The Spirit of Service at SALEM
A big thank you to our SALEM friends who have been at our side this year. We could not have done this year’s projects without you. Our local volunteer team is vital to maintaining the Family Garden Initiative, they completely made the Food Aid Project possible and we are looking forward to collaborating on future 2021 projects. A special thanks to Mauricio and Claudia from The Food Studio. We recognize and appreciate your community spirit and are proud to call you friends of SALEM.
Mauricio Recalde and Claudia Rivera came to Mindo in 2017 with a love for organic agriculture and creating locally sourced and creative cuisine. Mauricio, a trained chef, and Claudia, an agronomy engineer, opened The Food Studio that year with the hope of creating meaningful connections between their restaurant customers, the daily menu they lovingly prepare and local organic farmers. Dishes highlighting unconventional foods like chayote, palanga and other exotic fruits and vegetables are served daily. The fare at The Food Studio not only teases the senses but fills the belly with healthy, conscientious nourishment.
In 2019 Mauricio and Claudia met Jonas, the Director of SALEM Ecuador, while they worked on a collaborative community project. When Mauricio learned that SALEM is a vegetarian organization, he offered to share some of his vegetarian cooking tips with Fernanda, SALEM’s cook. The connection was formed and from then on there was always something that brought Claudia and Mauricio to SALEM.
When the COVID-19 pandemic travel restrictions shut down the town of Mindo back in March of 2020, Mauricio and Claudia were forced to close their restaurant. The tourism that Mindo depends on completely disappeared from one day to the next. A humanitarian crisis arose out of the job loss and forced isolation that the community experienced over the following 6 months. There was an outpouring of generosity and donations to SALEM to give immediate assistance to the most vulnerable members of the community.
Jonas and the SALEM team did their best to manage the arriving food donations and delivery logistics. Mauricio and Claudia were anxious to be of service to the community. They saw that SALEM needed help and responded by proposing a food distribution plan and putting together and managing a large group of volunteers to run the SALEM Food Aid Project.
In no time at all, SALEM was able to distribute biweekly food boxes to over 400 families for a 4-month period of time. Mauricio and Claudia, along with many dedicated volunteers took on the brunt of the responsibility and logistics, while SALEM provided the space and resources to make it all happen. We are forever grateful to The Food Studio and their founders for the selfless work they have given to SALEM and the community of Mindo. Thanks to the success of the Food Aid Project, hundreds of homes could feed their families during the hardest times of the COVID-19 shut down.
These days, as we continue to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic together, Mauricio and Claudia volunteer their business and culinary expertise in some interesting ways. Mauricio shares The Food Studio business model with a group of now grown former SALEM kids who are interested in starting a business together. He also meets with a single mom who is looking for business tips on how to make her small fast food start up more profitable. There is still so much to do, but with volunteers like Mauricio and Claudia, we can continue shining the light of peace into the world.
As this difficult year draws to a close, we can look back and find great comfort in the groups and individuals who have supported our work at SALEM Ecuador during the last 20 years. May the spirit of community service that moves us grow and may we all practice peace and love where we are.