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Hi, I'mKelly Merchán

Advocate, Writer & Project Manager

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The Impact that Ecuadorian Women Have Had on Me…

Maria Jose, Maribel, Rocio, and Priscila – 4 Ecuadorian women who lead nonprofits, and who have given me so much more than I could ever give in return <3


When I first came to Ecuador, I thought I was brave. I was making this huge jump into the unknown, and I was proud of myself for making a bold choice and following through.


But it wasn’t my own bravery that ended up changing my life. On the contrary, I soon realized that the dozens of Ecuadorian women I met while working at Hearts of Gold would leave a much deeper impression on my soul. I felt silly for my pride, and overwhelmed with admiration for these women, all of whom are leaders in their communities.


As to be expected, life in Ecuador has its differences. Ecuador, like many regions of the world, is a male-dominated society, that’s for sure. But it is also one that is full of female warriors, fighting everyday to make their communities better.


Hearts of Gold is a small Ecuadorian nonprofit, where I started working as a Program Manager in April 2016. I quickly met women who left me stunned with their strength. These women take care of their communities, even though nobody asks them to and despite limited support or formal training.

I’ve had the honor of seeing Ecuadorian community leaders come together and thrive. This 5-day leadership summit brought together an incredible group. How special it was to see everyone bond and grow!

I met Maribel, Rocio, Priscila, Miriam, Maria Fernanda, Cari, Marisol, Lorena, and many more, Ecuadorian women whose selflessness and passion have guided each of them to help hundreds in need, year after year: children, cancer patients, people with special needs, families, survivors of domestic violence, and many others. If they didn’t, many of these people would have nowhere to turn — a thought that persistently reminds me just how important it is to support these community leaders.


After a few months at Hearts of Gold, I saw potential to serve these women in more ways. Sure, I had designed a capacity-building program for nonprofit leaders, many of whom were starting to reap its benefits — that was great. But I couldn’t help but think: was it a coincidence that 93% of those nonprofit leaders were women? Were there more aspiring female leaders out there, in need of support? If so, how could I reach them?


Then it hit me: what our community needed was an organization that would find those aspiring female entrepreneurs and activists, and those women who simply want to make a difference in their lives, and help them realize their full potential.


Which brings us now to Mírame. Hearts of Gold in partnership with a collective of local women has launched a new program that empowers Ecuadorian women through access to education and training, mentoring, networking, and competitive access to micro-funding for social initiatives.


Mírame means “watch me” — watch me live, watch me strive, watch me succeed.


My vision is for this project to take off in Ecuador and, in doing so, form a tribe of women who want to support, guide, and empower other female-identified people.

Never underestimate the power of brilliant women, brought together for a common cause.

I’m confident that this is only the beginning of a beautiful story, in which we help women with dreams make lasting impacts on their communities — and help them follow those changes all the way through.


This program is for the women who have taught me so much about resilience and what it means to genuinely give from the heart.


This project Mírame is up for competitive international funding for the 2018 Girls Fund hosted by Global Giving. This fund honors International Women’s Day, and gives us the chance to be awarded $2,000 per month (which is a huge amount of funding in Ecuador, and can be considered $8,000 monthly in the states) if our campaign has the highest number of new donors by March 15th.


If you believe in helping women thrive, I ask you to make a contribution today which will not only go toward the launch of Mírame, but will contribute to our campaign for this competitive international funding. If you feel connected to the cause, please consider a one-time donation of $10 to $50 in honor of International Women’s Day (March 8th).


Thank you for listening to my story, and thank you shining a spotlight on female leaders in Ecuador who bring hope, passion, and determination to this country and its communities in need <3

So far, we’ve been able to bring together 59 community leaders, 55 of which have been women.


Fundacion El Arenal, a very, very special place that serves one of the poorest sectors in the city of Cuenca.


Mirame will provide support for all types of women in Ecuador who are looking to let their light shine <3

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  • Bethany Dellagnello
    Bethany Dellagnello | March 8, 2018

    What an inspiring story, Kelly! I am happy to help you spread the word about your goals and to contribute to your campaign.

  • Scott Simmerman
    Scott Simmerman | August 5, 2018

    Personally, I am an information hound and I love reading about people and places and things to see. Over my 70 years, I have been very fortunate to visit over 45 countries and make a lot of global friends. At this point, my interests are in moving to Cuenca, and my friend and I travel down there in a couple of weeks. In looking at information about busing from the city to Ingapirca, your blog came up as a related link.

    My goal is NOT to relocate to Cuenca and then sit around speaking English with a bunch of people from the Midwest. Connecting with locals and learning the language seems like an important part of understanding the country and its rich heritage. So, your article about the women was interesting and your work with Hearts of Gold seems to be a great initiative.

    I am hoping that we can connect similarly, making friends with both global expats as well as connecting with the locals. But what I am reading seems to indicate that there may be some difficulties in being accepted and making things work. It seems like an interesting challenge… You have done a good job.

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