The “Cuenca Soup Kitchen” project, promoted by Americans based in the city, operates in the capital of Azuay. They work every day.
Before 12:00, dozens of people begin to congregate in the door of access to the patios of the church of San Francisco, in Cuenca. They are foreigners, most of them from Venezuela, who are looking for work or other countries.
The tables fill up quickly to take lunch. In the kitchen several foreigners who live in Cuenca have ready the food that is prepared since the morning.
Two large pots are very hot with soup, rice and hot aromatic water on one side to warm diners in these days of severe frost.
This project called “Basin Soup Kitchen” began more than a year ago by a group of Americans who reside in the capital of Azuay.
“Many times we call people through social networks to help us and they come,” says Robert Higgins, a volunteer from the United States who is in charge of the program. He lives seven years ago in the city of Morlaca.
Three groups are formed to serve lunch, since the space is not very broad for everyone. Even a small corridor is used to place the tables and chairs.
A soup with vegetables opens the palate of people who notice that they crave a lunch, since they do not have the resources to go to a restaurant.
One of the volunteers places a plate of rice in the center of the table and the guests take it with delicacy, in spite of the hunger nobody takes advantage of the account.
The aromatic water, instead of juice, can be repeated. The jars are placed on the tables for the “guests” to quench their thirst. A bread and a banana close the menu that is dedicated to foreigners who can not find work.
Erikson Álvarez, of Venezuelan origin, confesses that he looks for job opportunities in Cuenca, but has not achieved one. “The situation is complicated and in this place is where we can feed without cost.”
He arrived with his little daughter and his wife. While Alex Rojas, also Venezuelan, arrived with his armor, a donkey made of rags with what works in the streets of the city.
“I have been two months and Cuenca has treated me very well, especially the foreign community (Americans) that help us in terms of food,” he acknowledges.
Lunch has no cost, but according to Higgins it takes around $ 2,500 per month to feed the travelers who arrive at this site. “We have to turn to people of good will to help us,” says the foreigner. Jesus Mendoza, of Venezuelan nationality, argues that he left his country 21 months ago, “10 months I was in Medellin, nine months in Huaquillas and now two months in Cuenca”.
For the Venezuelan, the intention was to go to Peru, but due to the series of obstacles that the Government of the neighboring country has decided to stay here. According to him, the situation is becoming more difficult every day, because the Citizen Guard prevents it from selling on the streets and that has made it difficult for them to “survive”.
For the foreigner it is necessary that the municipal authorities give them a space in the markets, where they do not occupy the basins, to obtain some money, “I am a cook and I can contribute in something in this city,” he says.
Richard Signes and Taylor Brooke, husbands, both retired in the United States and residents of Cuenca, decided to give their support and joined the project.
“There is a lot to do and what we seek is to give our help,” he explains. They were integrated in August of last year.
Now they hope that in a few weeks they will receive all their documents as residents of this country. “They have treated me very well in Cuenca and here we will be the rest of our lives.” The spouses arrive every Tuesday and help prepare and serve the food to the “clients”.
Robert Higgins says that the work they do is in favor of foreign citizens. “There are 150 people, on average, who are fed daily, and 70 people on the streets, but they are Ecuadorians,” he said. Higgins is a psychologist and some years worked with refugees “giving food”.
The American adds that when he arrived in the capital, he saw the need to support people who do not have money for their food.
The volunteer tells that the food is served from Monday to Friday and the project will last until there is support from people from the city of Cuenca or from abroad.