My family and I have always been involved in social justice work however this past summer was my first time going on a volunteer program like the one offered by Solidarity In Action (SIA). I had the opportunity to go to both the Peru and Ecuador trips in May. I had heard amazing things about this program through a friend and I could not wait to spend a whole month in South America! With my past experiences as a volunteer, I thought I knew what I was getting myself into but I learned so much more from this trip than what I expected.
Despite having to wake very early every morning, the excitement of going placements, experiencing a new culture and interacting with amazing fellow trip participants and community member gave me so much energy and love to share. So much to do, so little time! I remember being a little nervous on my first day of placement at Cerrito Azul in Peru as I was feeling out of my element, let alone having to do it in a new language. I was exhausted by the end of the day but I just could not wait to go back. The teachers were so full of love and patience; they did not even take a lunch break until every kid had gone home. Witnessing such dedication and enthusiasm simply made me want to learn more about the joie de vivre that the South American culture has to offer.
In Ecuador, we got the chance to interact a lot of more with the community of Mt. Sinai, playing soccer and singing songs with the kids and their parents. One of my most memorable nights was our dinner with the women and the children of the community as we got to learn great stories about their community but we also got an insight into the lives of South American women as they shared their life experiences with us. The community was so welcoming that, in just two weeks, we went from being complete strangers to great friends and saying goodbye was definitely heartbreaking. On our last day, I was very moved by one of the kids who I had spent a lot of time with; he hugged me and asked me to bring him home with me.
I went on this trip without having given a real thought to the definition of “solidarity” and even though I am still working on it today, my experiences during and after my trip have given a more meaningful definition to this word. I have tried to incorporate all the great values I have learned in South America to my daily life and I cannot wait to go back to Ecuador this summer as a trip leader to share these life-changing experiences with new participants. There are no words that could ever describe how SIA has opened my eyes to a new way of enjoying what life has to offer.
2012 SIA trip leader