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Hi, I'mKelly Merchán

Advocate, Writer & Project Manager

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Illusions of Nonprofit Culture in Ecuador: My Intentions

The first time I met an Ecuadorian nonprofit was in the summer of 2015. I came to Ecuador for the summer to get some boot-in-the-mud experience during my master’s degree and spent six weeks at one of Cuenca’s star organizations, Casa de Maria Amor, a domestic violence support and shelter organization.

This was an organization that had relatively secure government funding. Wow, I couldn’t believe how isolated they were — there was no network of support that brought organizations together. The center was located in the downtown district, but the shelter was out in the campo (rural area). Coming from this area of work in Maryland, I expected to gain some hands on experience in working in another culture and another language with survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. In reality, I ended up spending the summer with the kiddies of the shelter, encouraging them to play and engage in activities.

Less than a year later {after falling in love with my now Ecuadorian} Fiancé, I found myself on staff at a grassroots expat-founded nonprofit called the Hearts of Gold Foundation.

In my role as Program Coordinator and then Program Director, I had the opportunity to design, implement, and manage Ecuador’s premiere capacity building program for nonprofit professionals. In doing so, I developed a curriculum to train and support Ecuadorian nonprofit leaders to better manage their organizations and boost their impact. With 5 member organizations and 15 more participating organizations, we highlighted on six areas of nonprofit work: Finance & Reporting, Programs, Fundraising, Marketing & Communications, and Leadership & Team Building. I designed 25+ interactive workshops, hosted 8 networking events, and facilitated countless mentoring and dialogue hours over a two-year period of the program.

Through that experience, I became immersed in the culture of Ecuadorian nonprofits and grassroots movements. Aside from my masters research on Ecuador’s social movements and nonviolent tactics, I began to co-experience the struggles of each leader and stood by them hand-in-hand to develop sustainable strategies that could carry their work forward.

So why am I telling you all of this?

I want to share my story, which is ultimately the untold stories of the Ecuadorian changemakers who are at the forefront of social change.

Unfortunately this information is not out there in the world, and it truly deserves to be.

My intent with this blog series “The Illusion of Unity, Mobilization, and Isolation: Social Organizations and Movements in Southern Ecuador” is to let the world know about the fabulous work that is being done by grassroots leaders and organizations in southern Ecuador. I want you to meet the women at the forefront of noble causes and creative solutions. I want you to know what their realities are — in the good and the bad. I want you to know what structures of inequality exist in Ecuador, and how they can be overcome when changemakers unite.

I look forward to sharing this information with you, answering any questions you may have, and connecting you with anyone you may like to partner with.

It’s going to be a bumpy, informative ride. Stick along as I share posts over the coming months!

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