When my husband Christopher and I began to realize that retirement was within our grasp, we knew we wanted to be in an area that would allow us to live comfortably on our pensions, enjoy a moderate climate, and be able to give back to the community. Cotacachi, Ecuador, has exceeded all our expectations.
We began planning to move to Cotacachi, in the Ecuadorian Andes, several years before our retirement. Both of us had spent our lives in service careers; Chris retired as the captain of police and I was the director of special services in our town in New Hampshire.
Now we have a beautiful home in a complex with a diverse population. There are expats from around the globe, but there are Ecuadorian families, as well. One of our neighbors described our complex well when he said that it’s like waking up in a resort every day.
But in retirement, particularly in a different country, you need to create new networks of friends and support. You must decide what to do with the newfound freedom you have.
My passion has always been working with children, particularly those with disabilities. In discussions with Ecuadorian families, I came to understand that services for children with disabilities were significantly different from what I was used to.
As a result, a group of us, including families and members of the community, began a Special Olympics team in Cotacachi. The community really came together, and we soon felt an integral part of it. Parents were consistently challenged to become vocal advocates for their children. They attended meetings, participated in fundraising, and became convincing public speakers.
People came and went in assisting us in the development of this project. We were lucky to have a good friend, Oswaldo Rueda, who is an attorney in our town. He consistently provided us with advice and support. When we offered to pay him for the help, he always declined as he believed in what we were trying to do.
Somewhere along the way, any worries we had about fitting in, learning the language, or feeling unfulfilled by our retirement were banished. We are so fortunate to have become involved with these families that welcome us into their homes. They have become our very dear friends, who continue to teach us about the culture of Ecuador.
Our team was approved by Special Olympics Ecuador after eight months. We now happily serve 25 children and young adults. We continue to have more children join, from our town and from surrounding towns, too, because there simply aren’t many other clubs in our area.
This past November, we left our home in Cotacachi and drove across the country to Manta, to the first national games on the beach. Four of our children participated, and we returned with six medals!
What happens next, I have no idea. I can say that this retirement continues to provide us with meaning and gifts that are beyond what we could have dreamed of when we began this journey.