Hola! It’s been exactly two weeks since I’ve been home from Ecuador and I can say I’ve fully adjusted back to life in Toronto, Ontario. The two weeks spent in Ecuador was an amazing and surprising experience. I feel like Solidarity in Action is essentially a crash course on making a difference in a foreign community; it completely submerges you into the local culture and it’s just so hands on. It’s impossible to go home without feeling different or unchanged.
On our last day with the community, when we were all sitting together under the shelter, one of the community members thanked us for helping out and giving so generously without expecting anything back in return. The truth is, however, we did get so much in return. The entire experience in itself was superb and unforgettable, and the connections we made within our group and with the community are all things we took back. But I feel that the lessons we learned about ourselves, what we’re capable of and the new discoveries we made in new situations are extremely valuable as well.
A personal example of this is a placement I did at Communicar, a school for children and young adults with Autism. When we were initially being introduced to the placements and discussing them, I had thought to myself “No way am I doing this.” I never considered myself a “kid-person” per se; I risk sounding a little cold-hearted but I found them annoying, whiny and sticky. I had also never worked with children or anyone with disabilities. So upon hearing about Communicar and touring it, I immediately had the preconceived decision of not doing it. WOW did that change, because I could not have been more wrong about the experience there. I could also not be more wrong about myself. I’m almost embarrassed of the way I felt initially because I was so absolutely wrong about everything. I don’t even remember how I ended up going to Communicar, I think all the other placements were full that day and I just ended up choosing it. I wound up going again the next day because I loved it so much and I couldn’t wait to see the kids and the teachers again. I was in a class of about 4-5 kids, and despite the Autism, I could tell they were so intelligent and expressive. They were all so loving, so giving and had huge hearts. I spent time with each kid, helping them with their spelling, phonetic and art lessons, and I had an amazing time. This surprised me and surprised my friends and family when I told them because they know how I was with kids. This placement really pushed me out of my comfort zone, in a way, and I couldn’t be happier about it. I also bonded a lot with the teachers – there was a major language barrier so most of our conversation was like a game of charades, but it was manageable and pretty hilarious. I just clicked with them right away, and I guess they generally get really personal pretty quickly, so we talked like we’d been friends for ages. Writing about them is making me miss them right now.
So overall, a stellar experience and trip. I would definitely do it all over again in a heartbeat. I just graduated from university this year, but hopefully since I’m an insider now I’ll still be able to go next year!
Chao for now!
From left to right: Miguel, Sergio, Karina (the teacher’s aid), Alexander, Andrew, Elissa (the teacher) and Carlos.