This guest blog post is brought to OSSO by co-founder Melodie Head.
“We sat around the fire at night outside the huts while the village elders taught us,” my teenage son told his friends about his Ecuador experience several years ago. Yeah, right. The only huts he saw were in a museum. Running water, electricity, internet, clean beds, good food, and amazing interactions with children are all part of the OSSO family experience, but no huts.
Our family recently got back from volunteering in Ecuador again, it was a great experience! Volunteers are well provided for by Volunteer Directors that organize orphanage shifts and help people get around the city. There is a cook onsite that provides a wonderful hot meal every day and the housing is safe and comfortable within the walled compound of the Los Pequenitos orphanage. Hot showers, drinking water and laundry facilities are provided.
The days of volunteer families are filled with working shifts at Los Pequenitos and other orphanages, and exploring the beautiful city of Cuenca. Most of the children at Los Pequenitos are severely handicapped so a main part of our day was spent feeding the children with the tias (workers) and then doing activities with the children. One of the perks of OSSO is working alongside long-term volunteers, usually college-aged people, who already know what to do. Transportation is also provided to the other orphanage sites.
It took my nine year old a day or so to feel comfortable with the children with special needs, but after that he loved interacting with them. It is a stretching experience for most kids to do this kind of volunteering in a third world country where you don’t speak the language, but having the long-term volunteers and volunteer directors around really helped. One of my favorite memories was of my son playing soccer on the patio with two children in wheel chairs. At the end of our time it was sad for him to say goodbye to the children.
Besides the work, we had fun at the markets where we hunted for one of a kind treasures to take home. We awed at stained glass of the “new cathedral,” sat in the park, enjoyed the gelato type ice cream at Tutto Freddo’s, and ate sanduches de pernil (pulled pork sandwiches). The perpetual spring weather of Cuenca was lovely, as was the greenery of the mountains around us. We also managed to fit in zip lining!
If you are considering taking your family for a different kind of vacation, one that will change their hearts, make them appreciate what they have (maybe even their own family), but in a situation where they will have clean beds, safe food, and running water; consider volunteering with OSSO. And if you really want to see huts, the volunteer directors can direct you to the museum (or help you book a jungle trip).