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The students, teachers and principal in front of the school motto

The students, teachers and principal in front of the school motto

Great people doing amazing things (plus Jonathan and Geert)

Great people doing amazing things (plus Jonathan and Geert)

Jonathan, Janina, Vanessa and the suddenly shy Missy

Jonathan, Janina, Vanessa and the suddenly shy Missy

Jonathan and Geert with some of Janina's students

Jonathan and Geert with some of Janina's students

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Jonathan's visit to El Guabo - P2: El Guabo Special School

The tallest man in Ecuador reports back from where your bananas are grown. At All Good we don't just slap a Fairtrade sticker on our bananas, we make a point of going out to see our growers in El Guabo and bringing their stories back to you. This year it was Jonathan our operations manager who got to take the trip of a lifetime - after spending so much time making sure our bananas got safely from Ecuador to NZ he deserved to see the other side of the operation!

This was our first stop visiting some of the projects that are funded by the Fairtrade Premium.

Where as in New Zealand, special needs are carefully classified, understood and supported, in Ecuador there is no differentiation in the types of disabilities at all - not between physical, mental or intellectual, neither the scale at which disability is experienced. Public funding only reaches about 2-5% of people in Ecuador living with a disability.

The Special Needs School motto (on the wall behind the students in photo 1 above) translates to "You were born different but have a life to fight, you have your time, your strength and the ability to love".

The school consists of 49 pupils from ages 4-13, five teachers and a physiotherapist who is also the principal. The school is 100% funded by the Fairtrade premium, without which the kids would either have to stay at home (common practice) or go to a normal school without the resources to teach them adequately. The school is fundamentally concerned with getting the basics right, starting with hygiene, manners, greetings and moving into appropriate social behaviours so that when the children leave the school they can interact comfortably with their peers and the public. They also run joint classes with the parents to ensure learning does not stop at the school.

Vanessa and the favourite teacher Janina, and hiding in the middle is Missy - a very inappropriate, hilarious and suddenly camera shy student who kept calling our banana technical expert Geert "Papa Claus" and rubbing his belly. 

One of their former students represented Ecuador in the last Paralympics and as a result the Olympic Committee visited last year and identified two students for training. In one of the pictures, the guy with the yellow bag straps standing in front of Marcello is training for Weightlifting, and the guy between Vanessa and Geert with the V-neck and green skivvy is training for Cycling.

This was the first project that El Guabo began to fund with the Fairtrade Premium about a decade ago, and every year the roll grows by around 5 pupils. They have plans to build a purpose built facility that can take up to 150 kids and 15 teachers as needed. A fantastic story of Fairtrade going beyond just trade.
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