He was born with building in his bones, now a dad, he’s using his skills to construct a brighter future for his children… literally.

By Wanda O’Brien


The stoop of his shoulders or musical talent; there are so many qualities a boy can inherit from his father.

When Carlos Daquilema Ortiz picked up a hammer, though, it wasn’t just because being a builder was bred-in-the-bone; it was because he didn’t have any other opportunities.

Growing up in Chimborazo in the mountains of Ecuador, Carlos had loved school. He also loved working side-by-side his dad, who was a builder and foreman. “I learned everything my dad did,” he says. “I was very curious all the time, learning how to do new things.”

His dad always insisted that school come first. “On your free time, you come here and you work,” Carlos remembers. “If you have the chance to study, and to learn, you do that.”

But when it came time to go to Grade 7, there was no option in his own community. His parents couldn’t afford to send him to school in the city. So Carlos dropped out. Like his father, he became a foreman—a construction site became his classroom.

When Carlos got married and started his own family, he wanted his children to continue their education beyond primary school in San Miguel. Circumstance made him worry that this would not be the case and history would repeat itself. On his salary, he couldn’t afford to send them away to high school.

Then, Carlos heard that WE Villages was coming to build new classrooms in San Miguel. He armed himself with his tool belt and a belief in the power of education. With Carlos’ help, WE Villages built 12 new classrooms, working with the government to open a high school. This would be the first time local students could go to high school in their own community.

All images courtesy of Wanda O’Brien


Today, the father’s second eldest daughter is in her second year at the new school. She also happens to be the first person in the family to ever attend high school.

Carlos, a soft-spoken man with calloused, sturdy hands, becomes emotional when he reflects on the change that he has helped make possible. “I remember when I finished the first set of classrooms, my daughter came home with her backpack, and she said, ‘Dad, how did it happen?’ And I said, ‘It is for you. You have to take advantage of it.’ Now, my kids, and all the kids in the community, have access to education.”

Having watched what his father build his whole life, Carlos’ son has grown to love building, too. He wants to finish high school and study to become an architect. Carlos—a man who believes in investing in the next generation—is teaching him all he knows.

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