This trip may be the once in a lifetime chance to experience the culture Ecuador has to offer.
After spending five weeks in Spain last summer, I am anxiously awaiting the opportunity to explore life in another predominantly Spanish continent. I expect Ecuador to be very different from Spain though, whether it be the climate, food, music, people, everything really! It seems that many Americans sometimes lump Spanish-speaking people all into one group. This couldn’t be more of a misfortune because every country in the world is different! I can’t wait to absorb the distinct, Ecuadorian environment around me, learning as much as I can during the time we’re in Quito.
I feel fully confident that we will be safe during our travels. If anything, I’m nervous about the flight because I’m not that much of a frequent flyer! It’ll be so nice going all together, there and back.
Serving in Ecuador will be such a different trip than if a group of us were just going there for a vacation. There is nothing wrong with visiting other countries for pure exploration; we will just be exploring in more ways than one. A service-oriented trip will give us the privilege to discover people and places we would not be able to otherwise. While we are there, I hope we make real change happen. The definition of real change can be open to interpretation. According to Dictionary.com, the definition of change is to make the form, nature, content, future course, etc., of (something) different from what it is or from what it would be if left alone. This is not the reason we are going to Ecuador, per se. I don’t think we’re going to change people’s lives. The people of Ecuador will change ours. There is nothing wrong with the way other cultures live and I wouldn’t want to change anything about it. We will graciously serve while we’re there and hopefully have a lot of fun!
Ready or not, the service trip to Ecuador is right around the corner (t-minus 7 days), but READY WE ARE because after months of training and preparing, preparation will soon be united with opportunity. As a team we have learned to understand what it means to serve a community, and I cannot wait to actually put all of my knowledge to practical use. We have all already grown so much as a team with our discussions on international service, cultural differences, and making a difference in a community. This service trip will only strengthen our responsibility to be outstanding global citizens and leaders in the future.
In my opinion, service is an action that has a way of bridging the gap between humans, regardless of religion, culture, or race. Service goes beyond the conventional, and its presence has the ability to change lives and hearts. During this service trip, I am most looking forward to interacting with the people of Ecuador. I am really ready to indulge and infuse myself in the culture, so that I can leave Ecuador more educated about its culture and people. This is what I am most excited about. I do not return to the US as the same person that left. I want to come back as a person who has found a deeper love and appreciation for different, diverse cultures, traveling, people, and, above all, service. I want to learn how to serve with and not for.
CHANGEbreak is about making a difference, and I truly believe that we will make a difference in Ecuador. But I have a feeling that our service in Ecuador will have a profound change on the way we view the world, especially our lives in the US. In Ecuador we will see things we have never seen before like extreme poverty. Some of the situations may trigger emotions such as guiltiness, sadness, shock, anger, sympathy, or empathy. We will indeed have good times and memories filled with happiness, joy, and laughter; however, I believe those unpleasant emotions will change us the most. They will ignite our passion to serve the world, which will have positive, lasting effects that extend well beyond Ecuador.
I have been fortunate enough to serve on a CHANGE Break experience in Cusco and Cai Cay, Peru last year, and now I am preparing to help lead a team in Quito, Ecuador. Being a part of the Peru team as a freshman and having the opportunity to learn and serve in a completely new environment was a humbling experience and one that has helped define my college experience thus far. I am so thankful for the opportunity to continue my growth with CHANGE Break this year and help other student leaders also embark on an incredible service learning experience. With only about ten days until we depart, I am anxious but also very excited. I hope that we have covered all of our bases to help the students prepare; however, I am confident that we will be flexible and make the best of our experience. My greatest wish is that this experience is impactful for everyone in some way. Our intentions are not to “change the world” in this one experience. Instead, we hope to help enact some change, but mostly to help the students discover personal change–a change in perspective, mentality, and understanding. Upon returning, I want to challenge the team members to continue their service and also advocate for others to find their passion to serve.
We have had many meaningful conversations this year about what it means to serve and the importance of perspective. I was very inspired by the team member’s ideas, and I hope to continue these conversations while we are in-country and after returning to our daily lives here. The experience does not end once we land on U.S. soil. It is our responsibility to constantly reflect on what we have learned and use these lessons to improve the community around us.
I am most looking forward to watching the team transform from a group of people who have gotten to know each other casually while meeting throughout the year to a team that has shared experiences that will stay with them for a very long time. It is the group transformation, as well as the individual transformations that I am most excited to experience. Additionally, I am excited about the opportunity to listen, observe, and learn from those I encounter in Quito. It is not all about what I can give, but what I can learn.
