World Refugee Day In Ecuador: "Food Tastes So Delicious When We Are Together"
By Gabriela Malo — 18 June 2015
Through the Family Meal initiative, a project developed by the European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO) and the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), photographer Chris Terry travelled around the world in search of the ingredients of the family meal. His journey took him to Ecuador’s northern border region, where he met eleven-year-old Ximena and her family shortly after they fled the armed conflict in Colombia and moved to Ecuador.
Ximena will not let her father out of her sight. This started one Monday, when he came home terribly frightened after running into a member of one of the irregular armed groups operating in Colombia. Ximena, her father Juan, her mother, and her three siblings came to Ecuador a few months ago, after this particular group tried to recruit Juan.
Juan had felt safe in the small city in Ecuador’s northern border region where he and his family had made a home. But when the man from the armed group tried to follow him, his sense of security was shattered. Since that day, Ximena has been his shadow. She thinks that if she lets him go, her dad could be killed anywhere and anytime, and their family would have no way of knowing about it.
Ximena feels lucky that Juan can stay at home, since there are no jobs available for him in construction right now. The fact that the family has not been granted refugee status in Ecuador means that Juan has no work permit. Now he works with his wife, preparing food to sell to passers-by. Ximena is happy with this arrangement, and he is too. Juan explains, “The way things are now, I couldn’t leave my children and go away, even for two days. They would be too worried.”
Each month, one of Ximena’s parents attends a training to learn about healthy eating habits and to recharge their electronic food voucher, which allows them to buy fresh foods at a local sales point. Here in Ecuador, Ximena has learned to eat new foods like quinoa. Her parents prepare it mixed with rice and other foods, after learning about its high nutritional value in WFP trainings.
Ximena doesn’t know that the letters WFP stand for “World Food Programme.” She doesn’t know that WFP organizes the assistance that allows her parents to provide her and her siblings with daily meals during their first months in Ecuador, thanks to support from ECHO. And although she doesn’t know the details, she says a prayer before every meal, giving thanks that her family is together.
For Juan, “Sharing food together is a blessing; having a family, a wife, and food. Food tastes so delicious when we are together: for both my wife and for me, it is a joy to see our children satisfied after eating a meal.”
Not having to worry about where their next meal will come from allows Ximena’s parents to think about other important concerns, like shoes and books for the new school year. Although they don’t feel completely safe yet, this family is starting a new life here, with new opportunities.