Carnival 2011 begins today through Tuesday as hundreds of thousands of Ecuadorians migrate to the beaches to celebrate the coming of lent!  This year, a record 45 Project Ecuador (PE) volunteers are working alongside 150 Ecuadorian lifeguards to protect the non-swimming population from an untimely death by drowning.   This year also marks the first year PE has supported all 4 coastal provinces; Esmeraldas (new), Manabi, Santa Elena and Guayas.  This year, our mission was almost cancelled due to an uninformed government official.

Since Carnival last year, our positive momentum with the Ministry of Tourism ended as they transferred the oversight of the nation’s lifeguards to the Secretaria Nacional de Gestion de Riesgos (SNR) .  The SNR is the authority over the Fire Department, Civil Defense and Natural Disasters.  PE Director Gabriela Munoz Ocana met with SNR officials in Quito to present our goals and objectives to re-establish our national momentum, but somehow the message was misinterpreted.

On 3/2, one SNR representative threatened our volunteers with deportation and possible arrest if they worked on the beaches.  After several phone calls and letters to the SNR in Quito and Mayors in all regions, a meeting was held and the outcome was the SNR’s official letter authorizing PE volunteers to help the country of Ecuador. 

This incident caused a 1 day delay in pre-Carnival training, however all volunteers are safe and working the key beaches amongst the throngs of tourists.