I am ready for round two. Ready to forget all of the chaos of day to day life and take the time to enjoy the beauty in people again. One of my favorite quotes describes my feelings towards CHANGE Break and volunteering in general: “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others,” by Mahatma Gandhi. With this experience I hope to continue on my journey of self discovery by serving and learning from others. More than that, though, I hope to help my teammates personally grow.
Maybe that title was a little extreme but it’s the truth! We are all so very excited that the trip that we have been preparing for all semester is ONLY 19 more day away! Wooohooo!
What exactly am I thinking about before I embark on this journey to Ecuador? Well this may be a little nerdy (I can’t help myself) but let us look to the words of the one hit wonder- “The Final Countdown.”
“We’re leaving together,
But still it’s farewell
And maybe we’ll come back,
To earth, who can tell ?
I guess there is no one to blame
We’re leaving ground
Will things ever be the same again?”
I doubt that Europe was singing about a volunteer trip to Ecuador but it does have it’s similarities! These lyrics bring back the pressing questions that I ask myself every day- will Ecuador have so many amazing opportunities that we won’t ever want to leave and when we finally do come back, will we be the same person who left the U.S.?
We had a guest speaker come and speak to us and she just blew us away with all of the opportunities available to us while in Ecuador. In one direction there are tall, snowy mountains, in another direction there is the rain forest with the most exotic and colorful creatures that you have ever seen and then you have the city life as well as the access to the Galapagos Islands. Besides the varying geography, the thing I look forward to the most is the fresh produce that will be available to us! Little bananas the size of my pinky nail and engineered fruit that combines a strawberry and banana! Don’t worry, I won’t forget my yogurt drops, I’ll make sure that I stay healthy enough to experience it all!
Speaking of experiencing everything while we are there… I really wonder how much this trip will have an affect on me. I have been on mission trips before and they leave you with so much gratitude but after awhile you assimilate back into your daily routine and it all goes away. I am excited to go on this trip and have those reminders again. I am excited to find things that we feel that they lack (such as air conditioning) just aren’t really a priority to them because they would rather focus on their need of education or unemployment. It really puts into perspective how much we take for granted that isn’t even necessary to our daily lives.
Do you think you’ll be enacting real change?
After everything we’ve discussed in our meetings, especially the danger of a “single story” about people, I’m going to have to say no…and yes. I don’t think that whatever I do in Ecuador will be changing anyone’s life, because I’m just one volunteer on one service trip. I hope that our efforts will have at least the smallest impact on a child’s happiness, but real change? Real change, I think, will be what will happen with me. I’ve volunteered on many service projects and done lots of “community service” but I have never really reflected much on it until CHANGE Break. Our meetings have forced me to look at myself as a volunteer and as a servant, and examine my true motivations.
Honestly, I feel that the fact that we can look at our trip and say, “yeah, we won’t be changing the world” makes CHANGE Break that more important. We shouldn’t want to change the whole world while we’re in Quito, Ecuador! We should instead focus on individuals, learning about them and doing whatever we can (however miniscule in the long run) to improve their lives.
Most of us plan on bringing a camera with us when embark on our trip to Ecuador. Of course, right?! Cameras are very useful at documenting memories. But, so are our words. In fact, writing may be able to describe memories better than pictures, since you can not only paint pictures with words, but include your thoughts, feelings, and descriptions of the sounds and smells around you. Consider this when you’re blogging for CHANGE Break, and also consider bringing a journal with you (with a physical journal, you could also draw or paste souvenirs inside!). You’re not required to do this of course, but it could benefit you in the long run.
For our first blog post, just reflect on your expectations of our service trip. Choose to answer at least one of these questions:
1) What are you most looking forward to?
2) What are you most nervous about?
3) Do you think you’ll be enacting real change?
4) Or, after reflecting, write about whatever you’d like that’s relating to our trip!
Quito, Ecuador, where we will be spending 11 days of service this summer.
At 9,350 ft., Quito is the highest official capital city in the world. The approximately 2,000,000 population city is sprawled through a valley at the foot of Guagua Pichincha volcano, an active volcano of the Andes Mountains.
Quito was ruled by the Spanish for over 300 years, beginning in 1534 with the defeat of the Caras and Quitu indigenous peoples. The Quitu had occupied the area since the first millennium.
This piece is an artist’s interpretation of Quito circa the mid-eighteenth century. Uprisings against the Spanish began in 1809, and concluded in 1822 with the independence of Quito and the surrounding areas.