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Uncle Ned Comes to Ecuador

By Ned Mesiner

IIn 2018, I was invited down to Ecuador by Rotarian Mark Backlin, to work with him on one of his medical missions.

I fell in love with Ecuador and also participated in a Rotary International project outside of Quito, Ecuador.

As a financial planner, Rotarian, and a Chartered Advisor in Philanthropy, I thought I could make a significant impact through the various projects which I could design and implement.

My children and grandchildren were all too busy to spend much time with me, so I didn't feel I was leaving much behind, although I miss my family desperately. As an alternative, I have been adopting families here, who now call me Uncle Ned (Tío Ned). My first stop was in Quito for a couple of months. I was mugged three times and quickly decided to move to Cuenca. In my opinion, Cuenca is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Relative to other cities in South America it is very safe. The water is clean, the mountains are nearby, and there is a developing cultural community which is superb. It became obvious to me that Cuenca and Ecuador could both benefit from an English-speaking Rotary club. There are 69 Rotary clubs in Ecuador and most do not speak English. When a Rotary club can develop a partnership with a club in another country, Rotary International can provide a Global Grant matching three dollars to every dollar raised. I did this with a Quito Rotary club raising $184,000 for an organic farming project. This was the largest single Rotary project in Ecuador. The English-speaking Rotary Club could've helped the other 69 clubs create these relationships with other countries. This could have created an influx of millions of carefully placed dollars which would have had a substantial impact on the economy of this country. Personally, I found it was too difficult to deal with the local culture. I realized that I could get more done working alone and networking with other people. I worked with many of the charities in Cuenca. I quickly learned how to vet individuals and foundations, and to work with those who could work with me, effectively.

I joined the English-speaking Lions club in Cuenca because I felt I could lend some ideas and resources. I bought a new motorcycle and created Motorcycle Charities. This is a growing group of philanthropists who like to have fun. We support other charities and projects by helping to raise funds and become workers when needed. We are good at developing resources and beneficiaries and putting them together to create great synergy. For me, it was figuring out how to best invest my time and resources so as to get the best yield on my investment. Yield, to me, is improving people's lives. I have assessed that Ecuador, although rich in natural resources, also has many poor and sick people. In my opinion, the best way to help this economy is to help those two layers. The best way to help those two layers is to work with the people who are already working with those layers. These are the good foundations. I have been using Facebook as a marketing tool so that people, here, and in North America can see the fun I am having, contributing to this country. I am always marketing the good work that the foundations are doing.

I am also promoting culture here, and developed the Cultural Club of Cuenca, with a few others. I am attempting to entice those in North America to come on down and bring their resources. If they don't want to come down, perhaps they can just send their resources. There are people in North America who are giving millions of dollars to universities or other charities who do not need the money. In Ecuador, $1 million can resuscitate an entire village and permanently improve the lives of 10,000 people.

My dream is to continue to connect philanthropy with fun. I want to visit all of the countries in South America, on my perfectly outfitted motorcycle. The plan is to return to beautiful Cuenca after each motorcycle journey. Cuenca is paradise. I love the consistently moderate climate and the option to visit other climates which are only 15 minutes away. The restaurants are incredible and everything is moderately priced. I wake up, grateful, every day.


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