2017-05-17 / Community View

Lapeer community steps up to help aid workers in Ecuador

BY ANDREW DIETDERICH
810-452-2609 •


A lot of the work the Hings do in Ecuador involves children in school. Here, they pose with many of the students they’ve worked with. 
Courtesy photos A lot of the work the Hings do in Ecuador involves children in school. Here, they pose with many of the students they’ve worked with. Courtesy photos LAPEER — Jeramy and Teresa Hing have learned a lot since leaving the Lapeer area about six years ago to become humanitarian aid workers in Ecuador, including just how supportive those who live back home can be.

Case in point: They are visiting home for a few months and went to see Dr. Craig Watson at the Lapeer County Vision Center last week, where they learned Jeramy needed new lenses for his glasses and the Hings’ 11-year-old daughter, Haven, needed glasses.

That’s a tough spot to be in with a current monthly budget of $1,650 for a family of four and extremely limited health insurance.

“I said ‘Well, can we work out some sort of payment plan, it’s just…it’s too much of a surprise’ and Dr. Watson was like ‘Don’t talk that nonsense, we’re covering it,’” Jeramy told The County Press.


Teresa Hings works with many students in after-school programs to help them have success in their respective educations. Teresa Hings works with many students in after-school programs to help them have success in their respective educations. Jeramy Hing, a 1993 Lapeer East graduate, along with his wife, Teresa, a 1996 Lapeer West graduate, and their two children, Easton, 13, and Haven, 11, live as humanitarian aid workers in Quito, Ecuador.

Watson isn’t the only one locally who has the Hings’ proverbial backs. The list of local churches, organizations, businesses, and individuals who step up is in the dozens.

Some, like Imlay City’s B Naturals LLC and Daybreak Chiropractic of Lapeer, provide massage therapy and chiropractic services.

Numerous churches support the Hings one way or another, too: Imlay City Christian Reformed Church, Lapeer Community Church, North Branch Wesleyan Church, Rich Bible Church.


Haven Hing helps pass out Christmas packages around the holidays to children of Ecuador, while one of the children talks with Teresa Hing. Haven Hing helps pass out Christmas packages around the holidays to children of Ecuador, while one of the children talks with Teresa Hing. Lapeer-based Simco Ltd. pays for the Hings’ children to participate in long-distance learning classes, covering their tuition.

Dr. Paul Schmude, of Lapeer Dental Centre, provides the family dental services at no cost.

“What they do is such a great thing,” Schmude said. “I think it’s important that when you have people in the community like that, that people in the community do everything they can to help. It’s your way of being an ever so small extension of what they’re doing.”

Jeramy uses two words to describe when such occurrences take place: incredibly humbling.

“We don’t know whether to cry, jump for joy, give them a kiss or a hug, shake their hand,” Jeramy said.


From left, Jeramy Hing, Teresa Hing, Haven Hing, and Easton Hing. The family has been serving as humanitarian aid workers in Ecuador since 2011. From left, Jeramy Hing, Teresa Hing, Haven Hing, and Easton Hing. The family has been serving as humanitarian aid workers in Ecuador since 2011. “You don’t even know how to thank them,” Teresa said. “Saying ‘thank you’ is not enough.”

The Hings are part of the Extreme Response International team in Ecuador (there are three other families). Extreme Response is a nonprofit, humanitarian aid organization.

The Hings first got involved with Extreme Response in 2005, when a representative gave a presentation about the organization at Lapeer Community Church. They were seeking workers to help rebuild part of a church school during a two-week trip. Jeramy felt compelled to go, and says while there, he felt it was his calling to do more.

By 2011, the Hings had sold their newly built North Branch home — and just about everything they owned — and moved to Ecuador permanently.

Since then, they’ve seen a lot, including the after effects of a devastating earthquake that occurred about a year ago.

Emergency responders now gone, locals and people like the Hings remain and continue putting the pieces back together.

“There are still areas that are cut off from water supply, electricity…there are a lot of homeless still,” Jeramy said. “There are a lot of buildings that are condemned, falling down, or unstable that haven’t been taken care of yet. It’s going to take a couple of years to get things tore down and building from the base up.”

“It still looks like a bomb hit,” Teresa said. “There’s still so much to be done.”

Those efforts, Jeramy says, are in addition to the day-to-day challenges people in the region faced before the earthquake. They use their educational backgrounds and training (Jeramy in technology and psychology, Teresa in education) to work with children at risk, along with women’s advocacy and education per Extreme Response’s overall mission, Jeramy said.

Then, there are the dump dwellers — people who live and work (as recyclers) in a garbage dump because they have no other options, Jeramy said.

The Hings’ Extreme Response team has been working hard to help those people, when the government there allows them to do so.

“They allowed us to go in there and build a daycare at the dump,” he said. “To actually pull the kids out of the trash, and put them in a building and have them cleaned up.”

They’ve also helped establish a small occupational training school, so that the dump dwellers can perhaps find a way out. The women learn crafting and sewing skills, while the men practice general woodworking-type activities they can put to use.

“Generation after generation believe that they’re no better than trash,” Jeramy said. “They have no dignity. They don’t think highly of themselves. And they’re treated like trash by the rest of the population. So they never thought they could do anything with their hands other than rummage through trash.”

The value of what the Hings do becomes clear when they talk about the dump dwellers and how those people can be seen “becoming full of life.”

But they, too, must survive and have very limited funds to do so.

To make matters worse, basic needs are often much more expensive because everything is imported to the area. A jar of peanut butter may cost $10 (Ecuador uses the U.S. dollar).

But the Hings don’t sweat it because as Teresa puts it, “God takes care of us.”

Others do, too.

Craig Ayers, owner, Simco Ltd., an automotive supplier, said he’s supported the Hings from the beginning. Ayers knew Jeramy Hings through business before the family became aid workers.

Ayers said he doesn’t know how the Hings do it, and that “there’s no way I would sell my home and pack up my family and head to Ecuador.”

But, Ayers said, he believes in helping their cause.

“I feel it’s important as a business and a business owner, that you give back to the community,” Ayers said. “I think that’s what makes differences in lives.”

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