By: Brenna Miles. Photos and Interviews by Nico Benalcázar.   |   Posted: July 09, 2024

Something as simple as a bed can change everything for a child living in poverty. See how beds are keeping children healthy in the Ecuadorian Andes.

From Pallets to Pillows: Improving Sleep for Kids in Ecuador

Something as simple as a bed can change everything for a child living in poverty. See how beds are keeping children healthy in the Ecuadorian Andes.

Written by Brenna Miles. Photos and Interviews by Nico Benalcázar.
Young girl sits on her bed holding a cute white puppy in her arms.

“I shared a bed with my brothers. I didn’t sleep well, and sometimes I had to go down to the floor to sleep. But the floor was freezing.” — Angel, 14-year-old sponsored boy in Ecuador.

Millions of children around the world, just like Angel, don’t have beds to rest in. Many must sleep on the floor, suffering pain and exhaustion that affect their daily lives.

But deep in the heart of the Ecuadorian Andes, the local church is leading a mission of restoration. Through new beds and the hope of the gospel, children in the community of Cañar are finding rest for their weary bodies and their souls.

What's Here:

Understanding the Importance of Sleep for Kids

Sleep is critical for a healthy body, especially for children who are growing fast. According to the Mayo Clinic, sleep plays a significant role in restoring the body’s systems, learning, memory and healthy brain development. Sleep also helps the immune system fight back against illness and disease.

Without good sleep, children may experience mental health challenges such as anxiety or depression. And sleepiness can make it nearly impossible to make decisions, resolve conflicts and perform well in school.

These effects are sadly normal parts of life for children living in poverty, who often lack beds or even safe shelter, keeping them awake at night. Lacking other essentials such as food and medical care also harm these little ones’ bodies, intensifying the effects of sleeplessness.

Children in Ecuador Trade Their Floor Pallets for Pillows

The physical, emotional and spiritual pain children in poverty suffer often feels impossible to fight off. But as the church, we can help meet their critical needs, including healthy sleep, so they can experience freedom from all the effects of poverty.

That’s exactly what the local church is working to do in the Ecuadorian Andes.

Two boys wearing hats sit on their new bed and smile for the camera.

Shivering on Straw Mats

For many children and their families living in the Andean highlands of Ecuador, sleeping on an actual bed is nothing more than a dream.

Because they live in extreme poverty, necessities like food and water are hard to come by, let alone luxuries like comfortable beds and mattresses. Many children in the Cañar community, one of the country’s poorest regions, instead sleep on the floor of their homes.

At night, they curl up on makeshift pallets made of straw mats and threadbare blankets. If a family is fortunate enough to have a small bed, children often need to share it with their siblings.

When we visited their homes, it truly saddened us to see the children sleeping on the floor, or often four or five children sharing a small bed.

— Mercedes, Compassion center director

In Cañar, average temperatures range from the low 40s to the high 60s (Fahrenheit) year-round. At night, the air is cold, and the floor is a miserable place to try and sleep. You can only imagine what sleeping on the floor with little covering would be like … and how little sleep you would get.

Little girl wearing a hat and a brightly colored dress stands outside her clay home holding a doll.

The Local Church Steps In to Provide New Beds

A lack of bedding directly affects the health of these children. Many kids registered with Compassion used to come to the local center exhausted, with crippling neck and back pain as well as respiratory illnesses.

Seeing the children’s desperate need for rest, the local church stepped in, making and delivering beds throughout Cañar. First, they sourced all the wood they could find from within the community, including pallets and other recycled materials.

The pastor of the local church, its members and many volunteers got to work, building the beds from scratch. And with the support of Compassion, they purchased mattresses too.

Constructing the beds was just the beginning — they then transported the 50 beds (and mattresses) up the mountain, delivering them to the children. Their hard work was well rewarded by the tangible relief they saw on the faces of those tired little ones.

The church gave me a new bed. I feel happy because I have a better place to sleep with my mother. They also helped to build the walls of my house, and I no longer feel cold at night.

— Sandra, 5-year-old participant in Ecuador

Center director Mercedes has seen the benefits of the new beds. Attendance at the center has increased as children return to health. All those who received mattresses are learning and concentrating better, while those with neck and back pain are no longer suffering discomfort.

The beds are also empowering the greater community. By using recycled materials for the bed frames, the church is fostering a sense of sustainability. Families are learning how to repurpose wood and other resources and are discovering valuable skills they can use to generate income.

Witnessing the ripple effects of something as simple as a bed, those within the Compassion center are now planning to provide more beds and mattresses to children throughout Ecuador.

A Far Greater Impact Than Physical Comfort

These safe and warm beds have had a far greater impact than offering physical comfort alone. They’re helping these children learn and grow healthy and strong. And most importantly, by receiving simple beds, these children discovered just how valued and loved they truly are, both by the church and their Heavenly Father.

Every night before I go to sleep, I kneel in front of my new bed and thank God for being so good to me.

— Angel, sponsored boy in Ecuador
Young boy with a braided ponytail and wearing a backwards hat kneels at the side of his bed to pray.

Poverty is a burden no child should have to carry. But our Father gives them a promise: If they come to him, he’ll give them spiritual rest amid their physical circumstances.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”
— Matthew 11:28-29, NIV

Jesus wants to partner with us in this promise. As we, the Church, provide for the critical, right-now needs of the most vulnerable, he does an eternal work in their hearts. In Cañar, the local church provided physical places of rest, while Jesus delivered peace for their weary hearts.

For us, it’s important that the families understand that they are not alone. We as a church care for them with the love of Jesus.

— Mercedes, Compassion center director

You too can be the hands and feet of Jesus to children in need across the globe without ever leaving your home. Learn more about the ways you can get involved, such as by donating or sponsoring a child.