some other menial task, these children often go without schooling at all. The CMT offers education and vocational training to children and adults both in the hopes that their lives will improve through education, but also more practically that learning a trade will help them to be able to make better money in more engaging work. Or, as the CMT say of themselves:

Somos una organización social de la Compañía de Jesús, que desarrolla una propuesta global que permita rescatar, proyectar y recrear la formación integral del niño trabajador y de su grupo familiar. Contribuimos a la formación de personas capaces de crear, desde sus propios esfuerzos, espacios personales y comunitarios de ocupación laboral y realización humana que aporten a superar su situación de extrema pobreza.

It’s possible to donate, but if at all possible, I’d recommend volunteering with them. My experience living and working in Quito with these children, both in the classroom, the workshop, and the playground is something I’ll always value. I hope to be able to return some day.

And any single one of these kids will destroy you at soccer, I promise.