Hometown: Phoenix, AZ (USA)
Volunteer date: March, 2009
Volunteer duration: 6 weeks
“This volunteer experience took place 1 year ago and still the memories and growth of my time in Ecuador with UBECI stay with me.
Working with the children in the markets was very rewarding and fun. It is remarkable how far a little education, sanitation training and fun can go in the life of a child in those situations. It is cliche to say, but the children honestly shared more with me than I feel I gave to them. Some were always ready with a hug and a smile, others more weary of the experience but curious non-the-less and I think all who participated knew it was a safe place to be.
There were a few moments when I wondered if what we were doing was having any impact on the community, but then I remembered that I am just one piece of the project. The true change comes from the fact that UBECI is a consistent source of support and encouragement for the children, a true advocate for the children and when I’m gone, they are there along with others continuing the project, each holding the torch for a moment and giving what they can and then passing it on.
The thing I loved most about the volunteer activity is that the program was established by Ecuadorians. It was a need they felt in their community and they called to the world to help them fill it, rather than outsiders coming in to the community and forcing their ideas or cultural aesthetic on the community. UBECI was for Ecuadorians, by Ecuadorians with the help of the international community and I think that makes a huge difference in the viability and value of the project.
I feel that UBECI did a great job in sharing the Ecuadorian culture with the volunteers. Monica, Byron, and Danny were happy to share stories and help the volunteers understand the significance of a holiday or a detail of life. UBECI also made sure that volunteers had an opportunity to explore Ecuador. Weekends were free for us to take trips to the beach or the hotsprings and every other weekend was a 3 day weekend allowing for further distance exploration. Being able to see the different environments and the diversity of the lives people lead really helped me to have an overall perspective of the country and its people and having an opportunity to explore the beautiful and amazing country helped to fill my spirit so I had more to offer during the week.
I could not have asked for more from my homestay with Mary and Edwin. They were a constant source of support with my Spanish practice, were excited about my experiences with the children and my travels. They offered advice to me and their perspective on their culture. They invited me to participate in their family activities and gave me space to take things in on my own time.
The area I lived was not in the tour books and was portrayed as a dangerous place for foreigners. I never felt that. Mary and Edwin, along with the UBECI staff made sure I knew about the safety precautions I needed to take (which I did) but in my neighborhood it felt like people were looking out for me. The shopkeepers, the residents, the mango lady knew about me and always had a smile to share with my awkward Spanish conversation and helped me remember the safety precautions.
Overall this experience is one that will stick with me for the rest of my life. There are areas for growth, sure, but when you get a group of people together whose intents are true and good, Great things are possible.
I am so happy to have gone and will go back without any hesitation when the opportunity in my life arises once more.”