Why I Stayed

This guest blog post is brought to OSSO by recent Ecuador volunteer, Jérémie Johnson. Jérémie wrote the post while serving as an orphanage volunteer last year.

The first time I volunteered for Orphanage Support Services Organization (OSSO) I planned to stay from July to September 2012.

I stayed until early November.

The second time I volunteered, I planned to stay longer. I planned to stay from April to July 2016. Now that I am here, my current flight plan is to leave early January of 2017. Today, I'm feeling a little introspective and I'd like to dictate exactly what it is here that makes me want to stay.

Mountains of Ecuador

I love adventure.

The first time I came down to this part of the world, that's what I was looking for. I wanted to be like a Nat Geo photographer, discovering cultures vastly different from mine and sharing them with the folks back home. I wanted to try strange foods, hike in the Amazon Rainforest, visit ancient ruins, and get to know the strange biomes of the Andes.

But when the time for me to leave came around, I had done and enjoyed all these things. And these adventures weren't the things that made my want to come back either. It's something bigger than that. When you go to a church, you don't keep going back because you like learning new things. You go back because it made you feel good and that good changed you just a little bit. And you want more of that change.

For me, that change in Ecuador didn't come from adventure. It came from the kids.

Birdseye view of orphanage.

I did expect to enjoy being with the kids. I did expect to learn to appreciate what I had from the kids. But I never expected to fall in love with them. I never could have expected that one child’s laugh, that other child’s smile, the feeling you get when a baby says their first words, or, when you walk into an orphanage, you can feel all the kids' love there. And it's not a feeling I can express in writing — it's something you have feel. This feeling is difficult for me to express because, in a way, everyone experiences it differently. But I can express what has changed in me as a result.

After serving these kids, I came to realize how much I can love someone. I came to realize how much I have to give away. I learned what really matters to people. While clothes, toys, and candy make great treats and bring a smile to these kids' faces for the day, I have given them nothing unless I give them my love and allow them to love me.

But the thing that was hardest for me to learn is that while this is easy for me to do with the kids here, this applies to all the people I meet every day.

Now, I know that's a super preachy thing to say and to tell the world in a blog post, but, like I said, this spiel is supposed to be introspective and not didactic.

But even more important than what I learn is what I feel. Someone could come here and spend a year and still learn something completely different. That's the way the human mind works. Because this place, Los Pequeñitos de OSSO, is a special place. It's a place where you can feel a tiny part of God's love for his children. And when you feel God's love, it's easier for you to hear what God wants you to hear.

I guess the best reason I give for staying here is because when the sun shines here, it shines out clearer.

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