Women’s Group in Ibarra

Our hostess in Ibarra was Clarita. She is French by birth and a retired nurse.  She speaks Spanish quite well and of course French. Her English is about the equivalent of our Spanish…more than minimal but not great.

She and a friend of hers (Justine) who is also French decided to start a women’s group in Clarita’s neighborhood. The first meeting had 11 women (including Clarita and Justine I think) and the second had 5 plus Clarita, Justine, and myself. Although it was disappointing to have such a drop in attendance, at least 2 people were ill and one out of town.

Those who attended were probably 40’s-70’s but I’m guessing. The meeting started with some very gentle movement exercises like rotating our arms or legs while standing. We spent about 5 minutes doing this.

This night’s topic which was diabetes. Diabetes is the number one killer in Ecuador and looking at people as we walk around town, it isn’t surprising that 1 in 4 have it. (In the States it is just under 10% by one CDC statistic I saw.)

The typical diet is heavy on starch and fruit. At breakfast, our Ecuadorian neighbor made for us ($2.50 each) included Perico (scrambled eggs with finely chopped green onion and tomato), rice, French fries, or hominy, a plate of chopped apples, papaya, and bananas, a large glass of fresh juice, and hot chocolate. Every day we had to tell her to give us less food because the servings were too large.

Lunches typically are a bowl of soup, a meat (usually stewed), rice, French fries, fried plantains, and a small salad with a large glass of juice.  I don’t know how different dinners are but servings are always large.

We watched a video on diabetes in Ecuador (in Spanish of course). During the discussion afterwards, the two older ladies didn’t say much but the other two had a lot of input. I could understand some of the discussion and much of the video. We also tasted a pudding type dessert made of pureed avocados, bananas, and I don’t recall what else. It was sweet and pleasant tasting. At the end of the meeting we had hot tea made of cinnamon which was very tasty. The entire meeting was 2 hours.

The fact that anyone shows up is a wonder. One of the women gets up at 3:30 every morning to make food for her family before she goes to work for 10-12 hours! The other two younger ones work as well. Not sure about the 2 older ladies but I am sure that they have to take care of their homes and cook.

I really admire what Clarita and Justine are doing. A real grassroots effort to make significant changes for the local Ecuadorians. It is a small group but if even 3 or 4 women start making changes and teach their children/grandchildren to make changes, it will have a huge impact.

The group is not solely devoted to nutrition. They are planning to plant flowers and I saw two small avocado trees that they have already planted. Clarita’s husband, Alfonso, is a forensic pathologist and is going to talk about violence in the home in an upcoming meeting. I wish the group all the best!

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