This guest blog post is brought to OSSO by recent Ecuador volunteer, Carlee Danielson.
My experience here in Ecuador has changed my outlook on life in so many ways. You’ve probably heard that from many other people, but it’s something that is bound to happen when interacting with these incredible kids most every day, all day.
Before I arrived in Cuenca, I talked to multiple people I knew about their OSSO experience in Quito. They shared how much it impacted their lives and what I had to look forward to. What I didn’t know, is that their experience in Quito would be completely different than my experience in Cuenca.
In Cuenca, I had the most incredible opportunity to work in an orphanage with kids who have special needs. These kids have such an amazing spirit about them that you can’t help but just love. I know for a fact I learned 10 times more from them than they learned from me.
Here are a few things I learned from these kids …
- Having a body that restricts you from doing certain things doesn’t mean you don’t have a huge personality that has so many quirks to it. Many of the children are in wheelchairs and cannot communicate through talking. But, by spending time with them, you quickly understand what their needs are by the way they do communicate. On the other hand, the children that can talk have such different personalities from one another that you soon love to pieces. All of these children quickly take over a place in your heart!
- You need hardly anything at all to be the happiest person alive.
- Being able to get out of bed on my own is a blessing I would have never appreciated before this experience.
- Having a family is truly a GIFT.
- Being yourself with these kids will not only change you but also change you for the better.
- Losing yourself in the service of these children will bless you in ways you would have never thought and appreciated before, ways you never thought possible.
- If you are like me and know zero Spanish before coming here, YOU WILL SURVIVE! You will quickly learn certain phrases and words each day that will become useful in your stay here. Although, learning some Spanish beforehand would be helpful.
Though these may only be a few lessons I learned, every day volunteering brought something new and taught me something I’m truly grateful for.
On a different note, the cultural experience of Cuenca was also something I grew to love. I may not speak Spanish hardly at all, but the love for these people grew more and more the longer I was there. The natives tend to appreciate what they have a lot more than what I am used to where I am from. They make do with what they have and that is enough. Most of the time, when we volunteers were out in the city of Cuenca, the people were so kind and helpful. Often walking down the street, we got honked and whistled at just because of the color of our lighter skin, which definitely became interesting at times.
Along with the experience of working in an orphanage, you will have the opportunity to go to beautiful places and see amazing things. One of my favorite travels was the Baños trip. We drove about five hours away to get there, but it was well worth the drive! The three days there were jam-packed with incredible experiences. We got to go zip lining, hike to waterfalls, visit a zoo, explore the jungle in the pouring rain, canoe, have our face painted by villagers in a small village, see beautiful views by swinging on several swings, and much, much more.
I am definitely grateful for the decision I made to come to Ecuador and for each and every experience I had. I learned so many lessons and these kids will have a place in my heart forever!
Thank you, Ecuador, for the most incredible journey you gave me. You will always have a piece of my heart!