Sun, Sand, and Service

This winter break, from January 3rd to the 16th, I traveled to Ecuador with 22 other individuals to embark on a service trip through a K-State organization called ECM! When we first arrived in Ecuador, we stayed in a hostel in a city called Guayaquil. We traveled around the city doing some of the more “touristy” events like going to the wildlife park, going to an iguana park and visiting a beautiful Catholic church. After a few days of rest and sight seeing in Guayaquil, we all loaded up in a van to go to Puerto de Engabao, which is where we would stay for the remainder of our trip. Since our group was so large, we were dispersed between several different houses. I stayed in a house called Casa de Surf. It was essentially like living outside because there is no air conditioning, we slept with mosquito nets over our beds, there were no windows, and the walls of the house were very thin and made of wood. We couldn’t flush toilet paper, and we brushed our teeth using bottled water. Our “living room” consisted of an area where all the bedrooms led out into a common space, and was similar to that of a porch. When you looked outside, we had a beautiful view of the Pacific Ocean, the beach, and the fishermen’s port! The beach was only a few feet away from our house, so we went down to the ocean to swim almost every night after a day of work, and watched the sun set while swimming. You’re probably thinking, “did you do any work while you were down there?!” We indeed did many different projects to assist the communities during our stay. One of our main projects was digging trenches in a town about 15 minutes from Puerto de Engabao called Engabao. The trenches were for water piping so that water could be transported to the school in Engabao. It was very hot and required alot of hard labor and teamwork, but the outcome was something we were all very proud of! The men of the community assisted in digging the trenches with us, and the women brought us fruit juices and popcorn as snacks! The community members were very welcoming and grateful for us being there and willing to help them. Pigs, roosters, dogs, and chickens ran wild around the town, so they provided some entertainment for us while at work!

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Some of the other projects we worked on was beach restoration and mural painting. On a Saturday, the children of the Puerto de Engabao community joined us in a beach clean-up. It was rewarding to see the future generation learning about the importance of caring for our environment. The mural painting was done at the local school- we made a tree with the children and volunteer’s hand prints, and also passed out our donation school supplies and clothes to the children. The children in this town don’t have much, but they are still so giving and loving. One of the girls that I met and made friends with over the course of the trip gave me her bracelet which said suerte on it- meaning luck in Spanish. It made me appreciate all the little things that many of us take for granted growing up in the United States. Although the community spoke Spanish and I have a minimal amount of Spanish ability, we still found ways to communicate with one another- the community was very loving and accepting of our group- they were curious about us, and didn’t hesitate to give us hugs, and the children were always asking for piggie back rides! A smile is truly a universal symbol- the Ecuadorians always seem to beam a ray of sunshine and positivity!
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At the end of our trip, the town threw a party for us with dancing, soda, and cake! They also gave us a piece of hand made jewelry. As we boarded the bus to head back to the airport, the children were telling us, “don’t leave!”, which broke our hearts!
It was an emotional time to leave our newly made Ecuadorian friends, but the memories and friendships I made on this trip is something I will cherish and carry with me forever.
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Here is a link for a video one of our group members created about the trip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hsej2lDsppU&feature=youtu.be
 
In Sisterhood,
 
Victoria Willis
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