Ecuador Education / Ecuador Lifestyle / Living in Ecuador / Quito

Foundation Casa Victoria: An Eagle and Condor Family in Quito, Ecuador

Casa Victoria was once a grand dame among homes in the historic district of Quito.

It’s in a neighborhood of large stately buildings.  The view from the front of the house includes the Panacillo with its statue of the winged Virgin.

Built about 130 years ago, it was the vacation home of Cristobal Gangotena and his wife Rosa Naboa Caamano, both from illustrious Quito families. Over the years the house fell into disrepair, but even so, it was still magnificent enough to attract the attention of a young girl named Alicia.

Alicia Duran Ballen grew up in Quito.  Her father is Sixto Alfonso Duran Ballen Cordovez, who served as mayor of Quito during the 1970’s and as president of Ecuador from 1992 to 1996.

Alicia often accompanied his on his drives around the city.  Each time she passed the old house on Imbabura and Loja, she would imagine herself living there.

Twenty years came and went.  During that time, Alicia married a man from Romania and lived abroad in Europe and the United States.  Upon returning to Ecuador her wish came true.

She was able to purchase and renovate the lovely old house she’d dreamed of a child.  The process of restoring it to much of its former glory took years and lots of hard work, accomplished with the help of generous donors and volunteers.

The neighborhood around the house was a different story.  Suddenly there was an elegant home situated in one of the worst areas of Quito.

It stood out like a jewel among the run-down buildings and houses that sheltered thieves, prostitutes and drug addicts.  This part of town was unsafe and families struggled to survive.

For about eight years the old house has served a totally different function.  It’s now Foundation Casa Victoria, an after-school program for area children. Alicia lives in the house five days a week, along with volunteers from all over the world, who help her with the children.

The international backgrounds of the volunteers is what makes Foundation Casa Victoria an eagle and condor family.  For those not familiar with this term, legend has it that when the eagle of the north flies in harmony with the condor of the south, peace will reign once again on earth. Alicia’s courage and generosity has contributed hugely to making the ancient prophecy a reality.

Alicia invited Gary and I and our friend Saddhu to visit her at Casa Victoria.
First we had lunch with her and her current volunteers, who are from the United States, Paraguay, Colombia and Ecuador. Each Thursday Alicia has a special lunch with the volunteers and nearby residents. This week’s neighborhood guest was a manicurist and her two sons.

Thanks to Alicia’s big heart and generous spirit, her after-school program and her presence in the area has been slowly accepted.  What began as wariness on the part of locals has changed to appreciation.  Her school is now a welcomed part of the community and the community protects it.

It’s as if her vision and her transformation of the house into an object of beauty worked to bring transformation to the neighborhood as well.  Many buildings in that part of the city are receiving facelifts, there is more police presence and a sense of well-being and safety has returned to Quito’s Centro Historico.

Monkey mural on a wall in Casa Victoria.

After lunch Alicia showed us around the building and grounds.  The atmosphere was charged with love, high energy and enthusiasm as the children arrived in droves. Their affection for Alicia was very apparent in the many hugs she received.

Alicia with two of the students.

After school library.

Volunteers see that the kids do their homework.

The program’s 65 children start pouring in around one in the afternoon and stay for three hours.  They rotate every twenty-five minutes, moving from activities that include outdoor sports, games, art, homework, computer skills and library time.
Three boys proudly displaying their art work.
It’s obvious that the volunteers love the children very much.  Lenny, pictured above, is from a very small pueblo that goes by the odd name of 235.  It’s located between Ibarra and Esmeraldas.  It was given the name 235 years ago when the railroad brought it out of isolation and connected it to the rest of Ecuador.

Lenny has volunteered for several years and is the recipient of a scholarship gifted by the program. He is finishing his second year at a university studying tourism and hospitality.  He plans to open a hosteria in his village.

The children who attend the after-school program pay $1 a week.  The program’s $3000 annual budget is funded by donations from around the world. Alicia spends a good part of her time seeking funds to keep her school program alive and in the black.

While much of her family by birth also resides in Quito, Alicia has chosen to make this old colonial house in Quito’s Centro Historico her second home and to fill it with the laughter of children.  These children and their parents have become her extended family.

Her own children and grandchildren live in the United States and in England but she has plenty of surrogate children.  To them she is Mama Alicia.

If you would like to volunteer your time and services or donate to Alicia’s Foundation Casa Victoria, contact her at

Her phone numbers in Quito are–2951134 / 2951134 and the website for Foundation Casa Victoria is–



  1. Que obra tan maravillosa.

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