"Do something that scares you" by Valerie Preston

Go to a place where you can’t speak the language. Try food you have never seen before. Live in conditions completely foreign to you. Try to catch a cab in the city. Sound thrilling? What if it’s accompanied with: Go love children who have never had a family. Buy merchandise that has been handmade by the person selling it to you. Swim in waters you never dreamed of touching. Visit lifestyles you thought were extinct. Experience culture. Love more. Serve more. Smile. Cry. Make memories. Return changed.

That, my friend, is an experience found in volunteering abroad with OSSO.

People say they want to change the world. At times, I feel like I am one of them. I know it’s a hefty goal and changing the world may be unrealistic. However, with a passionate heart, you can change one life at a time. Just don’t be surprised if one of those changed lives ends up being your own.

I chose to volunteer with OSSO in Quito, Ecuador back in the summer of 2010. I had a desire to go out and make a difference somewhere. The idea of traveling to a completely foreign country with a group of girls I had never met, (plus having it be my first time to ever fly), definitely made me nervous. But the idea of trying something new and serving children in orphanages overpowered any fear I had. I just had to sign up and do it!

Entering Ecuador was quite thrilling. As soon as we landed and loaded the car, I realized we were not in Idaho anymore. Cars were flying by at record speed! I was happy to arrive at our destination in one piece. I knew what lay ahead would be hard work but I knew we would find joy in it as well.

The first day we entered the orphanage will forever be a memory engrained in my heart and mind. As soon as we walked into the door, I looked down and there were little tiny bodies with big brown eyes and arms stretched out walking towards us for hugs. It was as if they were welcoming us home. If they were able to run, I knew they would. At that moment I could feel the children taking my heart. So soon? I had no idea who they were, how they behaved, how the nuns would like me, how in the world I was going to help in taking care of the needs of so many children. But I knew that these little niños knew how to love and if anything, they would take me by the hand and simply show me the way. They knew what they needed, love; and they knew how to speak that language to us.

The rest of my time in Ecuador flew by all too quickly. Before I knew it, I was leaving the beautiful Ecuadorian country behind, with the beautiful people who resided in it. I was leaving a piece of my heart that I knew I would never get back, to the children.

 But I returned with something more. I returned with the memories of brightly colored homes packed onto the hillside, of kind brown eyes on every street corner, memories of bargain shopping for beautiful handcrafted items. I returned with a greater appreciation for what I have, that which is material and that which is obtained through building relationships with those I love. I returned with a greater capacity to love. I returned with friendships. I returned with a strengthened heart, a more willing spirit, and the will power to go out and serve.