The Andes define the highland region of Ecuador. The Andes are a massive chain of mountains that run along the west coast of South America. The Andes in the highlands region of Ecuador rise from 3,200 to nearly 20,000 feet. The Andes are home 44% of Ecuador's total population, who mostly live in the valleys along the mountain range.


Highlands Region

  • Some families in the highlands make a meager living from raising a few cows or sheep. Farmer with sheep and cows
  • In Bible lessons during regular program activity days, leaders reinforce how much the children are loved and valued by God. Children worshiping at church
  • Education is vital for a child to escape poverty. Sponsored children receive educational support and hope for a better future. A tutor with two children
  • The climate is cold in the Ecuadorian highlands, but the smiles of these Compassion-assisted children are warm and enthusiastic. Children playing a game outdoors
  • Children in the Compassion program have the opportunity to grow in every way: mind, body, heart and spirit. Children praying for their meal
  • Many homes of poverty-stricken families in the highlands are not fit for habitation. A mother and child outside their home
  • Low-income families often rent one or two rooms in large homes where everyone is crowded together. Family in a small one-room home




Roman Catholic


A Glimpse of Poverty in Ecuador's Highlands Region

Poor families in Ecuador’s highlands suffer from economic and social inequality.

Children praying for their meal
  • Children lack basic needs such as food, education and health care.
  • Rather than attending school, many children are forced to work at a young age to help their families.
  • Unskilled and uneducated, they are unable to obtain steady, good-paying jobs when they grow up, perpetuating the generational cycle of poverty.
  • One or both parents often move to another area in search of employment, leaving children with relatives, who treat them as extra workers.
  • Children are also frequently subjected to abuse and neglect.
  • Poor indigenous or Afro-descendant children face discrimination daily.
Issues and Concerns

The highlands region of Ecuador is called “Volcano Avenue.”

  • Of the 32 volcanoes here, 13 can be active, and that activity greatly affects the lives of the region’s inhabitants.
  • Ash clouds from active volcanoes cause significant losses in agriculture and livestock.
  • The combination of cold weather, volcanic ash and dust from unpaved roads all contribute to respiratory illnesses that affect more than half of the children under 5.
  • Villages in the paths of the volcanoes’ lava and ash clouds are often evacuated, and inhabitants find it difficult to support their families.
  • Financial losses caused by the volcanic eruptions and the region’s cycles of drought and frost cause many people to migrate from the countryside to the city to look for work.

More than half the people of this region are underemployed, earning less than the average daily wage of $7. Migration and the difficulty of finding jobs that can sustain a family have boosted the delinquency rate here to levels higher than in any other region of the country.

Local Needs and Challenges

The lack of job opportunities in the Ecuadorian highlands has created a devastating domino effect.

  • Parents are forced to relocate in order to find work.
  • Many children have been abandoned by one or both of their parents.
  • An entire generation of Ecuadorian children is growing up without supervision.
  • The result has been an epidemic of abuse, delinquency, addiction and teen pregnancy.
  • They struggle with low self-esteem.
  • They lack motivation and are prone to selfishness and violence.
  • They don’t know how to interact with others.
Schools and Education

The school year in the highlands region extends from September to June.

  • About 8 percent of the population doesn’t receive any education.
  • Students who do attend school have the highest rate of absence in high school, with more than one out of 10 students absent each day.
  • More than three-fourths of children finish elementary school, but only a third of them continue on to high school and graduate.
  • Urban areas have an average of one teacher for every 35 to 40 students.
At the Compassion Child Development Center

Child development centers provide registered children with a place to learn, grow and study.

Children whose families have never been able to offer them clean water, health care or an education now have access to these necessities.

Compassion-assisted children attend health classes, tutoring sessions and Bible studies at the center. They also spend time writing to and praying for their sponsors.

What Compassion Sponsorship Provides

Child development centers in the highlands region of Ecuador provide registered children with a place to learn and grow.

  • Children receive regular nutritious meals and snacks.
  • They get health checkups and medical care as needed.
  • They receive the support needed to attend school.
  • Compassion-assisted children attend health classes, tutoring sessions and Bible studies at the center.
  • The Compassion program provides children with clean clothes to wear.
  • The curriculum helps them understand the importance of personal hygiene and a clean environment at home. The result has been a noticeable improvement in the children’s health.